Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #234

The Week That Was: July30, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Accusation Is Evidence? Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) claims he is seeking evidence of wrongful influence by Exxon for raising doubt that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary cause of global warming, now called climate change. He claims he is not suppressing scientific inquiry, or freedom of speech, but merely seeking evidence. The question is what constitutes evidence to Senator Whitehouse and his group. Is it direct physical evidence, such as comprehensive temperature measurements by satellites showing atmospheric temperatures are rising in response to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide? Which is not occurring. Of course, with the latest El Niño there is little doubt that atmospheric temperatures also rise in response to El Niño weather events. Is it indirect evidence, such as surface temperatures, which are sparse (the globe is poorly covered) and measure many natural and human caused influences in addition to CO2. Or is it hearsay, rumor, such as 97% of scientists say… or scientific organizations (which have not rigorously polled) say…

Senator Whitehouse organized a teach-in given on the Senate floor on week of July 11 by Whitehouse and eighteen of his senate colleagues. A major claim is that “According to Climate Investigations Center research, your groups have received over $92 million from the Koch family, Donors Trust, Donors Capital, and ExxonMobil. And that’s just what investigators can figure out.”

Even if true, this amount of money is trivial compared with the $2.5 Billion budget of the US Global Change Research program spends each year trying to establish that CO2 is the primary cause of climate change.

According to its web site, the Climate Investigations Center: “was established in 2014 to monitor the individuals, corporations, trade associations, political organizations and front groups who work to delay the implementation of sound energy and environmental policies that are necessary in the face of ongoing climate crisis.

“Some of the issues our team monitors include:

Efforts to stall the climate policy process by the fossil fuel industry and its allies

Climate science denial campaigns spawned by industrial interests and their front groups

The latest climate science impacts assessments and backlash against them

Attribution science advances connecting climate impacts to global warming pollution

The web site gives no indication of scientific evidence or experience, sources of funding, or even if the IRS filings of the claimed “front groups” were checked. In short, Mr. Whitehouse and his band of 19 are willing to accept accusation and hearsay as evidence.

The staff of Mr. Whitehouse thoughtfully provided videos of each senator’s presentation. Since SEPP is incorporated in Virginia, the remarks of Senator Kaine, of the Commonwealth, were of particular interest. Senator Kaine was just nominated for Vice President by the Democratic Party.

Mr. Kaine spoke of rising sea levels in the Hampton Roads/Norfolk area in Virginia. This is a serious problem, but he gave no evidence that it is from warming caused by CO2. Sea levels have risen about 400 feet (120 meters) since the maximum extent of the last ice age. For the past several centuries, general sea levels have been rising by about 18 cm (7 inches) per century. When satellites began to replace tidal gages, there appeared to be an acceleration rate of sea level rise. It appears that this issue is being resolved as the different instruments are being calibrated. Sea levels will continue to rise until the onset of the next major ice age, which could be disastrous for humanity. Senator Kaine seemed to confuse sea level rise with rate of rise.

Further, Hampton Roads/Norfolk area undergoing subsidence, in part due to a meteor that hit the area millions of years ago. The issues of measuring sea levels, subsidence, etc. are discussed in the reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

Further, Mr. Kaine discussed the gradual disappearance of the inhabited Tangier Island in the lower Chesapeake Bay. For decades, schoolchildren close to the Bay were taught about the disappearance of such islands. The Bay is a sunken estuary of the Susquehanna River, and tributary rivers. In satellite photos on Google, one can see the channels these rivers and rivers such as the Hudson and Saint Lawrence carved into the Atlantic Coastal Plane during the most recent Ice Age. The islands are made of highly erodible sediments. Mr. Kaine makes no mention of this history and considers the island erosion recent.

Mr. Kaine accuses some groups based in Virginia, but not SEPP, of accepting money from fossil fuel companies, but does not state amounts. He says his evidence comes from DeSmog Blog, a questionable source, and, apparently, has not been confirmed with IRS filings. To Mr. Kaine, accusation, hearsay, are acceptable evidence.

