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Current location: New Jersey
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 20,603

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For the first time ever, a weekly reading at Mauna Loa's CO2 observatory exceeds 410 ppm.

For some reason - possibly because the orange nightmare is in the process of firing the staff, or perhaps lying by the newly formed EDA, the Environmental Destruction Administration that replaced the EPA - the data graphic at the Mauna Loa website was not updated this week, but the data page at the observatory shows the result for the week ending May 15, 2017, which is 410.36.

This is 2.97 ppm over the same week of last year, last year having been the 2nd worst year every observed, 3.00 ppm over the previous year, 2015, which in turn was the worst year ever recorded at 3.03 ppm.

For the record, the first weekly reading ever to exceed 400 ppm occurred on May 26, 2013, just four years ago.

I'm personally happy that the world just invested 2.4 trillion dollars on so called "renewable energy" in the last ten years while it's advocates bashed nuclear energy while making exceedingly stupid remarks about their backyards and other bourgeois horseshit.

Even if the so called "renewable energy" hasn't done shit to address climate change, isn't doing shit to address climate change and won't do shit to address climate change, it's still um great, because...well...because...because...um...the farmers outside the Luoyang Zhonggui "green" solar plant, don't um count.

History will not forgive us, nor should it.

Have a nice Sunday evening.

Insertion of the wheat gene for oxalic acid oxidase into American Chestnuts induces blight...


For twenty years, I had an American Chestnut (Castanea Dentata) growing in my front yard, and I hoped it was a member of a blight resistant variety.

Unfortunately I was wrong. Blight killed the tree last summer.

The American Chestnut, called the "Sequoia of the East" once dominated Eastern Forests from Georgia to Maine. In 1904, a disease in the tree was noted which rapidly spread - it was imported with Asian Chestnut trees which had evolved blight resistance and thus were relatively immune to the disease - and by the early 1950's the American Chestnut was essentially extinct, except for a few trees grown outside of its native range, and a few trees thought to be resistant.

Efforts have been underway for many decades to try to cross breed the American tree - shoots can survive long enough to yield seeds, as my now dead tree did - with the Asian tree, in order to provide a tree that was better than 90% American but still resistant. This effort was undertaken by the American Chestnut Foundation and has had some success.

However, the tree was still not the pure American; the American tree was noted for its massive size, its extremely valuable lumber, and its flavorful if small nuts.

I've followed this story for many years; and as gene mapping tools were developed, I hoped that the genome of the American Chestnut could be compared with the Asian and the specific genes incurring resistance could be identified.

I knew that the parasite Cryphonectria parasitica was able to gain entry into the bark cells, biochemically via the secretion of oxalic acid, but I had no idea how the Asian tree was able to defeat that capability.

Both trees have now been fully sequenced, but since mapping the genome does not necessarily define the function of the coded proteins - and moreover the coded proteins may require specific post translational modifications to become functional - it wasn't clear to me (I'm not a biologist) whether this approach would take many, many, many years to come to fruition.

The folks at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry are smarter than I am, however, and they decided to use a more simple approach. They recognized that many plants utilize a particular enzyme that prevents fungi like Cryophonetria from attacking them while they are alive. This enzyme is oxalic acid oxidase and it is found in wheat, among many other species. In 2007 the gene was successfully transferred to Castanea Dentata embryos. This enzyme oxidizes oxalic acid to carbon dioxide.

Drum roll please: Transgenic American chestnuts show enhanced blight resistance and transmit the trait to T1 progeny (Plant Science Volume 228, November 2014, Pages 88–97)

Some excerpts from the paper:

