Climate Change Weekly #427: With New Energy Technologies, Beware of Spontaneous Combustion
H. Sterling Burnett March 3, 2022
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IN THIS ISSUE:
- With New Energy Technologies, Beware of Spontaneous Combustion
- Podcast of the Week: Mega-drought Claim for American West Depends on Statistical Trick
- AP to Pass Off Paid Press Releases by Climate Alarmists as News
- U.S. Corn Ethanol Worse for the Climate than Gasoline
- Temperature Adjustments Are Inconsistent And Don’t Match Reality, Scientists Find
- Climate Comedy
- Video of the Week: What Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Means for Global Energy Markets
- BONUS Video of the Week: John Kerry Laments Ukraine Invasion Distracting World from Climate Crisis
- Recommended Sites
With New Energy Technologies, Beware of Spontaneous Combustion
It’s not uncommon for films and books in the horror, sci-fi, and mystery genres to feature characters spontaneously combusting. TV reality shows documenting strange mysteries sometimes feature instances where people have, to outward appearances, erupted into flames without any apparent cause.
Whether in fiction or the real world, instances of spontaneous combustion are usually traced to outside forces or poor personal choices. In fiction, the cause might be pyrokinesis, a curse, witchcraft, or, in mysteries, some elaborate device that causes the targeted character to catch fire. In the real world, the causes are much more mundane, such as faulty electric wiring in a blanket or nearby space heater or falling asleep with a burning cigarette in one’s hand.
A real-world example of spontaneous combustion, instances of which are becoming far more common, is devices with lithium-ion batteries erupting into flames without any apparent outside cause. This endangers lives and property, not just by the flames but also from the toxic fumes these fires emit.
Airlines were among the first to take notice of this problem. The risk was so great that they banned certain products containing lithium-ion batteries from planes. Airlines also restricted the class of battery devices that can be taken in carry-on luggage, to batteries with limited storage capacity. Even small backup batteries are banned from checked luggage.
A Google News search for the phrases “electric car house fire” or “house solar battery fire” turns up dozens of stories from the past couple of years detailing instances where battery systems connected to recently installed solar arrays or electric vehicle (EV) batteries being charged in garages spontaneously combusted, burning down all or part of peoples’ homes. Dozens more articles warn of the dangers to homes from such devices.
In August of 2021, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported approximately 12,000 residential energy solar panel systems’ battery modules had been recalled by their manufacturers in 2020 and to that point in 2021 because of the threat of combustion. This wasn’t because the electricians failed to do their jobs when wiring up the systems; the fires were caused by the systems themselves. The battery modules’ chemical makeup and construction make them prone to overheat and catch fire on occasion.
News stories and government reports detail numerous instances of EVs spontaneously burning. When an electric vehicle catches fire in or after an accident, that’s understandable. Cars with internal combustion engines can catch fire in these cases as well. It’s another thing entirely, however, when a car spontaneously catches fire when stuck in rush-hour traffic or when unattended, parked on the street or in one’s garage. Electric vehicles have been known to do this, especially while charging or caught in highway gridlock. In 2021, Chevrolet recalled all its electric Bolts to replace their battery modules because of the fire risk.
Then there are the large-scale fires associated with the battery modules intended for or installed in electric vehicles. In late July of 2021, a fire erupted at one of the largest battery factories in the world, a partnership with Tesla in Australia. The factory caught fire during testing and burned for days, with firefighters initially unable to fight the blaze because they lacked respirator equipment to protect them from the toxic fumes. Authorities told nearby residents to stay indoors and close windows and other air vents.
The Australian battery factory fire was by no means unique. CNBC has detailed more than 40 such spontaneous combustion incidents at battery factories or battery storage facilities in the past decade, most of which occurred in the past three years. A fire at a battery factory in Arizona in 2019 seriously injured two emergency responders, and two firefighters in China were killed when a battery module connected to rooftop solar panels at a shopping mall burst into flames.
It is relatively rare for large, modern ships to catch fire and burn for an extended period, much less having to be abandoned and sinking because of fire. They are made of steel and have modern fire-suppression equipment installed or available. Perhaps this equipment is no longer modern enough. In mid-February, a cargo ship carrying battery-powered Porches, Bentleys, and Volkswagens totaling hundreds of millions of dollars in value erupted into flames. Whether the battery modules caused the fire is unknown. What is known, however, is that battery packs at least fueled the fire, making it grow quickly and emit toxic fumes. The crew could not put out the fire before the fumes forced them to abandon the ship. It burned for days and sank before a salvage crew could get it safely to port.
