Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #267

By Ken Haapala, President, The Science and Environmental Policy Project

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Joint Petition to Reconsider: Although not discussed in prior TWTWs, SEPP joined the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in filing a joint petition to the EPA to reconsider its 2009 finding that greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, endanger public health and welfare. The petition was filed on February 17, 2017, and slightly revised on February 23.

Such actions fall under the “right to petition” stated in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. The petition has added weight because both CEI and SEPP originally objected to the endangerment finding. The filing has been in the news, but TWTW has mentioned it only in passing. The legal issues were handled by CEI. The chance of success is not high, but the action is important.

By necessity the petition is short, and concise. It focuses on the strongest empirical science available in January, but not available in 2009, that contradicts the assertion that CO2 endangers public health and welfare. The testimony of John Christy on February 2, 2016, was chosen. [Christy’s written testimony to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on March 29, 2017, was even stronger evidence, but did not yet exist.]

Though not given for that purpose, the Christy testimony directly contradicts two of the principal lines of evidence stated by the EPA in support of its finding: 1) the theory; and 2) the validity of the climate models. A third line of evidence, pronounced warming over the tropics centered at about 10 km (33,000 feet), the “hot-spot”, is indirectly contradicted.

First, contrary to the theory as expressed in the 1979 Charney Report, there is no strong warming of the atmosphere, indirectly causing a warming of the surface. Second, the models greatly overestimate the measured warming of the atmosphere by 2.5 to 3 times. The data Christy presented is for 50,000 feet and below. [There may be a cooling of the stratosphere, well above 50,000 feet, causing a confusion about the general term, atmosphere. Any cooling of the stratosphere is unrelated to the warming of the atmosphere assumed in the Charney Report.]

Also, in the data presented by Christy, the hot spot is not found. Another petition by The Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council, filed by attorney Francis Menton goes directly to the failure to find the “hot spot.”

Before the CEI/SEPP petition was submitted, eleven volumes of EPA documents on the endangerment finding were reviewed.to ensure there was no overlap between the thrust of the current petition and what the EPA dismissed in the past.

Promoters of the EPA position are becoming ever more imaginative in declaring where the so-called “missing heat” is hiding. They cannot admit that the heat does not exist and that the theory speculated in the Charney Report was wrong. However, it is incumbent on the EPA to provide strong, empirical evidence supporting its finding, or its science is hollow. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and TWTWs for April and March.

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Quote of the Week. Einstein was a giant. His head was in the clouds, but his feet were on the ground. Those of us who are not so tall have to choose! – Richard Feynman

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Number of the Week: About 3 Times

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Defending the Orthodoxy: An editorial in the Wall Street Journal suggests that the Trump administration should disregard the petitions to the EPA to reconsider the endangerment finding as a waste of resources. In SEPP’s view, the EPA finding is a waste of resources, but vacating it is not.

For example, the US has unknown centuries of low-cost coal available. Japan and China are making great strides in remarkably clean coal-fired power plants now called High Efficiency Low Emission (HELE). Such plants cannot be built in the US under Mr. Obama’s power plan due to CO2 emissions. It is the regulations that waste resources, not getting rid of them.

Retired EPA scientist Alan Carlin has an excellent six-point rebuttable to the thinking in the Journal’s editorial. See Article # 1, Challenging the Orthodoxy, and Return of King Coal?

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Hollow Science and Humanity: The endangerment finding is another effort to use hollow science, science not supported by empirical evidence, against humanity.

Using fossil fuels producing carbon dioxide has pulled billions of people out of dire poverty, saving millions of lives. Yet, some Washington politicians are demanding international controls over fossil fuels, regardless of the harm to humanity.

They claim carbon dioxide is causing dangerous global warming. The laboratory science shows that adding carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere will cause a slight warming, possibly not measurable globally. But some scientists speculate this slight warming will be greatly amplified by additional water vapor. After over 35 years of searching, the speculated amplification has not been found.

