Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #227

The Week That Was: May 21, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Observation and Experiment: Last week’s TWTW discussed a climate model that may work, the Russian Institute of Numerical Mathematics Coupled Model, version 4.0 (INM-CM4). The model tracks historic atmospheric temperature data very well. Virtually, all the other models do not. If a model cannot track historic data well, there is no logical reason to assume it can be successful in predicting the future.

In presenting this discussion, John Hinderaker of Power Line used the full quote of Richard Feynman, found in the Quote of the Week. Feynman was a Nobel laureate in theoretical physics and a famed lecturer. Unfortunately, the first part of the quote is frequently dropped, in favor of the sentence: “…if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.” But, the earlier part of comparing the computations with nature is also vital: “Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works.”

This is where the procedures used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) fail to produce empirical science. The models they emphasize do not work when compared to nature, and nature is the only expert judge whose opinion matters. All the statistical trickery used by the IPCC to disguise the failure of the atmosphere to warm as predicted is of no value when compared with rigorous observations of nature.

By ignoring the only comprehensive temperature data existing, taken where the greenhouse gas effect occurs, the IPCC and USGCRP have not progressed in understanding the natural causes of climate change beyond the guessing phase mentioned by Feynman in the 35 plus years since the Charney report in 1979, which relied on “expert opinions” of climate modelers.

John Christy’s February 2 written testimony to the US House Committee on Science, Space & Technology cuts through thousands of pages of clutter. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Modeling Issues and http://www.atmos.ucla.edu/~brianpm/download/charney_report.pdf


Quote of the Week: In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.” – Richard Feynman (bears repeating) [H/t John Hinderaker]


Number of the Week: 5 in 2005; more than 600 in 2015


No TWTW Next Week: SEPP Chairman Fred Singer and President Ken Haapala will be in Moscow and Vienna giving talks on space exploration (Singer) and climate science plus energy policy (both). Responses to emails will be very slow.


Climate Modeling: According to research by Patrick J. Michaels and David E. Wojick, climate modeling not only dominates climate science, climate modeling also dominates modeling in science as a whole. In a Google Scholar search (always open to question) using the terms model, modeled, or modeling, about 55% of the 900,000 peer reviewed journal articles using the terms also used the term climate change. Yet, they estimate that only about 4% of Federal government funding of science goes climate science.

Further, Michaels and Wojick also found that of the articles with the term climate change, about 97% also included one of the terms related to modeling. [Perhaps this is where the frequently cited phrase that “97% of climate scientists…” originates.]

The research shows that journal articles on climate are dominated by modeling issues. Yet, as discussed above, all but one of the 32 tested models, the Russian one, are failing to describe what is occurring in nature.

If the climate modeling establishment continues to ignore the need to be able to describe nature, then its work is little more than very expensive, sophisticated speculation. See link under Questioning the Orthodoxy.


Booming OA: In addition to climate modeling, another topic in which journal articles have boomed is what is called, poorly, Ocean Acidification (OA). Howard Browman states: “’Ocean acidification’” (OA), a change in seawater chemistry driven by increased uptake of atmospheric CO2 by the oceans, has probably been the most-studied single topic in marine science in recent times” and he offers the numbers of articles produced by journal searches as evidence.

Far too frequently, published reports involved “shocking” a tank of marine life with a strong acid, such as hydrochloric acid to “mimic” what a very gradual increase in a weak acid, carbonic acid, would have on marine life. Anyone who has raised tropical fish, fresh water or salt water, would be stunned by the practices used by many researchers and accepted by the journals.

As fish fanciers and those with some chemical background realize, most sea water is alkaline with a pH above 7 (7 is neutral). Lowering the pH of an alkaline solution makes it less alkaline, makes it more neutral, but does not necessarily acidify it. A great deal of fresh water, such as bogs in the Southeastern US, and parts of the Amazon Basin is acidic, with a pH below 7.

With the flurry of poorly conceived journal articles, the ICES Journal of Marine Science has issued a special edition titled Applying organized scepticism to ocean acidification research, with Howard Browman as lead editor. ICES is the International Council for Exploration of the Seas. Browman states that studies reporting no effect of OA are more difficult to publish than studies reporting such an effect [even though many of the studies reporting an effect are poorly designed or executed.]. Just as importantly, Browman states: “Further, the mechanisms underlying the biological and ecological effects of OA have received little attention in most organismal groups, and some of the key mechanisms (e.g. calcification) are still incompletely understood.”

Largely, the reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), particularly the one on Biological Impacts, have brought out similar concerns. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC.


