By Ken Haapala, President,The Science and Environmental Policy Project
Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
What Did Trump Learn? President Trump just returned from a meeting with the G-7, a group of industrialized nations. According to reports, some of the leaders of the G-7 countries tried to convince Trump of the need to commit to the Paris Agreement limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and he did not do so. Speculation abounds on what he will do in the coming weeks regarding the Agreement. He had stated he would announce a decision after the G-7 meeting.
Those advocating the Paris Agreement have never offered physical evidence that CO2 emissions are the primary cause of global warming / climate change. They just assumed it. So did the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other political bodies such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), with a budget of about $2.5 billion per year. It will be interesting to see if mere assumptions, accompanied by great publicity, will be good enough for President Trump to commit to a program that may cause massive damage to the US economy.
A brief examination of the economies of the G-7 countries is in order. Following is a list of the G-7 with the real gross domestic product (GDP) for 2018 as forecasted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in round brackets or parentheses.
The Group of 7 (G7) countries are Canada (2.34%), France (1.59%), Germany (1.74%), Italy (1.03%), Japan (0.83%), the United Kingdom (0.96%) and the United States (3.00%). For many economists, an economic growth rate of 2% or less is stagnation.
From this, one can conclude that there is no other country on the list whose economic policies are desirable for the US to imitate. It should be noted that from 1947 to 2016, the annual growth rate in the United States averaged 3.2%. But, during the Obama administration the annual growth rate did not exceed 2%. This was the worst recovery from an economic downturn (2008-2009) since the Great Depression (1930s). The forecast of 3% growth for 2018 may be optimistic, but it is consistent with US long-term growth. Mr. Trump has a powerful economic reason to abandon the Paris Agreement and no scientific justification for staying in the agreement.
The economies of countries such as the UK, Germany, and Italy are stagnating in part due to government policies that did not appropriately account for the increases in electricity costs that occur in shifting from reliable fossil fuel generation to unreliable solar and wind generation. Germany is compounding its problem by shifting from reliable nuclear generation and is being forced to expand power plants burning brown coal, which produces more CO2 than black coal (a higher thermal content).
See links under After Paris!, After Paris! – US Against, Change in US Administrations and OECD (2017), Real GDP forecast (indicator). doi: 10.1787/1f84150b-en (Accessed on 28 May 2017) https://data.oecd.org/gdp/real-gdp-forecast.htm
[“Real gross domestic product (GDP) is GDP given in constant prices and refers to the volume level of GDP. Constant price estimates of GDP are obtained by expressing values of all goods and services produced in a given year, expressed in terms of a base period. Forecast is based on an assessment of the economic climate in individual countries and the world economy, using a combination of model-based analyses and expert judgement. This indicator is measured in growth rates compared to previous year.”]
Quote of the Week. “There is no greater mistake than to try to leap an abyss in two jumps”– David Lloyd George, During WWI, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, then Prime Minister [H/t Leo Goldstein]
Number of the Week: Number of the Week: 1927 – 90 years ago
Legal Tar Pit? Ironically, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme, a parent organization of the IPCC, provides clear reasons why the US should vacate its participation in the Paris Agreement and all related issues stemming from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Issued jointly with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University in the City of New York, the report provides a review of litigation procedures and techniques that groups can use against governments and corporations that are “not doing enough to fight global warming” – whatever that means.
The executive summary demonstrates that the lack of physical evidence is no obstacle to the UN organizations to claim harm:
“Impacts such as heat waves and destructive coastal storms are growing in frequency and severity as a result of human-cause emissions. The costs to governments, private actors, and communities of dealing with these impacts are significant.
“National and international policymakers have struggled to develop effective means of addressing both the underlying causes and the effects of climate change. Climate change mitigation and adaptation policies have emerged slowly and have often set targets based on political feasibility rather than the consensus scientific understanding of what is required to stabilize the climate at an acceptable level.
“National and international policymakers have succeeded in creating some legal frameworks for climate action. Many nations have laws or policies addressing aspects of the climate problem, and the Paris Agreement provided for a catalogue of national commitments toward the goal of averting average global warming in excess of 1.5°C and 2°C. Litigants have begun to make use of these codifications in arguments about the adequacy or inadequacy of efforts by national governments to protect individual rights vis-à-vis climate change and its impacts.” [Boldface added.]
As Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) said: “Crucial legal predicate for pushing governments is code for the hook that activist green groups, attorneys general and courts are looking for.” “The key question, which this cryptically addresses, is the legal risk that results from staying in Paris,”
No doubt, the state attorneys general and politicians who tried to censor independent review of the lack of physical evidence supporting the notion that CO2 is the control knob of climate are looking at how to apply this UN document for their purposes. The legal tar pits that it creates will not benefit the public but only special interest groups seeking to limit economic growth. See links under After Paris!
Book Review “Clexit”: In “Clexit: For a Brighter Future” retired GE power engineer / executive Donn Dears writes a clear, succinct argument exposing the myths that the United States can safely and economically convert from fossil fuels to solar and wind. In so doing, he bares the folly of those who assert that the nation should remain in the United Nations’ Climate Treaties, including the UNFCCC and the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Agreement is so poorly justified that at the last moment then-President Obama demanded substantial changes to give it the appearance of a non-binding agreement. Yet, many politicians act as if it is as binding to the US as a treaty, even though it has no Senate approval as required by the Constitution for a binding treaty.
In Clexit, Mr. Dears demonstrates that it is impossible to cut human carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions sufficiently to slow or stop climate change. To perpetuate this impossible concept and require major sacrifices by the US public in such a vain effort is an immoral waste of resources.
The Paris Agreement became effective on November 4, 2016 when 55 countries, emitting 55% of world-wide human CO2 emissions, ratified it. Even though Mr. Obama did not bother to submit it to the Senate for approval, his Administration transferred hundreds of millions to a fund under the agreement, the Green Climate Fund, to be administrated by the UN – the same officials who helped create the myth that human CO2 and GHGs emissions are the primary cause of climate change, which has been ongoing for hundreds of millions of years. A goal of the agreement is to have the fund grow to $100 billion per year.
The Paris Agreement calls for the US to cut GHG emissions by 80% by 2050, a concept proposed in 2007 in the US Senate, on which the Senate did not act. In a series of chapters surprisingly free of jargon one normally expects from an expert on electrical power, Mr. Dears demonstrates that unless there are unforeseen, breathtaking, technological breakthroughs, the stated goals of the Agreement are hopelessly fanciful.
Mr. Dears demonstrates that the Agreement is very one-sided, against industrialized nations. Based on 2014 data, the US and EU28 (28 countries in the European Union) emitted less than 25% of CO2, while China and India emitted more than 36%, mostly for electricity. Yet, the agreement calls for the US and EU28 cutting emissions by 80% by 2050, with a world-wide cut of 50% (including China and India). Emissions from China and India can continue to grow until 2030.
Dears argues that world-wide emissions cuts of 50% cannot be achieved, even if the US, Europe, Russia, and Japan totally stopped all emissions!
Similarly, Mr. Dears addresses the myth that solar and wind can replace fossil fuels in the US. There is no cost-effective, reliable, non-fossil fuel, non-nuclear back-up that is commercially available. Solar and wind require full back-up when they fail.
Apparently, the politicians and others advocating the UN agreements and solar and wind as substitutes for fossil fuels cannot comprehend the scope of the problem. How many of those stridently advocating solar and wind would choose to use medical facilities, or even electronic devises, if they were powered exclusively by solar and wind?
See “Clexit for a Brighter Future”; By Donn Dears, Critical Thinking Press, Paperback, 2017 On Amazon, $9.95 https://www.amazon.com/Clexit-Brighter-Future-Donn-Dears/product-reviews/0981511937, and Article # 3.
Anatomy of a Deep State: Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel has a lucid article on the EPA Office of Scientific Integrity illustrating why the Trump administration will be in a long battle to restore scientific integrity in many agencies in the US government. Political operatives with science in their titles are no assurance that their performance and actions will be determined by observations and physical evidence. Efforts to change will be stridently resisted by those who benefit from the political state. See Article # 1.
Peak Oil Reversed? Those who recall the dire claims of the 1970s that the world will run out of oil (and the US out of natural gas) by the end of the 20th century may find an article on peak oil demand amusing. It is difficult to assess how much of this notion is based on realistic trends and how much on current fads that may vanish. See Article # 2.
