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Member since: 2002
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Chinese Comparison: CO2 Emissions of Plug-In Hybrid and Gasoline Cars Based On Grid Power Sources.

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: Provincial Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Gasoline and Plug-in Electric Vehicles in China: Comparison from the Consumption-Based Electricity Perspective (Yu Gan, Zifeng Lu, Xin He, Chunxiao Hao, Yunjing Wang, Hao Cai, Michael Wang, Amgad Elgowainy, Steven Przesmitzki, and Jessey Bouchard, Environmental Science & Technology 2021 55 (10), 6944-6956)

My relationship with the automobile has always been problematic. I have always had the sense that I "needed" a car, despite a failed three year attempt - which I defined as a one man revolution against the internal combustion engine that was actually more motivated by poverty than ethics - to live by bicycle in Los Angeles whereupon I was in magnificent physical shape but late for everything and often injured by interactions with, um, automobiles.

I was already a man when I moved to Los Angeles. I didn’t grow up in that city which in those times was a paean to the car CULTure, and as such, a city featuring some of the worst air pollution on Earth. I grew up in one of the rapidly expanding suburbs on Long Island in what was called the "post-war era" while potato farms, pumpkin farms and marvelous oak forests with all kinds of interesting bugs, including but not limited to potato bugs, were being bulldozed to build vast stretches of ugly tract houses like the one in which I grew up.

I was in the lower middle class; my father was a laborer whose formal education ended with the 8th grade; my mother was slightly better educated, having left school in the 10th grade. In those times, if one was a veteran of the war – in those time there were wars and then there was the war - laborers with 8th grade educations could afford to buy a house under the "GI Bill," and my parents, who grew up in relative poverty in Brooklyn and Queens, were startled and giddy to learn that even they could afford to live in a house with a small yard, and a lawn, and a car, albeit, with the entire lifestyle absolutely dependent on owning and maintaining the latter.

I lived on the poor side of the concrete strip mall; the public school district I attended was largely attended by the children of engineers, scientists, airline pilots, lawyers and corporate executives; my school peers lived in a world I could not even imagine. On my side of the concrete strip the local neighborhood kids in our tract house development were basically motor heads, adolescents whose life goals included owning a muscle car, say a Corvette, or an Oldsmobile 442, and driving up and down strips with loud engines in screeching stars and stops with a skinny girl in the passenger seat who chewed gum, wore a leather jacket, rolled the window down to yell out to her friends and talked “dirty.”

Although I never felt quite comfortable with my school friends who always seemed to know far more about education than I did, I wasn’t really all that comfortable with the motor head life either; I never learned to work a wrench quite as well as everyone else. Nevertheless my feeling of security was very much tied up in my father’s 30 mile commute to his union job as a warehouse worker which in turn depended on the status of the “clutch,” the “carburetor,” the “transmission,” the “tires”, the “rings”…these vague words spoken in whispers by my parents whenever one of these mysterious devices were at risk of failure defined my whether or not I could live in my home or not.

I cannot claim to have been a total rebel against my culture. As a teenager, as was traditional in the culture in which I grew up, I reached that milestone of “getting a license,” whereupon I somehow managed to acquire a car of my own, around which my life revolved in every aspect, going to work, attending classes when I was able, and a sex life involving drive-in movie theaters, dark side roads and the back seat of the Pontiac with the 350 cubic inch engine and seat belts, which in my day, people loved to avoid using.

Later, my nascent sense of being “an environmentalist” grew out of the car, I think, my first car trips to Big Sur and to Yosemite, and to the Sonoran deserts.


John Muir’s Yosemite…

A little known and little appreciated fact: John Muir founded the Sierra Club to save the Hetch Hetchy valley from the O'Shaughnessy Dam – his efforts failed, although he did not live to see the consequences of his failure. Today the O’Shaughnessy Dam provides water for San Francisco and so called “renewable energy” for California, converting the Valley, which is probably now filled with silt with covered by layers of calcium carbonate and other salts, into a kind of underwater industrial park. By extension, therefore, one could argue that the founder of the Sierra Club opposed so called “renewable energy,” at least in the case where it destroyed precious wilderness.

Today, in New Jersey and almost certainly elsewhere, the Sierra Club is in favor turning wilderness into industrial parks. The head of the Sierra Club in New Jersey is advocating for converting the continental shelf here into an industrial park for wind turbines, all of which will be landfill within 25 years of their construction. I once encountered this guy at a “march for science” that turned out, somewhat to my disgust, to be a “march for ‘renewable energy’,” and it was claimed, “truth.”


We live in the age of the celebration of lies, including those we tell ourselves.

The word “environmentalist” has become a loaded term, almost to the point of meaninglessness. Even an awful human being like say, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. can be declared by our easily confused media, an “environmentalist.” An awful organization of bourgeois scientifically illiterate consumers like Greenpeace can be declared by the media to be an “Environmental Organization,” just as the modern Sierra Club that wants to tear up marine ecosystems and forests to convert them into industrial parks can be called an “Environmental Organization.”

I contend, and I may be wrong about this, feel free to disagree, that one cannot really be an environmentalist unless one really understands technology and its implications and it’s real effects on the environment, particularly when one advocates for substituting one system for another. In recent decades, there have been serious science and engineering modeling tools, that involve a technique that is called “Life Cycle Analysis” or “LCA.” I know thisI have made it my life’s private work to understand how things actually work. This, of course, is a process of disillusionment, particularly when is confronted with the rhetoric of organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, rhetoric which is often presented and embraced blindly and assumed, rather glibly to have an aura of “truth,” so much so that one can attend a “March for Science” and listen to a fool from the New Jersey Sierra club drone on about how wonderful it would be to have diesel powered barges and cranes install wind turbines featuring coal derived steel posts anchored in coal derived concrete, that will shed polymers into the water for 25 years, generate a little electricity, then need be disassembled by diesel powered barges and cranes and transferred to diesel trucks to be hauled away to landfills.

If one isn’t disillusioned when one nears the end of one’s life, one has not really lived, nor has anyone really learned anything. (John Muir lived.) There’s a lot of hand waving and chanting that goes on when environmental issues, a lot of rote assumptions never belabored with critical thinking, a lot of heads in the sand, particularly with respect with the issue of energy flows, the inviolable laws of thermodynamics, in particular the first law, which states that in a normal chemical reaction energy is neither created nor destroyed, and the second law, which states that energy conversions from one form to another involves entropy, the loss of energy to heat.

This post is thus about the fantasy – one I’ve always wanted to believe but cannot make myself believe – that there is such a thing as a “green car,” a car that is harmless, or nearly so, to the environment, a car that will render the planet “sustainable” while simultaneously allowing for the car CULTure to persist. Although I am a hypocrite, as I depend on owning a car, I cannot avoid the moral conclusion that my lifestyle, dependent as it is on the car CULTure is destroying the future.

History will not forgive us, nor should it.

Mostly the idea of the “green car” involves the fantasy that electricity is “green,” that it magically arrives out of a magic wall socket that’s connected to “green” infrastructure. Electricity, as the bulk of it continues to be produced is a thermodynamically degraded form of energy; it is not primary energy as much as people want to treat it as such. Coal generated electricity is not dead, not even close to being dead, according to the International Energy Agency, the IEA: Global coal demand in 2021 is set to exceed 2019 levels and approach its 2014 peak

Demand for all fossil fuels is set to grow significantly in 2021. Coal demand alone is projected to increase by 60% more than all renewables combined, underpinning a rise in emissions of almost 5%, or 1 500 Mt. This expected increase would reverse 80% of the drop in 2020, with emissions ending up just 1.2% (or 400 Mt) below 2019 emissions levels...

...Coal demand is on course to rise 4.5% in 2021, with more than 80% of the growth concentrated in Asia. China alone is projected to account for over 50% of global growth. Coal demand in the United States and the European Union is also rebounding, but is still set to remain well below pre-crisis levels. The power sector accounted for only 50% of the drop in coal-related emissions in 2020. But the rapid increase in coal-fired generation in Asia means the power sector is expected to account for 80% of the rebound in 2021...

