The Week That Was: June 25, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
BREXIT: On June 23rd, the British voted 52% to 48% to exit the European Union. No doubt many political commentators were very surprised. It’s too early to forecast how this exit will take place and what will occur. The financial markets reacted strongly in a negative fashion, but such reaction is typical when faced with a political shock. It appears that many in Britain are dismayed by economic and political controls administrated by an autocratic bureaucracy centered in other countries. Early reports showed that the industrial areas of the Midlands and Yorkshire heavily favored the exit. It would be interesting to see a competent analysis of what influence, if any, increasing electricity prices may have had on the vote.
According to reports prior to the vote, Christiana Figueres, one of the leaders of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which organized the Paris Agreement (not called a treaty which requires US Senate approval) stated that a Brexit vote would require “recalibration” of the agreement. But, this may have been another slight-of-hand tactic to influence the vote. As it is many leaders of the Brexit are skeptical of the UN assertion that human emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), are the dominant influence on recent global warming/climate change.
What the Brexit vote will create in other countries remains to be seen. Previously, some US groups were calling for the US to withdraw from the UNFCCC. One major point is that the UNFCCC treaty was approved by the US Senate with conditions that have not been met in the Paris Agreement. Will Brexit intensify calls for US withdrawal from the UNFCCC? The UNFCCC is one of the two parent organizations of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which produces summaries of reports with conclusions of certainty that are not substantiated in THE body of the reports. Also, according to government reports, the US is the major funder of the UNFCCC and recently the State Department diverted $500,000,000 into the UNFCCC’s Green Climate Fund without Congressional approval. See links under After Paris and Other News that May Be of Interest.
Quote of the Week: “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.” – Jonathan Swift The Examiner, Nov 9, 1710 [H/t Jim Moore]
Number of the Week: 19%
Linear-No-Threshold Model: One of the favorite ploys of the EPA is to use the Linear-No-Threshold (LNT) model to calculate possible small negative influences on human health with small doses of a substance, even when lacking any physical evidence. Often, it is far easier for a regulator, or an epidemiologist, to declare a substance is harmful by using the LNT Model rather than using the laborious dose-response method long-established in toxicology. (”sola dosis facit venenum” – The dose alone makes the poison.)
The LNT model was developed in the late 1940s for ionizing radiation and it was assumed that long term exposure to the radiation can cause an increase in cancer risks. The benefits of exposure to radiation are largely ignored. The model has been strongly criticized by some scientists because it can lead to absurd results. For example, long-term, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer in some, therefore any exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer in some. It can be summed as: “There is no safe dose.”
A more recent example is the administrators of the EPA lecturing US residents on exposure to emissions from coal-fired power plants because the mercury emissions may reduce IQ (by an immeasurable amount). The EPA’s position was supported by a single study not supported by subsequent studies. Yet, it became part of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) regulations promulgated by the EPA, which are being legally contested.
A new paper with the clever title, “Epidemiology Without Biology: False Paradigms, Unfounded Assumptions, and Specious Statistics in Radiation Science”, has been published in Biological Theory. As one can guess from the title, the paper is not complimentary to the extensive use of the LNT model. Needless to say, this will not be the final word on the subject – far too many careers and papers in epidemiology are built on the LNT model. See links under EPA and other Regulators on the March and Below the Bottom Line.
Chevron Deference: A frustrating issue in Federal courts is trying to establish that a US agency did not produce the science it claims to have established supporting particularly regulations. All too often the court may the Chevron Deference, stopping the argument. This deference grew from a 1984 Supreme Court Case involving Chevron and the Natural Resource Defense Council over the EPA’s interpretation of the 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments. The Deference gives government agencies wide latitude in establishing the meaning of enacted laws. Some government agencies, such as the EPA, are taking advantage of this deference.
For example; those attending the oral arguments, in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, against the EPA “endangerment finding” that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger human health saw the lead judge use the deference to shut off all arguments that the science behind the EPA’s endangerment finding was extremely weak. This deference biases the courts in favor of government entities and is frequently used in many cases in addition to Clean Air Act issues.
Recent court decisions indicated that the deference is wearing thin as the Administration tries to use it to justify increasing regulations without Congressional approval. For example, a Federal judge, appointed by President Obama, rejected an effort by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to regulate hydraulic fracturing that takes place on federal and Indian lands. For years, the BLM and other government agencies have not permitted hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas on these lands, even though a 2005 law stripped the executive branch of fracturing jurisdiction and gave that power to the states. The BLM claimed it was exempt from the law. Hydraulic fracturing provides one of the few bright spots in an otherwise stagnant economy. Whether this decision indicates a trend remains to be seen. See Article # 2 and links under After Paris.
