Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #231

The Week That Was: July 2, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

State Attorneys General: The chronology of the subpoena of certain records of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) by Attorney General Claude Earl Walker of U.S. Virgin Islands becomes an interesting study of legal over-reach and pull-back. CEI general counsel Sam Kazman has a good re-cap of events in his summary: “Shake-Up in Subpoena Land.” –

“CEI was originally served with its subpoena on April 7. The document was issued by AG Walker, who had a District of Columbia court clerk issue a DC version, which could then be served on CEI. The subpoena demanded a full decade’s worth of CEI’s work on climate change and energy policy, much of which would have contained confidential information on our donors. It was an outrageous violation of both our First Amendment right and those of our supporters, and CEI made it clear that it wouldn’t comply.”

‘On May 13, in response to our objections, Walker’s local attorney informed us that they rejected our legal arguments, but they would withdraw the DC subpoena. Walker’s attorney gave us no decision about the underlying Virgin Islands subpoena, but she did note that Walker might reissue the DC subpoena if he changed his mind in the future.”

The threat continued. On June 28, the DC Superior Court heard arguments on the motion by CEI for sanctions against Walker under the DC Anti-SLAPP Act. “Walker’s local counsel argued that Walker was conducting an ongoing investigation of ExxonMobil for fraud, and that he had a legitimate interest in CEI documents. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal on June 24, 2016, Walker said that he was subpoenaing CEI for information ‘can shed light’ on whether we ‘broke the law,’ which is more than intimidation, it’s an accusation. This is all the more reason we are continuing to pursue sanctions against Walker. The judge stated that she’d be issuing a ruling in due time.

“One day later, Walker announced that he was withdrawing his Exxon subpoena, as well as an accompanying one to Exxon’s public relations firm. And then the following day–Thursday, June 30–he announced he was withdrawing his Virgin Islands CEI subpoena as well. We immediately informed the court of these developments, pointing out that the withdrawal of the Exxon subpoena was seriously at odds with what his attorney had told the court at the hearing.

According to Kazman, all this serves to show their “case for sanctions against Walker is stronger than ever. Even aside from questions of misrepresentation to the court, Walker’s decision to yank his subpoenas in the face of legal challenges indicates that he had no valid reason to issue them in the first place. And that makes the need for sanctions even clearer—because when a law enforcement officer breaks the law, it’s not enough for him to simply stop behaving badly. A violation like this of the First Amendment needs to be paid for, because that’s the best way of ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.

In addition, on June 27, by a vote of 8-0, the US Supreme Court overturned the federal corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell because the prosecutors did not prove that Mr. McDonnell did enough to assist his friend to be guilty of quid-pro-quo corruption. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out that all the actions of which Mr. McDonnell was accused are among the normal duties of any elected official. The prosecutors and the trial judge defined “official act” so broadly that they went well beyond the intent of federal law. Whether or not this decision influenced Mr. Walker in withdrawing the subpoena is unknown. But an 8-0 decision is significant, and it is a warning to state attorneys general that they should be careful in trying to broaden federal statutes to charge political opponents with crimes.

All these developments leave unsettled, thus far, whether the state attorneys general involved, and those who have been urging such legal actions, have violated the Civil Rights Act of 1985, making it a felony to conspire to deprive others of their Civil Rights, including freedom of speech. We shall see what develops. See Article # 4 for Mr. Walker’s explanation of his subpoena and links under Suppressing Scientific Inquiry – The Witch Hunt – Push-Back and Litigation Issues.


Quote of the Week: “As a human being, one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists.” – Albert Einstein


Number of the Week: 36% in FY2010 to 21% in FY2015. Down 42%


There will be no TWTW on July 9 – attending the 34th annual meeting of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. TWTW will resume on July 16.


Atmospheric Temperatures: The June 25 TWTW contained a post by climatologist and former NASA scientist Roy Spencer, in which Spencer forecasted that, based on UAH satellite measurements, 2016 may be warmer than 2015. The data included the UAH Satellite-Based temperature of the Global Lower Atmosphere through May 2016. The data for June are in and Spencer was surprised. Using the Version 6.0 data set, the May-June data show the second largest 2-month drop in global average satellite temperatures since records began in 1979 and the largest 2-month drop in tropical average satellite temperatures. The drop illustrates that we do not know the range in which temperatures will settle once the El Niño and the possible upcoming La Niña are over. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and Measurement Issues — Atmosphere


Benefits of Increased CO2: The journal, Nature, published an article on the benefits of increased atmospheric CO2. The abstract states: “Our findings reveal that the observed greening record is consistent with an assumption of anthropogenic forcings, where greenhouse gases play a dominant role, but is not consistent with simulations that include only natural forcings and internal climate variability. These results provide the first clear evidence of a discernible human fingerprint on physiological vegetation changes other than phenology and range shifts.”