One can worship pictures of wind turbines in a little home temple as much as one wishes, but the reality is that the so called "renewable energy" industry on which in this century trillions of dollars have been squandered is worse than useless at addressing climate change since it produces far more wishful thinking and complacency than it does energy.


China releases more carbon dioxide than any nation on Earth, albeit it that it lags far behind the United States in carbon dioxide releases on a per capita basis. It would appear, or it certainly does to me, that Americans think that the Chinese should agree to live either in poverty or at a lower standard of living than Americans so Americans can declare themselves "green." The reality is that the United States has more dangerous natural gas in rocks subject to fracking than China does, and when much of this ground rock is permanently destroyed, leaching God-knows-what toxic chemicals and elements into ground water forever after the gas is gone, there will be hell to pay.

History will not forgive us, nor should it.

Let's be clear about something OK? American wealth was built on the legacy of human slavery on one hand, and coal on the other. It's far more than slightly disingenuous for us to wag fingers at China for building their economy on coal, particularly when they are on the forefront of building new nuclear reactors and we are not.

Of course Chinese coal is destroying the world, but we set it to bleeding...

Nine years ago a paper was published in the same journal as was cited at the outset showing that in China, where there was, at that time, 100 million electric vehicles, albeit mostly electric scooters and electric bikes, the air pollution associated with electric cars was actually worse than that caused by gasoline driven cars: Electric Vehicles in China: Emissions and Health Impacts (Shuguang Ji, Christopher R. Cherry, Matthew J. Bechle, Ye Wu, and Julian D. Marshall Environmental Science & Technology 2012 46 (4), 2018-2024). (I commented on that paper briefly at the time elsewhere, where my comments on energy and the environment were, um, unappreciated since they conflicted with what people wanted to hear, which was that so called "renewable energy" would save the world. It didn't save the world; it isn't saving the world; it won't save the world.

The paper cited at the outset, something of an update of the 2012 paper, but on a much more detailed level, accounting for regional effects, is not about pure electric vehicles per se, but about plug in hybrid cars.

From the introduction to the paper:

Under the pressure of exacerbating air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitment,(1) the Chinese government has implemented aggressive policies to promote the market penetration of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).(2−5) Although PEVs, which include battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), emit less GHG emissions at the tailpipe than conventional gasoline internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs), their life-cycle GHG benefits depend on the electricity generation mix, interprovincial transmissions, PEV fuel economy that is affected by local climate conditions, and so on.(6−8) These factors vary significantly across different provinces in China,(9−12) potentially leading to distinct GHG emission intensities of PEVs and diverse GHG implications of PEV promotion policies.

While electricity generation and consumption are generally balanced at the national level, significant gaps exist at the provincial level because of interprovincial electricity transfers, making the consumption-based perspective important for the life-cycle analysis (LCA) of provincial electricity and PEV operation. In China, due to the spatially imbalanced economic development and uneven distribution of energy supply and demand, electricity generated from inland provinces is transferred to coastal areas to support the rapid economic development there.(13) As of 2019, China has the world’s highest voltage and longest electricity transmission lines.(14) Because electricity consumed in a province is a blend of electricity generated in itself and electricity transferred from other provinces, the frequent interprovincial electricity transmission could lead to significant differences between generation-based and consumption-based electricity characteristics at the provincial level...

...Accurate analysis of provincial variability in the GHG emission intensity of PEV operation should be conducted from a consumption perspective with considerations of complete electricity transmission. Figure 1 shows the electricity generation and transmission among provinces in China in 2017. Apparently, all provinces are interconnected in the grid network through direct and indirect electricity transmission. For instance, the characteristic of electricity consumed in the province of Hebei is affected by not only the electricity generated in Hebei but also electricity transferred from its directly connected provinces (e.g., Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, etc.), and these directly connected provinces further receive electricity from other provinces through different levels of indirect electricity transmissions. Therefore, a network-based modeling approach that takes into account both direct and indirect electricity transmissions completely should be used to accurately quantify the characteristics of consumption-based electricity.(21,22)

The abbreviations for different kinds of cars used, and different analytical settings in this introduction are carried throughout the paper. They can also be accessed in the abstract, which is open sourced and readily available.

Figure 1:

The caption:

Figure 1. Interprovincial electricity transmission flows and electricity generation by Chinese provinces in 2017. The size of the nodes represents the amount of electricity generation of provinces. The node color represents the GHG emission intensity of electricity generation. The arrows show the electricity transmission among provinces. The width of the arrow indicates the amount of electricity transferred, and the arrow color reflects its consumption-based GHG emission intensity of electricity.

An important factor in this analysis is the curb weight, abbreviated "CW," of the plug in vehicles used in China, brands of which do not significantly differ than those sold in the US:

The caption:

Figure 2. Regression of FCR/ECR vs CW for models of different vehicle technologies: (a) ICEV, (b) BEV, (c) HEV, and (d) PHEV. Vehicle models highlighted are the top-selling models in China or the global market during 2017–2019. FCR/ECR values shown in the figure are labeled values reported by MIIT of China.(40)

The authors then launch into some matrix algebra to describe how they have modeled various effects connected with transmission, temperature, etc...

WTW GHG emissions of PEVs arise mainly from electricity generation, which might be spatially separated from where electricity is consumed for PEV recharging. In the interconnected grid network, electricity consumed by PEVs in a certain province is sourced from not only the province itself but also other provinces that are directly and indirectly interconnected in the network.(21,22)Figure 1 shows the interprovincial electricity transmission flows and electricity generation by province in the year 2017. In this study, the provincial-level LCA of PEVs was conducted from a consumption-based perspective.

We used the quasi input–output (QIO) model developed by Qu et al.(21,22) to simulate the interprovincial electricity transmission and then calculate the provincial GHG emission intensities for electricity consumption. In the QIO model, each provincial power grid is treated as a node. At the equilibrium of electricity supply and demand, the electricity generated in the province i (i.e., gi) plus the electricity imported from other provinces equals the electricity consumed in the province i (i.e., ci) plus the electricity exported to other provinces. Thus, the total electricity flow in the province i (xi) can be expressed as

where Tij and Tji represent the total amount of electricity transferred from province i to j and from province j to i, respectively; and n is the number of provinces. For convenience, we let x, g, and c denote the 1 by n vectors that represent the total electricity flows, generation, and consumption, respectively, of all provinces, and the n by n matrix T represents the electricity transfers among provinces, that is

This motivates a cranky old man comment from me about "these kids today:"

When I was a boy we had to do matrix algebra by hand and even use slide rules or primitive calculators. These kids today, can just plug into computer programs having function libraries. They don't know how hard we had it...

"These kids today" are better than we ever were. OK, boomer? I have huge respect for them and feel enormous guilt for the problems we are leaving for them, all unsolved.

Temperature corrections to address thermodynamic considerations:

The caption:

Figure 3. Provincial temperature adjustment factors of PTW energy consumption rates for different vehicle technologies.

Electricity sources and the presence of vehicles consuming it:

The caption:

Figure 4. Life-cycle GHG emission intensities of electricity generation and consumption and PEV stocks in 2017 by region and province. The provincial PEV stocks are from the Annual Report on Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicle in China released by the China Automotive Technology and Research Center.(50) For a comparison of the generation- and consumption-based emission intensities, transmission loss is included in both emission intensities. The boundaries of sub-regional grids are shown in Figure S8 of the Supporting Information.

