Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #235

The Week That Was: August 6, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Atmospheric Temperatures: Something unexpected happened in July. The rapid decline in atmospheric temperatures observed for the past few months stopped; in fact, they slightly increased. What will happen for the remainder of the year and in 2017 is yet to be seen. Will a La Niña develop, resulting in a further decline, as in 1998 following a strong El Niño, or will the temperatures remain roughly stable, at a higher level than before the 2015 El Niño? We don’t know, nor is there an established basis for such predictions. In spite of the US government spending over $40 billion since 1993 on what it calls climate science, precious little has gone into understanding the natural causes of climate change, one of which is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which describes El Niño/La Niña events.

Based on research in China, and elsewhere, ENSO events may have been occurring for thousands of years, prior to human use of fossil fuels. Additional research indicates that variations in monsoons, which may be influenced by ENSO events have been occurring for hundreds of thousands of years, long before humanity existed.

This type of climate change is largely ignored in the summaries of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), Supposedly, the mission of the USGCRP, with an annual budget of about $2.5 Billion, is to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

The July global temperature report by the Earth Systems Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) illustrates several important points concerning climate science.

1. Even the atmospheric measurements are influenced by natural events on earth, thus making a clear signal of the influence of carbon dioxide (CO2) very difficult to extract. It is virtually impossible to extract such a signal from the far more messy surface data, which are not comprehensive and contaminated by many more human and natural influences.

2. The UAH team advances scientific understanding by promptly, and scrupulously, reporting their findings and publicly posting them for open review.

3. Even short-term forecasts of global temperatures are difficult. The IPCC notion of using global climate models, which have not been validated, to make long term forecasts is absurd. To paraphrase an old saying in the stock market: Nature will do whatever she must to make a fool out of you.

Note: The UAH team should not be confused with the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn State University directed by Michael Mann, who has been shown to distort data or exclude it.

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Changing Climate and http://www.globalchange.gov/about


Quote of the Week: ‘…Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.” President Dwight Eisenhower, Final address to the nation upon his leaving office. [H/t Fran Manns]


Number of the Week: From over $80 in 2013 to $40 in 2016


Lowering Standards – State of Climate Science: The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI, formerly NCDC, in Asheville, NC) released the assessment “State of the Climate in 2015” which is published as a supplement to the “Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.” The report follows the usual pattern of the IPCC and USGCRP reports of emphasizing alarm about increasing atmospheric CO2 and changing climate, without establishing any physical evidence that CO2 is the primary cause of global warming, now called climate change. Of course, the press releases emphasized surface temperatures, because 2015 was not the hottest year in the atmospheric record. Yet, the effect of CO2 takes place in the atmosphere.

Perhaps the editors of the reports should read a few papers on the history of climate change prior to artificial cut-off times such as 1950 or the industrial revolution.

The report contains the usual claims of more extreme weather in some parts of the globe, but this is always happening in some parts of the globe, and even the IPCC states climate change is over periods of 30 years or more.

But, what was particularly interesting, was an article in the Times of India, based on an AFP release that stated:

“Global heat, greenhouse gases and sea levels all climbed to record highs last year, making 2015 the worst in modern times across a range of key environmental indicators, international scientists said Tuesday. [Boldface added.]

“A dire picture of the Earth’s health is painted in the State of the Climate report, a peer-reviewed 300-page tome that comes out once a year and is compiled by 450 scientists from around the world.

“The record heat that the planet experienced last year was driven partially by global warming, and was exacerbated by the ocean heating trend known as El Nino, it said.

“El Nino, which just ended in July, was one of the strongest the Earth has seen “since at least 1950,” said the report, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information.”

What made the assertion about sea level rise very interesting is that the dateline location for the report is Miami. Of course, there is an issue with sea level rise in Miami. However, inland from Miami are numerous quarries mining limestone and other sedimentary rocks such as Coquina, which is composed of fragments of the shells of mollusks, trilobites, brachiopods, or other invertebrates found in the oceans.

The web site of the Florida Geological Survey states that: “Florida ranks second nationally in production and fourth in consumption of crushed stone (limestone and dolostone [dolomite]). Most of the stone that is mined in Florida is used for road construction.