Number of the Week: 1927 – 90 years ago. In his book discussed above, Donn Dears states that pumped hydro storage was first used in 1927 by Connecticut Power and Light. This involves pumping water uphill, when electricity is in excess; to be run through turbines and generate electricity when it is needed. There have been no major breakthroughs in recent years to supplant it. As Dears illustrates many of the same organizations that oppose fossil fuels also oppose pumped storage — the only proven technology on a commercial scale to help make solar and wind reliable.
1. Anatomy of a Deep State
The EPA’s ‘Science Integrity Official’ is plotting to undermine Trump’s agenda.
By Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, May 25, 2017
Exposing some of the difficulties the new administration faces in changing Washington, the journalist writes:
“On May 8 a woman few Americans have heard of, working in a federal post that even fewer know exists, summoned a select group of 45 people to a June meeting in Washington. They were almost exclusively representatives of liberal activist groups. The invitation explained they were invited to develop ‘future plans for scientific integrity’ at the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Meet the deep state. That’s what conservatives call it now, though it goes by other names. The administrative state. The entrenched governing elite. Lois Lerner. The federal bureaucracy. Whatever the description, what’s pertinent to today’s Washington is that this cadre of federal employees, accountable to no one, is actively working from within to thwart Donald Trump’s agenda.
“There are few better examples than the EPA post of Scientific Integrity Official. (Yes, that is an actual job title.) The position is a legacy of Barack Obama, who at his 2009 inaugural promised to ‘restore science to its rightful place’—his way of warning Republicans that there’d be no more debate on climate change or other liberal environmental priorities.
“Team Obama directed federal agencies to implement ‘scientific integrity’ policies. Most agencies tasked their senior leaders with overseeing these rules. But the EPA—always the overachiever—bragged that it alone had chosen to ‘hire a senior level employee’ whose only job would be to ‘act as a champion for scientific integrity throughout the agency.’
“In 2013 the EPA hired Francesca Grifo, longtime activist at the far-left Union of Concerned Scientists. Ms. Grifo had long complained that EPA scientists were ‘under siege’—according to a report she helped write—by Republican ‘political appointees’ and ‘industry lobbyists’ who had ‘manipulated’ science on everything from ‘mercury pollution to groundwater contamination to climate science.’
“As Scientific Integrity Official, Ms. Grifo would have the awesome power to root out all these meddlesome science deniers. A 2013 Science magazine story reported she would lead an entire Scientific Integrity Committee, write an annual report documenting science ‘incidents’ at the agency, and even ‘investigate’ science problems—alongside no less than the agency’s inspector general.
“And get this: ‘Her job is not a political appointment,’ the Science article continues, ‘so it comes with civil service protections.’ Here was a bureaucrat with the authority to define science and shut down those who disagreed, and she could not be easily fired, even under a new administration.
“Ms. Grifo perhaps wasn’t too busy in the Obama years, since EPA scientists were given carte blanche to take over the economy. She seems to have been uninterested when EPA scientists used secret meetings and private email to collude with environmental groups—a practice somewhat lacking in scientific integrity.
“She has been busier these past few months. In March the Sierra Club demanded that the EPA’s inspector general investigate whether the agency’s newly installed administrator, Scott Pruitt, had violated policy by suggesting carbon dioxide might not be the prime driver of global warming. The inspector general referred the matter to . . . the Scientific Integrity Official. So now an unelected, unappointed activist could pass judgment on whether the Senate-confirmed EPA chief is too unscientific to run his own agency. So much for elections.
“There’s also that ‘scientific integrity’ event planned for June. Of the 45 invitations, only one went to an organization ostensibly representing industry, the American Chemistry Council. A couple of academics got one. The rest? Earthjustice. Public Citizen. The Natural Resources Defense Council. Center for Progressive Reform. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Environmental Defense Fund. Three invites alone for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Anyone want to guess how the meeting will go?“
This is a government employee using taxpayer funds to gather political activists on government grounds to plot—let’s not kid ourselves—ways to sabotage the Trump administration. Ms. Grifo did not respond to a request for comment.
“Messrs. Pruitt and Trump should take the story as a hint of the fight they face to reform government. It’s hard enough to overcome a vast bureaucracy that ideologically opposes their efforts. But add to the challenge the powerful, formalized resistance of posts, all across the government, like the Scientific Integrity Official. Mr. Obama worked hard to embed his agenda within government to ensure its survival. Today it is the source of leaks, bogus whistleblower complaints, internal sabotage.
