Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #237

The Week That Was: August 20, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Seeking a Common Ground: One of the challenges in preparing TWTW is reaching as broad a readership as possible with brief discussions of scientific issues. The readers have various scientific backgrounds. TWTW is translated into several European languages and is read in academic or research institutions in Russia and China. For these reasons, the writing tends to be terse, with little or no technical language or jargon. Of course, people object to some statements in TWTW, and significant objections are generally addressed in subsequent issues.

Physicist Donald Rapp has written several books on climate change including; “Assessing Climate Change: Temperatures, Solar Radiation, and Heat Balance”; now it its third edition. The book covers a full range of topics that are major issues in the climate change debate. Further, Rapp is a chapter reviewer of “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science.” Following last week’s TWTW, which discussed the extent of government funding of climate change studies, Rapp addressed what he considers to be the one-sided view presented in TWTW. It does not adequately discuss the views of those who think that, based on empirical science, carbon dioxide is a major influence on climate. Rapp states:

“I think the evidence indicates that the greenhouse effect produces an imbalance between power in to earth from the sun and power radiated by the earth to space. I suggest that imbalance primarily warms the upper layers of the oceans. ENSO events allow that stored energy to be released to the land/atmosphere system. Oddly enough it is the alarmists who mostly claim that ENSO is a natural phenomenon that balances out between El Niños and La Niñas and cannot produce warming by itself. All of this remains to be resolved in the future.


“The biggest problem today (I think) in climate matters is that we, as a community of scientists, have succumbed to social pressures and have thereby given up on the scientific method, and instead, replaced it with a quasi-legalistic method in which each side cherry-picks data and skews the presentation to present a biased, one-sided view. The fact that the science is not settled and is full of uncertainties, allows this to go on, because no one on either side is able to definitively show the other is wrong. The alarmists mostly hold sway because they have more political power and funding. And so we have become relegated to something akin to the trench warfare that prevailed in WW-I when opposing forces were stalemated into probing attacks that went nowhere. It is noteworthy that the GAO [Government Accountability Office] said funds were allocated to ‘science to better understand climate change’ whereas our Commander-in-Chief says the science is ‘settled’.”

He is correct. Overall, TWTW has focused on the extreme views of the climate establishment, including the heavily politicized UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers, and has not adequately presented the views of scientists who believe as Donald Rapp does. It will try to correct this imbalance in the future. Understanding energy flows, both to the earth and from the earth, is vital. Also vital, is understanding energy flows internal to the earth, such as in the oceans. We deeply thank Donald Rapp for his salient criticism.


Quote of the Week.. “All models are wrong, some are useful.” – Statistician George E. P. Box, [H/t ACSH]


Number of the Week: $13 Billion in 2013


Onset of Ice Ages: SEPP Chairman S. Fred Singer edited the 1990 book, “The Ocean in Human Affairs.” The book discussed how the oceans moderated and modified the earth’s climate. The book also presented that the closing of the Caribbean Seaway, connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, set-up what is called the thermohaline circulation of the Atlantic Ocean, and, in turn, set-up the circulations in the oceans known as The Thermohaline Circulation – The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt. The late William Gray strongly advocated the view that the ocean circulations were a dominant driver of climate change, including 20th century warming. Temperature variations could take 1000 years.

In Singer’s book, it was estimated that the closing of the Caribbean seaway took place about 3 million years ago. This provided an explanation why frequent Ice Ages began to form after that time, and not earlier. The current period of frequent ice ages is different from other proposed eras of severe cold in the distant past.

In recent years, some researchers disputed the timing claiming that, based on plant and animal studies, the closing of the seaway and the forming of the Isthmus of Panama occurred much earlier. Research published this week, reaffirms the date of about 3 million years ago (2.8 million years ago). Interestingly, the ocean circulations and their role in climate change and ice ages are not discussed. See links under Changing Earth.


Federal Funding: Following-up on last week’s TWTW discussing federal funding of climate science and attendant work, we present highlights of the September 13, 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service below.