“Limestone of high purity can undergo calcination (heating) and, together with other ingredients, be used to manufacture portland and masonry cement. Florida ranks in the top five states in production and consumption of portland cement and is first in the production and consumption of masonry cement.

“The earliest mining in Florida was carried out by Native Americans, who quarried the mineral chert from limestone for use in points and tools…In the 1500’s, Spanish settlers and soldiers quarried coquina limestone near St. Augustine to form building blocks for their forts and homes.

“Limestone has been used in Florida as a building material and source of lime and cement since Spanish times. High-purity limestone has been quarried near Ocala, Marion County, since the turn of the century. Limestone is still an important industry in Florida, supplying raw materials for cement and roadbase.”

Apparently no one bothered to ask those presenting the “State of the Climate” how did rock made of marine sediments occur above sea level to be easily mined before European settlements in tectonically stable Florida? Of course, during the last interglacial, large parts of Florida were below sea levels. But, discussing sea level variation before human CO2 emissions would be contrary to the narrative these organizations are trying to establish. See links under Lowering Standards and http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/geologictopics/minerals.htm


Truncated History: One of the most disturbing practices of the climate establishment is truncating, cutting short, the historical record. Usually, there is some conceivable excuse for truncating the record or ignoring major data sources. Often, the excuse does not hold up to examination. For example, some climate scientists argue they MAY ignore atmospheric data because people live on the surface.

Weather occurs in the atmosphere. Ignoring atmospheric data for the influence of CO2 on temperatures is similar to claiming one can forecast the weather by looking at the footwear people are wearing on the city street.

The IPCC, and other organizations, place artificial constraints on how far back in history their analysis goes. Often it is 1950, or the onset major use of fossil fuels with industrialization, about 1850. An argument can be made that it at was about this time that some in the Western nations had fairly widespread use of accurate instruments to measure temperatures. But that is no reason to ignore excellent proxy evidence, such as the fossil record. Would objective scientists accept an argument from creationists that primates are not the product of evolution because we have no evidence of their evolution prior to the use accurate instruments to measure their lives? See links under Changing Climate.


Greenhouse Effect or Atmospheric Pressure? In July, there was a controversy reported in TWTW, generally settled, regarding the statement that atmospheric pressure on Venus (over 90 atmospheres) contributes to temperatures greatly higher on Venus than on Earth. Conversely, over the years, a number of comments have appeared on various web sites claiming there is no greenhouse effect on earth, and what is being measured is heating due to atmospheric pressure.

Recently, Spencer addressed this assertion quite well stating the greenhouse effect is not a warming per se, but a reduction in the rate of cooling. Further, Spencer states that weather would not exist without a greenhouse effect. See the link under Defending the Orthodoxy.


More Misuse of NEPA: The 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to study the potential environmental impact of any major project undertaken by the federal government, including building dams and bridges, roads, sewer systems, power plants, and even granting permits to drill for oil and gas on public lands. Environmental groups used NEPA to prevent the construction of a barrier/gate system by the Corps of Engineers along Interstate 10, designed to stop a hurricane storm surge from flooding Lake Pontchartrain, thereby overwhelming the levees and other means for protecting New Orleans from flooding. Although it is impossible to precisely determine, it is likely that the damage and deaths in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina would have been substantially less had the barrier/gate system been built.

The Executive Office of the President (Obama) has issued guidance to all federal departments and agencies for considering greenhouse gas emissions and effects of climate change in NEPA reviews. The Council of Environmental Quality issued the guidance, stating that greenhouse gas emissions will be the proxy for climate change impacts of a proposed action. The Guidance states:

“This approach, together with providing a qualitative summary discussion of the impacts of GHG emissions based on authoritative reports such as the USGCRP’s National Climate Assessments and the Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States, a Scientific Assessment of the USGCRP, allows an agency to present the environmental and public health impacts of a proposed action in clear terms and with sufficient information to make a reasoned choice between no action and other alternatives and appropriate mitigation measures, and to ensure the professional and scientific integrity of the NEPA review.”

