Why Keep Including India When Comparing US with China Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

When industry and conservative writers or commentators oppose lowering US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, they always point out that China’s are now higher than US emissions, and they are supposedly doing nothing about it, and throw in India as third.  They imply that India’s GHG emissions must be somehow be comparable to China’s or the US’s.  Data really throws ice cold water on that characterization of India’s GHG emissions.

The worlds GHG emissions total 32.7 trillion metric tons as of 2012 in EIA data.  In those units, China’s are 8.55, or 26.1%.  The US has 5.27, or 16.1%.  India, at third, has 1.83 or 5.6%.  The industry commentators say if the US is only 16%, we should just do nothing since it is so small an amount, and China’s are larger.  But they also throw in India, which is only 40% of the US’s, and 21% of China’s.  Of course, in the future India may be able to industrialize and raise their standard of living, and will grow larger in GHG emissions, but that is not the case now.

We also note in comparison by countries, that India is only slightly larger than Russia at 1.78 versus India’s 1.83, or Russia’s 5.44% versus India’s 5.60%.

Another way that India looks small is in comparing regions of the world.  Europe emits 4.26 of GHG, or 13.0% of the world.  That is close to the US emissions, and 2.3 times that of India’s.

Finally, we compare countries and Europe by emissions per capita.  Among large countries, the US is the clear leader (cheers) at 14.1 metric tons per capita, PER YEAR.  (Aren’t we glad that CO2 is a gas, and not an ash mountain that we have to haul away every month.)  The world average is 4.63 metric tons per capita.  Russia is next at 12.0, and Japan at 9.42.  Next is the Middle East at 9.02, and Europe at 7.12, about half of the US.  China comes in at 6.05.  Last comes Africa at 1.11, but a close runner up to last is India at 1.47.  So the US per capita emissions is 9.6 times the per capita emissions of people in India.  That is, a person in the US has a share of ten people in India.  This has never been pointed out by industry or conservative commentators.  The per capita GHG for India is even only a third or 32% of the world average.

Since most energy related CO2 produced is still in the atmosphere warming the earth, we can look at the sum produced by each country or region.  A lot of the emissions was produced in constructing the infrastructure and wealth that the leading countries enjoy.  Of course, since China has only recently become a major producer, the US still leads in the total CO2 produced, at 26%.  China is second as a country at 10.7%, only 41% of the US achievement.  India at 3.0%, is next to last on this picture graph, only exceeding Africa at 2.6%.  India’s total emissions are only 12% of the US’s.


Continually throwing in India with the US and China as comparable in emissions is sorely misleading.  Leaving out Europe and Russia is also really not backed up by the data.

Expecting and watching China’s GHG lowering programs is very interesting, but apparently not followed by conservative commentators.  China has programs in closing old coal plants, planning tens of nuclear plants, building and planning hydro power, leading in solar power production and usage, and importing natural gas.

Posted in Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Leave a comment

Comparison of Greenhouse Warming for Leaked Methane versus CO2 from Coal


There are two popular comparisons of greenhouse gas effects of leaked methane versus CO2 from burning fossil fuel.  They involve 20 or 100 year periods, and comparison of the gasses for the same weight.

Neither time period has a basis in actual warming and lifetimes of the gases.  Even worse, the number of greenhouse molecules produced is not directly equal to the actual weight of the gases.  The real comparison should be on the basis of the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is several hundred years, not a hundred.  It should also be on the basis of the ratio of energy generated by each source, and the number of molecules produced in burning or as leaked “fugitive” gas.  Then this should be compared by the relative generation of energy per molecule of methane versus carbon atom in coal.  Then we can figure out what percent of leakage of methane with new efficient methane plants would match the greenhouse warming of just using coal in present old plants.  Keeping methane leakage to a small fraction of the limit would lead to only 28% greenhouse gas effect per unit energy than the coal pollution it would replace, as shown in the previous post in this blog.

On a hundred year basis, including effects of aerosols, for the same gas weights, methane is said to be 34 times as warming as CO2.  The hundred year period was arbitrarily chosen for long lived CO2, but its true lifetime is several hundred years and unknown.  We will call its actual lifetime a constant “tc” times 100 years (see footnote).

Methane, CH4, has a lifetime of 12 years in the atmosphere, where Oxygen or OH radicals convert it to a molecule of CO2 and water.  Its short lifetime has already been factored into its comparison with CO2 by unit weight, on the hundred year basis, to give the factor of 34.  Despite the short lifetime, it takes around 60 years for the pulse of CH4 to reduce enough to match the greenhouse gas effect of an equivalent number of CO2 molecules.