The findings are based on three decades of satellite observations in the northern extratropical latitudes. Further, Craig Idso examines a February 12 paper, which finds that the greening of global drylands is a result of elevated CO2.

These papers are further evidence that enhanced atmospheric CO2 levels are a benefit to agriculture and the environment. They prompt the question: when will those who are calculating the bureaucratically contrived social cost of carbon (SCC) recognize carbon dioxide’s enormous benefits? See links under Social Benefits of Carbon.


Nuclear Power and the Sierra Club: The planned closure of the last operating nuclear power plant in California at Diablo Canyon, discussed in the June 25 TWTW, continues to prompt questions as to how California will obtain affordable, reliable electricity. The claim that it will be provided by solar and wind is not supported by analysis. The once-held belief that the UK or Germany can rely on solar or wind for reliable electricity has crumbled. Both nations rely heavily on fossil fuels while facing sharp increases in the costs of electricity. Some energy analysists have suggested that the environmental industry will recognize the importance of reliable, affordable electricity. But, this view may be folly.

According to reports, Aubrey McClendon, the late president of Chesapeake Energy, an Oklahoma-based energy company with principal operations in natural gas and natural gas liquids, spent over $25 million supporting the anti-coal effort led by the Sierra Club. McClendon discovered these funds did not buy peace with the Sierra Club, as it mobilized to oppose natural gas.

A letter by Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club since 2010, published on June 23 in the Wall Street Journal, should remove all suggestions that the Club will support nuclear power.

“The Sierra Club remains in firm opposition to dangerous nuclear power. The article [in the Wall Street Journal] reflects wishful thinking on the part of the nuclear industry but doesn’t accurately represent the position of the Sierra Club.

“It is categorically incorrect to suggest that the Sierra Club considers nuclear power a ‘bridge’ to clean energy. Nuclear power, much like coal, oil and gas, is a bridge to nowhere. In Illinois the Sierra Club is part of a coalition to increase renewable energy and energy efficiency, not preserve nuclear reactors. America’s energy future must be powered by 100% clean, renewable energy like wind and solar—and nuclear in no way meets this requirement.

“The Sierra Club’s successful work to stop and retire coal and gas operations has never precluded our efforts to oppose nuclear power, nor will it ever.”

See Article # 1 and links under Questioning European Green, Questioning Green Elsewhere, and California Dreaming.


The California Duck: The June 25 TWTW had a reference to the California Duck, which was illustrated in the post under Energy Matters. Several readers requested further information. As explained by power engineer Donn Dears in “Nothing to Fear”, the California “Duck Curve” was created by the California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) to illustrate the impact of mandates for increasing wind and solar, particularly solar.

One must note that the curve is not general, but for a particular day with wind and solar generation varying according to weather conditions. The vertical axis measures power consumption in megawatts, the horizontal axis indexes the hour of the day. As expected, actual production and consumption vary over the course of the day. To keep the electrical grid stable, grid operators are required to balance production with consumption.

The real danger comes with the time of day production from solar, which increases rapidly after about 7 am, reaching a peak around 1 pm, then diminishing rapidly. The risks of over-generation of electricity with increasing government renewable mandates is demonstrated by the descending belly of the duck over the years. As the mandates increase, the strain on the grid system increases because fossil fuel sources (mostly natural gas) must ramp up to meet the evening demand, when consumption is the greatest and solar power becomes negligible. The net effect is that traditional sources, which are designed and built for constant output, do not receive revenues when solar and wind systems are given preference, and are placed under great strain (equipment wearing out very rapidly) to back-up solar and wind when they fail.

Donn Dears states that the California Duck illustrates that the state’s public utilities are in a death spiral. Eventually, the policies will result in either:

1. “The utilities must charge much higher rates than their current rates.

2. The government must take over, e.g., expropriate, the utilities and use tax payer money to subsidize the generation of electricity from fossil fuels, using, what will then be power plants and grid owned by the government.” (p. 71)

Not only is the closing of functioning nuclear power plants an economic waste; but also, it intensifies the utility death spiral and state take-over of utilities. See the book “Nothing to Fear” and links under California Dreaming.


Additions and Corrections: The June 4 TWTW had an analogy of using a diesel engine to illustrate the effects of atmospheric pressure on Venus. The analogy prompted several comments from distinguished physicists – some objecting to the analogy, others supporting it, with qualifications.

