Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #239

The Week That Was: September 3, 2016 – Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Did Obama Sign? What? There were reports speculating that U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Junping would officially sign the Paris Climate Treaty (Agreement) when they met on September 3, ahead of the G-20 economic meeting in Hangzhou, China. As of midnight US Eastern Daylight Time on September 3, noon Hangzhou daylight time on September 4, there were no official reports that such a formal signing had taken place. Several news reports stated that both groups announced ratification of the treaty. However, there may be a language problem. According to the Constitution of the US, the President cannot ratify a treaty, ratification requires approval of two-thirds of the US Senate. In closing hours of the Paris Conference of Parties (COP-21) ending December 12, 2015, the US delegation insisted on changing the document so it would not appear to be a treaty but a non-binding agreement. No doubt, there will be several interpretations of the theater taking place in Hangzhou. It may be another version of theater dating back to the period of the Six Dynasties. See links under After Paris!


Quote of the Week. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein


Number of the Week: Up 18.6%


The Balance Game: Writing in Climate Etc., global climate model commentator Nic Lewis addresses the recent claims that human influence on global warming/climate change started about 180 years ago, about 1830. The claims are based on very scanty data and use climate models that have not been validated. [Please note the correction at the end of his comments.]

Very interesting is the statement by Lewis before the correction. “Ironically, should the study’s finding of anthropogenic warming starting as early as circa the 1830s be correct, it would imply that anthropogenic aerosol forcing is weaker than estimated in IPCC AR5, and therefore that observational estimates of climate sensitivity (both transient and equilibrium) based on AR5 forcing values need to be revised downwards. That is because total anthropogenic forcing would only have become positive enough to have had any measurable impact on temperatures in the 1830s if AR5 best estimates significantly overstate the strength of anthropogenic aerosol forcing.”

The statement highlights flaws in what the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers, such as the EPA, offer as proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing unprecedented and dangerous global warming. The report discussed is the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2013). The models simultaneously calculate possible warming influence of CO2 and the possible cooling influence of aerosols (fine liquid droplets or particles suspended in the atmosphere). Aerosols can be natural or human caused. Systematic measurement did not begin until the late 1970s when “the first satellite instrument capable of crudely monitoring aerosol optical depth from space—the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR)—retrieved optical depth from measurements in the visible and near-infrared spectrum, beginning in the late 1970s.” As with satellite measurements of global atmospheric temperatures going back to December 1978, anything earlier is pure guesswork.

Further, the calculation procedure itself is suspect. As explained in the Summary for Policymakers, the models work only if both natural and human forcings are used. They do not work using only anthropogenic (human) forcings. However, even assuming that the numbers used are appropriate, the procedure does not establish human cause. The procedure has been called circular reasoning or tautology. The procedure, itself, can lead to an unlimited number of solutions, not a finite range of solutions.

For example, assume A plus B is equal to 10. There is no unique solution to A, without first determining a solution to B. In fact, the value of A may be positive or negative, yet fit the equation, depending on the value of B. Trying to trace influence of CO2 and aerosols on temperatures prior to solid measurements of both is a similar exercise with unlimited solutions. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Defending the Orthodoxy and Measurement Issues — Atmosphere


Arctic Changes: The internet web site, Phys.org., picked up on a paper indicating rapid change in Arctic sea ice related to Dansgaard-Oeschger (D/O) Events over the past 90,000 years. D/O events are described as rapid warming followed by gradual cooling. The strongest evidence has been from Greenland ice cores. The D/O events have been independently linked to Heinrich events [by Gerard Bond], which are demonstrated by deposits of rock mass on the bottom of the North Atlantic. When the ice sheets scraped the earth, they picked-up the rock mass and carried it to the sea where large sections broke-off forming icebergs. When melting, the icebergs deposited the rock mass originating on the continent on the floor of the North Atlantic.

According to the new paper by Hoff, et al., the researchers obtained a marine sediment core near the Faroe Islands, in the Nordic seas. The researchers examined single celled algae, called diatoms, in the sediment core. The algae form under the sea ice, with the algae production dependent on the thickness of the ice – with thicker ice, the sun rays do not readily reach the algae for photosynthesis. Using the algae in the marine sediments, the researchers estimated the thickness of the ice over time. According to a hypothesis involving the Thermohaline Circulation, thick ice in the North Atlantic slows down the circulation. This may explain why the D/O events feature a gradual cooling. The cause of the rapid warming is not explained. However, these natural events may have contributed to what is claimed to be human-caused global warming. See links under Changing Cryosphere.