We now convert the ratio for both CH4 and CO2 per carbon atom from the ratio per weight.  A molecule of CO2 has an atomic weight C:12 + O:16 + O:16 = 44.  So CO2 has one carbon atom per 44 units of weight:  1C/44 wt.  A molecule of CH4 has an atomic weight C:12 + 4xH:1 = 16.  So CH4 has one carbon atom per 16 units of weight:  1C/16 wt.

Converting the greenhouse ratio by weight of (34 / wt CH4) / (1 / wt CO2) by multiplying (16 wt CH4 / C) / (44 wt CO2 / C) = 34 x 16 / 44 = 544 / 44 = 12.36.  Thus the greenhouse ratio per contained C atom is about 12.4.

With “tc” being the number of centuries for CO2 to be disposed of, the greenhouse ratio per contained C atom is about

R = 12.4 / tc.

The approximation of just dividing by tc is only approximate, for small tc. For example, for a 500 year CO2 lifetime (tc = 5), the initial greenhouse gas factor of CH4 to CO2 is reduced from 25 to 7.6, or by the factor 0.30, not 0.20, as the simple formula would indicate. The formula would be correct for the excess warming by the initial CH4 pulse, before the C in it got converted to CO2.

The question we now have is what amount of leakage of methane will just balance the savings of CO2 pollution from replacement of coal plants by natural gas plants.  This depends on the relative efficiencies of the two types of plants, and the fact that one CH4 molecule burns to about the same energy as two carbon atoms, and therefore makes half the CO2, if their respective plants had the same efficiency.

In the previous post we showed that replacing an old coal plant at 33% efficiency with a new combined cycle natural gas plant at 60% efficiency, reduced CO2 down to 28%, rather than just 50%.  So for each 100 coal atoms we burn, we only have to burn 28 CH4 atoms, each of which makes a CO2 molecule.  Another way to say this, is that if there is not CH4 leakage, greenhouse gas pollution can be reduced by 72% by replacing old coal plants with new combined cycle natural gas plants.

We then ask how many fugitive CH4 atoms can we tolerate to restore us back to the same effective greenhouse gas emissions as the 100 coal atoms.  The difference is 100 – 28 = 72 CO2 molecules missing from the CH4 burning.  But each fugitive CH4 molecule is equivalent to 12.4/tc CO2 atoms in greenhouse strength.  So we divide the 72 CO2 molecules by 12.4/tc = 5.8 * tc molecules.  The fraction of fugitive methane to the 28 burned methane molecules at break-even is then

Feven = 5.8 * tc /  28 = 0.21 * tc.

So we can tolerate 21% x tc leakage and still break even in our replacement of an old coal plant with a new combined cycle natural gas plant.  This is far greater than the 4% or 3% leakage break-even fraction calculated with the old naive pollution ratio of 25 or 34 in the useless units.

As an example, if leakage is 10% and tc is 2 for 200 years CO2 retention, the fraction of Feven is

f = 0.10 / (0.21 * 2) = 0.10 / 0.42 = 0.24,

or 24% of the break-even is leaked away.  So the greenhouse savings of 72 CO2 molecules has to be reduced by 24% to 55 molecules, meaning there is a savings of 55% greenhouse gases over just the old coal burning plant.  So instead of 3% or 4% leakage being the old break-even point, even 10% leakage now could give us the near 50% savings as with no leakage in the old, incorrect calculation.  No leakage in the new calculation gives us 72% savings in greenhouse gases.

We give a table of greenhouse gas emission reductions for CO2 lifetimes of 100 years and 200 years, and leakage rates of 0%, 3%, 5%, and 10%.

Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions Converting Old Coal to New Natural Gas Plants:

CH4 Leakage - 0%                   3% 5% 10%
CO2 100 years lifetime 72% 62% 55% 38%
CO2 200 years lifetime 72% 67% 60% 55%


Richard Muller, of UC Berkeley, in “Fugitive Methane and Greenhouse Warming” has a similar argument, and comes up with a 14% fugitive cap, below which warming is reduced for the same energy produced.  He only considers the 100 year CO2 period, but also includes the added efficiency of new combined cycle natural gas plants at 60%, versus new efficient coal plants at 43%.  He also has general formulas for calculating the cap including plant efficiency and general greenhouse gas ratios.


Footnote:  The CO2 is actually absorbed by carbon incorporated into phytoplankton grown in the top ocean layer that then falls to be sequestered at the bottom of the ocean.  Since growing ocean acidity is already making the growth of oyster shells difficult, increasing acidity will cause less plankton to form and increase the lifetime of CO2.  This is a positive feedback to the amount of greenhouse gases.  It also makes the lifetime of CO2 releases today actually unknown, and dependent on how much we slow greenhouse gas production.



