Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #278

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org


Quote of the Week.

“…it was clear that the first and greatest need was to establish the facts of the past record of the natural climate in times before any side effects of human activities could well be important.”

– H.H. Lamb on forming the Climatic Research Unit [H/t Tim Ball]


Number of the Week: $2 Billion to $0


 

Dogmatism: In a video presentation, Professor of Toxicology Edward Calabrese summarizes his extensive research in the history of the Linear No-dose Threshold (LNT) model. The use of this model has disturbed many pharmaceutical and medical researchers. It is directly contradicted by the dose-response model on what makes a compound toxic to plants and / or animals. The intensity of exposure to the compound (or radiation, sunlight, etc.) makes a compound toxic. The intensity of exposure can be over time, or, in the case of some compounds, in the quantity consumed. Yet, low levels of exposure may be beneficial to plants and / or animals.

For example, one hundred aspirin eaten by a person at one time will likely kill that person. But, one aspirin taken with food for one hundred days will not. Some exposure to sunlight is necessary for the humans to synthesize vitamin D, unless it is taken as a dietary supplement. Yet, over-exposure can lead to skin cancer.

The EPA has dogmatically applied the LNT model arbitrarily, without conducting the necessary research to determine if the model is valid for that application. The use of the LNT model is the source for imaginary, not confirmed, deaths for EPA calculations of the benefits for many regulations. Examples of EPA regulations with imaginary deaths include tiny air-borne particles (PM 2.5), ground level ozone, and tiny amounts of mercury (from fish or coal-fired power plants). Often, the EPA does not distinguish between natural and human-caused variations in amounts of exposure.

Calabrese explains his long conversion from the LNT model to dose-response concept of what makes compound toxic to plants and animals, where low doses stimulate living organisms. Calabrese’s findings are bitterly contested by EPA supporters, many of whom benefit from its research. See Article # 1 and links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

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Watergate II – Sea Level Rise: The Watergate fiasco began with a careless break-in of an office in the Watergate complex by employees of the Nixon Administration. This was followed by clumsy efforts by the administration to deny it. Watergate II began with baseless assertions in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2013) by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These are being followed by efforts of the IPCC followers to justify them.

The issue is acceleration of sea level rise. For the last three thousand years, sea levels have been rising moderately at 7 to 8 inches (20 cm) per century. However, the Synthesis Report of AR-5 (2014) states:

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. {1.1} (p.2)

“Over the period 1992 to 2011, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass (high confidence), likely at a larger rate over 2002 to 2011. Glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide (high confidence). Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover has continued to decrease in extent (high confidence). There is high confidence that permafrost temperatures have increased in most regions since the early 1980s in response to increased surface temperature and changing snow cover. {1.1.3} (p. 4)

“Over the period 1901 to 2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m (Figure SPM.1b). The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). {1.1.4, Figure 1.1}” (p 4)

It appears that the followers of the IPCC are diligently manipulating data or disguising changes brought about by changes in instrumentation to make the IPCC findings appear to be valid. As such, they are undermining their own credibility.

As we have seen with the efforts of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)) under Tom Karl, to manipulate sea surface temperatures by declaring that temperature measurements from buoys at the surface should be cooler than those taken at ship intakes many feet below the surface (no precise depth known), we should expect similar efforts concerning rate of sea level rise. On his blog, Roy Spencer alerts us to the “tricks” being used on rate of sea level rise. He states:

“Short-term undulations in the sea level rise curve should not be used as a predictive curve for the future. They are affected by a wide variety of natural phenomena. For example, ice loss from Greenland (which was large in 2011-12) has recently reversed itself with huge gains made in the last year. These events are governed by natural variations in weather patterns, which have always occurred.

 

“For longer-term variations, yes, the rate of sea level rise during the entire period since 1993 probably is a little more than, say, during the period since 1900 (sea level rise was occurring naturally, anyway). But the inferred acceleration is small. And even that acceleration could be mostly natural — we simply don’t know.”