The American chestnut (Castanea dentata Borkh.) was ecologically and economically significant throughout the eastern United States until it was nearly eliminated by an invasive fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica Barr.) that causes chestnut blight. The blight was first identified in 1904 and had spread through the American chestnut's range by the 1950s ; . Treatment and control efforts attempted while the blight was spreading were generally unsuccessful. However, surviving American chestnut stump sprouts have left interested parties with a partially intact gene pool and therefore some potential for restoration. The backcross breeding program implemented by The American Chestnut Foundation aims to produce a chestnut tree with primarily American chestnut growth and nut characteristics, while retaining blight resistance traits from the Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) . However, the Chinese chestnut's blight resistance is quantitative, involving three primary resistance loci (of up to seven total) , which makes breeding a challenge. Another approach to producing an American chestnut tree with enhanced blight resistance is to directly transfer resistance-enhancing genes via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation . In contrast to traditional breeding, genetic transformation offers complete control over which genes are inserted into a host organism. In addition to some transgenic agricultural crops which have become almost ubiquitous in the US, a variety of transgenic trees has been reported for several purposes including timber production and wood properties , fruit production , freeze tolerance , and disease resistance ; ; . American chestnut specifically has previously been transformed with marker genes and regenerated into sexually mature trees ...

The authors state that the transgenic trees do, in fact, show blight resistance. Some metabolic screening is required before this magnificent tree with this wonderful gene can be released into the environment thus restoring the Eastern forests to a state they once enjoyed.

From the conclusion:

4. Conclusion
Production of a blight-resistant transgenic American chestnut tree would be a noteworthy success for historical, ecological, economic, and technological reasons. While the most resistant of the events described here is not as resistant as the Chinese chestnut, significantly enhanced blight resistance to an intermediate level (as seen in Darling4) is a major step toward that goal. New transgenic events are currently being produced that express the OxO gene at higher levels, and leaf assay results indicate they may be considerably more resistant than Darling4, approaching or even exceeding the blight resistance of Chinese chestnuts . Additionally, genes isolated from Chinese chestnut are currently being evaluated for potential use as stacked transgenes, and insights into the chestnut genome will continue to facilitate research in this direction. The fact that transgenes are inherited and expressed in seedling offspring means that blight resistance can be stable across generations, and it would also facilitate many other aspects of a restoration program. While there are still numerous considerations to be addressed before restoration can begin on a large scale , an American chestnut tree with enhanced blight resistance is an absolute necessity before restoration can occur. We believe, based on the data presented here, that transgenic American chestnuts expressing OxO can meet that need.

I'm extremely excited by the potential for this tree to be restored.

My neighbor, by the way, gave me seeds from a cross breed of two naturally resistant seeds, but unfortunately they have not yielded any trees yet in the pots in which I have on my deck.

Have a nice Friday tomorrow.

Princeton University Emergency Project Seeks to "Rescue" Climate Data from Gov't Websites.

I guess they're concerned a little about the liar in chief.

Join Princeton's DataRescue Effort

Calling All Volunteers! DataRescue Princeton University needs your help. This is "an opportunity for Princeton University faculty, staff and students to help preserve a wide range of climate and environmental data resources accessible on government agency websites." Learn more at http://datarescue.princeton.edu/ Register by May 14.

'Nuff said.

I'm a vegetarian, but I found this video amusing anyway.


Nuclear energy has been consistently under attack by stupid people for half a century.

It doesn't matter that all of the rhetoric they use involves the application of criteria they apply to nothing else - which is amazing because in comparison to everything else, notably the issue of "waste," nuclear energy is actually vastly superior to everything else in any compartive analysis - the selective attention has a political effect.

It also has a hype effect. If a seal at a nuclear power plant fails it's national news, even if it injures no one at all. If a major blowout of an oil platform instantly kills workers on the platform and then destroys vast areas of marine ecosystems people forget about it; it goes down the media and cultural Orwellian "memory hole."

Nuclear energy saves lives in spite of the stupidity of popular anti-nuke rhetoric.

The anti-nuke mentality, which kills people continuously by appeals to fear and ignorance, is rather like arsonists containing about fires, an analogy I use repeatedly because it's especially apt. Anti-nuke people do everything in the immoral and ignorant power to oppose nuclear energy, do everything they can to raise its cost by attaching requirements for "safety" they attach to nothing else, everything they can to resist infrastructure building, and then announce that it's "slow and expensive."

