Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #238

The Week That Was: August 27, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

One More Step Towards the Sun: A team including Henrik Svensmark at the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Space) and Nir Shaviv of the Racah Institute of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found a strong statistical relationship between the sudden decline in observed galactic (high-energy) cosmic ray intensity following a coronal mass ejection with a decrease in the earth’s cloud cover. The declines in observed cosmic ray intensity following a coronal mass ejection are called Forbush Decreases, which is generally accepted. What is new is the strong statistical relationship (>95%) between Forbush Decreases and a near simultaneous reduction in cloud cover.

The study covered a relatively short 25-year period using four datasets, three satellite based and one ground based. In the laboratory, it has been demonstrated that galactic cosmic rays generate electrically charged molecules – ions – in Earth’s atmosphere. Ions have been shown to enhance the formation of aerosols, which can serve as seeds for the formation of the cloud drops that make up a cloud. The issue has been does it occur in the atmosphere? – which this study demonstrates.

Large Forbush Decreases can cause a reduction in atmospheric ions of up to about 20 to 30 percent over the course of a week, which is now closely correlated with declines in cloud cover. A future step is establishing if frequent coronal ejections, or the lack thereof, result in persistent changes in cloud cover, resulting in increasing or decreasing global temperatures. This may take a long time.

The position expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and its supporters, is that the only solar influence is from small changes in solar irradiance over time. See links under Science: Is the Sun Rising? and Commentary: Is the Sun Rising?


Quote of the Week. “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” – Richard Feynman, Physicist, Nobel laureate


Number of the Week: Over 500,000 barrels per day


Fewer Clouds? A study published in Journal of Climate asserted that based on 15 years of satellite observations, there may be fewer clouds forming in the tropics with the presumed carbon dioxide (CO2) caused warming. The study also asserts that using the data available, the guessed at effect of doubling CO2 of 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius can be constrained to be likely above 2.3 degrees Celsius.

A problem arises because the cloud data is very noisy (jumbled) from year to year. Trying to extrapolate a clear signal from such data is extremely difficult, if not impossible. A much longer data record is needed before any conclusions are formed. Fewer clouds in the tropics may be due to solar influence rather than CO2 caused “global warming” influence. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.


UN IPCC Forecasting: Three researchers tested 22 global climate models against historic global surface temperatures over the period 1880 to 2010. The results are poor. The abstract states:

“IPCC and others use in-sample correlations to confirm the ability of climate models to track the global surface temperature (GST) historically. However, a high correlation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for confirmation, because GST is nonstationary. In addition, the tracking errors must also be stationary. Cointegration tests using monthly hindcast data for GST generated by 22 climate change models over the period 1880–2010 are carried out for testing the hypothesis that these hindcasts track GST in the longer run. We show that, although GST and their hindcasts are highly correlated, they unanimously fail to be cointegrated. This means that all 22 models fail to track GST historically in the longer run, because their tracking errors are nonstationary. This juxtaposition of a high correlation and cointegration failure may be explained in terms of the phenomenon of spurious correlation, which occurs when data such as GST embody time trends. [Boldface added].

A spurious correlation occurs when there is not direct relationship between the variables, but a relationship is statistically calculated. It is a common problem with using noisy data.

Unfortunately, the IPCC, and others, use surface temperatures to evaluate the global climate models. The failure of the models to track the surface temperatures is not surprising. Historic data is very sparse, largely from western Europe and the US. The data is contaminated by significant changes in land use, particularly urbanization. And, as shown in the 2008 NIPCC report, since about 1970, there has been a marked decline in the stations used to establish surface temperatures, and dramatic decline in the number of 5 degree by 5 degree grid boxes covered. Around the year 2000 about 100 of the total of 2,592 possible grid boxes ([180/5] x Error: [360] shortcode requires URL to be set) were covered – 4%. Complicating matters has been the trend, at least in the US, of using stations at airports. Both pavement and flying frequency create measurement problems.