“Pitched battle with these folks is no way to govern. The better answer is dramatic agency staff cuts—maybe start with the post of Scientific Integrity Official?—as well as greater care in hiring true professionals for key bureaucratic posts. The sooner department heads recognize and take action against that deep state, the sooner this administration might begin to drain the swamp.”
2. Get Ready for Peak Oil Demand
There’s a growing consensus that the end of ever-rising consumption is in sight. The big question that many oil companies are debating: When?
By Lynn Cook and Elena Cherney, WSJ, May 21, 2017
SUMMARY: In a lengthy article journalists write:
“The world’s largest oil companies are girding for the biggest shift in energy consumption since the Industrial Revolution: After decades of growth, global demand for oil is poised to peak and fall in the coming years.
“New technologies that improve fuel efficiency are starting to push down the amount of gasoline and diesel that’s needed for transportation, and a consensus is growing that fuel demand for passenger cars could fall as carbon rules go into effect, electric vehicles gain traction and the internal combustion engine gets re-engineered to be dramatically more efficient. Western countries’ growth used to move in lockstep with their energy consumption, but that phenomenon is starting to decouple in advanced economies.
“While most big oil companies foresee a day when the world will need less crude, timing when that peak in oil demand will materialize is one of the hottest flashpoints for controversy within the industry. It’s tough to predict because changes to oil demand will hinge on future disruptive technologies, such as batteries in electric cars that will allow drivers to travel for hundreds of miles on a single charge.
“Hitting such a plateau would mark the first time that demand has declined even when economies are growing since Col. Edwin Drake jury-rigged a pipe to drill for oil in Pennsylvania in the late 1850s. Yet, for many companies and investors, the question isn’t whether this immense turning point will happen—it’s when.
“Getting that timing right will separate the winners from the losers, and it has become a major preoccupation for energy economists and a flashpoint for controversy within the industry.
“Forecasts for peak oil demand diverge by decades. The Paris-based International Energy Agency argues that demand will grow, albeit slowly, past 2040. And the two biggest U.S. oil companies, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. , say peak demand isn’t in sight.
“But some big European producers predict that a peak could emerge as soon as 2025 or 2030, and they are overhauling their long-term investment plans to diversify away from crude oil. Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Norway’s Statoil SA are placing bigger bets on natural gas and renewables, including wind and solar.
“‘Nobody knows’ when demand will peak, says Spencer Dale, group chief economist for BP PLC , which issues a widely watched annual outlook. The company’s base case calls for a peak in the mid-2040s—with the caveat that it could come sooner or later. ‘There are huge bands of uncertainty around that,’ Mr. Dale says.
“The uncertainty stems from a host of variables, including the pace of technological changes that will make renewables and electric vehicles more cost-competitive; the toughness of new regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change; and the rate of economic growth in developing countries, which is currently driving the increase in oil demand.
“Those factors are making it much harder to predict long-term demand than in the past, according to many energy-industry executives and economists.
“Calling it accurately is high stakes for an industry sitting on trillions of dollars of crude-oil reserves. Whenever it finally does happen, the tipping point from global oil-demand growth to decline will reverberate through the energy world, knocking down oil prices and some companies’ shareholders.
“The idea that electric vehicles and alternative forms of energy will increasingly displace crude oil is one that big-name investors are starting to ask about.
“‘We have lots of clients in the financial sector asking about peak demand,’ says Linda Giesecke, research director at Wood Mackenzie, an energy consulting firm. ‘It’s because you have this threat of disruptive technology’ such as electric vehicles, she says. ‘If it is disruptive, it will come fast. That’s why it’s so hard to forecast.’
“Case in point: Shareholders of Occidental Petroleum Corp. voted this month to ask the company to assess long-term impacts of climate change on its business. It was the first time such a proposal passed at a major U.S. oil-and-gas company. BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest asset manager, supported the resolution, marking the first time it went against management wishes to support such a climate resolution
“Historically, producing crude oil has been a growth industry, if a cyclical one, with energy demand moving in step with economic output. Since 1965, global oil consumption has increased from 30 million barrels a day to nearly 95 million.