If one reads and understands the scientific and engineering primary literature referring to nuclear energy one will often find that the major resistance to the expansion of nuclear energy mentioned are based on the "problem" of "public perception." It has nothing to do with engineering or science. The public perception is in turn, based on appeals to ignorance, hype, wishful thinking, and frankly contempt for science and engineering which is clearly on the rise in the world culture as evidenced by the inhabitant of the White House. And let's be clear, the lies, distortions and selective attention to nuclear issues is Trumpian in scale, and has been Trumpian in scale for more than a generation.

The United States built more than 100 nuclear reactors in roughly 20 - 30 years while providing some of the lowest cost electricity in the world. I have no use for crap statements that "it isn't doing that now," especially when people doing so are clearly in the camp of the anti-nuke "renewables will save us" camp.

So called "renewables" didn't save us. In fact they were abandoned at the beginning of the 19th century because a the vast majority of people comprising a much smaller world population than we have now generally lived short, miserable lives of dire poverty. The reactionary sun worship crap cannot change that fact. They aren't saving us. The degradation of the planetary atmosphere is now taking place at the fastest rate every observed despite the squandering of trillions of dollars on this temporary and toxic junk. They won't save us, because their material demands and their ecological impact resulting from their extremely low energy to mass ratio are not sustainable.

Sometime this weekend I'm going to compare the reliability, the cost, and most importantly the active lifetime of the US's oldest nuclear reactor, the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor, which is partially powering the computer on which I write, with the cost, performance and lifetime of all the so called "renewable" crap on which morons and fools are betting the future of this planet. I'm going to use 1965 criteria - the year the reactor's construction began - with the historical results.

Probably almost all of the people who designed the reactor, and who built it, are dead or at least long retired. Since the reactor is powering my computer, the money and time and effort they spent is a gift from their generation to mine, and in fact, my children's, since my sons were born and raised in New Jersey, and nearly every time a computer or light switch came on in their schools, Oyster Creek was powering it. The generation that built the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor was a generation that cared about the future and about future generations. This generation, by contrast, can only be regarded by contempt for its regard for future generations. We think only of ourselves and don't give a shit about the future, which is why we are reluctant to spend our money on nuclear reactors that will be operating near the dawn of the 22nd century. By contrast, every goddamned useless wind turbine on this planet right now will be a pile of useless junk before my sons, and everyone else now entering college, reach midlife.

This is why this Trumpian bull about so called "renewable" energy is allowed to prevail, even as it has, is, and always will give clear and irrefutable evidence of its failure: We couldn't care less about the future.

Have a nice weekend.

UNEP/Frankfurt School Investment figures in so called "renewable energy" 2006-2016.

The figures herein come from a report put together by the United Nations "Environmental" Program - I have put "environmental in quotes because I'm not sure that this is about the "environment" at all - and the Frankfurt School and is published by Bloomberg Finance.

These figures are reported regularly, and executive summary reports are available on line.

This link is to the 2017 report.

The figures in "Figure 3" on page 14 give the total investment in so called "renewable energy" going back to 2004. The numbers in the table are in billions of dollars (US).

The table cannot be imported into a spreadsheet directly and so the sums I will report are the result of my transcription into a spreadsheet, but I don't believe, on checking, I've made any errors; I will report the investment in each form of so called "renewable energy" for each type of energy reported in billions of dollars for the period between 2006 and 2016, i.e. the last ten reported years:

Solar: $1,133.6 (1.133 trillion dollars.)
Wind: $ 957.7
Biofuels: $129.1
Biomass and Waste: $156.4
Small Hydro: $68.7
Geothermal: $23.8
Marine (Presumably tidal): $3.7

The total for the last 10 years is $2,473 billion dollars or 2.473 trillion dollars.

This is an amount that is larger than the gross domestic product of any the following nations: France, India, Brazil, Canada, Korea, Australia, Russia...

In fact there are only 5 countries on the planet that have an annual GDP higher than the amount of money squandered on the "renewables will save us" fantasy in the last ten years. They are the US, China, Japan, Germany and the UK, with the UK barely exceeding this figure of 2.473 trillion dollars (at 2.861 trillion dollars.)