Censorship: According to an article appearing in the student newspaper of the University of Notre Dame: “Three professors co-teaching an online course called ‘Medical Humanities in the Digital Age’ at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs recently told their students via email that man-made climate change is not open for debate, and those who think otherwise have no place in their course.”…“The point of departure for this course is based on the scientific premise that human induced climate change is valid and occurring. We will not, at any time, debate the science of climate change, nor will the ‘other side’ of the climate change debate be taught or discussed in this course …,”

The email from the three professors also cites the made-up claim of “98% [97%] of climate scientists…” Since the topics involve “fracking” – hydraulic fracturing of shale for oil and natural gas – discussion of the solid evidence in supporting and opposing each position is in order. Following the above quote of the week from Einstein, perhaps the professors involved censor questions because they do not understand the subject sufficiently well to provide answers. See link under Censorship.


Boring, But Important: Donn Dears has a succinct description on the levelized costs of replacing existing power plants with new wind and solar power plants. [Levelized costs are used in attempting to compare the costs of various forms of generating electricity over a period of time.] For example, Dears uses the estimate that an existing coal-fired power plant costs 4 cents per kWh, while a new typical wind turbine costs about 10.4 cents per kWh. Such high costs for renewables are being demonstrated in Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and the UK. Yet, politicians such as California Governor Pat Brown do not believe that replacing reliable, affordable electricity generation with unreliable, more expensive generation leads to job losses. Apparently, they believe that unreliable, expensive electric power is the path to prosperity. See Links under Energy Issues – US and California Dreaming.


Who Benefits? The threats of litigation by various states’ attorneys general and US Senators against organizations who do not follow the declarations of these politicians on global warming seems to be imploding. The threats were built on largely unsubstantiated, and absurd claims that the views of many organizations are based on the comparatively few dollars a few organizations may have received from Exxon, etc. As discussed previously in TWTW, some of the academic instigators of potential litigation had visions of great windfalls similar to what occurred following the settlements with tobacco companies.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, columnist Holman Jenkins explains the distasteful behavior of these attorneys general and their supporters. The following day, the Journal has an editorial on the subject. Just before these, the Journal published an op-ed piece on who benefited from the billions in cash settlements the federal government extracted from major banks, in part from their participation in programs that the federal government encouraged or required. And many politicians wonder why the current economic period, following the much heralded Stimulus Bill”, is called the Great Recession.

See Articles # 1, 2, & 3. [SEPP has not confirmed the recipients of the bank settlements.]


Additions and Corrections: There were several errors and examples of poor wording in last week’s TWTW.

Several readers pointed out the following statement is incorrect: 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.

Curacao is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands, but is located approximately 40 mi (65 km) north of the Venezuelan coast. The refinery there is operated by Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-owned oil company of Venezuela.

Another reader asked: “Your last item about the 500,000 bpd exports of US oil to Canada begs an explanation. Is it that Canada has under used refining capacity that is not engaged with its own prodigious production from the oil sands, or is it mostly the logistics, without a west to east pipeline, preventing an economic means of transporting western crude to the refineries on the St. Lawrence seaway?”

The oil to Canada is probably used mostly for blending with heavy Canadian crude and replacement of light oil from Libya. From EIA June 5, 2013, post:

“Eastern Canadian refineries are increasing their use of U.S.-sourced crude oil …Canadian refineries, like those in the United States, are working to increase their use of growing production of crude oil from Texas and North Dakota. Monthly exports of crude oil from the United States to Canada have historically averaged 24,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) and were principally delivered to refineries in central Canada. However, U.S. exports to Canada averaged nearly 100,000 bbl/d over the first 3 months of 2013.”


Also, the discussion on water injection causing earthquakes in Oklahoma and similar areas needs amplification. In certain areas, conventional oil wells often produce a great deal of surplus water under high pressure. Often, the produced water has a high salt content as well as other Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). A common practice has been to inject the produced water into sand-stone formations. The practice is leading to minor earthquakes.