When the Charney report was produced in 1979, there were no comprehensive, global temperature data. But starting in 1989, going back to December 1978, we have had comprehensive global satellite data of the atmosphere. As shown in the report by John Christy, the comprehensive satellite data show that, generally, the global climate models greatly overestimate warming of the atmosphere, where the greenhouse effect occurs. Both satellite and surface data are influenced by weather events such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). But, since the satellite data is “cleaner” it should be easier to separate natural and other human effects from CO2 caused warming,

If the purpose of the models is to estimate the effect of CO2, then surface data are poor proxy data at best. Atmospheric data is far superior. The kindest possible justification for the IPCC, and others, not to use satellite data is mental inertia. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC, Challenging the Orthodoxy, and Models v. Observations.


Spencer’s Experiments: Roy Spencer has two posts showing the greenhouse effect. The first focuses on Desert Rock, Nevada, an arid area where weather balloon measurements have been made twice daily for many years and where a surface radiation measurement facility was installed in 1998. The facility gives the surface radiation budget data (every 3 minutes). Examining the nighttime readings for July 1998, Spencer finds that humidity variation clearly dominates the downwelling of infrared radiation [IR]. [This is not surprising for an arid area.] However, the influence of temperature variations is poor, probably because temperature variations were small. But for his purposes, the downwelling is important. He states: “But, of course, it is the net IR (the sum of upwelling from the warmer surface plus the downwelling from the cooler sky) which must flow from higher to lower temperature, which it does.”

In the second post Spencer discusses a simple experiment, perhaps suitable for high school students, illustrating the greenhouse effect. Spencer refines his argument why a warming of the globe due to increased greenhouse gases does not violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Perhaps greenhouse gases can be called atmospheric insulation? A simple example can be seen with two identical glasses, not in direct sunlight, one with a Styrofoam holder, one without. In the summer, with both glasses containing a cold beverage, the one with the holder warms more slowly. In the winter, with both glasses containing a warm beverage, the one with the holder cools more slowly. Yet, the holder contributes no energy to the system. See links under Seeking a Common Ground.


Economic Waste: Writing for Master Resource, Robert Bradley posted conclusions for a 1999 essay that apply today. To summarize, politicians calling for more solar and wind generated electricity are putting the cart before the horse. They are not replacing the existing system with a more efficient system. Instead, they propose building a second system to supplement the existing, primary system, that does not need supplementation. The second system must be backed-up by the primary system. It is more expensive to build and maintain two systems than one efficient, reliable system. See link under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind.


Problems in Germany: Writing in Energy Matters, Roger Andrews provides an analysis of Germany’s energy plan – Energiewende. His summary is worthy of quoting:

“Germany is a country of contradictions, at least as far as energy is concerned. Germans are in favor of more renewable energy yet oppose building the overhead power lines that are needed to distribute it. They are in favor of deep emissions cuts but also in favor of shutting down Germany’s nuclear plants, which will make the problem of meeting emissions targets far more difficult and costly. The government continues to pursue a nuclear shutdown but is unwilling to shut down Germany’s lignite plants. As a result of these conflicting and counterproductive viewpoints and policies the Energiewende has effectively gone nowhere. Despite the expenditure of many billions of dollars it has failed to achieve any visible reduction in Germany’s emissions or to make a meaningful difference to Germany’s energy mix (renewables still supply only 14% of Germany’s total energy). Its only demonstrable impact has been skyrocketing electricity bills. [Boldface added.]


Speculation: Myron Ebell of Competitive Enterprise Institute, (CEI), reported an article in the South China Morning Post that said that the US and China are ready to ratify the Paris Agreement. One can only speculate how the Administration plans to ratify the agreement without approval of the Senate. But given the disregard the Administration has demonstrated towards Congress and the Constitution, such speculation is fitting. See links under After Paris!


Driving Oil and Natural Gas Prices: It is becoming very clear that the drivers of lower oil and natural gas prices, today, are not OPEC and not “Big Oil”, but the independent producers, which are using hydraulic fracturing to unlock the wealth of oil and gas in dense shale. There are issues, such as the disposal of waste water from the wells. Often the water is briny, and needs to be properly handled. High pressure injection into wells is causing minor earthquakes. But the problems can be solved. The earthquakes, usually less than a passing freight train, are not caused by the drilling and fracturing, although the EPA falsely claims it is.