The money shots, in the first note the differences in scale on the y-axis:

The caption:

Figure 5. Provincial WTW GHG emission intensities of different vehicle technologies: (a) gasoline vehicles (ICEVs and HEVs) and (b) PEVs (BEVs and PHEVs). Error bars reflect variations of the PTW energy consumption rates of vehicle operation only (Table 1). The dashed lines show the vehicle-stock-weighted national average levels. For PEVs, the national average values are calculated by averaging the provincial results with the weighting factors of the provincial PEVs stocks (see Figure 4) considering the variations in provincial PEV market penetration and GHG emission intensities of electricity consumption. For gasoline vehicles, due to the relatively small variations of GHG intensities among provinces, the national averages are estimated by weighting the provincial LDPV stocks in China in 2017.(51) Provinces are sorted in the order of provincial GHG emission intensities of BEV operation.

The caption:

Figure 6. Comparison of WTW GHG emission intensities between gasoline vehicles (rows) and PEVs (columns) at the provincial level in China. In provinces in the red shades, gasoline vehicles (i.e., ICEVs or HEVs) have lower GHG emission intensities than PEVs (i.e., PHEVs or BEVs). In contrast, in provinces in the blue shades, PEVs have lower GHG emission intensities than gasoline vehicles.

Clearly in some places gasoline vehicles are cleaner than electric powered vehicles. This is almost certainly true elsewhere in the world, including the United States. It's another place to peel away glib "green" rhetoric.

We have hit concentrations of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide of 420 ppm this year. I may alone in being terrified by this, but I am terrified.

Some criticism of Chinese government policy in the concluding remarks:

Implications and Limitations

The present study quantifies WTW GHG emission intensities of gasoline and PEVs in China. In contrast to most of the previous LCA studies, the present study is conducted at the province level and from an electricity consumption perspective to take into account the provincial variation in electricity generation mix, electricity transmission among provinces, and ambient temperature. WTW GHG comparison of gasoline and PEVs vary significantly among provinces, implying the importance of making province-specific policies for vehicular GHG emission reduction on a life-cycle basis.

Particularly, to achieve the goal of reducing GHG emissions of LDPVs, the timeline and levels of PEV promotion strategies should be differentiated by province. China has implemented multiple PEV promotion policies nationwide, including subsidies for PEV purchase,(2,3) tax exemptions for PEV purchase and usage,(2,3,5) and super credits for PEV production in the accounting of Corporate Average Fuel Consumption.(4)...

...Recently, China committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. To achieve this ambitious goal, major transitions have been proposed in the power sector from fossil-based sources to nuclear and renewable power and in the on-road transportation sector from petroleum-based ICEVs to electric vehicles. The consumption-based emission accounting methodology developed in this work can help quantify the GHG emission reductions in the terminal energy sectors (e.g., the on-road transportation) at the provincial level due to the emission reduction and energy structure transition in the upstream processes (e.g., the power sector). It can be also used to evaluate environmental impacts of the province-specific strategies in electric grid development and PEV deployment...

A flaw in the paper (in my view, whether this is even close to a majority view, as I am unafraid of moving against the popular view, follows with the de rigueur obeisance to the solar fantasy:

For example, solar power generation increased by 59 TWh in 2018 compared to 2017.

This allegedly "phenomenal growth" amounts to less than 0.2 exajoules of increase energy output on a planet consuming more than 600 exajoules of energy per year, and there is zero evidence that this energy was available when it was actually needed, for example when cars needed to be charged at night or when it was snowing.

The study did not consider the embodied energy of batteries:

The present study focuses on analyzing the WTW GHG emissions of different vehicle technologies, without considering the vehicle-cycle emissions associated with vehicle production. In general, the vehicle-cycle GHG emission intensity of PEVs is higher than that of gasoline vehicles because of the higher energy consumption associated with battery production.(23,58,59) This would potentially make the life-cycle GHG emissions of PEVs higher.

I trust you've had a pleasant Memorial day weekend.

After 4 months of on and off reading, I finally finished reading Volkogonov's "Stalin."

I read it from cover to cover, close to 600 pages.

It was, of course, given that Dmitri Volkogonov was a Soviet Colonel-General in charge of psychological warfare, translated from the Russian. I have compared translations with originals in French and in German, and I'm aware that to the extent that a translation is beautiful, it is bound to be somewhat (at least) inaccurate.

The final two chapters, as translated (or perhaps even as written) are as beautiful as they are warnings. I was inspired to read this book about Stalinism and what Khrushchev appropriately called "the cult of personality" because our own government is being destroyed by just such a cult.

Stalin may have been defeated, but Stalin was defeated only by history, after he was dead. In a better world, he would have been defeated while still alive.

To be perfectly honest, I seldom read any book from cover to cover; at any given time I've got four or five books in process, usually one or two technical books, one or two histories, and generally a biography. Somewhere hopping from book to book, few of them are completely read.

I made a point though of reading this book from cover to cover, since our Democracy is under attack and perhaps will die, because everything touched by "the former guy" dies. It's refreshingly novel and different than much that might one read of Stalin and his era.

Perhaps there is someone today in the White Supremacy Party that will become as apostate as Volkogonov.

Some Soviet Propaganda leeches through, since Volkogonov's apostasy against his Stalinist and Leninist origins did not completely erase them, particularly grating was his rationalization of the subversion of the Baltic States in 1940, for one example, but he does an excellent job in exploring what Stalin may have been trying to accomplish in signing the pact with Hitler that led to the destruction of Poland in 1941.

There were a lot of names in this insightful book; it was hard to keep up with the heroes who became villains and villains who became heroes, the latter far fewer than the latter. I did however greatly respect what he wrote of Khrushchev's "finest hour" at the 20th Party Congress in 1956, and learned a lot about how and why he did it.

I was alive, albeit as a child, when the Cuban Missile Crisis took place, and the propaganda of the time made Khrushchev out to be some kind of demon and John F. Kennedy as some kind of heroic figure. The real history of both of these men is far more complex.

(By way of full disclosure, I personally regard JFK as my least favorite Democratic President of the 20th century, with the possible exception of the racist Woodrow Wilson, although Wilson can be allowed some ambiguity. Neither of these Democratic Presidents deserve to be held in the same category as an FDR, a Truman, a Johnson, or for that matter Clinton and even Carter.)

It's not going to be for everyone's taste, but I would think that a serious historian of European communism could do far worse than reading Volkogonov. I plan to read his "Lenin," - which I took out of the library but never got around to reading - as well as his "Trotsky" which my sons managed to dig up and buy for me as a Christmas present.

Science Editorial: Managing Colorado River Risk.

An editorial in the current issue of Science: Managing Colorado River risk (John Fleck and Brad Udall, Science 28 May 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6545, pp. 885)

It should be open sourced; I didn't need to log in to my subscription to read it. Some excerpts anyway.

In the 1920s, E. C. LaRue, a hydrologist at the United States Geological Survey, did an analysis of the Colorado River Basin that revealed the river could not reliably meet future water demands. No one heeded his warning. One hundred years later, water flow through the Colorado River is down by 20% and the basin's Lake Powell and Lake Mead—the nation's two largest reservoirs—are projected to be only 29% full by 2023. This river system, upon which 40 million North Americans in the United States and Mexico depend, is in trouble. But there is an opportunity to manage this crisis. Water allocation agreements from 2007 and 2019, designed to deal with a shrinking river, will be renegotiated over the next 4 years. Will decision-makers and politicians follow the science?

It has been said that climate change is water change. Globally, the effects on rivers vary widely, from increased risk of flooding in some places, to short-run increases in river flows in others as glaciers melt and catastrophes ensue once the glaciers are gone. The only constant is change, and our inability to rely on the way rivers used to flow. Like many snowmelt-fed rivers, for the Colorado this translates into less water for cities, farms, and the environment.

Research published over the past 5 years makes the threat clear. Run-off efficiency—the percentage of rain and snow that ends up as river water—is down, with half the decline since 2000 attributed to greenhouse-driven warming. For every 1°C of warming, researchers expect another 9% decline in the Colorado's flow. This year's snowpack was 80% of average but is delivering less than 30% of average river flows. Hot, dry summers bake soils, reducing flows the following year. The Colorado is not unusual. Researchers have identified similar patterns in other North American rivers, as well as in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia...

