Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #189

The Week That Was: July 25, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Limiting Power of the EPA? On his web site, 35-plus year veteran of the EPA Alan Carlin and author of Environmentalism Gone Mad, briefly describes how today’s EPA went from an organization representing the best interests of the American public to one representing a small segment of it, the extreme radical environmental movement. The EPA is a creature of President Nixon’s political thanking, who cobbled together a government entity without need for legislative review and oversight. As such, the administrator of the EPA answers only to the President, the executive branch of government; and not to Congress, the legislative branch. This arrangement is contrary to principles behind the Constitution, which was designed to provide a separation of powers, where the ambitions of one branch were counter-balanced by the ambitions of another.

According to Carlin, the Nixon administration created two important checks and balances limiting the power of the EPA: 1) strong independent analytical capabilities in the EPA policy office, and 2) in the president’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In the Carter, Clinton, and Obama administrations these safeguards against abuse of power were been dismantled by: 1) establishing a clean air “playbook” whereby dubious science and economics justify stricter air standards; 2) removing the Policy Office’s ability to substantively review and comment on proposed regulations; and 3) bringing in radical environmentalists who support what Carlin calls the “green energy fantasy.” Carlin explains why action is needed, and his views on the limitations of various courses of action. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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Quote of the Week: “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” Isaac Newton

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Number of the Week: 0.2 percent in 2014

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Brief TWTW Next Week

Next week’s TWTW will be very brief. We will be at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness titled: “Myths, Superstitions, and Real Threats Confronting America.” Fred Singer will discuss the threat of a new cold period. Ken Haapala will discuss the National Climate Assessment: Peeling the Speculative Onion.

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EPA and the Courts: In its June 29, 2015 decision in Michigan v. EPA, the US Supreme Court showed some willingness to review the economic damage caused by EPA regulations, even though the economic damage caused by proposed regulations can be significant and achieved before judicial review. The Brookings Institution, which generally supports expansion of government regulatory power over economic activity, published a review of this decision by Bob Sussman, a veteran of the Obama administration and a former senior policy counsel to the EPA administrator. Sussman expressed concern about the Supreme Court decision and possible ramifications that it may have on future court actions.

Sussman focused on the political and legal nature of the decision, largely ignoring the scientific and economic issues, which Sussman apparently believes are best left to the agency experts in the EPA. As Alan Carlin suggests, above, the scientific and economic expertise of the EPA is suppressed, or no longer existing. They have been replaced for ideological or political reasons.

Sussman brings up the issue that the political goals of EPA regulations reviewed under Michigan v. EPA are virtually accomplished. However, this fact is a very poor argument for justifying economically destructive and legally questionable goals. Sussman then discusses political divisions on the Supreme Court, bringing up Massachusetts v EPA, the 5 to 4 decision which gave the EPA the power to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. They ruled that, under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, provided that the gases endanger public health and public welfare.

Commentators often forget that a major issue was the legal standing of Massachusetts et al, to bring the litigation. The standing issue was glossed over by the argument that sea levels are rising. It is here that science experts advising the jurists exposed the ignorance and gullibility of some of the justices on the Court. Sea levels have been rising for some 18,000 years, long before emissions of greenhouse gases from the use of fossil fuels and industrial sources.

Later, under the Obama administration, the EPA found that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, based upon extremely weak science. One, the EPA found the late 20th century warming was unprecedented and the science of global warming is well understood; late 20th century warming was not unprecedented and natural causes of global warming are not well understood. Two, it found a “hot spot” over the tropics that is the distinct human fingerprint; but the hot spot cannot be empirically found, and is not necessarily a human fingerprint. And, three, it found climate models predict that temperatures, extreme weather events, etc. will rise; but, the models are failing.

