Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #192

The Week That Was: August 15, 2015 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Social Benefits of Carbon: Craig Idso of CO2 Science has a post on the Cato web site describing the great benefits of enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Together with his father Sherwood and brother Keith, the Idsos have built a large repository of studies evaluating the effects of enhanced carbon dioxide, both on land and in waters (oceans). Sherwood and Craig were lead authors of the extensive report, with multiple scientific references, by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC): Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (2014).

In the current post, Craig draws on this extensive, empirical database to assert:

· ”At a fundamental level, carbon dioxide is the basis of nearly all life on Earth, as it is the primary raw material or “food” that is utilized by plants to produce the organic matter out of which they construct their tissues.

· Typically, a doubling of the air’s CO2 content above present-day concentrations raises the productivity of most herbaceous plants by about one-third; this positive response occurs in plants that utilize all three of the major biochemical pathways of photosynthesis.”

Apparently, many in Washington and elsewhere, particularly those in the Administration, remain ignorant of the critical role CO2 has in life on the planet and the enormous benefits that enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide is providing to plant life, to the environment, and to humanity. One is tempted to ask: are those who declare that carbon is a pollutant of a different, carbon-free life form?

In the post, after citing a small portion of the extensive work, both in the laboratory and in the field, of the benefits of enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide, Craig asks: “Why on God’s getting-greener earth would the United Nations simultaneously work to reduce the anthropogenic CO2 emissions that are demonstrably raising standard of living for so many of the world’s poor?”

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC and Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Quote of the Week: “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.” Isaac Newton


Number of the Week: 926,900 tonnes per day


The Clean Power Plan (CPP): The Administration’s plan to reduce CO2 emissions from electrical power plants by 32% by 2030 is receiving increased scrutiny from those who perform analyses based on models to forecast the temperature effects of increased CO2. Please note, that the results of any such models, which have not been validated, are speculative, at best. However, these results go to the justifications that the Administration uses to defend its plans. The calculations show that the Administration’s plan will have an effect on global temperatures that is miniscule, not measurable. Yet, it is becoming clear that the Administration’s CCP will extend its control of all fossil fuel use, not just coal-fired power plants. This will come at great costs to consumers, raising electricity bills by about three-fold.

Making the ignorance and arrogance of the Administration all the more absurd are the repeated claims that the plan will save the consumers money – as if major urban black-outs can be labeled as money saving opportunities. See links under The Administration’s New Plan and The Administration’s New Plan – Independent Analysis.


Underestimating Costs: The Institute for Energy Analysis (IEA) produced a study that estimates the cost of replacing existing power plants with solar- or wind-generated electrical power. Many prior studies used government estimates of new power plants to compare different types of electricity generation, such as comparing nuclear power with combined-cycle natural-gas plants. Such studies failed to take into account the useful life of the existing plants, with much of the capital costs substantially reduced over time and use. “Our study shows that on average, electricity from new wind resources is nearly four times more expensive than from existing nuclear and nearly three times more expensive than from existing coal. These are dramatic increases in the cost of generating electricity. This means that the premature closures of existing plants will unavoidably increase electricity rates for American families.” [Boldface in original]

Whether or not the exclusion of reduced costs of existing plants are intentional, these lower costs must be considered when estimating costs of electrical power when government forces power plants to shut-down, as called for in the Administration’s CCP. Though not discussed in the study, equally important are the inclusion of the costs of maintaining existing, reliable power plants or, if new capacity is added, the cost of constructing reliable power plants to serve as necessary back-up, if major sources of electricity are to come from unreliable solar and wind.

As discussed in the July 18 and July 25 TWTW’s, the 2014 annual report of the state-owned electricity and natural gas distribution company in Denmark states that, by 2020, the electricity capacity of power plants, including wind and solar, and import capacity will be about 3 times expected maximum consumption. As discussed in the August 8 TWTW, the need for reliable back-up for unreliable solar and wind is a major reason why Denmark and Germany have the highest electricity costs to consumers in Europe and that the relation between non-hydro renewables and consumer costs of electricity is strong and positive – the greater the percentage of renewables in the mix, the higher the costs to households. [Note that special exemptions and tax breaks are common to industries in Germany.]

Yet, the Administration remains ignorant and arrogant in the pursuit of its plan to force closure of coal-fired power plants and require new solar and wind generation, regardless of costs to the consumers. The lack of critical thinking is reminiscent of the Johnson administration’s repeated commitments of ground troops into Vietnam, without a well thought-out strategic plan. See Article # 2, links under The Administration’s New Plan – Push-Back, and Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind.