...As the basin's water management community prepares for a new round of negotiations over the water allocation rules, how bad of a “worst case scenario” should be considered and who will get less water as a result? It is tempting to use today's 20% flow decline as the new baseline—that is, modeling future reductions on the basis of what has already been observed. But only by planning for even greater declines can we manage the real economic, social, and environmental risks of running low on a critical resource upon which 40 million North Americans depend.

The United States and Mexico—not just America's West and Southwest—can't afford to get this wrong...

In my opinion, we have already gotten the Colorado wrong.

This is going to end with desalination, and I'm quite sure they'll be all kinds of talk about "renewable energy" even has hydroelectricity literally dries up. The reality is that the desalination will be driven by dangerous fossil fuels, further accelerating the death of the river.

A dead battery dilemma

The Science news item I'll discuss in this post is this one: A dead battery dilemma Ian Morse, Science 21 May 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6544, pp. 780-783.

Subtitle: With millions of electric vehicles set to hit the road, scientists are seeking better battery recycling methods.

Ian Morse, the author of this news item, despite publishing a news article in one of the world's most prestigious general scientific journals is not, apparently, a scientist. He is a journalist, which explains why he has utilized a misleading subtitle, since it implies that batteries are currently recycled. Currently they largely are not; as is explained by the caption to the first picture in the news article.

The picture in question:

The caption:

A shredded electric vehicle battery can yield recyclable metals, but it is often cheaper for batterymakers to use new materials.

Cheaper for whom? For us, or for future generations, about whom, apparently, we couldn't care less?

The news item is probably open sourced. I have accessed it without signing in to the journal. Here anyway, is an excerpt:

The battery pack of a Tesla Model S is a feat of intricate engineering. Thousands of cylindrical cells with components sourced from around the world transform lithium and electrons into enough energy to propel the car hundreds of kilometers, again and again, without tailpipe emissions. But when the battery comes to the end of its life, its green benefits fade. If it ends up in a landfill, its cells can release problematic toxins, including heavy metals. And recycling the battery can be a hazardous business, warns materials scientist Dana Thompson of the University of Leicester. Cut too deep into a Tesla cell, or in the wrong place, and it can short-circuit, combust, and release toxic fumes.

That's just one of the many problems confronting researchers, including Thompson, who are trying to tackle an emerging problem: how to recycle the millions of electric vehicle (EV) batteries that manufacturers expect to produce over the next few decades. Current EV batteries “are really not designed to be recycled,” says Thompson, a research fellow at the Faraday Institution, a research center focused on battery issues in the United Kingdom.

That wasn't much of a problem when EVs were rare. But now the technology is taking off. Several carmakers have said they plan to phase out combustion engines within a few decades, and industry analysts predict at least 145 million EVs will be on the road by 2030, up from just 11 million last year. “People are starting to realize this is an issue,” Thompson says.

"People are starting to realize..."

Might it not have been a better idea to have thought this issue through before declaring, as everyone everywhere does in an overly facile fashion, that batteries are "green," because they can store so called "renewable energy?"

Excuse me for being, um, difficult and raising difficult questions.

To my knowledge, there is one, and only one, new technology for which one of its inventors considered the sustainability and acceptance and risk issue before the industry was built: That would be nuclear energy. Among others, Enrico Fermi, who designed and built the first nuclear reactor under a squash court in Chicago, wondered if the public would accept the accumulation of radioactive fission products if nuclear reactors went commercial. This consideration did not stop Enrico Fermi from designing and building nuclear reactors: He advocated for the first nuclear reactor ever to be utilized to generate an electric current. It produced enough electricity to light a small incandescent light bulb.

The long term storage of fission products, all of which I contend are extremely useful, or would be in a sane world as opposed to the world in which we actually live, has resulted in an extraordinarily low death toll, lower than the death toll associated with explosions buildings utilizing dangerous natural gas, and a huge order of magnitude lower with the death toll associated with the inability to contain dangerous fossil fuel waste and dangerous combustion waste from "renewable" biomass:

It is still not clear, 70 years later, whether the public "accepts" the accumulation of fission products, although a few thousand metric tons of fission products have been created. The public however accepts billions of tons of dangerous fossil fuel waste, which kills approximately seven million people per year, not counting climate change, which causes hundreds of billions of dollars of damage in ever more regular "extreme" weather events, albeit that such weather events are not really "extreme" any more.

The scientific literature is filled, absolutely filled, with oodles and oodles of discussions of the issue of recycling batteries. The current issue of one of the journals I regularly read, ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, which I just went through tonight, has two articles on approaches to recycling batteries, including this one: Strengthening Valuable Metal Recovery from Spent Lithium-Ion Batteries by Environmentally Friendly Reductive Thermal Treatment and Electrochemical Leaching, (Shuya Lei, Yintao Zhang, Shaole Song, Rui Xu, Wei Sun, Shengming Xu, and Yue Yang, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering 2021 9 (20), 7053-7062)

Some fun text from that paper's introduction:

With their advantages of good cycle performance, high discharge capacity, and large energy density, lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have been widely used in electric vehicles and electronic products.(1,2) In 2020, the number and weight of LIBs exceeded 25 billion and 500,000 tons, respectively.(3) On one hand, a large amount of raw materials, such as nickel, cobalt, and lithium, will be consumed to produce the cathode materials of LIBs. According to U.S. Geological Survey, the global reserves of nickel, cobalt, and lithium have reached 74,000,000, 7,100,000, and 16,000,000 tons, respectively, and they predicted that the amount of nickel, cobalt, and lithium required to produce LIBs will exceed 340,000, 910,000, and 230,000 tons, respectively, in 2025.(4) Resource supplies have become scarce. On the other hand, the increase in the application of LIBs will produce a large quantity of spent LIBs. Many valuable metals, such as copper, aluminum, nickel, cobalt, and lithium, are contained in these spent LIBs.(5,6) Effective recovery of the valuable metals from spent LIBs has been considered as an effective way to alleviate the shortage of resources.(7)

Well, there you have it. There is a shortage of resources for something generally described as supporting what is claimed to be "renewable."

By the way, a process that is electrochemical and/or a process that is thermal, by definition requires energy.. I never tire of pointing out that infrastructure that is both economically and environmentally superior to all other processes will be a continuous process.

Maybe we can get the necessary energy to recycle batteries by, um, burning them. Another picture and caption from the news item cited at the outset:

The caption:

A technician in Germany makes sure a burned lithium-ion battery is discharged before further recycling.

It's widely experienced, if swept under the rug with other unpleasant things we don't wish to ponder, that the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. This is true even in renewable energy nirvanas like California, where wind and solar droughts are not just possible, but are known.

The recommended solution: Mine more copper to make more copper wires.

It's an issue in Germany as well, and they have a word for it: Dunkelflaute.

Let's all depend on the weather, even while we destroy weather stability while we exercise all this popular enthusiasm for going "green."


The issue of the availability of mass goes beyond batteries of course.

Here's an editorial from another scientific journal, Nature Reviews Materials: Raw materials for a truly green future It was published this month. “People are starting to realize this is an issue...”

Some text from the editorial:

Most electric cars run on Li-ion batteries, which require substantial amounts of both Li and Co. Mining these elements is far from what we would call ‘green’. Most Co comes from mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the issue of pollution is compounded by concerns about human-rights violations. Owing to the large amounts of water its mining requires, the extraction of Li has a big impact on regions with scarce water resources (most Li comes from Australia, Chile and Argentina). Richard Herrington reflects on how we can secure acceptable sources for the raw materials we require to transition to a green economy in a Comment in this issue.

The link to the popular automotive press occurs in the original editorial.

Another link appears in the editorial which I will produce outside of it.

Mining our green future (Comment, Richard Herrington, Nature Reviews Materials, published 24 May 2021.)