Genetically Engineered Crops: The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have issued a new report on genetically engineered crops, commonly called Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). These plants have had their genetic material changed in controlled laboratories, and were first introduced commercially in the 1990s. GMO foods have been severely criticized by some special interest groups as having adverse effects on human health or the environment. Some go as far as calling them “unethical.”

As genetic engineering advances, the issues become more complex. Yet, after decades of plantings, there are no apparent negative impacts from these crops, and many hold great promise for improving the health of those who consume them, particularly those in less fortunate nations. The controversy will not disappear, but the fear raised by some remains unsubstantiated. See links under Agriculture Issues & Fear of Famine


Methane Regulations: Last week the EPA announced methane regulations on new oil and gas wells. These regulations appear to be pure costly harassment of these industries with no apparent climate or other benefits. EPA cost-benefit accounting continues to be breathtaking.

Among other issues showing the lack of science in EPA accounting are the number of molecules involved. The limited warming effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are shown by the lack of warming, even as CO2 increased. CO2 is measured in parts per million (accounting for about 400 per million or 4 molecules per 10,000). Methane is measured in parts per billion, three decimal places over. Recent estimates at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, about 1850 ppb or about 0.5% that of CO2 and 0.01% of water vapor. Further, much of the relevant bands of absorption are taken by water vapor, and the polar regions in which it may have an influence emit little energy. Finally, methane has a relatively short life-time in the atmosphere of about 10 years. It is removed by oxidation by OH radicals and ozone. See links under EPA and other Regulators on the March and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane#/media/File:Mlo_ch4_ts_obs_03437.png


Judicial Punt? The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which was scheduled for June 2 to hear oral arguments on complaints filed against the Administration’s plan to effectively close down coal-fired power plants, has decided to delay the oral arguments until September 27. Further, it announced that a full panel of nine jurists will hear the arguments rather than a panel of three judges. Had a three judge panel heard the arguments, after a decision, most likely, the losing party would have appealed for a full panel to hear the case. The announcement effectively saves a step.

In any event, the losing party will likely appeal to the Supreme Court in this highly contested litigation.

Also, most likely, the announcement delays any decision announced by the Court until after the election on November 8. As usual, the Court announced no reason for its decision, and none is expected, though there is considerable speculation. See link under Litigation Issues.


Number of the Week: 5 in 2005; more than 600 in 2015 – an increase of 120 times. In “Applying organized scepticism to ocean acidification research” discussed above, Browman states that his search produced only 5 papers on ocean acidification in the journals searched in 2005 and over 600 papers in 2015. One can call it riding the wave of fear promotion. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.



1 Exxon Is Big Tobacco? Tell Me Another

The corrupt Medicaid deal propped up tobacco stocks and government revenue.

By Holman Jenkins, WSJ, May 17, 2016


“Transportation fuels account for less than 15% of global emissions, and Exxon’s production accounts for just 4% of transportation fuels.”

SUMMARY: Jenkins strongly criticizes the analogy by the proponents for RICO investigation of skeptics of drastic human-caused global warming/climate change with the actions of tobacco companies. He starts:

“Before anyone collapses uncritically in front of the claim by activist groups and liberal politicians that they are doing to Exxon Mobil what they did to tobacco, readers might want to take a look at tobacco stock prices.

“Yup, all up strongly since the 1998 “master settlement agreement” that 46 states imposed on Big Tobacco ostensibly as punishment for its sins. How was the industry expected to pay $246 billion in alleged Medicaid damages? By selling more cigarettes, of course, now helped by a government-orchestrated pricing cartel, with the profits equitably shared between the companies, the pols and the buccaneers of the trial bar.

“A decade later, the American Bar Association Journal would look back and conclude: “The only big winners in the litigation appear to be the tobacco companies, the state treasurers and the lawyers who represented both sides.”

“So obviously corrupt was the outcome that it had one salutary effect: It capped the careers of the ambitious state pols who promoted this travesty. Hubert Humphrey III, possessor of Minnesota’s most illustrious name, finished last in a three-man governor’s race. Texas AG Dan Morales went to jail for creating fake documents in an attempt to secure a slice of the state’s windfall for a law-school buddy.

“Dickie Scruggs, most prominent of the anti-tobacco lawyers, would later go to jail for bribing a judge. One wonders if New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and California’s Kamala Harris, who keep trumpeting the tobacco precedent while attacking Exxon, really have given their analogy the due diligence it deserves.

“On the advice of their lawyers, tobacco executives pretended not to know what their own warning labels said, which became their main source of legal jeopardy. In allegedly parallel fashion, Exxon is accused of knowing about the science of climate change, and casting doubt on the science of climate change.

“The problem is, knowing and doubting are the same when it comes to the iffy claims of climate science at its current state of development.”