Interestingly, though he brings up the issue of judicial deference of the courts to the experts in the various government agencies, Sussman does not mention the opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas, who supported the majority opinion. Thomas criticized the entire concept of the courts deferring to the experts in the executive branch of the administration. Though certainly not brought up by Justice Thomas, the comments by Alan Carlin that this deference by the courts to the expertise in the EPA, and other agencies involved in regulating natural resources, is ill placed and may become extremely damaging to the nation’s economic wellbeing. See links under Litigation Issues.

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EPA Legal Battles to Come? The states that requested the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit intervene against the EPA’s impending regulations against existing power plants lost their case to a three-member panel and the states have requested the full court to review the decision. The three member panel stated the case was premature because the rules are not yet final. The court is considered one step down from the Supreme Court.

A similar case, filed by the state of Oklahoma, met a similar fate. Oklahoma appealed to the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. The Oklahoma case cites the findings in the Michigan v. EPA Supreme Court decision, which recognized the destructive nature of EPA’s impending regulations. The agency has well-honed the practice of delaying final regulations to prevent legal challenge until later, even though the process is economically damaging and contrary to the principle of a swift legal proceedings.

It remains to be seen, if the opinion of Justice Thomas will be considered. Certainly, many appeals court judges do not like being overturned by the Supreme Court. The entire process demonstrates that the interests of the public are secondary, particularly in government agencies which are not held accountable by the legislative branch. See links under Litigation Issues.

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NOAA: The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society have issued a joint report State of the Climate in 2014. Initial review indicated that it probably provided everything the administration sought in preparing a “climate deal” at the 21ST Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015.

The report reflects the new, inflated temperature record of Karl et al, and claims that the excess energy from global warming is being stored in the oceans. Of course, the excess energy, “missing heat”, is the difference between observed temperatures and values predicted in global climate models, which have not been validated. The missing heat may not exist. Thus far, at least no one has claimed that the heat was found in the recent flyby of Pluto. Earlier difficulties downloading the report, apparently resolved, prevented a more thorough review at this time. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.

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Hansen Again? James Hansen, “the world’s most famous climate scientist”, is making the rounds predicting a drastic ten foot (305 cm) sea level rise by 2100. The current prediction is moderate compared to his 2006 prediction of 20 feet (600 cm). Mr. Hansen’s solution is taxing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which he believes to be the cause of global warming, though it has stopped, and asserted it was the cause of sea level rise. Mr. Hansen’s claim has some empirical basis, the estimate is based on corals, etc. of sea levels during the last interglacial period around 114,000 to 131,000 years ago, when the earth was warmer than today.

Apparently, few dare to ask Mr. Hansen what caused the warm earth before human emissions of CO2? Of course, Mr Hansen claims that all revenues collected by governments from the carbon taxes will be returned to consumers. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.

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Worst Scenario? On her web site, Climate Etc, Judith Curry asks: What is the plausible ‘worst scenario’ for climate change? Probably, the worst scenario which is defensible is a severe ice age. The earth has had many over the last 2.5 million years.

If the issue is carbon dioxide warming, then The Right Climate Stuff Team of Apollo veterans prepared an answer in 2014 in its upper bound analysis using the following procedure. Assume all warming since 1850, about 0.7 ºC, was caused by carbon dioxide emissions. Then, it made estimates of the total recoverable fossil fuels [from traditional sources]. From this, the team calculated the upper bound of temperature increase from using recoverable fossil fuels would be an additional 1.2 ºC for a total increase of 1.9 ºC. This is within the 2.0 ºC limit magically claimed by the UN FCCC. Mission accomplished, without the need for international agreements, carbon taxes, etc. No wonder the Climate Establishment ignores such expert analysis. See links under Questioning the Orthodoxy.