 

On his blog, Paul Homewood, demonstrates how short-term intervals give incorrect readings of long-term trends for Newlyn and North Shields in the UK. The long-term trends covered are from 1915 and 1895, respectively. What is seen are patterns of peaks and troughs. From such patterns, one can draw a linear trend of virtually any slope, depending on the end points selected.

The datasets for sea level rise are further complicated by use of different types of instrumentation. The traditional ones have been tidal gages, which, recently, have been supplemented, in part, by satellite measurements. The satellite readings are giving a higher rate of sea level rise than the bulk of tidal gages. It is critical that the different datasets from different types of instruments be calibrated.

As discussed in the 2008 report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), it is doubtful that sea surface temperature measurements from three major methods – buckets, ship intakes, and buoys – can be properly calibrated. The depth of the water for bucket readings and ship intakes were not properly recorded. However, there is no logical reason for not calibrating satellite measurements with tidal gage measurements.

Unfortunately, it appears that many researchers from government entities do not appear to be inclined to calibrate data from satellites with data from the tidal gages throughout the world. As such, short-term datasets are highly questionable, regardless of the source of the data, when they are presented without referencing to long-term datasets that may be available.

This practice is particularly disturbing, because it is similar to what Mr. Mann did, as exposed during Climategate. He combined two datasets from totally different measuring methods without proper calibration, then proceeded to ignore the first source of data when it diverged from the new data source of data.

When government entities entrusted to maintain historic records, such as NOAA, Ashville, (National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)) and NASA-GISS, on Broadway, continue to manipulate data and present data from different instruments, without proper calibration; they are failing their public purpose and misleading the public. For long-term data, the above quote from H.H. Lamb applies. These entities demonstrate no interest in separating the human influence from natural variation. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – NIPCC, Challenging the Orthodoxy, and Changing Seas

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The Cryosphere: Adding to the complications of those defending the IPCC, and its pronouncements, are reports that the ice in the polar regions is not melting fast enough to significantly contribute to accelerating rates of sea level rise. According to a presentation by a representative of NASA, Headquarters (DC), there are three components to the increasing trend in sea level rise, each contributing about equally: melting mountain glaciers, expansion of water due to ocean warming, and melting of the polar ice caps.

There is melting of some mountain glaciers, but the Himalayas seem to be holding their own. In the IPCC AR-4, (2007), which frightened many politicians, it was predicted these mountain glaciers would be gone by 2035. Expansion of the oceans due to warming is difficult to measure without reliable measurements of ocean temperatures. As discussed above, longer term sea surface temperature trends are highly questionable. The long-predicted calving of the Larsen C future iceberg, from the Larsen ice shelf may soon occur. But, there seems to be nothing unusual about the event, and floating ice melting does not increase water levels.

Further, the May 13 TWTW discussed that the estimates of the influence of the Antarctic on sea level rise since the onset of the current warming period some 18,000 years ago may be greatly overestimated in the calculations using GRACE satellite estimates of sea levels. What is attributed to the Antarctic, may have been the melting of land based ice in the Northern Hemisphere.

Now, the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), which monitors Greenland as well as anyone, is reporting that the ice mass in Greenland appears to be accumulating for 2016-17. It may be a reversal of the net ice loss reported for 2011-12.

The IPCC frequently states that weather events are not climate events, climate events require at least 30 years. This is particularly true for events involving the cryosphere, which may have abrupt warming trends. Yet, in its Summaries for Policymakers the, IPCC uses short-term trends to make alarming projections / predictions. See links under Changing Cryosphere.

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The Sun: Increasingly, we are seeing more papers stating solar changes may have major influences on the earth’s climate. Unfortunately, due to the strong bias in western scientific journals against major natural influences on climate, and any data that question the assumption that human influence dominants changes in the earth’s climate; the conclusions of these papers do not generally appear in the US popular press.

One such paper, which may be very important, appeared in the bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences. According to the journalist reporting on the paper: “…the authors of this work believe the question of what causes global changes in the Earth’s climate remains open, and will obviously be solved once and for all in the next 10–15 years.”