Ironically, Mr. Kaine closes with a quote from Pope Francis emphasizing truth.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that part of the science community appears to be accepting accusation and hearsay as evidence. Oreskes and Conway based their popular book on it. Following a fawning review in Science magazine, S. Fred Singer, the only survivor of the four scientists who were attacked, submitted a thoughtful rebuttal. The editors of Science rejected the rebuttal, citing lack of space.

Please note: some may consider SEPP as biased, because it does not consider the products of unvalidated global climate models as physical evidence. As to funding: in 2015, SEPP received moderate donations from a wide variety of individuals, none greater than $5,000. We do not solicit corporate or foundation money; any funds we received from these sources are the result of matching donations. An independent accountant reviews all donations, and files appropriate IRS documents. Any royalties, honorariums, etc. go into the SEPP accounts.

See links under Suppressing Scientific Inquiry – The Witch Hunt, Suppressing Scientific Inquiry – The Witch Hunt – Push-Back, Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC, the July 16 TWTW, http://www.climateinvestigations.org/who_we_are and http://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/news/release/senators-call-out-web-of-denial-blocking-action-on-climate-change


Quote of the Week: “Certainty is rarely objective: it is usually no more than a strong feeling of trust, of conviction, although based on insufficient knowledge. Such feelings are dangerous since they are seldom well-founded. Strong feelings of conviction make dogmatists of us. They may even turn us into hysterical fanatics who try to convince themselves of a certainty which they unconsciously know is not available.” — Karl Popper, ‘Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Knowledge” in “All Life is Problem Solving” [H/t Rob Lemeire]


Number of the Week: 17.5 to 75 times more


Political Games: Generally, TWTW does not comment on political issues. However, the 2016 Democratic Party Platform deserves particular mention. Westernized urban and suburban civilization requires reliable electricity to run its communication systems, medical facilities, sewer and water purification systems, refrigeration, food storage, subways, elevators, heating, cooling air handling systems, neighborhood traffic lights, etc. Without reliable electricity, modern life becomes chaotic.

Other than fossil fuels, the only proven sources of reliable electricity are nuclear and hydro. Hydroelectric power is dependent on weather (the EIA considers it as such) and is regional. Nuclear is strongly opposed by many environmental groups, as seen by the letter by Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, to the Wall Street Journal and repeated in the July 2 TWTW. There are no other reliable, affordable sources proven at this time. Countries such as the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Greece are littered with projects that promised reliable, affordable electricity, but failed to deliver. Any possible learning curve is largely exhausted. Industrial-scale solar may have promise, but is yet to be proven and may work only in a small area of the US.

For over one hundred years, utilities have been searching for ways to store electricity, generated when it is not needed for when it is needed. The only storage technology existing on a large scale is pumped-hydro storage. This system has a cycle cost of about 25% or more, meaning that only 75% or less of the electricity put into the system can be retrieved. As seen on El Hierro Island in the Canary Islands, the storage needs may be greatly underestimated, as well as the costs. Large, commercial scale batteries offer promise, but have yet to be proven. Construction on a 100 megawatt battery (very small by standards needed) west of Los Angles, is planned, but not yet underway, much less proven or shown to be cost-effective.

This is not to say that such technologies cannot be developed, similar to the development of the technology to extract oil and natural gas from dense shale – which are making the US largely fossil fuel independent of the petrostates. But there are no demonstrations that technologies in solar and wind along with electricity storage are reliable and affordable.

In spite of these experiences, the 2016 Democratic Party Platform calls for the effective abandonment of fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation. The naivety is staggering. It states: “The Democrats are of the mind that human-caused climate change is one of the major problems facing the country/world today, describing it as ‘an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.’”