Atmospheric Temperatures: Roy Spencer, a co-developer of measuring atmospheric temperatures by satellites, estimates that those temperatures in 2016 will likely be higher than in 2015, then they will fall. Will this result in a higher plateau as in 1998, or will they fall to the level following the 1998 El Niño – resulting in a continuation of the “pause”?
In response to those claiming that the spike in temperatures is being caused by increased CO2, physicist Donald Rapp wrote:
“There is no possible technical reason for a sudden spike in global temperatures due to CO2. CO2 exerts a slow, gradually acting force. That is a biased assertion based on no facts. Furthermore, far from being “dissipated” the current El Nino is on its downward leg but there is plenty of room left for further temperature declines over the next six months. Take a look at the aftermath of the 1997-8 El Nino below.”
“’The Arctic in particular experienced abnormal heat, causing Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet to start melting unusually early’, said NASA.”
“Alaska recorded its warmest spring on record by a wide margin, and in Finland the average May temperature was between three and five degrees warmer than usual in most regions, according to data from the Finnish Meteorological Institute.”
“It is well established that one of the significant global effects of a strong El Nino is warming of Alaska. That’s always been true and is still true today. No surprise there.”
See link under Measurement Issues — Atmosphere
Changing Antarctic: Paul Homewood reports on a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters on ice accumulation and temperatures in West Antarctica Ice Sheet for the past 31, 000 years. From the abstract:
“We investigate the relationship between accumulation and temperature for the past 31 ka using high-resolution records from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice core in West Antarctica. [The divide separates the region where is ice flows to the Ross Sea from the region where it flows to the Weddell sea.] Although the glacial-interglacial increases result in high correlation and moderate sensitivity for the full record, the relationship shows considerable variability through time with high correlation and high sensitivity for the 0–8 ka period but no correlation for the 8–15 ka period. This contrasts with a general circulation model simulation which shows homogeneous sensitivities between temperature and accumulation across the entire time period. These results suggest that variations in atmospheric circulation are an important driver of Antarctic accumulation but they are not adequately captured in model simulations. Model-based projections of future Antarctic accumulation, and its impact on sea level, should be treated with caution.”
The fear of rapid sea level rise from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melting from CO2 may be greatly exaggerated. See links under Changing Cryosphere – Land / Sea Ice
SCC: As John Christy has shown, through 2015, the global climate models generally greatly overestimate the warming of the atmosphere, where the greenhouse effect occurs. Further, any projected ice melt of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be natural, not attributable to human influence. These examples illustrate the danger in IPCC’s failure to seek understanding of the natural influences on climate, instead of emphasizing human influence only. Yet, twelve US government entities continue to labor under the assumption that 50-year projections from global climate models are valid.
These entities continue to calculate the bureaucratically contrived Social Cost of Carbon (SCC), which generally fails to recognize the benefits of added carbon dioxide to agriculture and the environment. Although there is overlap, these entities are not exactly the same as the 13 involved in the U.S Global Change Research Program. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Questioning the Orthodoxy — SCC
Blackout California: The shutdown of the facility due to a leak in the Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility in Southern California has resulted in the California Independent Service Operator (CAISO), which manages the California grid, estimating that all customers should expect to be without power for a total of 14 days this summer. Some 21 million Southern Californians may be directly affected. Southern California relies on natural gas to balance its solar and other power plants, particularly during the summer. Complicating the issue is the “California Duck Curve” which illustrates the steep ramping requirements in California due to the addition of solar capacity. The sharp increase in power needed from about 4 pm to 9 pm is taxing on all equipment employed.
Writing in Energy Matters, Roger Andrews discusses some of the issues involved and that the outlook for preventing blackouts is not good. The California Public Utilities Commission is addressing the significant problem by demanding the public utility (Southern California Edison) acquire more electricity storage using batteries to prevent blackouts. Apparently, the Commission is unaware that commercial-scale battery storage does not exist. See links under California Dreaming.
California Nuclear: Adding to complications, the pressure group “Friends of the Earth” issued a press release that it has successfully negotiated the closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, the only remaining nuclear power plant in California – located between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The facilities have 1,100 MWe reactors and an operating capacity factor of about 90%. It produces about 9% of the electricity used in California and is scheduled to close in 2025. The press release states:
“Friends of the Earth says the agreement provides a clear blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy.”