“Direct federal funding to address global climate change totaled approximately $77 billion from FY2008 through FY2013. The large majority—more than 75%—has funded technology development and deployment, primarily through the Department of Energy (DOE). More than one-third of the identified funding was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5). The President’s request for FY2014 contains $11.6 billion for federal expenditures on programs. In the request, 23% would be for science, 68% for energy technology development and deployment, 8% for international assistance, and 1% for adapting to climate change. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also reports that energy tax provisions that may reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would reduce tax revenues by $9.8 billion.


“At least 18 federal agencies administer climate change-related activities, according to OMB. Federal policy on climate change has been built largely from the “bottom up” from a variety of existing programs and mandates, presidential initiatives, and congressionally directed activities; funding has largely reflected departmental missions and support for each activity. Recently, the Obama Administration, in the context of its Climate Action Plan announced in June 2013, outlined an overall strategy with programs, resources, and tax incentives in a cross-agency, inter-governmental initiative. The new Climate Action Plan and a recent OMB report required by Congress on federal funding for climate change activities outline four main components of the strategy: •Climate and Global Change Research and Education •Reducing Emissions through Clean Energy Investments and Standards •International Leadership •Climate Change Adaptation.


“Scope and Purpose of This Report

“This report summarizes direct federal funding identified as climate change-related from FY2008 enacted funding through FY2013 and the FY2014 request (as well as a less consistent series beginning with FY2001). It reports the Administration’s estimates of tax revenues not received due to energy tax provisions that may reduce GHG emissions. The report briefly identifies the programs and funding levels, as well as some qualifications and observations on reporting of federal funding. It further offers some issues that Members may wish to consider in deliberating on U.S. climate change strategies.”

Eighteen federal agencies have spent $77 Billion between FY 2008 and FY 2013 going far beyond climate science with more than 75% ($58 Billion) going to funding technology development and deployment. Based upon the shale revolution, such moneys are not needed due to the lack of fossil fuels, but to replace fossil fuels due to the fear of carbon dioxide cause climate change – which is an issue that should be publicly addressed, not dismissed. Further, deployment of alternative forms of energy generation may entail significant social costs to the public in the form of requiring much higher utility payments to maintain these facilities and facilities needed for back-up of unreliable, intermittent sources of electricity. Also, the funds discussed above do not include tax credits, which are sought by high income investors, or other subsidies which are not actual outlays, but in federal accounting are tax expenditures.

The CRS report is another example of the federal government building an industry dependent on continuing government subsidies, thereby placing obligations on future citizens. See links under Funding Issues.


New Editor of Science Magazine: There still may be a glimmer of hope that Science Magazine will refrain from banning those who question the climate establishment on global warming/climate change and who write articles on natural variation of the climate. According to reports, the new chief editor, Jeremy Berg, expresses concern about the possible loss of trust by the public in ‘science”, if not outright hostility. Berg believes too often researchers “have gone beyond explaining the scientific situation and ventured into policy prescriptions, notably in the case of climate change…” Now let us see if he will act on these concerns. See links under Seeking a Common Ground.


UK Betting on Wind Power? Paul Homewood analyses energy reports issued by the UK government, as well as political commentary. He analyzed the just released UK report “Future Energy Strategies” and found parts of the report deficient. For example, he writes about estimates of future sources of electricity generation:

“You might just spot the “Storage” band. Although it is said that this will generate 10 TWh annually by 2040, whoever wrote the report does not seem to have realised that storage technologies don’t actually produce electricity.

“I find this slightly disconcerting, coming as it did from the National Grid!”

[According to its web site, the National Grid owns “the electricity transmission system in England and Wales. We own and operate four of the eight regional gas distribution networks in Great Britain.”]

Homewood writes further about “Future Energy Strategies”:

“Non-existent CCS jumps from nothing to 80 TWh in 2040…We become heavily reliant on obscenely expensive offshore wind, rising from 17 TWh to 71 TWh by 2040…We also become more reliant on interconnectors, though presumably this is a two-way thing.”

Perhaps the writers for the National Grid believe they can use interconnectors to connect their unreliable, intermittent wind power to non-existent, affordable battery storage on a commercial scale.