There is no empirical or physical evidence that demonstrates CO2 threatens humanity. The threat is largely invented by political actors such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the EPA. We do not understand the natural causes of climate change; thus it is virtually impossible to delineate the human causes. The IPCC and its US followers have failed the American public by not investigating the natural causes of climate change.

Yet, the Platform calls for getting 50% of electricity from “clean energy sources” within a decade. The sources are not identified or the costs calculated.

Further, the Platform states:

“We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis. Our generation must lead the fight against climate change and we applaud President Obama’s leadership in forging the historic Paris climate change agreement. We will not only meet the goals we set in Paris, we will seek to exceed them and push other countries to do the same by slashing carbon pollution and rapidly driving down emissions of potent greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons.

In WW II, most of the US weapons used were already in production or theoretically understood. Even the atomic bombs were theoretically investigated by the UK, Germany and Japan. Only the US employed the necessary resources to make the fuel. By July 1945 (3.5 years into the war), the US had enough uranium for one bomb, which was theoretically straight-forward and not tested, and enough plutonium for two bombs, theoretically uncertain with one tested. Fortunately for both sides, Japan surrendered after the second bomb was dropped. The US nuclear arsenal was depleted.

The plan to fight climate change without theoretically understanding causes itor an understanding of the resources needed to replace fossil fuels, is not a commitment similar to that made by the US in WWII, but more like the one made by President Johnson when he committed hundreds of thousands of troops into Vietnam, without a strategic plan and without understanding the opposition, thereby violating the maxim: Know your enemy! See links under The Political Games Continue.


Replacing Fossil Fuels for Electricity: Martin Livermore of the Scientific Alliance made some very rough calculations on the extent of power stations needed and the types of energy/fuel required to replace fossil fuels in the UK. He did not consider costs. He concludes: “This rough analysis strongly suggests that ambitious national emissions reduction targets are going to be increasingly difficult to meet and that essentially complete decarbonisation of the economy by 2050 is currently an unrealisable vision.” See Energy Issues – Non-US


Additions and Corrections: Reader John Kaufmann pointed out that last week, in the questions raised by Roy Spencer, the “2” in the symbols for carbon dioxide “CO2” was dropped, leaving carbon monoxide, CO. This is no explanation why, but such possibilities will be checked.

Several readers have expressed concern that TWTW does not seem to be interested in truth, but rather, in furthering doubts about current view of the climate establishment. The issue of what is “truth” aside, the latter part of the concern is valid. TWTW is not particularly interested in the products of unvalidated global climate models, even though many may have undergone intense review. At a minimum, if the models are used to project future temperatures from carbon dioxide emissions, then the models should be tested using atmospheric temperatures. That is where the greenhouse effect takes place. TWTW deeply appreciates those who provide additions and corrections.


Number of the Week: 17.5 to 75 times more. Atmospheric CO2 is about 4 parts per 10,000 parts atmosphere. Water vapor ranges from about 70 to 300 parts per 10,000 parts of atmosphere. Roughly, atmospheric water vapor concentration ranges from 17.5 to 75 times more than CO2, with large variations in altitude and, also, latitude. Yet, the influence of changing water vapor on global warming/climate change is largely not-analyzed by the IPCC and its followers.



1. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Will Dry Up Without New Oil

New drill sites are needed to replace mature ones. But that requires Obama administration approval.

By Thomas Barrett, WSJ, July 29, 2016


SUMMARY: The president of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., a former U.S. Vice Admiral in the Coast Guard and deputy secretary in the Transportation Department, writes:

For nearly four decades, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System has served as Alaska’s economic artery while providing the rest of the U.S. with a reliable supply of domestic oil from Alaska’s North Slope. Even with lower oil prices and the shale revolution increasing domestic production, TAPS, as we Alaskans call it, remains a key component of the national energy infrastructure. But the pipeline needs more Arctic oil to sustain its contributions to Alaska’s economy and America’s energy security.