Posted in Climate Change, Electric Power, Energy Efficiency, Natural Gas, Ocean Acidification, Solar Energy, Wind Energy | Leave a comment

Replacing Old Coal with New Natural Gas Plants Can Reduce CO2 Production to Less Than a Third Per Plant

It is well known that since natural gas generates half the CO2 for the same energy produced as coal in current plants, that replacing old coal plants would reduce CO2 pollution by a half for the switched plants.  Those calculations assumed the present efficiency of energy generation of both coal and natural gas plants at the same 33% as at present, for steam generating plants.

However, reading an article by Richard Muller, “Fugitive Methane and Greenhouse Gases” , has made me aware that new combined cycling natural gas plants can be up to 60% efficient.  We redo that method comparing CO2 from replacing an old 33% efficient coal plant with a 60% efficient natural gas plant.  A combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant first burns natural gas to drive a turbine, and then left over heat is sent to a steam generator to add roughly 50% more output to the plant, over the gas turbine.

CO2 is proportional to fuel usage per molecule or atom, since coal is mostly burning carbon atoms C, and natural gas or methane, CH4, also contains only one carbon atom.  The extra Hydrogens in CH4 oxidize with Oxygen to form water, but generate about the same amount of energy as oxidizing the Carbon atom in CH4 to CO2.  Thus the factor of twice the energy from burning a methane molecule than a coal atom.

Taking a coal or carbon atom at 33% efficiency, means that you need 1 x 1/.33 = 3 carbon atoms to burn to generate the amount of electricity contained in burning the atom itself.  For a natural gas molecule, you need only one half a molecule to get the same starting energy, but then for 60% efficiency, you need a factor of 1/0.60 more, giving the comparable fuel usage of 0.5 x 1/0.60 = 0.83 molecule.  The ratio of CH4 to C fuel usage is then 0.83 / 3 = 0.28.  That is also the ratio of CO2 pollution, since one C atom comes from each.

So instead of the ratio of CO2 from methane over coal being a half for present plants, the ratio is actually between a third and a quarter for a new combined cycle natural gas plant and an old coal plant.





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Southern California Edison 2013 Power Content Mix

Southern California Edison 2013 Power Content Mix

It’s that time of year when energy mavins await their California utilities power content label. SCE’s arrived in my electrical bill. Since I couldn’t yet find it on Google, I took a picture of it with my iPhone. Here it is:

sharper 2013 sce power mix

The San Onofre nuclear power plant shut down in 2012 after the replacement steam generators had serious vibrations problems due to errors in design. This also led to steam dispensing some radiation. Faced with the delay to again replace the generators, waiting for approval to run one reactor at 2/3 power, the coastal commission blocking an ocean sonic earthquake fault survey, and an intense nuclear safety protest after Fukushima, Edison decided to shut down the plant permanently. California still has two nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon, and one of the three Palo Verde reactors out of state. So we still get 6% pollution free nuclear power. This is down from 7% in 2012 and 24% in 2011, when San Onofre was operational. This is a loss of 18% in clean nuclear. While nuclear protest organizations are happy that renewables have replaced this, the large state and federal investment in renewables was made with an intent to replace polluting coal and natural gas power, not to replace already clean nuclear power.

The amount of power listed as unspecified sources is out of state power, that doesn’t have to be broken down. It could include out of state clean nuclear, solar and hydro, as well as dirty coal. This makes it impossible to give an accurate CO2 emissions profile from SC Edison. This means that all of the electric car buyers and users in our area cannot brag about how clean the power they use is from SC Edison. In 2010, unspecified was only 13%, or an eighth of total power. In 2011 it was 15%. In 2012 it soared to 41%, and in 2013 it declined to 34%, or a third of our power.

California has been a leader in developing renewable power, and has all sources available. This is due to plate collisions that built up the Sierra Nevada mountains that provide rivers and dam locations to generate hydro power. The faults also provide geothermal vents, not available in most other states. The San Gabriel mountains, again a result of plate collisions, provide high wind passes to generate wind power to Southern California. The mountains also cause unoccupied deserts to the east, which allow for enormous solar cell and solar thermal facilities.

The 2013 SCE Power Mix has renewables at 22%. Geothermal is remaining steady at 9%, same as in 2012 and 2011. Wind power is at 10%, growing from 8% in 2012 and 7% in 2011. Large hydro is at 4%, where it was in 2012, having fallen from 7% in 2011. Biomass and waste, which are renewable but not pollution free, stay steady at 1%. Many people and organizations thought that new solar power would replace San Onofre nuclear power. Yet solar has remained at only 1%.