Some text:

In 2020, amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset initiative highlighted the crossroads society faces for its post-pandemic rebuild in the context of climate and planetary emergencies and ambitions for a new inclusive social contract. The idea is that the energy industry is transformed and rebuilt in a resilient, equitable and sustainable way, while harnessing the innovations of the fourth industrial revolution. The United Nation’s ‘race to zero’ pledge to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050, enthusiastically adopted by government and industry alike, further demands a transformation to energy sourced from sustainable technologies rather than the burning of fossil fuels, which fuelled the first three industrial revolutions. However, these green technologies carry intensive mineral demands.

"Green technologies..."

I would consider the title of this comment to be an abuse of language. Is it not inherently true that any technology, that depends on vast mining of readily depleted resources is not green?

Go figure.

We live in the age of the "big lie." Reality, even obvious reality, no longer matters.

“People are starting to realize this is an issue...”

We hit 420 ppm concentrations of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere, well less than ten years after we first hit 400 ppm.

History will not forgive us, nor should it.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

Edited for typos.

A 10 per cent increase in global land evapotranspiration from 2003 to 2019

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: Pascolini-Campbell, M., Reager, J.T., Chandanpurkar, H.A. et al. A 10 per cent increase in global land evapotranspiration from 2003 to 2019. Nature 593, 543–547 (2021).

I have to make a guilty confession that back in the 1970's, when I was a young man, I used to take seriously articles about "studies" which "showed" that the world "could" run on "100% renewable energy" "by 1995" and then "by 2000," then "by 2010," then "by 2020." Now, I read about "by 2050," or "by 2040," even. Of course, I know longer take these prayerful chants seriously, since at least later in my life, I took it upon myself to seriously look at reality.

Reality consists of facts. Facts matter.

That huge powerful so called "renewable energy" device, the Hoover dam, holds back an artificial lake, Lake Mead.

Here is a compilation of the elevation of Lake Mead's surface, going back to the beginning of the reservoir's filling, beginning in 1935, thus destroying and strangling the Colorado River Delta ecosystem in Mexico: LAKE MEAD AT HOOVER DAM, END OF MONTH ELEVATION (FEET)

Since 1935, Lake Mead has been lower than 1080 feet at the end of any month, as it was at the end of April 2021, 61 times. Twenty eight of those times were recorded in the 1930's, while the "lake" was filling. The other 33 times have all taken place since April of 2015.

Lake Mead first reached an elevation of 1200 feet in 1941. The highest elevation ever recorded 1225.44 feet, was in July of 1983. The lowest ever recorded was 1071.64, recorded in July of 2016.

Anyone want to take any bets on whether there will be a new record low in 2021?

They're not taking bets over at CNN: First-ever Colorado River water shortage is now almost certain, new projections show

On Tuesday, the water level in Lake Mead -- the largest US reservoir, and fed by the Colorado River -- fell below the elevation of 1,075 feet. It has hit that mark only a handful of times since the Hoover Dam was finished in the 1930s, but it always recovered shortly after. It may not this time, at least not any time soon.

The US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) forecasts the lake's levels to continue to decline, without any sign of recovery through at least the end of 2022.

Don't worry. Be happy. 100% "renewable energy" by...by...by...by...whatever.

Until the Godotian "renewable energy nirvana" breaks out, I wouldn't advise investing in Golf Courses in the Phoenix area, for that matter, in Las Vegas, or the LA area.

The global water cycle is severely disturbed. I personally attribute this fact - facts matter - to the mentality that states "nuclear energy is 'too dangerous.'" Climate change isn't "too dangerous," however, apparently, to the people proudly wearing this mentality. Also I hear "nuclear energy is 'too expensive.'" Drying out the entire western United States is not "too expensive," however.

Of course, I'm nowhere near as smart or as famous as say, Robert F. Kennedy, who is anti-nuke, anti-dam, anti-wind, anti-fossil fuels, anti-vax, anti-GMO, anti-this, anti-that. Of course, like most people born into wealth he did nothing to earn, he is decidedly not anti-poverty. He couldn't care less about people living in sun baked mud huts burning sticks and dung to cook their food, with no access to even primitive improved sanitation, people compelled to defecate in the open because well, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. thinks that vaccines, nuclear power plants, dams, etc. are "too dangerous." Children dying from diarrheal diseases because of a lack of sanitation, clean water, and energy, or for that matter from the lack of access to a vaccine, is not "too dangerous."

By the way, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. - as one can see in the first link involving him above - is suing Daily Kos, and although I have no use for Daily Kos, I certainly support Markos's efforts to prevail against Kennedy's case, which is about anonymity on blogs. It doesn't merely affect Kos; it affects all of us. So let's wish Markos "good luck!."

Markos banned me from Daily Kos after I cited a paper by the climate scientist who used to be a hero at Daily Kos, until he wasn't, Jim Hansen. The paper was this one, which I still cite often, as I find the statements, facts and conclusions therein irrefutable:

Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power (Pushker A. Kharecha* and James E. Hansen Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47 (9), pp 4889–4895)

After citing the paper, I remarked, in crude language that I will only paraphrase as I've mellowed in the years since I was invited to leave Kos, that if what Jim Hansen wrote in the paper is true - and I contend it is true - then opposing nuclear energy is murder.

This, I'm sure, was and is a true statement.

Facts matter.

It's not like I claimed that the events January 6, 2021 at the US capitol involved excited tourists.

Go figure.

One anti-science anti-nuke suing another. It doesn't get any better than that, although, frankly, it's a little obscene, under the circumstances, to engage in Schadenfreude. We are all, every human being on the planet, suffering from the result. If it were possible that a reactionary return to so called "renewable energy" could save the world, if it had saved the world, no reasonable person could have objected.

But it didn't save the world. It isn't saving the world. It won't save the world.

But my small whiny personal concerns are trivial; in the not too distant future, certainly "by 2050," I will have "shuffled off this mortal coil," as Willie the Shake so eloquently put it. I will say though, that we on the left need to "think anew," about energy. Our thinking on the left has exactly the same result as what passes for "thinking" on the right:

The global water cycle is changing rapidly and the consequences are very real.

From the introduction to the paper:

Evapotranspiration (ET)—the outgoing flux of water vapour from the surface and via transpiration of plants—is the second-largest component of the global water cycle over the land masses following precipitation (Pr)7,14. Owing to observational and measurement challenges, ET at continental and global scales is typically approximated using models4,5, remote sensing by proxy7,15 and upscaling of point measurements8,9,10. Each of these approaches is sensitive to the choice of input data used and the algorithm or model applied in an indirect estimation of ET. As errors in ET calculation often manifest as biases rather than random errors (for example, an algorithmic parameter error or a model structural error), global ET estimates can suffer from the amplification of these small biases into critical miscalculations through upscaling. Furthermore, the common thermal imaging-based approaches for mapping ET16 rely on calibration via a limited number of ground validation sites, which themselves may suffer from systematic biases. As a major element of the global water cycle, ET is an important metric for quantifying and understanding the nature of changes in the water cycle. It has been hypothesized that in a warming climate, the water cycle will ‘intensify’1,2,3, and as a consequence, global land ET should increase17. Vegetation changes may also influence ET variability through complex land–atmosphere interactions18. The importance of ET to the global water cycle in the context of a changing climate further points to the need for a better-constrained estimate of global land ET.

Previous studies have shown that the estimation of continental to global ET is quite challenging, and it is likely that this flux still represents the most uncertain term in the global water budget. The lack of an observational constraint on global land ET makes it difficult to evaluate the trends and drivers of global ET calculated from different methodologies (Extended Data Table 1). Using eddy covariance observations and machine learning, a study found that global ET increased between 1982 and 1998, but then decreased from 1998 to 2008 due to limited water supply19. Other studies have also found evidence of increasing ET in recent decades: a study using the Global Land Evaporation: the Amsterdam Methodology (GLEAM) model constrained by satellite observations detected a positive trend over 1980 to 2011, and found that decadal ET was dominated by natural variability associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)20, whereas a different study also found a positive trend, but detected varying relationships among models and remote-sensing products with tropical Pacific variability21...

