Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #250

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

Obsolete Science? Writing in Cosmos, Mason Inman has an article on M. King Hubbert, the eminent geologist who spent most of his career with Shell Oil. Unfortunately, Hubbert is best known for advocating his theory of peak oil, which assumed “if current trends continue.” Later advocates of the theory ignored the assumption, even when “current trends” changed, as they did with discovery of extensive oil resources in the deep ocean and the means of extracting the oil. Another remarkable development was the technology to extract oil and natural gas from shale, source rock, by hydraulic fracturing, fracking.

The article highlights the work of King Hubbard in understanding how fracking works. When Hubbert wrote, drilling was linear, and directional drilling consisted of slanting the drill string, primarily. Directional drilling with mud motors and sensors to control direction, allowing horizontal drilling, was yet to be developed.

The article discusses how Hubbert changed the thinking on how fracking works – under extreme pressure, the rock is fractured vertically to the surface, not horizontally as many geologists believed. Hubbert expresses his frustration with these geologists:

“’What I discovered was that the theoretical argument was having no effect whatever on these men’” Hubbert recalled. The engineers were absolutely sure that the fractures were horizontal. Every article, every ad on fracking showed fractures oriented that way. They had been ‘completely brainwashed’, Hubbert thought. ‘They didn’t have any real evidence, but they’d been so thoroughly indoctrinated on this thing that they knew damned well these fractures were horizontal.’ It mattered, because if they didn’t understand the forces at work, they couldn’t control it precisely. The technique would remain more art than science.”

The article does not mention the importance of proppants, such as sand, in keeping the fractures open, as discovered by George Mitchell’s company. Coupled with directional drilling, the theory of peak oil became history.

The article illustrates the importance in testing assumptions against empirical evidence, data. If the assumptions (guesses) are not supported by the data, the theory becomes dogma, obsolete. See link under Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?


Quote of the Week. “A genuine expert can always foretell a thing that is 500 years away easier than he can a thing that’s only 500 seconds off.” ——Mark Twain [H/t William Briggs]


Number of the Week: 5,544 pages


Is the Claim of CO2-Causing Dangerous Global Warming Obsolete? As discussed in prior TWTWs, (e.g. Nov 12 & 19) the highly influential 1979 Charney report contained an estimate that a doubling of carbon dioxide (CO2) would cause a warming of the earth’s surface of 3ºC ± 1.5 ºC (roughly 6ºF ± 3ºF). The report presented the assumption by climate modelers that the very modest warming by CO2 demonstrated by laboratory experiments will be amplified several times by a warming caused by water vapor taking place in the atmosphere over the tropics centered about 10 km, 33,000 feet – the so-called “hotspot.” Given the lack of data in 1979, there was no way to confirm or deny this important assumption and the findings.

The findings of the Charney Report of 3ºC ± 1.5 ºC have been repeated, with minor modification, in all five Assessment Reports (ARs) of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with no other explanation why CO2 warming occurring in nature will greatly exceed the warming found in the laboratory. These IPCC reports date from 1990 to 2014, with a sixth report underway. In general, the global climate models have the same results, but due to their incomprehensibility, it is not clear if the models use some other mechanism to arrive at the result.

The February 2 testimony by John Christy included comprehensive satellite data of global temperatures covering 37 years (from December 1978 to the end of 2015) of the atmosphere from the surface to 50,000 feet. These data demonstrated that a speculated, pronounced warming of the atmosphere from water vapor does not exist.

After over 35 years of speculation, 25 years of IPCC reports, multiple US government reports, and US government estimates that it spent over $40 Billion on climate science since 1993, and it spent over $150 Billion on activities to “fight global warming”; it is past time to produce physical evidence that the amplified atmospheric warming from increased water vapor exists. If the evidence is not produced, the hypothesis that human emissions of CO2 will cause dangerous global warming is as obsolete as peak oil theory, or that the sun is immutable, unchanging. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Defending the Orthodoxy


Polar Regions – Arctic: The current warmth in the Artic provides material for alarmists to predict drastic climate change. Many of the stories fail to mention that although the mean Arctic temperatures are as much as 15ºC, about 30ºF, above normal, with some day-time exceptions, the temperatures are still well below freezing. Further, the alarmist stories fail to mention that temperatures in Asia are drastically below normal for weeks — as much as 60ºF below normal in Siberia.

Long before appropriate instrumentation, the Arctic experienced warm periods, as seen in the Greenland ice cores and in warm periods such as the 1920s. However, the alarmist reports use the faddish term “a new normal” for which the authors have little basis. Further, some commentators postulate that diminished sea ice over the past few years is altering the jet stream and will cause long-term climate change – speculation for which they have little or no empirical basis. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy and Changing Cryosphere – Land / Sea Ice


Polar regions – Antarctic: An analysis of the logbooks of eleven exploration missions between 1897 and 1917 showed that the condition of the Antarctic ice is comparable to what it is today. Given the alarm on melting ice in Antarctica during the 1950s, which continues today, some journalists were surprised by the study. Of course, the blame for the demise of the ice is always placed on carbon dioxide-caused global warming.