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Corrections and Additions: In reporting the capacity of electricity generation and transmission in Denmark last week, TWTW made a typographical error. It incorrectly stated that wind and solar (cell) capacity is 5140 MW; it should have stated that it is 5,500 MW. The annual report of the state-owned distribution company also states that by 2020, capacity of Central and local power stations will contract from 6790 MW to 5700 MW; the Wind and Solar capacity will expand from 5140 MW to 6900 MW, and Import capacity will expand from 5140 MW to 8000 MW, resulting in a total capacity of 20,600 MW. With an expected maximum consumption of 6700 MW, the system will have a total capacity of 3 times maximum consumption. For the annual report see link under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind

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Number of the Week: 0.2% in 2014. The EIA reported that total sales of fossil fuels produced from Federal and Indian Lands amounted to a 0.2% increase in Fiscal Year 2014 from sales in 2013. Crude oil and lease condensate production increased 7% (Federal and Indian); natural gas production declined by 7%, and coal production increased slightly. As a percentage of total US production, production on federally controlled lands and waters fell from 25.1% in 2013 to 23.7% in 2014. The government has yet to implement a program for hydraulic fracturing in lands it controls. See links under Washington’s Control of Energy.

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ARTICLES:

Please note that articles not linked easily or summarized here are reproduced in the Articles Section of the full TWTW that can be found on the web site under the date of the TWTW.

1. Questionable Data, Secret Science

EPA Clean Air Act policy continues in a self-perpetuating bureaucratic endeavor far removed from its original congressional mission.

Letter by Charles Battig, VA-SEEE, WSJ, Jul 20 2015

http://www.wsj.com/articles/questionable-data-secret-science-1437431962?cb=logged0.5712620384564644#livefyre-comment

Charles Battig, of the Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment writes:

“Janet McCabe’s [EPA] defense of EPA implementation of the Clean Air Act reaches back 45 years, at a time when environmental targets were large and easily defined (Letters, July 15). Yet, to date, the chemistry of ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere related to chlorine chemistry remains unsettled science. How does the EPA measure the success of replacing chlorofluorocarbon for refrigerants said to promote ozone depletion with the potent greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbon?

“Ms. McCabe states that, “With every rule the EPA creates, the agency is committed to meeting the law’s letter and spirit, while following strict procedures for public review and input.” She also says “the courts have upheld the EPA’s air rules.” Is the EPA’s apparent collusion with radical environmental activists in the orchestrated “sue and settle” consent decrees part of these “strict procedures” as they skirt the Administrative Procedures Act and avoid congressional and public scrutiny?

“EPA Clean Air Act policy continues in a self-perpetuating bureaucratic endeavor far removed from its original congressional mission. Questionable data and secret science are used to justify the EPA’s continuing ratcheting down of environmental “safe levels” without concern for cost-benefit justification.”

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2. Falling Crude Prices Upend Canada’s Oil Sands Projects

Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Imperial Oil rely on deeply buried oil sands deposits to increase cash flows

By Chester Dawson, WSJ, Jul 22, 2015

http://www.wsj.com/articles/falling-crude-prices-upend-canadas-oil-sands-projects-1437609134

SUMMARY: Falling crude oil prices is pressuring oil firms in Canada’s oil sands, which have high extraction costs. There are now questions on how much can be extracted profitably. Canada is the largest single exporter of oil to the US. Many start-up producers relied on implementing Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD). With issues regarding implementation, it appears that a crude price of $65 per barrel is necessary for a reasonable profit. According to the Bank of Nova Scotia, this is the highest extraction cost in the oil industry. U.S. oil prices are now around $50 per barrel.

“Most oil-sands startups and a few large producers—such as Cenovus—rely entirely on SAGD and most of the oil sands’ multinational players also use it for some of their current output or are counting on it for their future production plans.

“Cenovus, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Suncor Energy Inc. and Shell all announced plans earlier this year to shelve—but not abandon—plans for new or expanded subsurface oil sands projects until global oil prices rebound or costs can be reduced dramatically.

Even before the tumble in oil prices, France’s Total SA and Statoil ASA of Norway indefinitely postponed a pair of underground oil sands projects last year, citing cost issues.”

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