As president of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which was formed in 1970 to build and operate TAPS, I’ve seen firsthand how essential the pipeline is to Alaska’s economy. One-third of all jobs in the state are tied to the oil and gas industry, and oil companies are, by far, the largest contributors to state revenues.

Even more important are the people who make the industry work. Thousands of Alaskans across the state—engineers and surveyors, pipeline technicians, welders and laborers, accountants and safety and environmental professionals—get up every day to ensure that Alaska’s oil and gas industry operates safely and responsibly, and continues to serve as the lifeblood of the Alaska economy, and a reliable energy source for America.

The pending five-year offshore leasing program under review by the Obama administration is critical to the continued operation of TAPS. The program stipulates the size, timing and location of possible leasing activity that the Interior secretary determines best meets the energy needs of the nation from 2017-22.

As the administration considers the public comments submitted on the draft plan, it is crucial to consider what is at stake. The draft 2017-22 leasing program includes three proposed sales in Alaska: one each in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas and one in Cook Inlet. The Arctic offshore resource potential is enormous. The Interior Department estimates that Alaska’s Arctic offshore basins hold more than 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—approximately one-third of the nation’s oil and gas reserves. Those resources could ensure a steady future supply of oil for TAPS.

It is vital that the sales remain in the final program. TAPS has moved more than 17 billion barrels of North Slope oil since it began operations in 1977, but it now runs at a quarter of its maximum capacity due to the natural decline in mature North Slope basins. At its peak, more than two million barrels flowed down TAPS every day. Today, the daily average is closer to 530,000 barrels. Years of declining production make TAPS operations increasingly difficult. Recent investments by producers have delivered an uptick in production, but the long-term health of TAPS requires larger quantities of new production.

The good news is the Arctic possesses abundant onshore, nearshore and offshore oil resources, and Alaskans support finding and using those resources. A 2014 poll by the Consumer Energy Alliance found that 73% of Alaskans support developing the Arctic offshore for oil and gas.

Without new production, TAPS must continue operations in conditions it wasn’t originally designed to handle. Lower pipeline throughput means oil moves more slowly, cooling over time and creating challenges with wax, water and ice buildup. Although Alaskans continue to devise safe and innovative solutions to move the oil from matured fields every day, the best long-term solution lies in the billions of barrels of oil that are nearby and can be responsibly produced.

Alaska’s Arctic offshore oil basins offer an opportunity to maintain a stable and safely produced domestic energy supply. Why develop these oil and gas reserves and not others? The hydrocarbon resource is known and enormous. Reliable world-class infrastructure is already in place, and its development is supported by the great majority of local residents.

Given the long lead times required to safely develop Arctic offshore resources and the urgent need for new investment in the region, the Obama administration should include all three Alaska lease sales in the coming five-year program. Americans will need to rely on fossil fuels for much of their energy needs for decades to come. It would be shortsighted to limit voluntarily the options for strengthening U.S. energy security.

[SEPP Comment: Squeezing the pipeline dry appears to be the goal of many in Washington.]


2. How Much Oil Is in Storage Globally? Take a Guess

There isn’t a universal requirement for reporting on inventories, and it can affect prices

By Dan Strumpf and Nicole Friedman, WSJ, July 24, 2016


The reporters state: “The historic fall in oil prices has created a pileup of inventories, much of it stashed in tanks in the U.S. and other industrialized countries that are committed to disclosing the latest tally, but millions of barrels of oil are flowing to locations outside the scope of industry trackers.

“Some countries, such as Russia and China, choose not to report their oil-storage levels. And traders and oil companies that park supertankers have no obligation to make public their supply. This makes for more cryptic and volatile oil markets. How much crude is in these locations, and how quickly it can be resold into the market, can affect oil prices.

“’The data itself is so inconsistent,’ said Harish Sundaresh, portfolio manager and commodities strategist for Loomis, Sayles & Co., which manages $240 billion. ‘In countries like Nigeria, Brazil, Angola, it’s not trustable.’