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Lowering Standards: Writing in Power for USA, Donn Dears discusses an article in the Wall Street Journal that totally missed the point regarding the primary cause of the blackout in South Australia. Contrary to the article, the blackout was not caused by Australia exporting fossil fuels (natural gas), but government policies favoring weather dependent sources, wind power, over reliable fossil fuels. See links under Lowering Standards.

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Web Site Hacking: The SEPP web site has been under attack again. It appears to be coming from a hacker in the Orient, probably Japan. Thus far, the attacks have not been malicious, but they are disruptive. To evaluate the problem, we have been forced to turn off the web site on several occasions and the links. Such is an inconvenience of modern convenient communications.

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Number of the Week: $2 Billion to $0. In many markets, the prices of commodities are volatile, unstable. For that reason, many players in the commodity markets who try to anticipate price also try to hedge their investments (bets). Borrowing against these investments (bets) is a sophisticated form of gambling. The Wall Street Journal has an article on a private equity fund that gambled $2 Billion on US oil and gas when prices were high. It lost.

It is reasonable for politicians and governments to seek reliable sources of energy for the future. For example, research in electricity storage may be needed. It is a problem that has existed for over one hundred years. Also, test experiments in new forms of extracting reliable energy from weather dependent wind and solar of electricity may be appropriate. But, those who commit government loans and subsidies to deploy, in quantity, sources of electricity known to be unreliable on the hope of a major technological breakthrough are gambling with public funds. See Article # 2.

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ARTICLES:

1. A Step Toward Scientific Integrity at the EPA

Scott Pruitt sweeps out Obama-era science advisers. The agency needs truly independent ones.

By Steve Malloy, WSJ, July 17, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-step-toward-scientific-integrity-at-the-epa-1500326062

SUMMARY: Steve Malloy has found a number of practices of the EPA that call into question its ability to conduct objective research. He writers:

“The Trump administration in May began the process of replacing the small army of outside science advisers at the Environmental Protection Agency. In June, 38 additional EPA advisers were notified that their appointments would not be renewed in August. To Mr. Trump’s critics, this is another manifestation of his administration’s “war on science.” Histrionics aside, the administration’s actions are long overdue.

“The most prominent of the EPA’s myriad boards of outside advisers are the Science Advisory Board and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, or CASAC. Mostly made up of university professors, these boards also frequently draw members from consulting firms and activist groups. Only rarely do members have backgrounds in industry. All EPA boards are governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires that they be balanced and unbiased. While the EPA is required by law to convene the SAB and CASAC, the agency is not bound by law to heed their advice.

“The EPA’s Obama -era ‘war on coal’ rules and its standards for ground-level ozone—possibly the most expensive EPA rule ever issued—depend on the same scientifically unsupported notion that the fine particles of soot emitted by smokestacks and tailpipes are lethal. The EPA claims that such particles kill hundreds of thousands of Americans annually.

“The EPA first considered regulating fine particles in the mid-1990s. But when the agency ran its claims past CASAC in 1996, the board concluded that the scientific evidence did not support the agency’s regulatory conclusion. Ignoring the panel’s advice, the EPA’s leadership chose to regulate fine particles anyway, and resolved to figure out a way to avoid future troublesome opposition from CASAC.

“In 1996 two-thirds of the CASAC panel had no financial connection to the EPA. By the mid-2000s, the agency had entirely flipped the composition of the advisory board so two-thirds of its members were agency grantees. Lo and behold, CASAC suddenly agreed with the EPA’s leadership that fine particulates in outdoor air kill. During the Obama years, the EPA packed the CASAC panel. Twenty-four of its 26 members are now agency grantees, with some listed as principal investigators on EPA research grants worth more than $220 million.

“Although the scientific case against particulate matter hasn’t improved since the 1990s, the EPA has tightened its grip on CASAC. In effect, EPA-funded researchers are empowered to review and approve their own work in order to rubber-stamp the EPA’s regulatory agenda. This is all done under the guise of ‘independence.’”