Physical science gives no physical evidence or proof that recent warming is beyond what the earth experienced in the past. Poorly tested computer models are not physical evidence. Indeed, the models greatly overestimate observed of the atmosphere, where any greenhouse gas (CO2) effect occurs.

The science is hollow.

This is not the first time Washington is using hollow science against humanity. By the 1950s, indoor spraying of huts with DDT was shown to be a safe, affordable way of controlling malaria in poor countries. Where indoor spraying with DDT was used, malaria rates plummeted. Also, in the 1950s the US eradicated malaria, with the use of DDT and other programs.

Yet without physical evidence, in 1972 the EPA banned the use of DDT, claiming that it may cause cancer in humans. There may be reasons to control the use of DDT, but an outright ban is not justified by emperical sciences.

The US was a leader in attempting to ban DDT world-wide. Millions died from preventable malaria. The US never accepted responsibility for its leadership in this inhumane policy.

Now, politicians demand the US be a leader in controlling or banning carbon dioxide emissions “to have a place at the table.” For example, former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy admitted that: ‘by the agency’s own climate models, the effect of the US climate plan would be only 1/100th of a degree Celsius (1/50th of a degree F). Instead, she said success should be measured in terms of ‘positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.’” (Wall Street Journal, Mar 31, 2017)

The US should not be leading the world in another inhumane policy based on hollow science.

We need a place at a table for life, not at a table for death.

See links under Questioning the Orthodoxy, After Paris, and Change in US Administration.

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Red Team Exercise: Writing in the Wall Street Journal, theoretical physicist Steven Koonin proposed a ‘Red Team’ exercise on climate science – an alternative analysis by qualified parties who are knowledgeable but do not have a “stake” in the outcome. The disagreements regarding the positions of the IPCC, and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), and those who disagree with their findings is becoming quite intense as can be seen by the reactions to the March 29 hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.”

Following the Challenger disaster in 1986, a presidential commission was created to investigate its causes and safety in space exploration. Afterwards, NASA kept a list of outside experts on file for future such investigations. The Right Climate Stuff Team has repeatedly suggested such an investigation on global warming and the influence of CO2. Slowly, perhaps Washington will hear that all is not well with the science from the Climate Establishment. Let us hope it will not require a disastrous global cooling. The posts on the Global Warming Science Forum and Climate Etc. cover Koonin’s remarks well.

In the Journal after Koonin the op-ed, SEPP posted the following comment:

“A needed exercise. Since 1993, the US government has spent over $40 billion on climate science as defined in government reports (GAO, CRS). Yet, in over 35 years, it has made little progress in determining the influence of carbon dioxide on temperatures beyond laboratory experiments. These experiments show the influence is minor. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change performed a ‘Red Team’ analysis, but the reports are largely ignored by the multibillion-dollar Climate Establishment.

“Now, the US is being urged to commit to the Paris Agreement, based on a hollow science. A science that is empty of rigorous data. The greenhouse effect occurs in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is not warming as proclaimed by the Climate Establishment.”

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/full-committee-hearing-climate-science-assumptions-policy-implications-and

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Food Production: The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on bumper soybean and wheat harvests in Brazil and Russia and how the significant expansion of world food production is placing dramatic pressure on American farmers with lower prices.

The article describes the tremendous growth of farming in tropical Brazil and Latin America. For example, in Brazil there have been dramatic increases in production of food crops with little destruction of forests (rainforests) with the conversion of pasture lands to farming and with increasing crop yields.

Not discussed in the article is how such increases in food production and crop yields demonstrate how hollow the arguments are of those who proclaim that global warming will cause famine and millions of refugees from it. The Pentagon needs to re-evaluate its threat assessments. See Article # 2 and Repetitive Failure under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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Thank You For Your Subsidies: Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow thanks all Americans their contribution in providing programs for subsidies for solar power on his home in Austin, Texas. A lesson for all. See Article #3 and number of the week below.