Peter Friedman wrote: “You are correct that if you compress an ideal gas in a diesel engine in what is close to an adiabatic process [temperature change with elevation from the surface], it will get warm enough to ignite diesel fuel. But absent the adiabatic process, you can have gases at tremendously high pressure that are not warm. Air systems frequently contain air at over 5000 psi. In a non-adiabatic process, temperature increases caused from pressure increases result in heat transfer, which is driven by the temperature increase. If the time frame is long enough, then the process could in fact be isothermal. [a change in a system, in which the temperature remains constant] I would assume that the development of the atmosphere on Venus happened over a very long time frame making the diesel analogy poor.”

Elsewhere, Will Happer wrote: “I pointed out that Venus has a troposphere, just like the Earth, where the atmosphere is roughly isentropic. My code words for this, probably too laconic, was something like “lots of convention” = Venus has a troposphere. Venus has a roughly adiabatic lapse rate in its troposphere that is comparable to that of the Earth, 9.5 C/km, for dry air, less for real air where the release of latent heat from condensing water slows down the cooling with altitude. The dry lapse rate for Venus is a bit less because the acceleration of gravity is a bit less than on Earth and the specific heat at constant pressure is a bit larger.


“The heat transfer from conduction along a temperature gradient is completely negligible on Venus as it is on Earth. Heat transfer is almost entirely from convection near the surface, but radiation begins to dominate as you approach the tropopause and takes over almost completely in the stratosphere. For both Venus and Earth, the heating with decreasing altitude in the troposphere (or cooling with increasing altitude) is indeed like the adiabatic heating as you push a piston into the cylinder of a diesel engine (or like the cooling with withdrawal of the piston).”

TWTW deeply appreciates the efforts of those who take the time to correct errors or apparent errors it its statements.


Nominated for SEPP’s April Fool’s Award: Among those distinguished persons nominated for the SEPP April Fool’s Award are the following:

Professor Lonnie Thompson, Ohio State University – promoting versions of the Mr. Mann’s hockey-stick with poorly defined ice-core finding.

Bill Ney (The science guy) – promoting a politically contrived version of the major scientific issues involved in global warming/climate change

John Holdren (President Obama’s science advisor)

Angela Merkel, for her efforts to transform an industrialized nation from nuclear and fossil fuel energy to renewable power through an accelerated phasing out of all 17 German nuclear reactors. As a result, domestic energy bills are 48% higher in Germany than the European average

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin – clearly America’s most climate-crazy state governor

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) – an advocate of RICO use against skeptics

Professor Jagdish Shukla – a leader in the RICO 20 – sending a letter urging investigation of those who do not support his views — contrary to a published paper stating that no global climate models “have been successful in making skillful predictions of Indian Monsoon rainfall. It remains an open question.”

Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki -Moon – for various reasons including advocating the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and promoting “mother earth day.”

Michael Mann, PhD Distinguished Professor of Meteorology, Director, Earth System Science Center (per the Penn State website) – for his demonstration of non-science by cherry picking Siberian tree data as surrogates to support his pre-known conclusion on the occurrence of dangerous human-caused global warming. Also, he now claims, we do not need data to assess climate change because we can see climate change on TV. [The issues are the causes of climate change, which cannot be seen on TV.]

Dr. Kevin Trenberth – He is one of the RICO 20 “scientists” who advocated using RICO statutes against oil companies.

No additional nominations will be accepted. The voting will close on midnight July 8. To vote, please send your vote to Ken@SEPP.org.


Number of the Week: 36% in FY2010 to 21% in FY2015. Down 42%. According to a June 22 report by the Congressional Research Service: “The federal share of total U.S. crude oil production fell from its peak at nearly 36% in FY2010 [fiscal year 2010] to 21% in FY2015.” This is a decline in the federal share of US crude oil production of about 42%. Further, “Natural gas production in the United States overall dramatically increased each year since 2006, in contrast, production on federal lands declined each year from FY2007 through FY2014.” The oil and natural gas revolution in the United States is not because of Washington’s policies, but in spite of them. See links under Washington’s Control of Energy


Climate Denial Finally Pays Off

A series of Journal editorial page-bashing ads shows the climate cause in mid-crackup.

By Holman Jenkins, Jr. WSJ, June 28, 2016


Link to IPCC AR5

By Staff Writers, IPCC, Various dates 2013 & 2014


SUMMARY (lightly edited): The author writes: “No contributor has written more frequently on the subject of climate change on these pages—45 times over the past 20 years according to the “study” behind a recent series of ads (at $27,309 a pop) assailing the Journal’s editorial page for its climate coverage.