From the abstract: [From satellite monitoring,] “there has been a steady increase in ice extent around Antarctica during the last three decades, especially in the Weddell and Ross seas. In general, climate models do not to capture this trend and a lack of information about sea ice coverage in the pre-satellite period limits our ability to quantify the sensitivity of sea ice to climate change and robustly validate climate models. However, evidence of the presence and nature of sea ice was often recorded during early Antarctic exploration, though these sources have not previously been explored or exploited until now.”

The Ross Sea is part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which some have claimed to be near collapse – in thousands of years? See links under Changing Cryosphere – Land / Sea Ice.


COP-23: The UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 22nd annual Conference of Parties (COP-22) ended without any significant items accomplished except an agreement to work out a rule book by December 2018 and a plea for money to support the $100 billion per year Green Climate Fund. The next meeting (COP-23) is scheduled for 6 to 17 November 2017 in Bonn at the headquarters of the UNFCCC secretariat, but organized by Fiji.

The US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has stated on its web site that it is the largest funder of UNFCCC. These moneys come mostly from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State (DOS). Its FY2014 – FY2016 budget states: “USAID and DOS funding supports USGCRP and the Climate Change International Assistance effort. In the past, some of this funding was counted under both categories. These efforts do not add to the USGCRP total.”

The budget shows that the FY 2015 Budget Enacted for DOS is $0.00, and for USAID is $0.00. How much is appropriated is not stated, or the amount of other funds that may be moved for such purposes. It will be interesting to see what impact these budgets, if maintained, will have on UNFCCC festivities. See links under After Paris! and http://www.globalchange.gov/about/budget.


US Election: There is a great deal of unsolicited advice being offered to the incoming Trump administration. In TWTW, these offers are broken into three rough groups: 1) favorable; 2) neutral, and 3) unfavorable [the groupings are not objective].

A major issue at this point is what should the Trump administration do about the UNFCCC, especially the Paris Agreement? Writing in the National Review, Joseph Eule argues that rather than ignoring it, Trump should send it to the Senate for a vote as a treaty – which requires support of two-thirds of the Senators (perhaps with a time limit). Eule points out:

“When the Senate approved the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, it did so with the proviso that any future agreement containing emissions targets and timetables pursuant to UNFCCC must be subject to Senate ratification. Secretary of State John Kerry thus connived to make the Paris Agreement “Senate proof” by making as much of it voluntary as he could. In this he didn’t completely succeed: There are still several provisions in the agreement committing the U.S. to actions that would require Senate approval. For example, the Nationally Determined Contributions in Article 3 and the mitigation commitments in Article 4 unequivocally require future U.S. administrations and Congresses to develop and put forward increasingly stringent targets and timetables, many elements of which would need to be legally binding and thus approved by the Senate.”

Approval of this treaty, expensive to the US with little or no known benefits, is unlikely now. As to the US withdrawing from the UNFCCC treaty, that may or may not be necessary, or desirable, if the Paris Agreement is not approved by the Senate as a treaty. See links: After US Election – Positive; — Neutral; and – Negative.


March 4, 1801: Starting on March 4, 1801, an episode important to the history of democracy began to unfold. After a bitter election, the losing faction (headed by John Adams) peacefully ceded the control of government to the winning faction (headed by Thomas Jefferson).

Adams returned to his private life, an attorney, without reprisal, prosecution, or banishment, which had been the custom in democratic Greece. Perhaps, this was the first time that such a peaceful transition of power took place.

The lack of communication between these former friends continued for years (together with Benjamin Franklin, they comprised the committee that initially drafted the Declaration of Independence). Then, Abigail Adams interceded and the two men learned to respect and admire each other even more.

In their behavior after the election, both demonstrated leadership skills that few can replicate.


Additions – CERN Experiment: In October, a paper was published questioning the results of the concept that cosmic rays, modulated by the sun, influence clouds and terrestrial climate. The Nov 5 TWTW linked to the rejoinder by Henrik Svensmark and included additional comments. In summary, observations and experiments go against the numerical model used by the CERN critics.

An earlier article is included in this TWTW, emphasizing the importance of the CERN Experiment and the Svensmark hypothesis. Among other things, CERN found aerosol particles form 10 to 100 times more abundantly if an ion from a cosmic ray is in the center of the cluster.

Jasper Kirkby, CERN particle physicist and originator and spokesperson of the CLOUD experiment, said: “We found that nature produces particles without pollution.

“Since time immemorial nature has had a perfectly good way of making cloud seeds throughout atmosphere by this gas to particle conversion and that’s new.

“Previous knowledge was that you required sulphuric acid – and that sulphuric acid is dominated by human activities.”

See link under Science: Is the Sun Rising? and the November 5 TWTW.


Number of the Week: 5,554 pages. According to reports, the just released text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement contains 5,544 pages – 2,056,560 words. And this was touted as an example of an effective Executive Agreement? See links under Other News that May Be of Interest.