...Here we present a direct mass-balance (that is, top down) estimate of monthly global land ET based on Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and GRACE-Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellite observations13. At basin scales, the mass conservation equation requires discharge (Q) at the mouth, total Pr over the basin and basin water storage change to calculate ET as a residual. With GRACE providing the water storage changes, water budget estimates of ET have proven effective in providing independent constraints regionally24,25,26,27,28,29 and globally30,31. In previous work, we applied this method to evaluate ET products for major basins in the continental United States, and found that even aggregating at the basin scale produced biases in remote-sensing and model-based methods compared with water-balance closure25.

At global scales, accurate knowledge of Q remains challenging given the sparsity of coastal stations32. However, this can be addressed by calculating global discharge with an ocean mass-balance approach33,34, and this study uses novel estimates of global Q that do not rely on gauges or models. The water-balance variables are entirely independent: the precipitation data are averaged over land areas, whereas the discharge estimates close the ocean mass balance using data exclusively from ocean areas...

Some images from the paper:

Fig. 1: Water-balance seasonal cycles.

The caption:

Long-term mean seasonal cycle of ET (red solid line), Pr (blue line), Q (black line) and dS/dt (teal line) over 2003 to 2019. In each case, the seasonal cycles have been bias corrected. The shading is the standard deviation among the bias-corrected seasonal cycle of the ET ensemble (red shading), and input datasets used for Pr (four datasets, blue shading), Q (five datasets, black shading) and dS/dt (three methods from JPL RL06 GRACE TWS, teal shading).

As for what dS/dt is there's this text:

The seasonal cycle of water storage change (S) over time (t) (dS/dt; maximum negative value of −185 mm yr−1) and ET leads Pr (peaking in July with a mean of 811 mm yr−1), and global Q (also peaking in July with a mean of 366 mm yr−1) (Fig. 1).

Fig. 2: Comparison of ET with other products.

The caption:

a, Long-term mean (2003–2019) seasonal cycle of ET compared with other ET products. b, Time series of ET with seasonal cycle removed and a moving average of 15 months applied for ET (red line), FLUXCOM (dotted black), GLDAS2.2 (orange), MOD16A2GF (black) and PT-JPL (dashed cyan). c, The trend in ET for each of the smoothed time series calculated for the available period of the time series in b. The shading (a, b) represents the confidence intervals for the ensemble of ET. The mean of the bootstrapped data used for gap-filling ET is plotted in b (dashed black line) as well as the corresponding confidence intervals (grey shading).

Fig. 3: Trends in the water balance.

The caption:

a–d, Time series with seasonal cycle removed and a moving average filter of 15 months applied for ET (a), Pr (b), Q (c) and dS/dt (d). The trend for 2003 to 2019 of the mean of the ensemble is plotted as a black line, and the slope of the trend is indicated in top right corner. The 95% confidence interval for the trend of ET due to the bootstrap gap-filling is plotted as dotted red lines (a). The shading represents the confidence intervals for the ensembles of ET, Pr and Q. The mean of the bootstrapped data used for gap-filling ET is plotted (a; black line) as well as the corresponding confidence intervals (grey shading).

Some additional text:

...Implications for the water cycle

ET increased over 2003 to 2019 with a significant positive linear trend of 2.30 ± 0.52 mm yr−1, corresponding to an increase of approximately 10 ± 2% above the global mean ET. The trend is significant even in light of the gap filling and error of the input data. The positive trend results from the interaction of all water-balance components: a positive trend in Pr, coupled with negative trends in Q and dS/dt. Pr is also increasingly partitioned into ET and not Q, which has implications for water availability. The observed increase in ET is consistent with previous studies20,22,23.

A 10% increase in ET represents an increased loss of water from land with potential implications for water resources, climate and agriculture. Higher ET fluxes can also influence the land–atmosphere energy exchange and produce surface cooling from enhanced latent heat fluxes37. In the context of our results, which indicate that the positive ET trend is due to warming, this could create a negative feedback mechanism to counteract warming. We note that our global ET estimate is a bulk estimate, and therefore cannot highlight specific hotspots of global change, and future regionally based work is needed to identify regional variations.

On the basis of the present findings, there is more of an apparent effect of temperature rather than ENSO variability on the trend in ET. This finding is consistent with the premise that the water cycle will intensify in a warming climate due to greater atmospheric demand1. Global land surface temperature variability explains most of the variability in ET (54%), whereas natural climate variability associated with ENSO explains only 17%...

The conclusion of the paper is rather dire, but well...don't worry be happy.

"By 2050..."

I trust you will enjoy the Memorial Day weekend. It's going to rain most of the weekend in New Jersey, and that, I think, may be a good thing. I worry all the time about droughts, and it's not entirely an artifact of having once lived in Southern California.

Divisive COVID 'lab leak' debate prompts dire warnings from researchers

From Nature news: Divisive COVID ‘lab leak’ debate prompts dire warnings from researchers

Subtitle: Allegations that COVID escaped from a Chinese lab make it harder for nations to collaborate on ending the pandemic — and fuel online bullying, some scientists say.

Amy Maxmen, Nature NEWS 27 May 2021

It's probably open sourced.

Some excerpts:

alls to investigate Chinese laboratories have reached a fever pitch in the United States, as Republican leaders allege that the coronavirus causing the pandemic was leaked from one, and as some scientists argue that this ‘lab leak’ hypothesis requires a thorough, independent inquiry. But for many researchers, the tone of the growing demands is unsettling. They say the volatility of the debate could thwart efforts to study the virus’s origins.

Global-health researchers also warn that the growing demands are exacerbating tensions between the United States and China ahead of crucial meetings at which world leaders will make high-level decisions about how to curb the pandemic and prepare for future health emergencies. At the World Health Assembly this week, for example, health officials from nearly 200 countries are discussing strategies including ways to ramp up vaccine manufacturing and to reform the World Health Organization (WHO). But a US–China divide will make consensus on these issues harder to reach, says David Fidler, a global-health researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank in Washington DC. “If there’s some turning down of the geopolitical heat between these two great powers, we could create some space to perhaps do some of the things that we need to do,” he says.

Others worry that the rhetoric around an alleged lab leak has grown so toxic that it’s fuelling online bullying of scientists and anti-Asian harassment in the United States, as well as offending researchers and authorities in China whose cooperation is needed.

Fever pitch

The debate over the lab-leak hypothesis has been rumbling since last year. But it has grown louder in the past month — even without strong supporting evidence. On 14 May, 18 researchers published a letter in Science1 arguing that the idea of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 leaking from a lab in China must be explored more deeply. It points out that the first phase of a COVID-19 origins investigation sponsored by the WHO, which released a report in March, focused more on the virus coming from an animal than on its potential escape from a lab. For example, the report mapped a large market in Wuhan, China, and stated that most samples of SARS-CoV-2 recovered there by investigators were found around stalls that sold animals. Many virologists say that this focus is warranted, because most emerging infectious diseases begin with a spillover from nature, as seen with HIV, Zika and Ebola. Genomic evidence also suggests that a virus similar to SARS-CoV-2 originated in horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus spp.), before spreading to an unknown animal that then passed the pathogen to people...

…Even if the letter in Science was well intentioned, its authors should have thought more about how it would feed into the divisive political environment surrounding this issue, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada.

WHO report into COVID pandemic origins zeroes in on animal markets, not labs

The lead author of the letter, David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University in California, still feels it’s important to voice his opinion — and says he can’t stop it from being misrepresented. “I am not saying I believe the virus came from a laboratory,” he says. Rather, he says that the authors of the WHO investigation report were too decisive in their conclusions...

Once again the media obsessed with the murderer and not the victims.

I consider that many mass murderers thrive on the attention or the hope of posthumous attention, which is what they get.