“Yet how ploddingly conventional my views have been: I’ve written that evidence of climate change is not evidence of what causes climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agrees, in its latest report estimating with less than 100% confidence that a human role accounts for half the warming between 1951 and 2010.

“I’ve written that it would be astonishing if human activity had no impact, but the important questions are how and how much. The IPCC agrees, estimating that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial times would hike temperatures between 1.5 degrees and 4.5 degrees (Celsius), notably an increase in the range of uncertainty since its last report.

“I’ve said science has been unable to discern signal from noise in the hunt for man-made warming. Yup, that’s why the IPCC relies on computer simulations. Indeed, the most telling words in its latest report are a question: “Are climate models getting better, and how would we know?”

“I’ve said it’s difficult to justify action on cost-benefit grounds. The Obama administration agrees, acknowledging that its coal plans will cost many billions but have no meaningful impact on climate even a century from now.

“So how many columns out of 45 win approval from the Partnership for Responsible Growth, the new group paying for the Journal-baiting ad? Only two, describing the superiority of a carbon tax, the option the Partnership exists to plump for, compared to other climate nostrums.

“Here’s what else I’ve learned in 20 years. Many advocates of climate policy are ignoramuses on the subject of climate science, and nothing about the Partnership for Economic Progress—founded by former Democratic congressman Walt Minnick plus a couple of big donors—breaks with this tradition.

“Only a nincompoop would treat a complex set of issues like human impact on climate as a binary “yes/no” question—as the Partnership and many climate policy promoters do. Only an idiot would ask an alleged “expert” what he knows without showing any curiosity about how he knows it—a practice routine among climate-advocating journalists.

“So Tom Gjelten, host of a recent NPR discussion of the Journal ad controversy, is completely satisfied when Matt Nisbet, a professor of communications studies at Northeastern University, explains, “On the fundamentals of climate science, there is absolutely no debates. The overwhelming majority of scientists . . . strongly agree that climate change is happening, that it’s human-caused and that it’s an urgent problem.” “Notice that he doesn’t cite any science but an (undocumented) agreement of people who agree with him, while conflating three very different questions.”

After stating that Prof. Nisbet covered up by saying “there is some disagreement on the pace of climate change, the severity, its specific impacts”, Jenkins states:

“By then the damage is done. The discussion proceeds on the basis that anybody who takes part in this disagreement about pace, severity and specific impacts is a denier and enemy of science.

“Here’s what you also won’t learn from most climate reporting: Climate models that predict significant warming presume natural feedbacks that magnify the impact of human-released carbon dioxide by 100% to 400%. Models that presume no dominant feedbacks see warming of only about one degree Celsius over the entire course of a doubling of atmospheric CO2. Who knows what future scientific advances will reveal, but models that assume minimal feedback are more consistent with the warming seen so far—and remember, we’ve been burning coal for 200 years and accumulating temperature records for longer than that.

“The U.S. political system gets a bad rap but has rationally concluded that it can’t sell large costs on this evidence. More to the point, never has it been the case that major legislation or policy departures are adopted only when all opposition and dissent are silenced. The premise of the assault on Exxon, the Journal, other campaigns against “deniers,” is worse than foolish. The climate crowd has turned to persecuting critics as a substitute for meaningful climate action because, as President Obama has acutely observed, voters won’t support their efforts to jack up energy prices.

“Functionally, whatever advocates tell themselves, these attacks end up churning the waters and propagandizing for those niggling little things that actually can be enacted, having no impact on climate but lining the pockets of organized interests who return the favor with campaign donations.

“That’s how our political system behaves, on climate and most other subjects—which perhaps explains why voters are so tired of the people who man our political system.”


Obama’s Climate Policy Is a Hot Mess

The president hails the Paris Agreement again—even though it will solve nothing and cost trillions.

By Bjorn Lomborg, WSJ, June 30, 2016


SUMMARY (lightly edited): “When President Obama flew to Ottawa, Canada, on Wednesday to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, promoting their climate-change policies was near the top of the agenda. “The Paris Agreement was a turning point for our planet,” the leaders’ joint statement said, referring to the climate pact signed with fanfare in April by nearly 200 nations. ‘North America has the capacity, resources and the moral imperative to show strong leadership building on the Paris Agreement and promoting its early entry into force.’

“Attracting rather less attention than the Ottawa meeting was a June 22 hearing on Capitol Hill. Testifying before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy extolled the Paris Agreement as an “incredible achievement.” But when repeatedly asked, she wouldn’t explain exactly how much this treaty would actually cut global temperatures.