These events prompt a question: what is the purpose behind politicians calling for shutting down hydraulic fracturing? Is it to assure high oil and gas prices, and big profits to OPEC and Big Oil? See Articles 3, 4 & 5 and links under Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?


Number of the Week: 500,000 barrels per day (b/d). In December 2015, the US government removed all restrictions on exporting crude oil. Even though exports to Canada were allowed, from 2000 to 2013 total exports rarely exceeded 100,000 b/d. From January to May of 2016, exports averaged 501,000 b/d. What is very interesting is that, other than Canada, the largest receiver of US oil exports is Curacao in oil rich Venezuela, with 54,000 b/d. See links under Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?



1. Is the Antarctic Ozone Hole Really Mending?

By S. Fred Singer, American Thinker, Aug 23, 2016


SUMMARY from Fred Singer: After witnessing many past missteps and premature wrong guesses about ozone, I may be excused for believing that the current excitement about the “healing” of the AOH could turn out to be just another failed prediction.


2. The Climate Prosecutors Can’t Dodge Congress Forever

The state officials who subpoenaed Exxon face questions from the House—and they have to answer.

By Elizabeth Price Foley, WSJ, Aug 21, 2016


SUMMARY: The Constitutional law professor at Florida International University College of Law writes:

‘For a sense of how far the left will go to enforce climate-change orthodoxy, read the recently released “Common Interest Agreement” signed this spring by 17 Democratic state attorneys general. The officials pledged to investigate and take legal action against those committing climate wrongthink. Beginning late last year, the attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all signatories to the agreement, issued broad-ranging subpoenas against Exxon Mobil and conservative think tanks. They sought documents and communications related to research and advocacy on climate change.

“Concerned that these investigations were designed to chill First Amendment rights, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology issued its own subpoenas. In mid-July the committee, led by Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), asked the attorneys general to produce their communications with environmental groups and the Obama administration about their investigations.

“They have indignantly refused to comply. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman claimed, in a July 13 letter to Mr. Smith, that the committee was “courting constitutional conflict” by failing to show “a due respect for federalism.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, in a similar letter dated July 26, asserted that the subpoenas are “unconstitutional” because they are “an affront to states’ rights.”

This view is utterly wrong. Federalism is a critical component of the constitutional architecture. The federal government exercises only limited and enumerated powers, and the states, under the Tenth Amendment, possess all other powers “not delegated to the United States.” But when the federal government acts within its delegated powers, it is entitled to supremacy over the states.

“The Supreme Court has long recognized Congress’s power to investigate any matter within its legislative or oversight competence. With that comes a corresponding power to enforce its inquiries. The justices wrote in Barenblatt v. U.S. (1959) that the scope of Congress’s power of inquiry “is as penetrating and far-reaching as the potential power to enact and appropriate under the Constitution.”

“Similarly, in McGrain v. Daugherty (1927), the court held that “the power of inquiry—with the process to enforce it—is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.” That’s why lawmakers passed a law to make contempt of a congressional subpoena a crime, punishing anyone who willfully refuses to answer “any question pertinent to the question under inquiry.”

“The subpoenas to state attorneys general regarding their climate crusade easily fall within Congress’s legislative and oversight competence. The House Science Committee has jurisdiction over matters relating to scientific research. Its rules authorize the chairman to issue subpoenas on behalf of the committee.

“Further, Congress has ample authority to investigate and sanction violations of First Amendment rights that are committed by state officials. For instance, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 includes a provision—lawyers often call it simply “section 1983,” referring to its place in Title 42 of the U.S. Code—authorizing monetary damages against state officials who infringe a constitutional right.

“Congress’s broad investigatory power clearly extends to state officials. In February, the House Oversight Committee compelled Darnell Earley, the emergency manager of Flint, Mich., to testify on the contamination of that city’s drinking water. Mr. Earley initially refused to appear, but he quickly acceded to its subpoena after the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), threatened to call the U.S. Marshals to “hunt him down.”

“Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, privileges grounded in state law—such as the attorney-client privilege or work-product privilege—are not binding on the federal government. The letter to Rep. Smith from the Massachusetts attorney general, for example, argued that the committee’s subpoena seeks documents that are “either attorney-client privileged” or “protected from disclosure as attorney work product.” Congress is obligated to honor neither of those state-law privileges.

“When Congress subpoenas the White House or agencies in the executive branch, there is a delicate balancing of competing constitutional interests. This is because the executive often refuses to comply by invoking a presidential privilege grounded in Article II of the Constitution.

“But there is no such difficult constitutional balancing required here. When Congress subpoenas state attorneys general in the rightful exercise of its legislative and investigative power, all assertions of state authority give way because of the Supremacy Clause. No state official—whether judicial, legislative or executive—may resist a legitimate federal command.

“Throughout the Obama administration, congressional powers have been increasingly usurped by the executive. The White House has unilaterally rewritten statutes, ignored congressional subpoenas and arrogated to itself the power of the purse. These actions have too often received the blessing of congressional Democrats, who have allowed partisanship to override their fidelity to the Constitution and their institutional self-interest.

“To begin restoring Congress’s constitutional authority, the House of Representatives should push back against these state attorneys general and vigorously litigate to enforce the Science Committee’s subpoenas.”


3. Largest Oil Companies’ Debts Hit Record High

Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron have combined debts of $184 billion amid two-year slump

By Selina Williams and Bradley Olson, WSJ, Aug 24, 2016


SUMMARY: The reporters state that the doubling of debt by the major oil companies since 2014 puts them in a very uncomfortable position: they cannot continue to pay generous dividends to shareholders with oil trading between $50 to $60 per barrel. Further, they are not spending enough to boost production and cannot easily raise money by sale of assets. The next year should be interesting.


4. Oil at $50 Tests Shale-Band Theory

Oil prices at about $50 a barrel test the influence of the ‘shale band’ on U.S. production

By Neanda Salvaterra, WSJ, Aug 23, 2016


“The return of oil prices to about $50 a barrel presents a test for an idea that gained currency early after the market’s long swoon began two years ago: the “shale band.”

“The term was coined back in May of 2015 by Olivier Jakob, managing director of Petromatrix, a consultancy based in Switzerland. Mr. Jakob said U.S. oil production trends would be determined by two price points—$45 a barrel, below which oil produced from shale formations would drop off, and $65 a barrel, above which there would be “massive [shale] production coming online.”

“In between was the shale band, a range where shale supply would be basically steady, according to Mr. Jakob’s theory.

“But it hasn’t quite worked out that way, with shale producers keeping the taps on at lower prices than many thought possible. Mr. Jakob said he has revised his shale band projections down to between $40 and $60.

“’I think the principle has not changed and I think we saw evidence through the rig count that U.S. oil is quite sensitive,’ he said.”

What happens in the near future remains to be seen.


5. U.S. LNG for China Arrives Via Panama Canal

New locks in recently expanded canal ease access to Asian market for U.S. exporters

By Jenny W. Hsu, WSJ, Aug 24, 2016


SUMMARY: Whether it is symbolic or an indicator of a long-term trend remains to be seen. The report states:

“The first shipment of liquefied natural gas [LNG] from the U.S. to China arrived this week, thanks to the recently expanded Panama Canal’s easing access to the robust Asian market for U.S. gas exporters.

“The shipment was chartered by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, the company confirmed to The Wall Street Journal. The cargo, from the Sabine Pass export facility in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, was delivered to the Yantian Port on Monday in southern China and was purchased by China National Offshore Oil Corp. as part of a long-term contract, according to S&P Global Platts, an energy and commodities information provider.

“The new locks can reduce the travel time from the U.S. to North Asia for ships that couldn’t fit in the old locks by about one third—to 20 days—and cut transportation costs by about 30 cents to $1 per million British thermal units, said research consultancy Energy Aspects,

“’This shipment could be the start of many more U.S. gas cargoes coming to Asia, especially now [that] more Chinese smaller independent gas companies are keen on buying foreign gas on a spot basis,’ said Peter Lee, an Asian energy analyst at BMI Research.”


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