This is different than the process of using hydraulic fracturing of underground formations, principally dense shale, to produce oil and natural gas. The water used, mixed with sand and chemicals is often “slick-water.” SEPP does not know of an example where hydraulic fracturing, using “slick-water”, is causing earthquakes.

Environmental Engineer Jeffrey Miller writes: “There was some good work in the mid 90’s that I was involved with, managing produced water from natural gas wells. The documents were Gas Research Institute (GRI) sponsored projects. Effectively treatment with Electro-dialysis (ED) was tested on brine water from the Lysite, Wyoming, gas field. There is some other work that was done, characterizing produced water from gas fields published in some papers.”

These will be discussed in an upcoming TWTW.

Another addition: Reader Clyde Spencer writes to Fred Singer concerning the Antarctic Ozone Hole (AOH).

“I just read your article from the American Thinker. You may remember that we first exchanged email about 1996. I had built a computer model to try to predict surface UV [Ultra-Violet radiation] based on TOMS ozone data. To this day, I still have not seen any ground-based measurements confirming an increase in surface UV, despite all the Media warnings about cataracts and melanoma. Of course, one of the reasons is that the sun never gets above the so-called ‘ozone hole.” It always has a long slant range in September and October, passing through air that is rich in ozone outside the circumpolar vortex.

“The AOH is a problem in search of validation.

Unlike some professors at the University of Colorado, TWTW deeply appreciates meaningful questions and comments from its readers.


Number of the Week: Up 18.6%. The web site, Climate Change Predictions.org reports on a 2005 two-day international discussion meeting held by the Royal Society entitled “Food Crops in a Changing Climate”, which was partially organized by the University of Reading. A press release announced the grim findings that, in-spite of carbon dioxide fertilization, climate change will cause yields of maize, rice, soybean and wheat to decline by as much as 20%. According to the World Bank, the average yield in cereals in 2005 was 3280 kg per hectare, in 2014 (the last year data is available) the yield was 3890 kg per hectare, an increase of 18.6%. See links under Below the Bottom Line and http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/AG.YLD.CREL.KG.



1. How the Exxon Case Unraveled

It becomes clear that investigators simply don’t know what a climate model is.

By Holman Jenkins, WSJ, Aug 30, 2016


“New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation of Exxon Mobil for climate sins has collapsed due to its own willful dishonesty. The posse of state AGs he pretended to assemble never really materialized. Now his few allies are melting away: Massachusetts has suspended its investigation. California apparently never opened one.

“The U.S. Virgin Islands has withdrawn its sweeping, widely criticized subpoena of research groups and think tanks. In an email exposed by a private lawsuit, one staffer of the Iowa AG’s office tells another that Mr. Schneiderman himself was “the wild card.”

“His initial claim, flounced to the world by outside campaigners under the hashtag “exxonknew,” fell apart under scrutiny. This was the idea that, through its own research in the 1970s, Exxon knew one thing about climate science but told the public something else.

“In an Aug. 19 interview with the New York Times, Mr. Schneiderman now admits this approach has come a cropper. He reveals that he’s no longer focusing on what Exxon knew/said but instead on how it goes about valuing its current oil reserves. In essence, Mr. Schneiderman here is hiding his retreat behind a recent passing fad in the blogosphere for discussing the likelihood that such reserves will become “stranded assets” under some imaginary future climate regime.

“His crusade was always paradoxical. The oil industry reliably ranks last in Gallup’s annual survey of public credibility. The $16 million that Exxon spent between 1998 and 2005 to support organizations that criticized speculative climate models is a minuscule fraction of the propaganda budgets of the U.S. Energy Department, NASA, NOAA, EPA, not to mention the United Nations’ climate panel, etc. etc.

“The episode ends happily, though, if Mr. Schneiderman’s hoped-for political career now goes into eclipse. But we haven’t finished unless we also mention the press’s role.

“The ‘Exxon knew’ claim, recall, began with investigative reports by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times, both suffering from the characteristic flaw of American journalism—diligently ascertaining and confirming the facts, then shoving them into an off-the-shelf narrative they don’t support.

“We have since learned that both the L.A. Times (via a collaboration with the Columbia School of Journalism) and InsideClimate News efforts were partly underwritten by a Rockefeller family charity while Rockefeller and other nonprofit groups were simultaneously stoking Mr. Schneiderman’s investigation.