Coal is at 6%, dropping slightly from 7% in 2012, and 8% in 2011

Natural gas is at 28%, increasing from 21% in 2012, but almost restoring the 27% from 2011. Since we still have 6% coal, it would be nice to replace that by cheap natural gas, which only emits about half the CO2 as coal does for the same amount of electricity. The persistence of coal may be due to long range contracts. Our local Huntington Beach natural gas plant has been replaced by a new one that can vary power more rapidly to replace fluctuating wind and solar power when needed.

So the main changes are the growth of natural gas by 6%, and the decline in unspecified power by 7%. These are probably related.


Posted in California Power Mixes, Climate Change, Fossil Fuel Energy, Nuclear Energy, Renewable Energy, San Onofre, Solar Energy, Wind Energy | Leave a comment

Investors’ Fossil Fuel Company Activism, Rather Than Divestment

As a dynamic treatment of fossil fuel companies by environmental investors, much could be accomplished to lower carbon emissions through activism, rather than the passive act of divestment. This would involve universities and foundations that hold fossil fuel stocks to collaborate on their strategies,  and to pool their votes at shareholder meetings, and in the election of boards of directors.

An example of this is to lower emissions by switching from coal to natural gas by carefully managed fracking in appropriate areas. One account I read said that there are 50,000 drilling companies carrying out fracking.  The major oil companies are starting to acquire companies in this area.  If almost all fracking was done by the few major oil companies, the companies could responsibly, uniformly, and economically regulate where fracking was done and how.  Government inspection would also become effective and economical.  Sites would be chosen out of any zones where earthquakes could be caused.  Fracking wastewater would be cleaned rather than injected in deep wells, or injected only in safe areas.  The safest combination of chemical additives would be chosen.  Delivery pipelines would be of the best quality to prevent leakage.  Burning of waste gas would be carefully monitored, as per new government regulations.  Replacing coal by lossless natural gas treatment would reduce carbon emissions for electricity generation by half, where coal is replaced.

Simple divestment will lower fossil fuel stock prices a little, only to be picked up by investors only interested in profits, and not environmental safety.

The plans for divested stocks to be replaced by buying wind and solar stocks may not produce greater profit, or even supply more money to those companies. Only if the company is giving a public offering to raise money or selling stock that it has held will the company get investment money.  The continuance of at least solar investment depends on the continuance of large government subsidies that are being challenged every year, and could easily disappear with Republican control of the Senate or the next Presidency.  The vast number of wind turbines needed to generate a gigawatt, like a nuclear reactor does, is 1,000.  Wind farms are meeting resistance in many areas in which the electricity is used.  Otherwise, a new country-wide grid is needed to distribute wind power from the mid-West to the coastal areas.  Both solar and wind have problems with fluctuations, and must be backed up by natural gas plants anyway, as a condition for their usefulness.

Universities and foundations, whose investments can be guided by the smartest people with environmental sensitivities, should consider how to actively cooperate and use those investments for guidance in lowering emissions, rather than just passively giving them up.

Posted in Climate Change, Conservation, Electric Power, Energy Efficiency, Fossil Fuel Energy, Natural Gas, Oil, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Uncategorized, Wind Energy | Leave a comment

California Colleges in the Top 200 Student Choice Rankings, 2015

The parchment.com college application website has ranked the favorite college choices among applicants using their website and system.  The rankings are based on more than 440,000 acceptances.  Here we just pick out the ranked California colleges in the top 200.  The previous articles were focused on California universities.  This article includes all colleges that students prefer.  The top 10 of the nation are listed first.

1 Stanford


3 Harvard

4 Yale

5 Princeton

6 Caltech

7-8 U. Penn

7-8 US Air Force Academy

9 Middlebury College

10 Duke

17 Pomona College

19 UC Berkeley

23 Harvey Mudd College


28 USC

43 Art Center College of Design

49 Pitzer College

70 UC San Diego

73 Scripps College

75 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

79 UC Irvine

80 UC Davis

81 Masters College

83 U. Redlands

84 UC Santa Barbara

103 St. Mary’s College of California

108 Claremont McKenna College

124 UC Riverside

137 San Diego State U.

138 Pepperdine

140 tie

UC Santa Cruz

Chapman U.

145 Occidental College

179 Santa Clara U.

182 Loyola Marymount




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California University Applicants’ preferences for Students with Multiple Admissions

parchment.com is a website that allows prospective undergraduate students to apply to multiple universities with the same forms.  It also keeps track of who is admitted where, and what their final choice is.  We show how that works out for a few California Universities.