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Number of the Week: About 3 times. Using the latest report of the Council of European Energy Regulators, Euan Mearns of Energy Matters estimates how much renewable subsidies increase the total wholesale price of electricity in Europe as compared with no subsidies – the increase is about 3 times.

“Considering that the wholesale price of electricity in Europe is typically €40 to €60 / MWh we can see that renewables are costing on average about 3 times as much as conventional power (wholesale~50, subsidy~110, total~160). And politicians, who have mandated the use of renewable electricity, are wondering why electricity prices are rising.”

The numbers are rough, but are based on the most extensive analysis of Europe available. Breakdowns by country are presented. See links under Subsidies and Mandates Forever.

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ARTICLES:

1. Highway From the Endangerment Zone

Scott Pruitt is right to avoid a fight over an anti-CO2 EPA finding.

Editorial, WSJ, Apr 18, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/highway-from-the-endangerment-zone-1492555808

SUMMARY: The editorial states:

“Scott Pruitt has emerged as a leading voice in the Trump Administration for U.S. withdrawal from the Paris global climate deal, so it’s ironic that the Environmental Protection Agency chief is being assailed from the right for being soft on carbon. Too many conservatives these days are searching for betrayals where none exist.

“As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt successfully sued to stop the enforcement of President Obama’s regulations known as the Clean Power Plan, or CPP, and he’s preparing to dismantle them for good as EPA administrator. The rap from the right is that he won’t challenge the underlying determination for regulating CO 2 emissions known as an endangerment finding. In 2009 the EPA concluded in this finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and the environment, and this document serves as the nominal legal basis for the CPP and other anticarbon rules.

“Mr. Pruitt’s critics claim that withdrawing from the CPP without reversing endangerment will strengthen his opponents in the inevitable green lawsuits that are coming. Endangerment findings create a legal obligation for the EPA to regulate the relevant pollutants, even if carbon is far different from traditional hazards like SO X and NO X .

“The endangerment finding was deeply misguided and flawed in its execution, and nobody fought it more than we did. But there’s a practical reason that Mr. Pruitt is right about the risks of trying to revoke it now. The finding has been upheld by the courts, and creating a legally bulletproof non-endangerment rule would consume a tremendous amount of EPA resources, especially at an agency with few political appointees and a career staff hostile to reform.

“Technical determinations about the state of the science are supposed to be entitled to judicial deference, but the reality is that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that would hear the case is packed with progressive judges. Climate change has become a theological conviction on the left, so Mr. Pruitt would almost certainly lose either with a three-judge panel or en banc.

“The Supreme Court’s appetite for such a case is also minimal, since it would run directly at the 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA that prepared the way for the endangerment finding. Justice Anthony Kennedy was in that 5-4 majority.

“Mr. Pruitt is already taking on difficult and controversial challenges, so better for the Administration to use scarce political capital where it will make a difference instead of burning it on a doomed mission. The endangerment finding doesn’t dictate any specific regulation, and Mr. Pruitt has the discretion to interpret the Clean Air Act to achieve his favored policy outcomes, including to repeal legally tenuous central planning like CPP.

“A future Democratic President could use the endangerment finding to revive something like CPP, but then that same Administration could restore endangerment too. Mr. Pruitt is a natural target for the left, but when conservatives are impugning one of the leaders of President Trump’s economic deregulation project as a sellout, maybe the problem is the critics, not Mr. Pruitt.”