Validation of Climate Models: Writing in Watts Up With That?, Tim Ball reviews a book by Vincent Gray, “The Global Warming Scam and the Climate Change Super Scam.” Gray is an expert reviewer of all five major reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), submitting thousands of comments. [A student of H.H. Lamb, Tim Ball uncovered the extensive records of the Hudson Bay Company, which covers over 200 years of an area extending from the Great Plains of the northern US into Canada to the north of the tree-line surrounding the Hudson Bay in northern Canada. These records describe significant changes in weather and climate during the period. They are largely ignored by the IPCC and members of the Climate Establishment.]

In his review, Ball has a number of excellent quotes from Gray including:

There are huge uncertainties in the model outputs which are recognized and unmeasured. They are so large that adjustment of model parameters can give model results which fit almost any climate, including one with no warming, and one that cools.


No model has ever successfully predicted any future climate sequence. Despite this, future “projections” for as far ahead as several hundred years have been presented by the IPCC as plausible future trends, based on largely distorted “storylines”, combined with untested models.


The IPCC have provided a wealth of scientific information on the climate, but have not established a case that increases in carbon dioxide are causing any harmful effects.


One of the most serious limitations of the global climate models is the failure to validate one:

”No computer model has ever been validated. An early draft of Climate Change 95 had a Chapter titled “Climate Models – Validation” as a response to my comment that no model has ever been validated. They changed the title to “Climate Model – Evaluation” and changed the word “validation” in the text to “evaluation” no less than describing what might need to be done in order to validate a model.


“Without a successful validation procedure, no model should be considered to be capable of providing a plausible prediction of future behaviour of the climate.”

Ball briefly discusses some of the difficulties of validating a climate model, and points out that some of the problems are stated in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), and have not been resolved after 25 years of IPCC reports. Yet, Western governments are on a push to reach an agreement of carbon dioxide emissions, even though the leaders, who ignore critical elements of the reports, and their scientists have failed to complete the basic science. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Solar Activity: A recent study on counting sun spots was highly played up, with claims that recent solar trends are not a major contributor to changes in earth’s climate. In a communication, Donald Rapp, who has written extensively on climate change, states that there was little new or significant in the study. “Yes, there has been a discrepancy between alternative methods of counting sunspots, partly due to how to deal with “groups” of clumped sunspots. Nevertheless, the differences between the two were not huge. Somewhat of a bagatelle (trifle). If this paper resolved the differences between the two, that is a nice, but minor.”

The book exploring solar influences, The Neglected Sun, considered six different solar cycles, each measured by their influence on Earth, not by counting sunspots. These influences include isotopes of Beryllium (Be10), Carbon (C14) found in ice cores, measurement of Alaska sea sediments, North Atlantic measurements of sediments from ice bergs, peat in China, stalagmites, etc. The authors of articles claiming that the revised counting implies the lack of solar influence commit the logical fallacy of a hasty generalization, at best. See links under Commentary: Is the Sun Rising?


Eagle Takes? The US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the Department of the Interior violated federal laws when it created a final regulation in 2009 allowing wind energy and some other companies to obtain 30-year permits to kill protected Bald and Golden Eagles without prosecution by the federal government. Among other issues, the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The violation of NEPA was cited by US District Court in Louisiana for ruling against a barrier system that was designed to protect New Orleans from flooding by Hurricanes such as Katrina. Expect a long fight against the ruling by the wind industry and its promoters in Washington. See link under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind


Number of the Week: 926,900 tonnes. A report from China asserts the State Oceanic Administration said China has built a total of 112 seawater desalination plants by the end of 2014, producing 926,900 tonnes of fresh water per day. “In north China, desalted water is mainly used for water-intensive industries including electricity and steel in Tianjin, Hebei and Shandong, while in south China, desalted water is mainly for civilian needs covering the provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian and Hainan.

“Of the finished desalination plants, 63.35 percent are for industrial purposes, and the rest are for household water use…”

TWTW has not confirmed the claim using independent sources. Assuming 113 tons to 1 acre-foot, and 1 tonne equals 2,240 lbs, not 2,000 lbs, this amount converts to 91,870 acre-feet of fresh water per day or 113,275 megaliters per day. See link under Other News That May Be of Interest.



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. The Price Tag For Uprooting America’s Electric Grid

Electricity from existing coal plants costs $38 per megawatt-hour; from new wind facilities, $106.

By Thomas Pyle, WSJ, Aug 9, 2015


Link to study: What is the True Cost of Electricity?