In a previous issue of Climate Change Weekly, I detailed some of the environmental drawbacks of the push for a big EV expansion in the United States. And in a recent post on Liberty and Ecology, I detailed some of the practical hurdles that make it unlikely EVs will suit most drivers’ needs in the near future. But inconvenience is one thing; the fact that the battery modules powering EVs and backing up rooftop solar systems are prone to spontaneous combustion and thus potentially deadly is another thing entirely.
This much is clear: before you add a solar system with backup battery to your home, check with your homeowner’s insurance to find out what you have to do to keep from voiding your coverage in the case of a battery-caused fire. Do the same when purchasing an electric vehicle you intend to charge in your garage. These systems require special wiring, and you should make sure to get the electrical work certified by your local government agency in charge of such things. Otherwise, if a battery fire burns your house down, you may find yourself in for a second shock when your insurer tells you the incident was not covered.
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Podcast of the Week
The other day, Heartland Institute Senior Fellow Anthony Watts was a guest on the John Steigerwald Show on AM1250 The Answer in Pittsburgh.
Watts was invited on the program to rebut claims that the American West is experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years. That’s right, since the 9th Century A.D., and that human emissions of carbon dioxide is to blame.
Not only did California just experience one of the wettest Decembers on record, Watts explains how this claim of the worst drought since the year 822 depends on a statistical trick. The study also just blames all warming since 1850 on human activity, but the data show the earth was on a warming trend long before the start of the Industrial Revolution and there is quite a bit of warming one must blame on nature.Subscribe to the Environment & Climate News podcast on Apple Podcasts, iHeart, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. And be sure to leave a positive review!
AP to Pass Off Paid Press Releases by Climate Alarmists as News
In mid-February, the Associated Press (AP) made official what I have long maintained is standard practice: passing off press releases and blog posts from climate change activists and groups and those who fund them, as if they were actual news stories.
According to an AP press release, the agency is accepting an $8 million grant from five prominent foundations known for promoting and backing organizations that promote climate alarm. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Quadrivium, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation are funding the hiring of more than two dozen journalists to report on climate issues primarily from Africa, Brazil, India, and the United States.
AP says this program is its “largest single expansion paid for through philanthropic grants, … illustrat[ing] how philanthropy has swiftly become an important new funding source for journalism.”
“This far-reaching initiative will transform how we cover the climate story,” said AP senior vice president and executive editor Julie Pace in the press release announcing the grant program. I’ll bet!
Commenting on AP’s decision to take millions from climate-woke foundations to fund climate reporting, Climate Depot’s Mark Morano said,
The media’s coverage of climate change has sunk to a new journalistic low. … The mainstream media, led by the Associated Press, is now publicly admitting they are just phoning in their coverage on “climate change.” Led by the Rockefeller Foundation and others, the AP will be parroting what the ideological activist groups’ funding pays for, while actual news will be tossed aside.
Journalistic standards are now officially out the window. There will be no attempt to present a patina of objectivity, balance or unbiased news by the AP when it comes to “climate change.”
With this announcement, AP has very publicly ceased to be a legitimate news gathering and reporting organization, at least in reporting on climate change. It has become a bought and paid-for shill for the environmental movement, spreading climate alarm around the world.
Upton Sinclair reportedly once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Similarly, William Jennings Bryant reportedly said, “It is useless to argue with a man whose opinion is based upon a personal or pecuniary interest.”
Can anyone honestly believe AP will report objectively on climate matters when climate change alarm foundations are giving it millions of dollars? This is especially egregious when evidence indicates a climate crisis is not in the offing and bad weather events are not extreme in the context of history and recent data. To do so would be to bite the climate-woke hand feeding them. Reader, beware.
Heartland’s Must-read Climate Sites
U.S. Corn Ethanol Worse for the Climate than Gasoline
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds adding ethanol to or substituting corn-based ethanol for gasoline causes more greenhouse gas emissions than using gasoline without ethanol.