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2. U.S. Farmers, Who Once Fed the World, Are Overtaken by New Powers

Bumper soybean and wheat harvests in Brazil and Russia push down global prices, imperiling America’s growers; ‘hard for our psyche’

By Jesse Newman and Jacob Bunge, WSJ, Apr 20, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-farmers-who-once-fed-the-world-overtaken-by-new-world-powers-1492700574

SUMMARY: The article discusses the striking changes in food commodity markets. No longer are the US and Canada the world’s virtually sole exporters. They now face competition from Brazil and Russia. Specific examples: in 1985 the US accounted for 77% of the world’s 26 million metric tons exported; in 2016 38% of 143 million metric tons exported; corn, in 1985 the US accounted for 56% of the world’s 55 million metric tons of exported; in 2016 37% of 154 million metric tons exported; and wheat, in 1985 the US accounted for 30% of the world’s 82 million metric tons of exported; in 2016 15% of 180 million metric tons exported. [About one-third of the US corn crop goes to fuel such as ethanol.]

The total area of Brazil tilled has increased remarkably. In 1985 about 10 million hectares were in soybeans, in 2016 about 33 million hectares, about equal to that of the US. With the enormous growth in farm production, major companies in farm equipment, seeds, and fertilizer have greatly expanded in Brazil.

The article mentions that Brazilian farmers have an advantage over US farmers of a year-round growing season, with several key crops per year. Further, “Russia over the past decade boosted its wheat harvests by 61%, the USDA forecasts. Corn acreage has nearly tripled in Russia, and more than doubled in Ukraine. Brazil and Argentina have also ramped up output of the grain.”

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3. Thanks for Giving Me Your Tax Money

I’m opposed to all energy subsidies—unless, of course, I’m the one collecting them.

By Robert Bryce, WSJ, Apr 18, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/thanks-for-giving-me-your-tax-money-1492554899

SUMMARY: The fellow at the Manhattan Institute writes:

“…it’s only appropriate that I express appreciation for the generous subsidy you provided for the 28-panel, four-array, 8,540-watt photovoltaic system I installed on my metal roof last year. Thanks to the investment tax credit, I slashed my 2016 federal tax bill by $7,758.”

“In addition to the federal subsidy, Austin Energy (our city-owned utility) paid $6,593 of the cost of my system. Thus, after subtracting local and federal subsidies, the net cost of my 8.54-kilowatt system was $18,100, or about $2.12 per watt of installed capacity. I’m also getting an ongoing subsidy that pays me far more for the electricity I produce than what other generators get in the Texas wholesale market.

“My panels are producing about 12 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. In 2016, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the average wholesale price of electricity was $24.62 per megawatt-hour. But Austin Energy pays me $106 for each megawatt-hour my system produces. Therefore, I’m getting more than four times as much for my solar electricity as other generators in Texas. I get that price regardless of whether the grid needs the juice from my panels or not.

“In the 12 months since I installed the system, half of my monthly electric bills are showing up with a negative balance. I figure my solar panels will pay back their cost in 14 years and that the return on my investment is about 7%.

“Recently, one of my neighbors also had panels installed. But fewer rooftop solar projects are being installed in low-income neighborhoods. That’s true in California, which leads the country in solar-energy capacity. According to a study done for the California Public Utility Commission, residents who have installed solar systems have household incomes 68% higher than the state average. Ashley Brown, executive director of the Harvard Electricity Policy Group, calls the proliferation of rooftop solar systems and the returns they provide to lucky people like me, ‘a wealth transfer from less affluent ratepayers to more affluent ones.’ It is, Mr. Brown says, ‘Robin Hood in reverse.’

“Do I feel bad about being a solar freeloader? Yes, a little. As Mr. Brown and others have noted, I’m now paying less to maintain the electric grid. That means that the local barista or school janitor—people who likely can’t afford solar panels—are paying incrementally more for the grid’s maintenance and operation. And the more that people like me install panels, the more those baristas and janitors have to pay.

“But don’t trouble me with all that. I’m doing my part for the polar bears. Indeed, I’m a prime example of the ‘green’ economy: I’m socializing the costs of my scheme and privatizing the profits. And I’m feeling virtuous while doing so.

“It doesn’t get much better than that.”

CONTINUE READING –>

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