The USGCRP amplifies the weaknesses of the IPCC’s approach to global warming/climate change by attempting to use global climate models, which have not been validated, to estimate local and regional impacts. As shown in the written testimony by John Christy, generally the global climate models greatly overestimate temperatures in the atmosphere, where the greenhouse effect takes place. Thus, they likely greatly overestimate the greenhouse effect. Assessing economic projects on such a faulty basis is absurd. It is a continuation of the circular reasoning used in the IPCC and USGCRP reports. In practice, the exercise will require every government agency to conform to the poor scientific effort produced by the USGCRP. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and The Administration’s Plan


Additions and Corrections: Retired professor Peter Friedman corrected loose language used in the July 30 TWTW. He wrote:

“You discussed a “100 megawatt battery” in TWTW. A MW is of course a unit of power and without a time to go with it, it does not provide an energy storage capacity. In the case of batteries, both the power and total storage are important. A search indicated a great confusion in the media. Scientific America states that the project is “capable of holding and delivering over 100 megawatts of power an hour for four hours.” This was picked up by other sources. A megawatt is a rate, so a “megawatt per hour” would define transient rate, which is important in grid management, but not related. A press release from the vendor AES clarified that the unit “can deliver 400 MWh of energy.” This means that the unit can deliver 400MWh of energy at a power of 100MW. The capacity is that of a new battery and it will decrease with usage. “

Thankfully, Marlo Lewis of CEI pointed out that the statement “For the past several centuries, general sea levels have been rising by about 18 cm (7 inches) per century” in the July 30 TWTW may be in error. It may not apply for the 18th and 19th centuries. A correct statement should have been: For the past several millennia, general sea levels have been rising by about 18 cm (7 inches) per century. There is significant evidence that that rate of rise may have slowed during the Little Ice Age. TWTW deeply appreciates the additions and corrections offered by its readers.


Number of the Week: From over $80 in 2013 to $40 in 2016. When the oil from shale revolution began in the US, no one was sure of the life of the wells and their costs. The oil companies involved were not the majors with deep pockets. Now, the consulting firm of Rystad Energy has estimated that the wellhead breakeven prices for new wells in shale has declined from over $80 per barrel in 2013 to $40 barrel in 2016 (or below). The formations include the Permian (TX, NM) Niobrara (Colorado, Wyoming) Eagle Ford (TX) and Bakken (ND). The reduction in costs indicates the power of learning from using high-tech equipment.

The claims by the outgoing CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources that, in the Permian, it can compete with Saudi Arabia may be more puffery than fact, such as the puffery used by wind promoters. But the general trend is real, and foretell of difficult times for the petro-states and major oil companies. Now, the only thing that may stop the shale revolution in the US is Washington. Why do so many politicians appear to be eager to protect petro-states and Big Oil by stopping hydraulic fracturing by independent oil companies? See Article # 1 and Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?



1. Low Crude Prices Hammer Big Oil Companies

Exxon, Chevron results highlight challenge of operating as crude prices near lows

By Bradley Olson and Selina Williams, WSJ, July 29, 2016


SUMMARY: The impact of low oil prices is hitting the profits of big oil and their spending plans. The authors state:

“The world’s biggest oil companies posted losses or steep declines in profit for the second quarter, and now face a daunting remainder of the year as crude prices retreat to about $41 a barrel.

“Exxon Mobil Corp. on Friday reported its quarterly profit fell 60% to the lowest level since 1999, while Chevron Corp. disclosed its biggest quarterly loss since 2001. The results capped a bad week for big Western oil companies: BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC earlier posted earnings that disappointed investors.

“Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP and French oil major Total SA in all have cut spending by about $50 billion since 2013 and slashed tens of thousands of jobs; but the cutting hasn’t been nearly enough to protect profits after oil prices began plunging.

“In the latest quarter, Exxon’s profit fell to $1.7 billion and Chevron reported a loss of $1.5 billion. Shell’s profit fell 93% from a year earlier to $239 million, and BP reported a $2.25 billion loss, its third straight.

“Many oil and gas companies have promised to “live within cash flow” by next year, assuring investors that they will be able to generate enough money to pay for new projects and dividends without additional borrowing.

“Total said it would need oil prices at $60 a barrel to reach that mark, while BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said the company could deliver in 2017 if oil prices are between $50 and $55 a barrel.