After a discussion of the limited influence oil companies have on CO2 emissions compared with influence tobacco companies had, Jenkins concludes:

“He now criticizes the 1998 tobacco settlement, but activist Matt Myers and his group Tobacco-Free Kids walked away with a healthy share of the proceeds. Meanwhile, the states quickly reneged on their own promise to spend the proceeds on anti-smoking programs. And, just this month, a Food and Drug Administration effort to shut down e-cigarettes was quietly applauded by state treasurers and conventional cigarette companies as a step to uphold their revenue from the traditional tobacco products covered in the settlement.

“As Donald Trump might say, nobody ever went broke emphasizing the dishonesty and opportunism of the U.S. political class, including the activist class. That’s your most reliable forecast for how an Exxon lawsuit might play out.”


2. Norway to Drill Untapped Arctic Seas

Acreage awards allow exploration in Barents Sea area previously disputed with Russia

By Kjetil Malkenes Hovland, WSJ, May 18, 2016


SUMMARY: “’Today, we are opening a new chapter in the history of the Norwegian petroleum industry,’ said Tord Lien, Norway’s minister of petroleum and energy. ‘For the first time in 20 years, we offer new acreage for exploration.’

“Announcing the country’s 23rd licensing round in five decades, the government offered 10 drilling licenses to 13 different companies, including ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Statoil, and DEA. Attractive acreage is key to ensure long-term drilling activity, it said.

“’This is a cornerstone of the government’s petroleum policy and is particularly important in the current challenging times for the industry,’ the government said.

“Three out of the 10 new licenses were awarded in a previously disputed area with Russia in the southeast Barents Sea, in the wake of a 2010 delineation deal between the two countries, following four decades of disagreement.”


3. Shale Drillers’ Key to Survival: Efficiency

Diversified players find ways to make Bakken formation pay even at low oil prices

By Chester Dawson, WSJ, May 17, 2016


SUMMARY: After a discussion of the slow-down due to the large drop in oil prices, the article states:

“This downturn marks the first bust since the rise of so-called unconventional shale-oil plays nearly a decade ago, fueled by new technologies, ready access to capital and a surge in crude prices to record highs. One of the world’s highest-cost oil fields, the Bakken is key test ground for the U.S. energy industry’s wherewithal.

“’You can’t shut down the Bakken. The American oil industry is getting smarter and more efficient” in how and where it drills, said Kathy Neset, a veteran geologist who owns a consultancy in Tioga, N.D. “We’ve still got pins on the wall,” she said, pointing to a map with the location of active rigs.

After a discussion of some of the well finance oil firms in the area the articles states:

“Those highly productive new wells are partially offsetting the decline in output from older wells, including some that are being shut because their operating costs surpass the market value of their oil. While North Dakota’s production is expected to fall below the million-barrel-a-day mark by early 2017 unless prices recover to above $50, it has held up better than many analysts expected.

“Just 27 drilling rigs are active in North Dakota, matching a low last seen in July 2005 and down from an all-time high of 218 in 2012, according to the state’s Department of Mineral Resources. But data from the Energy Information Administration show output per rig has increased by more than one-third over the past year in the Bakken.”

After some statistics showing an increase in production per rig from a low of below 200 barrels per day to almost 800 barrels per day, the article states:

“Average well drilling and completion costs have come down by nearly a third across all major U.S. shale plays from peak levels in 2012, but the EIA says Bakken Shale wells remain the most costly due mostly to their depth.

“Hess, which exported the first cargo of Bakken crude from the U.S. Gulf Coast last month, says it is implementing lean manufacturing techniques borrowed from Toyota Motor Corp. such as just-in-time supply chain logistics and greater use of standardized parts. It is operating three rigs, down from a high of 17 in 2014, but it has increased the number of wells drilled per rig to 22 a year, up from 16 wells a year 18 months ago.

“Standing near a quartet of pump jacks surrounded by farm land, David McKay, the vice president of what Hess calls its Bakken ‘Well Factory,’ credits the downturn for forcing producers to rethink their operations. ‘There was a time when we were all cheeks and heel’” in the rush to boost output, he said in an interview. ‘The slowdown actually has helped convince people of the need to do everything more efficiently,’ he said.

“Mr. McKay says those efforts have reduced completion costs by one-third over the past 12 months to around $2 million per well, cut the time it takes to frack a well to one day from up to three days two years ago, and boosted average initial well production by up to 20%.

“Lynn Helms, North Dakota’s top energy regulator, expects the slump will thin the herd of operators. ‘That’s what’s coming,’ he said earlier this year. ‘We’ll see companies in financial distress be aggregated by some of the larger companies.’”


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