What they deserve is obscurity.

Jacinda Ardern has it right.

Going to my son's LIVE graduation on Monday!!!!

He graduated early, in December, but stayed on for some graduate work, but the university, in light of the vaccinations, has decided to have a live graduation, parents and family, for his class. (There are no mid-year ceremonies.)

The 2020 graduates were not so lucky. We saw some poor young woman on cancer, in robes, last summer, standing alone with her parents for pictures.

I would like to thank the President of the United States for allowing this to happen.

A Predictive Biomarker Is Found to Measure the Effectiveness of SARS-Cov-2 Vaccines.

In this post I will briefly discuss a news item in Nature, this one: Scientists zero in on long-sought marker of COVID-vaccine efficacy

I will then point to the paper it references, which should be open sourced: Khoury, D.S., Cromer, D., Reynaldi, A. et al. Neutralizing antibody levels are highly predictive of immune protection from symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Med (2021).

Subtitle: Data from seven vaccination trials help to identify a blood marker for protection against the disease.

A biomarker, (or blood marker) for those who do not know, is a chemical found in tissue - often but not always blood - that indicates the presence, absence, and in some cases, the probability of a disease state. Common examples of which most people are aware are glucose levels for diabetes, A1Ac for type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, for heart disease, troponin for heart attacks, so and so on...

The discovery of biomarkers is sometimes non-trivial, and often they depend of measuring patient outcomes in clinical trials (or in epidemiological studies) along with a "shotgun" series of measurements of multiple species in a data independent setting, in the mass spec case, or, infectious diseases ligand binding "sandwich" assays which utilize receptors displayed on the surface by the offending organism or viral particle, or degradants of the particle or organism (for example qPCR type RNA tests to detect Covid.)

There are many complications in measuring antibodies, since they are protein molecules with a large nearly invariant structure, having a Y shape, with the stem of the "Y," called the Fc region, being generally completely the same for differing antibodies with different functions. Their activity is determined by a small sequence of amino acids, called the "CDR" - the complementarity determining region - found at the tips of the arms; the arms are called the Fab region. If one relies entirely on binding, one can have problems with cross reactivity, the precise nature of a CDR can be determined by a hybrid "immune capture"/digestion/mass spec approach.

Antibodies come in two flavors, neutralizing and binding - binding can represent a signaling tool - and there is considerable evidence that other factors are involved in protection or recovery from Covid, notably T-Cells. As it sounds, "neutralizing antibodies" prevent viral infection, preventing the viral particle from entering a cell; T-cells destroy the viral particles completely.

Nevertheless, the biomarker discussed in the news item focuses on neutralizing antibodies.

The news item and the motivating paper are probably open sourced, but a few excerpts first from the news item:

After people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the levels of infection-blocking antibodies in their blood are a strong indicator of how much protection they’ve gained against the disease, according to a modelling study1. The research showed that the presence of even small quantities of these potent ‘neutralizing antibodies’ indicates that a vaccine is effective at protecting against COVID-19.

The study is the best attempt yet to define features of the immune response that can act as a proxy for protection against COVID-19, known as a ‘correlate of protection’, says Daniel Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London. “Finding the correlate of protection has really been a holy grail for this disease, as for others. It’s surprisingly hard to do.”

If researchers have a well-defined correlate of protection, they can predict from early trial data how effective a vaccine will be, says James Triccas, a medical microbiologist at the University of Sydney in Australia and a co-author of the study. This “alleviates the need to do larger, more expensive and time-consuming phase III trials”.

Triccas and his colleagues examined neutralizing-antibody data from trials of seven widely used vaccines. The team found a strong link between participants’ antibody levels recorded in early-stage trials and vaccine-efficacy results from late-stage trials. The researchers estimate that a vaccine has an efficacy of 50% even if it induces antibody levels 80% lower than those found, on average, in a person who has recovered from COVID-19.

Vaccines that generated the strongest neutralizing-antibody responses, such as the mRNA-based vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer–BioNTech, were the most protective. Vaccines that induced a weaker response, which included the Oxford–AstraZeneca jab, provided lower levels of protection.

The researchers predict that because antibody levels wane over time, booster shots might be needed in about a year, but protection against severe disease could last many years even without them.

The findings help to explain why, despite studies showing that some variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus reduce the ability of neutralizing antibodies to block infection, most people who have been vaccinated, even with just one dose, don’t fare too badly if infected with those variants, says Altmann...

Excerpts and a few graphics suggesting when the need for booster shots will be required, from the referenced paper:

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has spread globally over the past year, infecting an immunologically naive population and causing significant morbidity and mortality. Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 induced either through natural infection or vaccination has been shown to afford a degree of protection against reinfection and/or reduce the risk of clinically significant outcomes. Seropositive recovered subjects have been estimated to have 89% protection from reinfection1, and vaccine efficacies from 50 to 95% have been reported2. However, the duration of protective immunity is presently unclear, primary immune responses are inevitably waning3,4,5, and there is ongoing transmission of increasingly concerning viral variants that may escape control by both vaccine-induced and convalescent immune responses6.

A critical challenge at present is to identify the immune correlate(s) of protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection and thereby predict how changes in immunity will be reflected in clinical outcomes. A defined correlate of protection will permit both confidence in opening up economies and facilitate rapid improvements in vaccines and immunotherapies. In influenza infection, for example, a hemagglutination inhibition (HAI) titer of 1:40 is thought to provide 50% protection from influenza infection7 (although estimates range from 1:17 to 1:110, refs. 8,9). This level was established over many years using data from a standardized HAI assay10 applied to serological samples from human challenge and cohort studies. This assay is used to predict vaccine efficacy and to assist in the annual reformulation of seasonal influenza vaccines. At present, however, there are few standardized assays for assessing SARS-CoV-2 immunity, little data comparing immune levels in susceptible versus resistant individuals, and no human challenge model11.

The data currently available for SARS-CoV-2 infection include immunogenicity data from phase 1 and 2 studies of vaccines, and data on protection from preliminary reports from phase 3 studies and from seropositive convalescent individuals (Supplementary Tables 1 and 2). Although antiviral T and B cell memory certainly contribute some degree of protection, strong evidence of a protective role for neutralizing serum antibodies exists. For example, passive transfer of neutralizing antibodies can prevent severe SARS-CoV-2 infection in multiple animal models,12,13 and Regeneron has recently reported similar data in humans14...

Since different antibody assays were utilized in different clinical trials for different vaccines, the authors developed a method of normalizing them.

They found that neutralizing antibody levels correlated well with protection from active symptomatic infection or reinfection.

Some figures from the text:

Fig. 1: Understanding the relationship between neutralization and protection.

The caption:

a, Relationship between neutralization level and protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection. The reported mean neutralization level from phase 1 and 2 trials and the protective efficacy from phase 3 trials for seven vaccines, as well as the protection observed in a seropositive convalescent cohort, are shown (details of data sources are given in Supplementary Tables 1 and 2). The 95% CIs are indicated as vertical and as horizontal whiskers. The red solid line indicates the best fit of the logistic model and the red shading indicates the 95% predictive interval of the model. The mean neutralization level and protective efficacy of the Covaxin vaccine are indicated as a green circle (data from this study were available only after modeling was complete and did not contribute to fitting). b, Schematic illustration of the logistic approach to identifying the protective neutralization level. The data for each study include the distribution of the measured in vitro neutralization titer against SARS-CoV-2 in vaccinated or convalescent subjects (as a proportion of the mean titer in convalescent subjects (dashed line)) (blue/red bell curve), accompanied by a level of protective efficacy for the same regimen. The efficacy is illustrated by the proportions of the bell curve ‘protected’ (blue) and ‘susceptible’ (red) for individual studies. The modeling fits the optimal 50% protective neutralization level (blue solid line, the shaded area indicates the 95% CI) that best estimates the correct levels of protection observed across the different studies. c, Predictions of the leave-one-out analysis. Modeling was repeated multiple times using all potential sets of the seven vaccination studies and the convalescent study to predict the efficacy of the eighth study. The diagonal dashed line indicates the position of a 1:1 correlation (i.e., the relationship if the model were completely accurate). The horizontal whiskers indicate 95% CIs and the vertical whiskers indicate 95% predictive intervals.