The GDP figures I've used for comparison come from the World Bank webpage: the world bank webpage.

The annual mean data for carbon dioxide concentrations in the planetary atmosphere as measured at the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory showed than in 2005 the annual mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere - humanity's favorite waste dump - was 379.80 ppm; in 2016 it was 404.21 ppm, an increase of 24.41 ppm in roughly ten years, despite spending more than the gross national product of India, a nation that contains slightly less than 20% of all human beings on this planet.

That the growth rate is the highest ever on a running decade average can be observed in the following graphic from the Mauna Loa observatory page:

The International Energy Agency's Key World Energy Statistics Data Report for 2016 (which gives figures for 2014) reports, on page 6 that wind, solar, geothermal and marine combined were responsible for 1.6% of world energy demand, which was 13,699 million tons of oil equivalent, which translates to 574 exaJoules. Overall it can be shown that this 1.6% - a trivial amount - is dominated by the production from wind turbines.

I have shown elsewhere, by appeal to the Danish Energy Agency's wind turbine database that the average lifetime for a wind turbine in that offshore oil and gas hellhole of a nation is on the order of 15 years, with some never operating at all, but with a few lasting a little over 30 years before becoming, um, junk.

On the left we can be pretty smug about our claim that we are aware of climate change, and we know how to address it.

It is fine to say that the right is delusional on climate change, but I would submit, that while some of us on the left prattle on mindlessly about how we'll have 100% "renewable" energy by year XXXX (almost always when the person announcing this XXXX figure is sure to be dead), we haven't a clue how to address climate change.

By the way, the UNEP/Frankfurt School/Bloomberg figures show a recent decline in investment in solar and wind, probably because they haven't worked, aren't working, and won't work, and increasingly people are realizing that spending huge sums on providing a place for Godot to stay isn't all that wise if Godot never actually comes, and he won't.

There are on this planet people who know what will work best - certainly not a panacea since at this point the existence of panaceas is dubious - but generally, they're not held in high esteem in places like this; and let's be clear; whether one is held in high esteem or not is not entirely a function of whether one is telling the truth.

Neither the esteem of people who lie to themselves as well as the esteem of people who lie to others is worth all that much of course. One can get esteem by saying "renewable energy is great!" but of course, esteem doesn't make this statement true.

Have a nice evening.

Reminder: There are some very good and very honest people in the world.

My son is an art student at a very good art school in our state.

Having chosen, for reasons of passion, to be an artist, but fully aware of how artists can struggle financially, he chose to live at home to save expenses and commute to school. It works out between the car and the train and the walk from the train station to class to about 3 hours a day.

Loving art, but having little appreciation of what goes into to making art, I had no concept of how hard art students work. In the weeks during which he's been turning in his final projects he's been pulling many all nighters, coming home sometimes for a two hour nap, heading right back out, painting, designing, working with color theory, making video art, art, art, art all the time.

Yesterday, he was working on the train, and dead tired, he accidentally left his Apple computer on the train, filled with work, weeks of work. When he got off the train a woman was banging on the window holding the computer up as the train pulled out.

The computer had no password; anyone in possession could have taken it; it's worth about two grand.

He called the NJ transit "lost and found" to report what happened, but had little hope.

And you know what? The woman who found it turned it in! He went into New York this morning and got it back, untouched, undamaged, all his work intact.

I have no idea who that woman is, but she is a sign that in the age of Trump, there are still good and decent people in the world, people who care about other people.

Pay it forward!

Um...you know what?

There are subset of people - not very bright, not very informed and always dogmatic, willing to bet the future of humanity on their stupid, and primitive worship of the sun god - even though, as I point out repeatedly, the world just squandered, between 2005 and 2015 1.111 trillion dollars (Source: GLOBAL TRENDS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY INVESTMENT, 2017 Key Findings, FS UNEP Collaboration Center) on solar energy, with the result that solar, combined with the equally stupid scam, wind energy, and geothermal and tides thrown in, doesn't produce even 2% of the 574 exajoules of energy humanity now generates and consumes each year.