“Keeping track of inventories has become more complicated as developing countries store and consume more oil.

“Singapore, home to one of the world’s busiest ports and the Asian headquarters of many big oil-trading firms, is one country befuddling analysts. The waterways surrounding the island nation have become home to one of the world’s biggest oil-storage sites. But it is unclear how much oil is in the tankers anchored there.

“At the beginning of July, 23 supertankers capable of holding 43 million barrels of oil were anchored for a month or more in the Singapore straits, according to Thomson Reuters’s vessel-tracking service, up from 15 ships at the start of the year. If they were full, it would be enough to meet the U.S.’s oil needs for more than two days.

“But no official count of the oil exists. Thomson Reuters and others offer estimates based on the reported level of a vessel’s waterline. Yet a number of ships are likely carrying fuel oil, a refined product used in shipping, analysts said. Others may be carrying seawater, further complicating estimates.

“’There are many different figures being mentioned in terms of the amount of ships which are actually being used for storage’ and the amount of oil that is on them, said Tom Bonehill, managing director of Norstar Shipping, a tanker owner.

Inventories are also taking on a bigger role as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries retreats from its traditional task of managing prices, analysts say. Since November 2014, OPEC has increased its production to pump at nearly full tilt. That leaves the group with less spare capacity, meaning inventories become more critical if supplies elsewhere are disrupted.

“’OPEC has stopped being a swing supplier,’ said Antoine Halff, director of the oil-market program at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. ‘Given the uncertainty about whether shale-oil production in the U.S. can take the role of swing supplier, it falls on stocks’ to replace lost barrels in the case of a supply disruption.

“With little hard data on certain storage spots, analysts piece together inventories using a patchwork of public information and guesswork.

“In China, another storage mystery is unfolding. Government data show oil imports rising at a faster rate than refiners are processing it. The figures suggest the country built a surplus 160 million barrels during the first half of the year, enough to meet its oil needs for about two weeks.”


3. Why Sand Is the Oil Industry’s Bellwether

Sand miners’ rebound boosts evidence that fracking and oil and gas market have bottomed

By Spencer Jakab, WSJ, July 26, 2016


SUMMARY: The journalist states that sand used for hydraulic fracturing is a solid leading indicator of what is happening in the part of the US oil industry that relies on fracturing.

“Four publicly traded miners of sand have seen their share prices rally by an average of 320% from their 52-week lows. The largest, U.S. Silica Holdings, announced last Monday that it was buying an unlisted competitor operating a single mine for $210 million.

“Investing in sand is a bet that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will rebound. The production technique is the marginal supply source for crude in the world both because it is at the edge in terms of cost and also because it has by far the quickest turnaround time. Wells drilled today can be producing in a matter of several months. Hundreds already drilled but uncompleted, so-called DUCs, can be brought online even faster. Both require sand—lots and lots of it.

“During the fracking boom, sand became big business. An average well at the time required some 3,000 tons or so as a “proppant”—a material to hold open tiny cracks in the rock that allow oil and gas to flow out of it. These days industry experts use about 50% more sand per well, but they use less sand overall as activity has collapsed. Companies in the proppant business, while they have struck a more optimistic tone, haven’t seen a fundamental recovery quite yet and their share prices still are down by between 40% and 90% over the past two years.

“While it is unlikely that the glory days of 2012 and 2013 will return when privately financed sand mines popped up everywhere, the proppant market looks good for low-cost, well-capitalized companies. It used to be the case that higher-quality “white sand” found in places like Minnesota or man-made ceramic particles sold by companies such as Carbo Ceramics were most desirable. But as companies have ratcheted down costs, transport expenses for sand have become an issue, so-called brown sand from locations closer to oil fields—mines such as the one bought by U.S. Silica—appear more promising.

“After two years of belt-tightening, a leaner energy industry may be on the cusp of a rebound at lower prices. Manufacturers of sand, who have done the same, are acting as the bellwether.


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