“So far this year, oil has sold for an average of about $40 a barrel.”


2. Coal Glut, Environmental Pushback Derail West Coast Port Plans

Once promising, exports to Asia have been undermined by oversupply, demise of port projects

By Timothy Puko and Erica E. Phillips, WSJ Aug 1, 2016


The authors write:

“Western coal producers once saw exports to Asia as their future. For many, that dream is fading.

A global glut has flooded overseas markets that were once expected to buy coal produced along a belt stretching from Utah to Montana that includes the Powder River Basin. The industry is also losing long-sought shipping outlets on the West Coast, where local communities have blocked construction of coal terminals amid concerns about climate change and pollution.

“Out of seven West Coast export terminals proposed in the past five years—which combined could have handled over 125 million tons of coal annually—not one has opened.

“The coal companies’ defeats—under pressure from environmental groups—show the limits of miners’ sway over authorities as cheaper natural gas and tighter emissions standards have slashed demand for the fuel. With three of the four largest U.S. producers in bankruptcy and others hampered by debt, the retrenchment has been swift.

“Cloud Peak Energy Inc., the country’s No. 3 coal producer, said last month it was exploring “all options,” including a sale of its stake in a planned terminal about 100 miles north of Seattle, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May blocked the project. The Army Corps said the terminal would have infringed on the fishing rights of an American Indian group, the Lummi Nation.

“Oregon denied a permit for a coal-export facility on the Columbia River in 2014, and another large terminal in Washington has been under review by the Army Corps for four years.

“Environmentalists have cheered the rejections.”


3. The Looting of Volkswagen

The company deserves a fine, but politicians keep demanding more.

Editorial, WSJ, Aug 4, 2016


[SEPP Comment: As with BP, the Volkswagen debacle is illustrating another example of government greed in capitalizing on errors of corporations.]

The Editorial states:

“But it’s time to ask how much government attorneys should be able to extract from VW shareholders.

“In late July a federal judge in San Francisco gave preliminary approval to a $14.7 billion civil settlement, the largest in the history of the auto industry. The fun for lawyers is only beginning, because this gigantic settlement doesn’t even cover all the relevant cars, nor all of the pending claims. Next come additional payouts for penalties assessed by state and federal officials. The state of Washington got the party started with a $176 million fine announced last Thursday.

“VW shares have lost more than 20% of their value—close to $21 billion—since the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board flagged the company in September for disguising levels of smog-causing pollution. Ironically, by allowing these diesel cars emitting high levels of nitrogen oxides on the road, the company may have reduced greenhouse emissions. Conventional vehicle alternatives often emit more carbon dioxide.

“But the law is the law. The company admitted its dishonesty last year and began surrendering documents by the million and then cash by the billions to various levels of government. The settlement that received initial approval in San Francisco makes one wonder what public purpose is being served and how many times and how many ways shareholders can be forced to pay for the same offenses.

“Recently we told you about the green boondoggles to be funded by the settlement, including the promotion of “Zero Emission Vehicles.” There’s also a nice deal for vehicle owners, who can get their cars fixed—or sell them back to VW at their pre-scandal value—and receive additional compensation of up to $10,000. States can also apply for a piece of VW’s $2.7 billion environmental remediation trust for any alleged damage caused by the vehicles.

“But even that’s not enough for prosecutors like New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. ‘We are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars more,’ his spokesman says. The day after announcing a new lawsuit against the company on July 19, he emailed supporters of his re-election campaign to share the “big news” about the lawsuit.

“His spokesman says Mr. Schneiderman’s campaign sends out emails “related to cases the office is involved in all the time.” So it’s now standard procedure for New York’s senior law enforcement official to politicize prosecutions by using them to promote his re-election.

“Beyond Mr. Schneiderman’s avarice, all of this raises a question about America’s business climate. As with BP after its Gulf oil spill, companies that make a mistake in America can now expect to be looted far beyond the compensatory damages of making victims whole. The political class uses the opportunity to soak the business for many more billions to serve their political ends. If this keeps up, America’s tort system will be as much a political risk as arbitrary law enforcement in China.”


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