(Source: International Energy Agency, Key Energy Statistics)

Yet, this class of mindless assholes prances on, even more stupid, even more evil, even more indifferent and delusional day after day after day, making mindless and often failed predictions that "by such and such a year" (always after they'll be more than 100 years old) the world will be powered by "100% renewables."

It doesn't matter if they're liars or self deluding fools or scammers for the gas industry, the effect is the same.

Recently in this space,in Trumpian liar doublespeak, that an example of this mindless set announced that knew more than all of the world's scientists and energy experts, and of course, me don't know what we're talking about, but he, of course does:

4. rate of growth in solar is indisputable

and has been consistently underestimated by national energy officials/agencies and solar skeptics like you.

Ditto with the declining cost curve.

So when are you going to stop shilling for nukes, whose costs are NOT going down - despite the over-promises of the government and industry.

All of the criticisms you level against solar promoters goes double for nukes.

Then he went on to announce that I think I'm the smartest guy in the room, while citing a minor official whose publication list largely consists of inventorying the equipment in the NREL laboratories in this classic pot and kettle argument:

You clearly seem to think you're the smartest person in any room, but I'm gonna go with Dr. Mooney and the supercomputer.

Fuck you very much - have a nice life.

There was a time in my life, when I used to confront these stupid little hecklers repeatedly, here and elsewhere.

It's a waste of time though.

These kinds of people are oppressively stupid, ignorant, and indifferent. They think it's a good idea to distribute arsenic because they're dumb enough to think that distributed pollutants are better than concentrated pollutants because they spend all of their time going through the circle jerk of stupid renewable energy websites where the authors are every bit as dumb and illiterate as they are.

They're like Trump voters, inasmuch as no amount of information - for example that the 1.111 trillion dollars squandered on the solar scam in the last decade as mentioned above did nothing to keep the world from surging over 410 ppm this week - will make them admit that they just might be wrong. They're faith based and as such, incapable of exhibiting any flexibility of mind.

I, by contrast, am informed by the primary scientific literature, with which I spend 10 to 20 hours a week. This practice has caused me to change my mind about things, many times. I used to be, many years ago, a dumb fuck anti-nuke "renewables will save us" asshole, for which I apologize to all future generations.

Like I said, to repeat, there was a time in my life, when I used to confront these stupid little hecklers repeatedly, here and elsewhere.

It's a waste of time though.

I now have an "ignore" list, and I use it to prevent myself from wasting time on stupid fucks who are working - as I can clearly see - to destroy the future in prideful ignorance. The "cut and paste" moron is on it, along with the dickhead who thinks that the climate change gas concentration will go down because of "world's largest" solar installations and trivial junk in Maine, the concrete blockhead who giggles stupidly all the time, and, um, the present company.

In my opinion, these dopes are best ignored. They have nothing, absolutely nothing, intelligent or useful to say.

Welcome to my ignore list.

As you say, "Have a nice life."

Direct exposure of polychlorinated biphenyls to the radiation field of used nuclear fuel.

Halogenated organic molecules, both those being actively produced as well as those which represent legacy production represent one of the most important (and dangerous) environmental issues today.

For many years, it was dangerous to eat bluefish caught from the Hudson River because of discharges over many decades of the mid 20th century of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) from the General Electric plants (for capacitor manufacture) at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward.

Millions, hundreds of millions of transformers were manufactured which contained PCB's.

In 2003 it was reported by scientists at the Department of Materials and Nuclear Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park that...

...about 125 million transformers containing PCBs were in use as of 1999, based on required user information data compiled by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (1).Although there were, on average, about 25 000 high-level concentration (>500 μg g-1) PCB transformers disposed of per year from 1990 to 1994 (2), the current U.S. inventory has remained essentially constant since 1988. This is primarily due to three factors. First, there are only four incinerator disposal facilities for high-concentration PCB-laden oils left in the United States. Second, the disposal costs are continuing to increase as access to facilities becomes more limited. Last, there are no regulatory requirements or incentives for early (i.e., before end-of-life) PCB disposal.