The press release does not state what forms of “renewable energy” are cost-competitive and reliable. This action may totally rupture the “California Duck Curve” (discussed immediately above). Since the utility bases its profits as a percentage of costs allowable by the California Public Utilities Commissions, it probably sees the closure as a potential increase in profits. Only the consumers lose. See links under California Dreaming and Nuclear Energy and Fears
Additions and Corrections: The final date for nominations for the April’s Fool Award is July 1. A list of those nominated, with recommendations, will be in the July 2 TWTW.
The review of comments regarding using a diesel engine as an analogy to illustrate the intense atmospheric pressure on Venus will also be in the July 2 TWTW.
Number of the Week: 19%. Writing in Master Resource, nuclear engineer Jim Rust states that the capacity factor of solar plants in the Southwest US desert are about 19%, while those for nuclear plants are about 90% or greater. The Southwest desert is considered the most promising place to locate solar plants in the country. These numbers are verified by the US Energy Information Administration. Of course, nuclear power is reliable; solar is not. Those customers who have to pay the bills for the replacements of nuclear power plants are in for an unpleasant surprise.
1. Exxon’s Inquisitors Feel the Heat
Court filings reveal the true aim of this ‘fraud’ case: silencing conservatives.
By Kimberley Strassel, WSJ, June 16, 2016
SUMMARY: Ms. Strassel writes: “The first thing to know about the crusade against Exxon by state attorneys general is that it isn’t about the law. The second thing to know is that it isn’t even about Exxon. What these liberal prosecutors really want is to shut down a universe of their most-hated ideological opponents.
That became startlingly clear this week, with Exxon’s latest filing in federal court. The oil company revealed that it has received another subpoena for documents, this one from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. But Ms. Healey, whose fervor exceeds her political sense, gives away the game.
The 17 attorneys general participating in this cause have always been careful to identify Exxon as their only target. It’s easier to accuse a big, bad oil company of nefarious deeds, so they make the bogus claim that Exxon somehow “defrauded” the public and its shareholders by engaging in “climate denial.” All the better if they can beat Exxon into cutting a giant check to settle any future charges—a payoff for their states (and for the trial lawyers helping them).
But the Healey subpoena shows that Exxon is a front. The real target is a broad array of conservative activist groups that are highly effective at mobilizing the grass-roots and countering liberal talking points—and that therefore must (as the left sees things) be muzzled. This is clear from the crazy list of organizations Ms. Healey asked for information about in her subpoena. She demanded that Exxon turn over decades of correspondence with any of them.
Take Americans for Prosperity. AFP confirms it has never received a dime from Exxon. But its 2.3 million activists nationwide are highly effective in elections, and it receives funding from the left’s favorite boogeymen, Charles and David Koch.
Or, closer to home: Ms. Healey named the Beacon Hill Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Boston. My sources confirm Beacon Hill has also never seen Exxon dollars. But it is a perpetual thorn in the side of liberal Massachusetts politicians like Ms. Healey.
Also named: the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC doesn’t now, and hasn’t ever, taken a position on the climate. The group is, however, one of the most powerful forces in the country for free-market legislation, having written hundreds of model bills that states use in their efforts to reduce taxes, cut regulations and reform tort laws. Democratic activists have, for the past five years in particular, waged a vicious campaign to run ALEC out of business, and Ms. Healey is now doing her bit.
The same tactics were on display in a subpoena to Exxon from Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker. He appears to have cut-and-pasted from an anti-Exxon website maintained by Greenpeace, since his subpoena lists the same groups in pretty much the same order. The exercise was so sloppy that Mr. Walker named numerous organizations that have been defunct for years, listed several targets twice, and misidentified others.
The goal of the Exxon probe isn’t to protect consumers or help the environment. It’s a message: Oppose us, and we will marshal our terrifying government powers to intimidate and threaten you, to force you to spend millions defending yourself, to eat up the time you’d otherwise use speaking out.
The Exxon investigation is “pure harassment,” civil-liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate told the Boston Herald this week. “It is outrageous for any law enforcement official,” he continued, “to be seeking to win this battle for minds by flexing law enforcement muscle and trying to shut up the other side.”
That goal is all the more clear given the dishonesty of the legal claim. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pursuing Exxon under his state’s sweeping Martin Act, which covers securities fraud. Yet at a recent panel discussion in New York, Columbia Law Professor Merritt B. Fox noted that Exxon’s actions were irrelevant in a market already “well supplied with information about climate change.” He skewered Mr. Schneiderman for pursuing a case “so unlikely” to “be a winner.” This was even as he expressed solidarity with concerns about global warming.