“When caught with your hand in the cookie jar in this way, there’s only one thing to do, and last week the Columbia School of Journalism did it, awarding a prize to InsideClimate News.

“For this columnist, however, the deeper mystery was cleared up last year when I appeared on the NPR show “To the Point” to discuss the subject “Did Exxon Cover Up Climate Change?” (Google those phrases) with ICN’s “energy and climate” reporter Neela Banerjee.

“Ms. Banerjee has been collecting plaudits all year for her work. The work itself involved revisiting Exxon’s climate modeling efforts of the 1970s. Yet, at 16:28, see how thoroughly she bollixes up what a climate model is. She apparently believes the uncertainty in such models stems from uncertainty about how much CO2 in the future will be released.

“’The uncertainties that people talk about . . . are predicated on the policy choices we make,’ namely the “inputs” of future CO2.

“No, they aren’t. The whole purpose of a climate model is to estimate warming from a given input of CO2. In its most recent report, issued in 2013, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assumes a doubling of atmospheric CO2 and predicts warming of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius—i.e., an uncertainty of output, not input.

“What’s more, this represents an increase in uncertainty over its 2007 report (when the range was 2.0 to 4.5 degrees). In fact, the IPCC’s new estimate is now identical to Exxon’s 1977 estimate and the 1979 estimate of the U.S. National Research Council.

“In other words, on the crucial question, the help we’re getting from climate models has not improved in 40 years and has been going backward of late.

“For bonus insight, ask yourself why we still rely on computer simulations at all, rather than empirical study of climate—even though we’ve been burning fossil fuels for 200 years and recording temperatures even longer.

“OK, many climate reporters have accepted a role as enforcers of orthodoxy, not questioners of it. But this colossal error not only falsifies the work of the IPCC over the past 28 years, it falsifies the entire climate modeling enterprise of the past half-century.

“But it also explains the non sequitur at the heart of the InsideClimate News and L.A. Times exposés as well as Mr. Schneiderman’s unraveling investigation. There simply never was any self-evident contradiction between Exxon’s private and public statements. In emphasizing the uncertainty inherent in climate models, Exxon was telling a truth whose only remarkable feature is that it continues to elude so many climate reporters.”


2. Schneiderman’s Climate Secrets

What is New York’s Attorney General trying to hide?

Editorial, WSJ, Aug 31, 2016


The editorial states:

“When Eric Schneiderman and 16 other Democratic state attorneys general announced in March that they were targeting Exxon Mobil for its alleged heresy on climate change, they called themselves “AGs United for Clean Power.” A better name would have been AGs United for More Power. To great media fanfare, they unleashed a series of broad subpoenas designed to intimidate dissenters from the Obama orthodoxy on climate change.

“One such dissenter was the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank that was hit in April with a subpoena from Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker. Mr. Walker sought a decade’s worth of emails and donor names regarding the think tank’s climate and energy work. But CEI fought back in the press and in court, and Mr. Walker withdrew his subpoena after he was countersued.

“That’s not the end of the story. CEI still doesn’t know how this campaign came to be—and where it might still be headed. So on Wednesday the group headed back in court, filing a suit under New York’s freedom of information law to ask the ringleader of the AG coalition—Empire State AG Schneiderman—to produce “any common interest agreements” he entered into as part of this effort.

“Specifically, CEI wants to know about any deal the AGs made with groups such as the Eco-Accountability Project, the Center for International Environmental Law and others. In other words, CEI wants to know which “private activists” Mr. Schneiderman was working with and what the terms of the deal were when he launched this crusade. This relates directly to the political and economic motives behind this government power play.

“So far Mr. Schneiderman’s office has refused to cooperate with the CEI request. CEI’s lawyer says this is nothing more than an attempt to hide what the AGs were up to behind “a shroud of secrecy.”

“Let’s hope a judge agrees. Mr. Schneiderman, his fellow AGs and their activist pals have been trying to use the law to punish people, businesses and institutions over a difference of opinion. This is the kind of abuse that public transparency laws were designed to expose.”


3. Look Who’s Getting That Bank Settlement Cash

Tens of millions of dollars disguised as ‘consumer relief’ are going to liberal political groups.