Similarly, Homewood questioned an editorial by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard [AEP] business editor of the UK Telegraph:

“AEP brags that the UK is the world leader in offshore wind. This is hardly surprising, as no other countries seem to be potty enough to throw billions down the drain in subsidising it…In a way, AEP’s headline says it all. What on earth are we doing making ‘vast gambles’ with the nation’s energy strategy?” See links under Energy Issues – Non-US and http://www2.nationalgrid.com/UK/Our-company/


Battery Storage: Writing in Energy Matters, Roger Andrews reported on the efforts to replace electricity from diesel generators on El Hierro in the Canary Islands with a combination of wind power and pumped storage. The latest figures, now covering over one year, which included July with sustained northerly winds, was a success of 38%. The remaining electricity is still generated by diesel.

Andrews now analyzes claims in the Guardian, UK, newspaper that batter storage will drop to $100/kWh and become economical. After the analysis he concludes:

“Clearly large-scale battery storage will remain uneconomic even at the Holy Grail price of $100/kWh. So why do battery companies, research institutes and greens claim the opposite? Because they assume that the intermittency problem can be solved simply by installing enough storage to balance daily load fluctuations. A large amount of storage isn’t necessary to do this, and $100/kWh batteries might indeed be able to supply it without breaking the bank. But they ignore the much larger amounts of storage that are needed to keep the electricity coming during extended windless periods and/or to flatten out seasonal variations in solar output. Why? I see two possible explanations. First, they are being carried along in a wave of visionary enthusiasm and haven’t recognized it as a problem; second, they know about it but don’t want to tell anyone because it might spell the death of large-scale storage battery research, and ultimately maybe the death of intermittent renewables too. I’ll let the readership make up their minds as to which it is.” [Boldface added.]

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Smart Grids: When wind and solar promoters are challenged as to the unreliability of their systems, they frequently use the term “smart grid”, implying such a grid will solve all the issues. Andrews presents conceptualizations of the smart grid and analyzes the only operating smart grid system where data is available: King Island, Tasmania (population 1,600, peak load 2.5MW, annual electricity consumption ~10GWh). Andrews concludes:

1. “Grids must contain complex frequency and stability control mechanisms if they are to handle high levels of renewables penetration. Hence some kind of “smart grid” will be needed.

2. Adding these mechanisms, however, is likely to be costly and there is no guarantee that they will work as planned.

3. Even if they do work as planned inadequate storage capacity and intermittency will limit renewables penetration. Regardless of how well the smart grid performs technically there will be extended periods when renewable energy generation plus energy in storage are inadequate to fill demand.

4. Backup fossil fuel generation will therefore always be required, although present-day smart grid designs implicitly take this requirement into account. It is in fact difficult to find a smart grid conceptual diagram which does not show a fossil fuel plant as part of the generation mix.”

“If the goal of a smart grid is ultimately to integrate large amounts of renewable energy with the grid then it won’t succeed. No smart grid is smart enough to generate electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.”

Andrews also examines a $179 million demonstration project by the US Department of Energy, that was funded under the “Stimulus Bill.” The project included 16 smart grid tests. The results are buried in 16 large pdf files with no succinct summaries. One is reminded of the closing scene in the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with a large warehouse loaded with crates, dutifully marked, but serving little or no purpose. It is doubtful there is any treasure in the DOE files. See links under Energy Issues – Non-US and https://www.smartgrid.gov/document/Pacific_Northwest_Smart_Grid_Technology_Performance.html


Number of the Week: $13 Billion in 2013. That is the “estimated revenue loss effects of energy tax provisions” in FY 2013 as presented in the CRS report. See links under Funding Issues.


Too Big to Frack? Oil Giants Try Again to Master Technology That Revolutionized Drilling

BP and others are hoping that hydraulic fracturing will allow them to coax enough oil out of U.S. wells to replace output from declining megaprojects

By Bradley Olson and Sarah Kent, WSJ, Aug 16, 2016


SUMMARY: The authors use an oil and gas well being drilled by BP as an example of how big oil is moving into hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas in shale formations. The article suggests that the deep-pockets of the majors will lessen the advantage of the independents. What the reporters fail to mention is that the independent producers have taken most of the leases in better areas. The independents have learned how to most effectively drill and to operate on tight budgets. It should be interesting competition. So much for the myth that “big oil” controls.


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