1. Trump Can Ax the Clean Power Plan by Executive Order

The aggressive legal positions in Obama’s most controversial rules makes them easier to rescind.

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman, WSJ, Nov 20, 2016


The two attorneys representing the State of Oklahoma against the power plan write: President Obama pledged to wield a pen and phone during his second term rather than engage with Congress. The slew of executive orders, enforcement memorandums, regulations and “Dear Colleague” letters comprised an unprecedented assertion of executive authority. Equally unparalleled is the ease with which the Obama agenda can be dismantled. Among the first actions on President Trump’s chopping block should be the Clean Power Plan.”

[After Congress rejected cap and trade in 2009,] “the Environmental Protection Agency then devised a nearly identical scheme to mandate shifting electricity generation from disfavored facilities, like those powered by coal, to those the EPA prefers, like natural gas and renewables. No statute authorized the EPA to seize regulatory control of the nation’s energy sector. The agency instead discovered, in an all-but-forgotten 1970s-era provision of the Clean Air Act, that it had that power all along.

To support its preferred policy, the agency was compelled to “interpret” the statute in a way that contradicts what it acknowledges is the “literal” reading of the text and clashes with decades of its own regulations. It also nullifies language blocking regulation for power plants because they are already regulated under an alternative program. By mangling the Clean Air Act to intrude on areas it was never meant to, the regulation violates the constitutional bar on commandeering the states to carry out federal policy.

These defects are why the Supreme Court put the EPA’s plan on hold while an appeals court in Washington, D.C., considers challenges brought by the energy industry and 27 states. These legal challenges now appear to have been overtaken by events. President Trump can immediately issue an executive order to adopt a new energy policy that respects the states’ role in regulating energy markets and that prioritizes making electricity affordable and reliable. Such an order should direct the EPA to cease all efforts to enforce and implement the Clean Power Plan. The agency would then extend all of the regulation’s deadlines, enter an administrative stay and commence regulatory proceedings to rescind the previous order.

That would leave the D.C. appeals court—which some supporters of the plan are still counting on for a Hail Mary save—or the Supreme Court with little choice but to send the legal challenges back to the agency. While the Clean Power Plan could technically linger in the Code of Federal Regulations for a year or so, it would have no legal force.

When an agency changes course, it must provide a reasoned explanation to address factual findings supporting its prior policy. In certain instances that requirement may impose a real burden. For example, a rule rescinding the EPA’s “Endangerment Finding” regarding the effects of greenhouse gases would have to address the evidence underlying it. A failure to provide a satisfactory explanation of a change in policy may render a rule “arbitrary and capricious” and vulnerable to legal challenge.

Environmentalist groups have already vowed to bring suit to defend the Clean Power Plan, but a challenge would be toothless. The aggressive legal positions underlying the Obama administration’s most controversial rules—including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States rule, and the FCC’s Open Internet order—will make it easier to rescind them. That’s because rejecting the assertion of legal authority underlying such a rule is enough to justify a policy change. If the agency’s view is that it simply lacks the power to carry out a rule, then it follows that the rule must be withdrawn.

Even if a court were to find that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act underlying the plan is permissible, that would still not compel the Trump EPA to accept that interpretation as the only permissible one. And even if a court were to rule—erroneously, in our view—that the Clean Power Plan does not violate the Constitution’s vertical separation of powers, that would still not absolve the executive branch of the responsibility to consider that constitutional issue for itself and then act accordingly.

President Obama may soon come to understand that the presidential pen and phone is a double-edged sword.


2. Dear Editor, Pueblo Chieftain (CO), Nov 22, 2016

Unpublished letter from Howard C. Hayden

Sierra Club representative Charlotte Tournay and Pueblo Ready for 100 Campaign’s Meral Cooper praised solar, wind and hydro to the high heavens in Sunday’s opinion section. They didn’t mention jobs, but I have good news. You see, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the solar industry employs 210,000 people, while there are only 190,000 employed in coal mines. Considering the tiny amount of solar electricity produced, the solar industry employs about 70 times as many people for the same amount of electricity. The coal industry is developing plans to compete with that kind of job creation. They will get rid of all that heavy machinery and hire millions of miners to use picks and shovels. It might make electricity a trifle more costly, but think of all the jobs!

Speaking of money, there is a plan afoot to make gasoline free. All we have to do is to get the government to buy it for us. That’s just like wind and solar economics. After all, we have massive subsidies for wind and solar in the form of construction tax credits, production tax credits, local tax breaks, extra fees on utility bills, and mandates requiring that electricity come from wind and solar. If you put solar panels on your house, current law requires the utility to buy your excess daytime electricity at retail rates, which are typically three or four times as much as their wholesale rates. You see, the government is making wind and solar very cheap right now. Free gasoline is an easy next step.

Solar electricity is wonderful. Right now, in sunny places like southern California, you can get only a year-round average of one-sixth of the power it says on the nameplate because there aren’t all that many hours when the sun is well positioned high in the sky. Presently, the solar panels don’t work at night, but just think of what could happen if we had bright lights shining on our solar panels at night! [Boldface added]


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