(Source: Cynthia G. Jones ,† Joseph Silverman , and Mohamad Al-Sheikhly *, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2003, 37 (24), pp 5773–5777

Because of the unusual strength of carbon-halogen bonds, particular those of fluorine, chlorine, and, in aromatic compounds utilized widely until recently as flame retardants, bromine, consider energy is required to break these bonds in order to mineralize (convert to salts like sodium fluoride, sodium chloride...etc and carbon dioxide) these compounds.

The best and in many cases the only way to break these bonds is radiolysis, and the higher the energy of the radiation, the better. As a practical matter, gamma rays, x-rays, and to a lesser extent UV radiation is required.

This was widely understood by previous generations, who explored this approach for quite some time, but has been forgotten because of fear and stupidity about radiation and its potential to save lives other than by being the largest source of climate change gas free energy ever developed.

While searching the scientific literature recently on the subject of the radiolysis of organohalogens I came across a cool paper from 1993 where scientists at the Idaho Engineering Laboratory directly exposed PCB's to the intense radiation field of used nuclear fuel directly from a reactor.

The widespread environmental distribution of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has been well documented(1-3). The persistence of PCBs in the environment, coupled with their apparent toxicity ( I ) , led the United States to pass the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)in 1976. The current TSCA approved methods for destroying PCBs are high-temperature incineration or high-efficiency boilers (1). Destruction of PCBs by incineration, however, is meeting with increasing public opposition. The public's fear of incomplete incineration and the possible formation of highly toxic dioxins and dibenzofurans, if the combustion temperature is not held sufficiently high, has significantly reduced the general acceptance of this technique. Many PCB-containing solvents are valuable products in the absence of PCB contamination.

What is needed is a process that would degrade the PCBs and allow the solvent to be recycled rather than destroyed. Towards this end, radiolysis offers many attractive features such as (a) minimization of gaseous and particulate effluents, (b) potential of recovering the bulk solvent for recycling, (c) ability to verify that the hazardous constituents have been reduced to acceptable limits, and (d) possibility of in situ destruction in selected applications due to the highly penetrating nature of γ-rays.

Now for the fun part of the paper which surprised even me.

Irradiations. Samples were γ-rays irradiated using spent nuclear fuel at the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. Spent nuclear fuel is an excellent source of y-rays with an average kinetic energy of 700 keV. Depleted fuel elements from the reactor are stored vertically in grids in an adjacent canal under approximately 6.5 m of water. A dry tube extends from the surface of the water into the grid, and the fuel elements are placed around it. Proper positioning of the fuel elements around the dry tube allows for the selection of dose rates up to 25 Gy h-1. PCB samples were contained in 1.5-mL glass septum vials…

Environ. Sci. Technol., 1994, 28 (12), pp 2191–2196

Although in this experiment, the PCB's were completely and totally mineralized, it's not something I would recommend industrially, since used nuclear fuel is also a neutron source, and on an industrial scale, chlorine might be transformed into 36Cl which is radioactive and would only prove useful for tracer experiments.

This said, among many the fission products, 137Cs, is an excellent source of γ-rays. In particular, certain titanates, which have been used as ion exchange materials in removing 137Cs from water are excellent materials for the degradation of water supplies contaminated with organohalogens and other organic pollutants.

Were we to get over the stupid enterprise of waiting like D'Estragnon for Godot, for the grand so called "renewable energy" industry to produce 100% of the world's energy, even though trillions of dollars and decades of effort and cheering have not caused it to produce 5% of the world's energy, we would be reprocessing used nuclear fuels, collecting the very valuable materials therein, including highly radioactive materials like 137Cs to solve problems about which, including but not limited to climate change, we are content to do nothing.

Esoteric, but interesting.

Have a nice Sunday afternoon.

Meet the Chemists Working to Improve Our Planet.

In celebration of Earth Day, the American Chemical Society is offering these videos.

I haven't watched any of these videos myself, and therefore can't recommend them, but I plan to do so.

Chemists Working to Improve Our Planet

We have to do something.

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