Electricity from New Wind Three Times More Costly than Existing Coal

By Tom Stacy and George Taylor, Institute for Energy Research, Jun 30, 2015


Link to detailed study: The Levelized Cost of Electricity from Existing Generation Resources

By Tom Stacy and George Taylor, Institute for Energy Research, June, 2015


SUMMARY: Those promoting renewable power, such as solar and wind, frequently underestimate the actual cost by significant amounts. The president of the Institute for Energy Research writes: the “Institute for Energy Research released a first-of-its-kind study calculating the levelized cost of electricity from existing generation sources. Our study shows that on average, electricity from new wind resources is nearly four times more expensive than from existing nuclear and nearly three times more expensive than from existing coal. These are dramatic increases in the cost of generating electricity. This means that the premature closures of existing plants will unavoidably increase electricity rates for American families.” [Boldface in original]

“Almost all measures of the cost of electricity only assess building new plants–until now. Using data from the Energy Information Administration and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, we offer useful comparison between existing plants and new plants.


“America’s electricity generation landscape is rapidly changing. Federal and state policies threaten to shutter more than 111 GW of existing coal and nuclear generation, while large amounts of renewables, such as wind, are forced on the grid. To understand the impacts of these policies, it is critical to understand the cost difference between existing and new sources of generation.”


The author presents a table with estimates of costs of electrical generation by type, based on estimates from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

“Using data from the Energy Information Administration and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, they [the researchers] found that existing nuclear plants generate reliable electricity, on average, at $29.60 per megawatt-hour—one million watts expended for one hour. Existing hydro, coal and natural gas aren’t far behind, at $34.20, $38.40 and $48.90, respectively. These figures are derived from self-reported data the government collects annually from individual generators.”


“Still, the IER study is the first of its kind to compare the cost of electricity from existing sources with that of new sources. Previous studies only compared the cost of electricity from new sources. That is, if a new facility is being constructed, what technology can produce electricity over the life of the plant at the lowest cost? Now a price tag can be put on policies that force power plants to retire early.


“Given the new study’s cost data, state governments should think twice about working with the EPA. The agency has called on states to submit compliance plans, and the regulators intend to impose a federal plan on states that don’t. Either option will force states to uproot the electric grid, imposing economic hardships.”

“The American people deserve better. The nation’s existing coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants could continue to deliver reliable and affordable electricity for decades to come, if not for the EPA’s costly and disruptive climate agenda.”


2. The Green Scare Problem

Raising constant alarms—about fracking, pesticides, GMO food—in the name of safety is a dangerous game.

By Matt Ridley, WSJ, Aug 13, 2015


SUMMARY: Ridley repeats President Obama comments claiming stale arguments when defending the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon-dioxide reduction plan, which may do more harm than good. “The trouble is, we’ve heard his stale argument before, too: that we’re doomed if we don’t do what the environmental pressure groups tell us, and saved if we do. And it has frequently turned out to be really bad advice.”

“Making dire predictions is what environmental groups do for a living, and it’s a competitive market, so they exaggerate. Virtually every environmental threat of the past few decades has been greatly exaggerated at some point. Pesticides were not causing a cancer epidemic, as Rachel Carson claimed in her 1962 book “Silent Spring”; acid rain was not devastating German forests, as the Green Party in that country said in the 1980s; the ozone hole was not making rabbits and salmon blind, as Al Gore warned in the 1990s. Yet taking precautionary action against pesticides, acid rain and ozone thinning proved manageable, so maybe not much harm was done.


“Climate change is different. President Obama’s plan to cut U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity plants by 32% (from 2005 levels) by 2030 would cut global emissions by about 2%. By that time, according to Energy Information Administration data analyzed by Heritage Foundation statistician Kevin Dayaratna, the carbon plan could cost the U.S. up to $1 trillion in lost GDP. The measures needed to decarbonize world energy are going to be vastly more expensive. So we had better be sure that we are not exaggerating the problem.


“But it isn’t just that environmental threats have a habit of turning out less bad than feared; it’s that the remedies sometimes prove worse than the disease.”

Ridley supports his views by discussing the questionable attacks by environmental groups on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), neonicotinoid pesticides (in the EU bee populations are increasing), nuclear power, and hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

“Many exaggerated early claims about the dangers of climate change have now been debunked. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has explicitly abandoned previous claims that malaria will likely get worse, that the Gulf Stream will stop flowing, the Greenland or West Antarctic Ice sheet will disintegrate, a sudden methane release from the Arctic is likely, the monsoon will collapse or long-term droughts will become more likely.”


“Indoor air pollution, caused mainly by cooking over wood fires indoors, is the world’s biggest cause of environmental death. It kills an estimated four million people every year, as noted by the nonprofit science news website, SciDev.Net. Getting fossil-fueled electricity and gas to them is the cheapest and quickest way to save their lives. To argue that the increasingly small risk of dangerous climate change many decades hence is something they should be more worried about is positively obscene.”


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