By Andy Koenig, WSJ, Aug 28, 2016


“Imagine if the president of the United States forced America’s biggest banks to funnel hundreds of millions—and potentially billions—of dollars to the corporations and lobbyists who supported his agenda, all while calling it “Main Street Relief.” The public outcry would rightly be deafening. Yet the Obama administration has used a similar strategy to enrich its political allies, advance leftist pet projects, and protect its legacy—and hardly anyone has noticed.

“The administration’s multiyear campaign against the banking industry has quietly steered money to organizations and politicians who are working to ensure liberal policy and political victories at every level of government. The conduit for this funding is the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a coalition of federal and state regulators and prosecutors created in 2012 to “identify, investigate, and prosecute instances of wrongdoing” in the residential mortgage-backed securities market. In conjunction with the Justice Department, the RMBS Working Group has reached multibillion-dollar settlements with essentially every major bank in America.

“The most recent came in April when the Justice Department announced a $5.1 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs. In February, Morgan Stanley agreed to a $3.2 billion settlement. Previous targets were Citigroup ($7 billion), J.P. Morgan Chase ($13 billion), and Bank of America, which in 2014 reached the largest civil settlement in American history at $16.65 billion. Smaller deals with other banks have also been announced.

“Combined, the banks must divert well over $11 billion into “consumer relief,” which is supposed to benefit homeowners harmed during the Great Recession. Yet it is unknown how much, if any, of the banks’ settlement money will find its way to individual homeowners. Instead, a substantial portion is allocated to private, nonprofit organizations drawn from a federally approved list. Some groups on the list—Catholic Charities, for instance—are relatively nonpolitical. Others—La Raza, the National Urban League, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and more—are anything but.

“This is a handout to the administration’s allies. Many of these groups engage in voter registration, community organizing and lobbying on liberal policy priorities at every level of government. They also provide grants to other liberal groups not eligible for payouts under the settlements. Thanks to the Obama administration, and the fungibility of money, the settlements’ beneficiaries can now devote hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to these activities.

“The settlements also give banks a financial incentive to fund these groups. Most of the deals give double credit or more against the settlement amount for every dollar in “donations.” Bank of America’s donation list—the only bank to disclose exactly where it sends its money—shows how this benefits liberal groups. The bank has so far given at least $1.15 million to the National Urban League, which counts as if it were $2.6 million against the bank’s settlement. Similarly, $1.5 million to La Raza takes $3.5 million off the total amount of “consumer relief” owed by the bank. There are scores of other examples.

“Our analysis of over 80 beneficiaries from Bank of America’s settlement shows that they received, on average, more than 10% of their 2015 budgets from the bank. When other bank checks are added, the amount funneled to these organizations is guaranteed to rise. And the banks have multiple years to pay their total penalties, meaning some liberal interest groups can count on additional funding for years—and election cycles—to come.

“As part of their “consumer relief” penalties, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase must also pay a minimum $75 million to Community Development Financial Institutions—taxpayer-funded groups propped up by the Obama administration as an alternative to payday lenders. “Housing Counseling Agencies” also get at least $30 million. This essentially circumvents Congress’s recent decision to cut $43 million in federal funds routed to these groups through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The politicians who negotiate the settlements as part of the RMBS Working Group have also directed money to their supporters and states. Illinois’s Democratic attorney general Lisa Madigan announced she had secured $22.5 million from February’s Morgan Stanley deal for her state’s debt-ridden pension funds—a blatant payout to public unions. The deals with J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup yielded a further $344 million for both “consumer relief” and direct payments to pension funds.

“New York hit the jackpot too. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, also a Democrat and chairman of the RMBS Working Group, arranged for Morgan Stanley to fork over $400 million to New York nonprofits and $150 million to the state.

“Despite the best efforts of a few principled legislators late last year, Congress missed an opportunity to amend the Justice Department’s funding bill to stop further handouts. Lawmakers now have another opportunity as Congress enters budget negotiation for fiscal year 2017. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) introduced a bill in April that would prevent government officials from enforcing settlements that funnel money to third parties, and it needs to gain wider traction with his colleagues. The political shakedowns disguised as public service must end.”

Mr. Koenig is senior policy adviser at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.


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