For those admitted to UC Berkeley and Stanford, 82% chose Stanford.


For those admitted to UCLA and other Universities, the choices were:


UCB 58%

USC 41%

UCR 12%

UCSD 11%

UCI 10%

UCD 8%


For those admitted to UC Irvine and other Universities, students chose:


UCB 96%

UCLA 90%

USC 84%

UCSD 69%

UCD 56%

UCSB 45%

UCSC 21%

UCR 19%


For those admitted to USC and other Universities, students chose:


UCB 67%

UCLA 59%

UCSD 32%

UCI 16%

UCSB 10%

Stanford 9%


UCD 7%


For those admitted to Stanford and other Universities, students chose:


Harvard 46%

Yale 39%

U. Chicago 37%

Caltech 27%

MIT 26%

Vanderbilt 20%

Princeton 19%

UCB 18%

USC 9%




It seems that students have a ranking of Universities similar to national rankings, and make their choices along such lines.

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Physics Graduate Programs in 2015 US News and World Report Rankings


We list the top 43 Physics graduate programs, which include most of the California campuses.


2 tie





    UC Berkeley

7 tie


    U. Chicago

9 U. Illinois – Urbana – Champaign


11 tie

    U. Michigan – Ann Arbor



14 tie

    U. Maryland – College Park

    U. Texas – Austin

16 tie

    U. Pennsylvania

    UC San Diego

18 tie

    John’s Hopkins


    U. Colorado – Boulder

    U. Wisconsin – Madison

22 U. Washington

23 tie

    Ohio State

    Penn State

    Stony Brook U. – SUNY

26 tie

    U. Minnesota


    Northwestern U.

29 tie

    UC Irvine

    UC Davis

    Georgia Institute of Technology


    Michigan State U.

    Brown U.

    Duke U.

36 tie

    U. Florida

    New York U.

    Carnegie-Mellon U.

39 tie

    UC Santa Cruz

    U. North Carolina

    U. Arizona

    Indiana U.

    Boston U.

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Rankings of California Universities Among Public Universities, 2015


US News and World’s Report College Rankings, 2015, separates a list of public universities. Here are California Universities in the rankings.

Since rankings don’t really give the relative strengths in the criteria used, I also include in parentheses the overall score for each University.

1 UC Berkeley (79)

2 tie UCLA with U. Virginia (76)

8 UC San Diego (65)

9 UC Davis (64)

10 UC Santa Barbara (63)

11 tie UC Irvine with U. Illinois – Urbana-Champaign (62)

35 tie UC Santa Cruz (49)

55 tie UC Riverside (43)

78 tie San Diego State University (34)

Another way to say this is that UC takes one and two. Also 5 of the top 10 are UC campuses, and UC Irvine is tied for eleventh.

The overall score of UCLA is close to that of UCB. The overall scores of the next four UC campuses are also sequential in overall scores.

The student to teacher ratio for the UC campuses is mostly quoted as 17:1. That for San Diego State University is 28:1, but tuition is about half the cost of the UC campuses.

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California Universities in US News and World Report 2015 Best Colleges


First we list the top 10 nationwide to give them their full credit, and for comparison. In the list, first is their ranking, then their name, then in parentheses their overall scores, then their student to faculty ratios, and finally their acceptance percentage.

Top 10 Nationwide

1 Princeton (100), 6:1, 7.4%

2 Harvard (99), 7:1, 5.8%

3 Yale (98), 6:1, 6.9%

4 tie at (95)

    Columbia 6:1, 6.9%

    Stanford 5:1, 5.7%

    U. Chicago 6:1, 8.8%

7 MIT (93), 8:1, 8.2%

8 tie at (92)

    Duke 7:1, 12.4%

    U. Pennsylvania 6:1, 12.2%

10 California Institute of Technology (91), 3:1, 10.6%

After Stanford and Caltech, the California Universities are:

20 UC Berkeley (79), 17:1, 17.7%

23 UCLA (76), 17:1, 20.4%

25 U. of Southern California (75), 9:1, 19.8%

37 UC San Diego (65), 19:1, 36.8%

38 tie UC Davis (64), 17:1, 41.3%

40 tie UC Santa Barbara (63), 17:1, 39,8%

42 tie UC Irvine (62), 17:1, 41.1%

85 tie UC Santa Cruz (49), 18:1, 51.9%

95 tie U. of San Diego (47), 15:1, 48.9%

113 tie UC Riverside (43), 9:1, 60.2%

149 tie San Diego State University (34), 28:1, 37.2%

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