The attorneys general are feeling so much pushback that Mr. Schneiderman felt compelled to give a speech last week delineating his own made-up limits on free speech. Groups that question his harassment of them are engaged in “First Amendment opportunism,” he said, and any right they claim is trumped, apparently, by his righteous, self-defined calling to pursue “fraud.” He clearly sent this memo to his persecutors-in-arms, since Ms. Healey was parroting the same lines this week in response to questions about her subpoena.
The Exxon campaign is only the latest in liberals’ broad, coordinated strategy to shut down conservatives. We’ve seen it in the IRS targeting, the Wisconsin John Doe probe, the campaign against ALEC, the harassment of conservative donors. And the only way to stop it is for targets to speak out—even louder.
2. Obama’s Fracking Comeuppance
A judge he appointed rebukes an anti-drilling regulation as lawless.
Editorial, WSJ, June 22, 2016
SUMMARY: the editors write: “Another day, another judicial rebuke to President Obama’s contempt for the rule of law. On Wednesday a federal judge struck down an oil and gas drilling rule imposed with no statutory authority.
“In 2015 the Bureau of Land Management published new regulations about well construction and water management for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that takes place on federal and Indian lands. The BLM asserted “broad authority” to control oil and gas operations on the basis of laws that were passed in 1920, 1930, 1938, 1976 and 1982 and were allegedly ambiguous. Thus the agency said it deserved the benefit of the interpretive doubt that the courts call Chevron deference.
“Abusing Chevron is an Obama specialty. But BLM’s overreach was notably egregious because Congress passed an energy law in 2005 that stripped the executive branch of fracking jurisdiction and gave that power to the states.
“The BLM argued that Congress’s choice didn’t matter because the bureau wasn’t mentioned by name in the 2005 law. That claim inspired Judge Scott Skavdahl of Wyoming—an Obama appointee—to conduct a remedial seminar in the Constitution’s separation of powers.
“Under the BLM argument, Judge Skavdahl writes, ‘there would be no limit to the scope or extent of congressionally delegated authority BLM has. . . . Having explicitly removed the only source of specific federal agency authority over fracking, it defies common sense for the BLM to argue that Congress intended to allow it to regulate the same activity under a general statute that says nothing about hydraulic fracturing.’
“Judge Skavdahl also rebukes the administrative agencies that ‘increasingly” rely’ on Chevron deference to stretch the outer limits of ‘delegated’ statutory authority by revising and reshaping legislation.’ He reminds that agencies derive their ‘existence, authority and powers from Congress alone,” and that Congress’s “inability or unwillingness to pass a law desired by the executive branch does not default authority to the executive branch to act independently.’
“A President who rewrites inconvenient laws ought to alarm Americans of all political persuasions. Principled decisions like Judge Skavdahl’s help restore the constitutional norms that Mr. Obama has done so much to dismantle.”
3. EMP: More Urgent Than Any Climate Threat
It is incredible that a truly existential threat to our existence receives far less attention than global warming.
Letters, WSJ, June 19, 2016
The comments on an article by Joe Colangelo “A Devastating Threat We’re Not Ready For” (op-ed, June 13) include the following:
From Anthony Sandar: “Regarding Joe Colangelo’s “A Devastating Threat We’re Not Ready For” (op-ed, June 13): The electromagnetic-pulse threat (EMP) may indeed be the most serious imminent threat to our country. But the current administration, including the Energy Department, is much more concerned about the ethereal threat of climate change. That’s where its attention and money are focused, to harden us against dubious man-made global warming, even though hardening power-generation plants at a relatively small cost seems like a no-brainer. Then again, without such plant upgrades, an EMP would be the quickest way for the administration to eliminate dependence on carbon-based fuels.”
From Howard Halpern: “The EMP threat from the sun is real. In 1850 the battery-powered telegraph system in the U.S. suddenly burned out. Shortly before a treaty to ban above-ground nuclear detonations was to take effect, our military fired a missile with a hydrogen bomb warhead designed to destroy an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile from an island off the coast of Asia to high above the atmosphere. Its EMP damaged electric utility equipment thousands of miles away in Hawaii. Our military responded by requiring protection against EMP and testing of that protection in procurement of military systems. EMP from the sun might last a month and destroy unprotected electric grids around the world. An enemy missile with a hydrogen bomb warhead detonated far above the Earth’s atmosphere could shut down electric grids from coast to coast in North America. Consequences would include no functioning pumps at gas stations, no working cash registers, no pumping of water out of reservoirs or pumping of natural gas or oil in pipelines, communications limited to word-of-mouth and hand-delivered notes and no functioning banks or governments.”