The study found the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which specifies the amount of biofuels that must be be added to transportation fuel in the United States, resulted in 24 percent higher greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector than would have occurred without the mandated substitution of ethanol for gasoline required by the federal government in the 2005 Energy Policy Act as expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
The study also reported a variety of other negative effects of the government’s ethanol mandate. For instance, the ethanol mandate caused corn prices by to rise by 30 percent and the prices of other crops by 20 percent. Higher prices resulted in corn cultivation increasing by 8.7 percent in the years after enactment of the mandate. The study also reported the rapid expansion of corn grown for ethanol resulted in an annual growth of fertilizer use nationwide of 3 percent to 8 percent. The RFS also measurably decreased water quality, wildlife habitat, and the storage of carbon dioxide in the soil.
The study by researchers in a variety of scientific disciplines—agroecologists, environmental modelers, and economists from University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California-Davis, Kansas State University, and the University of Kentucky—was funded in part by the National Wildlife Federation and U.S. Department of Energy.
“It basically reaffirms what many suspected, that corn ethanol is not a climate-friendly fuel and we need to accelerate the shift toward better renewable fuels, as well as make improvements in efficiency and electrification,” Tyler Lark, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a scientist in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Technology Networks.
Temperature Adjustments Are Inconsistent And Don’t Match Reality, Scientists Find
New research published in the scientific journal Atmosphere states the methods routinely used to adjust raw data recorded for European temperature records are flawed and introduce systemic bias in the reported adjusted temperatures.
In the paper, titled “Evaluation of the Homogenization Adjustments Applied to European Temperature Records in the Global Historical Climatology Network Dataset,” 17 researchers from 13 countries examined data adjustments applied to the European temperature records in the dataset over the last 10 years.
The Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) monthly temperature dataset is the main source of thermometer records used by official government agencies charged with monitoring, tracking, and reporting temperature and weather data, such as NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
Over time, temperature records from individual weather stations often show abrupt changes due to local factors that have nothing to do with global or national temperature trends. These include changes in the location of the weather station, changes in types of thermometers used, and the growth of urban heat islands near or around stations.
In a process called homogenization, NOAA, which maintains the GHCN dataset, uses computer programs to correct for these non-climatic changes by identifying abrupt jumps in the records through statistical methods and applying formulae to adjust the data.
Examining the homogenization adjustments for more than 800 European temperature records in thousands of datasets, the researchers found the adjustments often changed dramatically within a single day and from day to day when NOAA reran its computer program. The analysis showed just 17 percent of NOAA’s adjustments were consistent from one run to the next. In addition, the researchers found less than 20 percent of the adjustments made by the computer simulations corresponded to an unusual jump in the data trend that matched a change in the system or location, such as a new artificial heat source being erected nearby or a shift in location.
In addition, the adjustments were repeatedly applied to past records, as a new day’s temperature was added to the set, meaning, for example, data recorded at a site in 1951 could change from day to day as new temperatures were recorded.
Unless errors were found in how the previous adjustment was calculated, homogenized temperatures from the past should not be changing from day to day. This indicates a systematic problem with the homogenization program.
“[T]he authors warned that these bizarre inconsistencies in this widely-used climate dataset are scientifically troubling,” the Center for Environmental Research and Earth Sciences reports. “They also are concerned that most researchers using this important dataset have been unaware of these problems until now.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Garbage in, garbage out.” In this case, however, the garbage looks like it’s being generated by the homogenization process itself and churned, much like the mulch it resembles, on a daily basis.
Video of the Week: What Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Means for Global Energy Markets
On this episode, The Heartland Institute’s H. Sterling Burnett, Linnea Lueken, and Jim Lakely discuss what Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will do to energy markets — and how the world can isolate Vladimir Putin with their own forward-looking energy policies. Spoiler alert: That does not mean a faster transition to “green” energy.
BONUS Video of the Week: John Kerry Laments Ukraine Invasion Distracting World from Climate Crisis
John Kerry, President Biden’s international “climate czar,” lamented on BBC Arabic that the invasion of Ukraine is distracting the world from taking action to stop climate change. That might be the coldest thing so far said about the war that just broke out.
The Heartland Institute’s Donald Kendal, Jim Lakely, Chris Talgo, and Justin Haskins break down the lunacy in this highlight reel from the In the Tank Podcast — streamed LIVE every Thursday at noon CT.
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