“The Paris Agreement will cost a fortune but do little to reduce global warming. In a peer-reviewed article published in Global Policy this year, I looked at the widely hailed major policies that Paris Agreement signatories pledged to undertake and found that they will have a negligible temperature impact. I used the same climate-prediction model that the United Nations uses.

“First, consider the Obama administration’s signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan. The U.N.’s model shows that it will accomplish almost nothing. Even if the policy withstands current legal challenges and its cuts are totally implemented—not for the 14 years that the Paris agreement lasts, but for the rest of the century—the Clean Power Plan would reduce temperatures by 0.023 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

“President Obama has made grander promises of future carbon cuts, beyond the plan’s sweeping restrictions on the power industry, but these are only vaguely outlined now. In the unlikely event that all of these extra cuts also happen, and are adhered to throughout the rest of the century, the combined reduction in temperatures would be 0.057 degrees. In other words, if the U.S. delivers for the whole century on the very ambitious Obama rhetoric, it would postpone global warming by about eight months at the end of the century. “

After stating that the Paris Agreement has similar problems – grand promises with expensive programs accomplishing little, Lomborg goes on:

“The costs of the Paris climate pact are likely to run to $1 trillion to $2 trillion annually throughout the rest of the century, using the best estimates from the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum and the Asia Modeling Exercise. Spending more than $100 trillion for such a feeble temperature reduction by the end of the century does not make sense.

Some Paris Agreement supporters defend it by claiming that its real impact on temperatures will be much more significant than the U.N. model predicts. This requires some mental gymnastics and heroic assumptions. The group doing climate modeling for the U.S. State Department assumes that without the Paris Agreement emissions would be much higher than under any realistic scenario. With such an unrealistically pessimistic baseline, they can then magically show that the agreement will cut temperatures by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit—with about 1.5 degrees of the drop coming from a reduction of these fantasy carbon emissions.

The Climate Action Tracker, widely cited by Paris Agreement fans, predicts a temperature reduction of 1.6 degrees by the end of the century. But that model is based heavily on the assumption that even stronger climate policies will be adopted in the future—98% of the assumed reductions come after the current Paris Agreement promises to expire in 2030.

Even this wishful thinking won’t achieve anything close to the 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) reduction that has become the arbitrary but widely adopted benchmark for what will be essential to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

“The Paris Agreement is the wrong solution to a real problem. We should focus more on green-energy research and development, like that promoted by Bill Gates and the Breakthrough Coalition. Mr. Gates has announced that private investors are committing $7 billion for clean energy R&D, while the White House will double its annual $5 billion green innovation fund. Sadly, this sorely needed investment is a fraction of the cost of the same administration’s misguided carbon-cut policies.

“Instead of rhetoric and ever-larger subsidies of today’s inefficient green technologies, those who want to combat climate change should focus on dramatically boosting innovation to drive down the cost of future green energy.

“The U.S. has already shown the way. With its relentless pursuit of fracking driving down the cost of natural gas, America has made a momentous switch from coal to gas that has done more to drive down carbon-dioxide emissions than any recent climate policy. Turns out that those who gathered in Paris, France, could learn a little from Paris, Texas.”

Mr. Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, is the author of “Cool It” (Knopf, 2007) and “Smartest Targets for the World” (Copenhagen Consensus, 2015).


Attorneys General Are Right To Pursue Exxon Mobil

Exxon Mobil and the CEI are attempting to argue that the First Amendment protects them from producing the information that can shed light on whether they broke the law.

By Attorney General Claude Earl Walker, U.S. Virgin Islands, Letters WSJ, June 24, 2016


“Regarding your June 16 editorial “The Climate Police Blink” about the U.S. Virgin Islands’ investigation of Exxon Mobil Corp. and its third-party subpoena to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), an organization that Exxon has funded, and which questions the science behind climate change: The Virgin Islands, along with other attorneys general, is seeking information to determine whether Exxon Mobil misrepresented what the company privately knew and publicly said about climate change. If it did, that could constitute fraud and violate our laws and the laws of other jurisdictions. Exxon Mobil and CEI are attempting to argue that the First Amendment protects them from producing the information that can shed light on whether they broke the law—a proposition the courts have routinely rejected. You write that the subpoena demanded CEI’s “donor names” and “threatened its donors,” but this is incorrect. The CEI subpoena did not request the names of any donors or any information unrelated to Exxon. Its requests regarding funding are limited to funding directly or indirectly by Exxon, and only until 2007. Any suggestion that we have asked for anything akin to a list of current donors is simply false.”


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