“During those decades, companies built strategic plans around the assumption that they would always need to find more oil, and analysts obsessed over whether there would be enough crude in the ground to fuel growth. When oil hit its high over $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008, some of the run-up was fueled by concern about hitting maximum output, or so-called peak oil, the point at which normal declines in output from producing oil fields outpace the industry’s ability to develop new supply.
“Now, peak-oil theory has been turned on its head, and forecasting peak demand has taken center stage.
“Some companies, particularly European energy outfits, see the tipping point coming soon enough that they are talking about it publicly, and overhauling their long-term investment plans to accommodate a greater emphasis on natural gas and renewables. Shell and Statoil say peak oil demand could come as soon as the mid-2020s, though around 2030 is more likely; the chief executive officer of France’s Total SA says he wouldn’t be surprised if it happens by 2040.
“But the American companies are betting on a more bullish future. Exxon Mobil, the largest U.S. oil company, sees no end to the world’s need for more crude. In its forecast through 2040, Exxon predicts that oil will remain the dominant fuel source, as demand for both plastics and transportation grows, mostly because of increasing incomes across Asia. It does expect to see huge strides made in fuel efficiency, with the vehicle fleet improving to 50 miles a gallon from the current 30 MPG, but thinks the growth in other areas will have a bigger influence on oil use.
“Chevron’s outlook is similar: It expects roughly half the world’s energy needs will be met by oil and natural gas combined by 2040. Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Saudi Arabian Oil Co., says demand is unlikely to peak before 2050.” [The report continues highlighting some of the disagreements,]
3. The Race to Build a Better Battery for Storing Power
Long-term, utility-scale storage would turn solar and wind energy into on-demand sources of electricity
By Ken Wells, WSJ, May 21, 2017
SUMMARY: After a lengthy discussion on the need for better batteries, the reporter writes:
“Little wonder, then, that big-name companies such as Microsoft Corp. are testing the waters. The software and cloud-storage giant is in the midst of a three-year research deal with the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute at the University of Texas-San Antonio to determine how utility-scale battery technology might help it better and more cleanly manage the power needs of its 100 or so data centers around the world.
“This summer, Microsoft plans to test a number of battery technologies at its $1 billion Boydton, Va., data center. The idea is to “see what chemistries work best” and to determine how best to integrate them into the local electrical grid, says Brian Janous, Microsoft’s director of energy strategy.
“What’s alluring, he says, is that renewables anchored by large-scale batteries eventually could give their owners not just the ability to generate some portion of their own power needs, but to produce and save surplus power that can be sold back to the grid. Indeed, a corporate utility-scale battery system might in itself become a “grid asset” if integrated, say, into a utility’s emergency backup power plan to cope with outages, Mr. Janous says.
“While many current projects employ familiar lithium-ion—the battery of cellphones, laptops and electric vehicles—others are testing more esoteric chemistries and technologies. Prominent among these are liquid electrochemical systems known as flow batteries that are constructed in large tanks and have the theoretical advantage of being unlimited in size and capacity. To add battery capacity, you increase the size of the tank or link a series of tanks together.
“Flow batteries are made by taking electrolytes—a brew of metallic salts such as those that can be rendered from common metals—and pumping them through an electrochemical cell. The cell consists of a positive and negative electrode, separated by a membrane. Electricity is generated by the exchange of ions between the cathode and anode. The electrolyte flowing one way charges the battery; to discharge it you reverse the flow.
“To understand the scale of these things, consider that a flow battery installed in 2014 on an almond farm in Turlock, Calif., is housed in four cylindrical, three-story-high, beige metal tanks. The battery serves the farm’s solar-powered irrigation system.
For long-duration storage, flow batteries are the most likely candidates among all current technologies because they can be easily scaled to gargantuan size, and they have few moving parts and a long working life, says Mr. Srinivasan. What’s holding them back is cost: Most flow batteries use the element vanadium as an electrolyte, but it is very expensive. “We need dirt-cheap materials,” he says.
“Both Harvard and MIT are working on materials research, and Argonne is using sophisticated computer technology to invent synthetic compounds that can replace expensive natural ones like vanadium. “We’ve made tremendous progress with batteries in the past four years alone. With batteries it’s all about finding the magic materials,” he says.”