Fig. 2: The effects of waning neutralization titer on protection.

The caption:

a, Prediction of the effects of declining neutralization titer. Assuming that the observed relationship between neutralization level and protection is consistent over time, we estimate the decline in efficacy for vaccines with different levels of initial efficacy. The model assumes a half-life of the neutralization titer of 108 d over the first 250 d (as observed in a convalescent cohort5). b, Modeling of the time for efficacy to drop to 70% (red line) or 50% (blue line) for scenarios with different initial efficacy. For example, for a group starting with an initial protective efficacy of 90%, the model predicts that 70% efficacy will be reached after 201 d and 50% efficacy will not be reached before 250 d. c, Estimation of the impact of viral antigenic variation on vaccine efficacy. In vitro studies have shown that neutralization titers against some SARS-CoV-2 variants are reduced compared with titers against wild-type virus. If the relationship between neutralization and protection remains constant, we can predict the difference in protective efficacy against wild-type and variant viruses from the difference in neutralization level. The dashed line indicates equal protection against wild-type and variant strains. Details of the data and modeling are provided in the Methods.

Fig. 3: Protection from severe infection.

The caption:

a, The predicted relationship between efficacy against any symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection and the efficacy against severe infection. The black line indicates the best fit model for the relationship between protection against any versus severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. The shaded areas indicate the 95% CIs. Efficacy against severe infection was calculated using a threshold that was 0.15 times lower than that for mild infection (95% CI = 0.036–0.65) (see Methods and Supplementary Table 5). b, Extrapolation of the decay of neutralization titers over time. This model uses the estimated half-life of SARS-CoV-2 neutralization titer in convalescent subjects of 108 d over the first 250 d5, after which the decay decreases linearly until it achieves a 10-year half-life (consistent with the long-term stability of antibody responses seen after other vaccines47,48). We simulate three scenarios, with decay of neutralization taking 1 year (blue dashed line), 1.5 years (purple dashed line) or 2 years (red dashed line) to slow to a 10-year half-life. For different initial starting levels the model projects the decay in neutralization titer over the subsequent 1,000 d (the gray shaded area indicates projections beyond the currently available data). The purple shaded region indicates being below the 50% protective titer for any symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, and the orange shaded region indicates being below the 50% protective titer for severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. The model illustrates that, depending on the initial neutralization level, individuals may maintain protection from severe infection while becoming susceptible to mild infection (that is, with neutralization levels remaining in the purple shaded region). c, Extrapolation of the trajectory of protection for groups with different starting levels of protection. The model uses the same assumptions for the rate of immune decay as discussed in b. The projections beyond 250 d (gray shaded region) rely on an assumption of how the decay in SARS-CoV-2 neutralization titer will slow over time. In addition, the modeling projects only how decay in neutralization is predicted to affect protection. Other mechanisms of immune protection may play important roles in providing long-term protection that are not captured in this simulation.

Some additional commentary by the authors:

As discussed above, a major caveat of our estimate of the relative protective level of antibodies in SARS-CoV-2 infection is that it includes aggregation of data collected from diverse neutralization assays and clinical trial designs (Supplementary Tables 1 and 2). It is hoped that in the future a standardized neutralization assay may be developed and utilized, which will allow direct comparison of neutralization titers and further refinement of these analyses11. In addition, the development of standardized trials and case definitions is necessary, given that differences in classification (particularly of severe disease) may prove to be important (Supplementary Table 3). The association of neutralization with protection across these studies does not prove that neutralizing antibodies are necessarily mechanistic in mediating protection. It is possible that neutralization is correlated with other immune responses, leading to an apparent association (as has been suggested for the use of HAI titer in influenza50,51,52). Thus, it will be important to study other responses such as T cell responses or B cell memory responses as additional potential correlates of protection. Another important refinement of this approach would be to have standardized measures of other serological and cellular responses to infection, to identify if any of these provide a better predictive value than neutralization. However, despite these limitations, our work identifies neutralizing antibodies as an immune correlate of protection and provides a quantitative prediction of the link between neutralizing antibody levels and clinical protection

The scientific community deserves a pat on the back for the speed and efficiency with which they have addressed this crisis in record time, despite the rising power of ignorance, indifference, mysticism, and the wide dissemination of outright lies.

Have a safe and happy weekend.

IEA Prediction on Coal Growth as Compared to the Growth of All Renewables Combined.

Here, on the political left, we have bet the future of the planet on so called "renewable energy," to address the on going collapse of the planetary atmosphere: Nevertheless for the week beginning April 25, 2021, the average concentration of the dangerous fossil fuel waste in the planetary atmosphere, measured at the Mauna Loa observatory was 420.01 ppm, just 7 years and 11 months after it hit 400 ppm for the first time. (Week beginning 5/26/2013, 400.03 ppm, 9 years and one month after first hitting 380 ppm, 4/4/2004, 380.2).

That increase of 40 ppm took place in a little less time than I've been writing at DU. For the whole time I've been here, I've been hearing, albeit with increasing disbelief, how wonderful so called "renewable energy" is, how it's replacing nuclear energy and how we don't "need" nuclear energy. Lately there's been some after the fact lip service to how the so called "renewable energy" industry is driving the coal industry out of business.

Every year for the last 15 years or so, I've been able to download the World Energy Outlook put out each year by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Covid has restricted some of my literature access, in particular the 2020 World Energy Outlook full report.

Nevertheless, the IEA has teasers on their websites, littered with misleading and somewhat dishonest "percent talk." If you buy access to the full report, you can find units of energy however - the unfortunate unit MTOE (million tons oil equivalent) that can nevertheless be converted to the SI unit, Exajoule (EJ).

Here's the teaser page: Global Energy Review: Key Findings.

For all those folks who keep saying "Coal is Dead" and claiming that somehow the solar and wind industry has killed it, I quote:

Demand for all fossil fuels is set to grow significantly in 2021. Coal demand alone is projected to increase by 60% more than all renewables combined, underpinning a rise in emissions of almost 5%, or 1 500 Mt. This expected increase would reverse 80% of the drop in 2020, with emissions ending up just 1.2% (or 400 Mt) below 2019 emissions levels.

The bold, which to me says all I need to know about fantasy and reality, was added by me.

The primary energy production of wind and solar energy combined has never matched the primary energy production of nuclear energy, albeit obscured by the lie that a solar farm which has a theoretical peak capacity of 1 GW but might reach that power output for a few seconds on a sunny summer solstice day is the equivalent of a nuclear plant with a peak capacity of 1 GW that operates continuously at or near that power level for years at a time, without shutting down.

Constrained by fear, ignorance, selective attention, and raw stupidity, the nuclear industry has never, not once, produced as much energy as the coal industry, although for the first time, the nuclear industry has grown beyond 30 EJ per year.

After half a century of wild cheering for it, and the expenditures of trillion dollar quantities of money on it, the solar industry produces 2 EJ per year.

World energy demand as of 2019 was about 603 EJ, dominated by dangerous oil, then dangerous coal, and then dangerous natural gas, followed by the combustion of biomass. The waste from these fuels, which nobody knows how to address, kills in the form of air pollution, about 7 million people per year. It is also driving climate change, with extreme weather adding to the death toll.

Don't worry be happy.

Go join Bill McKibben's 350.org, where you can hear about losing, oh, 70 ppm in some magic "renewable energy" future. He's been prattling on year after year after year, but hasn't learned to say the word "nuclear" lest he offend one of his bourgeois contributors.

History will not forgive us; nor should it.

Have a nice weekend.

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