“Another ‘independent’ CASAC committee conducted the most recent review of the Obama EPA’s ground-level ozone standards. Of that panel’s 20 members, 70% were EPA grantees who’d hauled in more than $192 million from the agency over the years. These EPA panels make decisions by consensus, which has lately been easy enough to achieve considering they are usually chaired by an EPA grantee.”

After discussing ways that have failed to reform EPA practices, Malloy concludes:

“President Trump and his EPA administrator have ample statutory authority to rectify the problem. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt spent years familiarizing himself with the EPA’s unlawful ways. He is in the process of reaffirming the independence of the agency’s science advisory committees. This won’t mean that committee members can’t have a point of view. But a committee as a whole must be balanced and unbiased. Mr. Pruitt’s goal is the one intended by Congress—peer review, not pal review.”

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2. From $2 Billion to Zero: A Private-Equity Fund Goes Bust in the Oil Patch

The more than $1 billion of debt an EnerVest fund took on during oil’s price surge now threatens its viability

By Ryan Dezember, WSJ, July 16, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/from-2-billion-to-zero-a-private-equity-fund-goes-bust-in-the-oil-patch-1500210002

SUMMARY: In a cautionary tale of trying to get rich too fast in the oil patch: if you borrow against speculative assets, be prepared to lose it all. The journalist writes:

“A $2 billion private-equity fund that borrowed heavily to buy oil and gas wells before energy prices plunged is now worth essentially nothing, an unusual debacle that is wiping out investments by major pensions, endowments and charitable foundations.

“EnerVest Ltd., a Houston private-equity firm that focuses on energy investments, manages the fund. The firm raised and started investing money in 2013, when oil was trading at more than double the current price of about $45 a barrel. But the fund added $1.3 billion of borrowed money to boost its buying power. That later caused it trouble when oil prices tumbled.

“Now the fund’s lenders, led by Wells Fargo are negotiating to take control of the fund’s assets to satisfy its debt, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Investors in the fund, including pension funds, charitable organizations, and universities, may receive only pennies on the dollar, if that. The reporter continues:

Though private-equity investments regularly flop, industry consultants and fund investors say this situation could mark the first time that a fund larger than $1 billion has lost essentially all of its value.

EnerVest’s collapse shows how debt taken on during the drilling boom continues to haunt energy investors three years after a glut of fuel sent prices spiraling down.

At its onset, the oil bust was expected to cause widespread losses for private-equity investors. While most funds have been able to navigate the downturn and are hanging on for higher prices, there have been pockets of acute pain. EnerVest’s struggles have been among the most severe.

The equity fund taking on debt to finance additional investments is the primary cause of a possible wipe-out, as the reporter states in his article:

EnerVest was launched in 1992 and says it operates more U.S. oil and gas wells than any other company. It started out investing for GE Capital, General Electric Corp.’s finance arm. Eventually it began pooling other big investors’ cash, which it used to buy producing oil and gas wells. EnerVest hunted for fields already producing oil and gas but neglected by big oil companies. Once EnerVest bought them, it made improvements and drilled more to increase output.

The strategy isn’t as risky as staking wildcatters or borrowing heavily to buy entire oil companies, but profits are usually lower. To juice returns, however, funds managed by EnerVest and rivals that shared the strategy borrowed money as if they themselves were oil companies, encumbering all of the funds’ assets with the same debt.

Doing that eliminates a key protection for private-equity investors, which generally finance each investment independently so that soured deals don’t put good ones at risk. The use of fund-level debt effectively cross-collateralizes assets, meaning that good investments can be pulled down by bad ones.

Institutional investors were drawn to these so-called resource funds because they typically pay out steady streams of cash as soon as they make their first investments, unlike other private-equity investments that can take years to bear fruit, said Christian Busken, who advises endowments and other big energy investors as director of real assets for Fund Evaluation Group LLC.

“’It shouldn’t be something where you can be wiped out. But you are exposed to commodity prices,’ said Mr. Busken, who hasn’t worked directly with EnerVest.

EnerVest’s funds historically returned more than 30% or so, which enabled it to raise progressively larger pools of cash. In 2010, it raised about $1.5 billion for its 12th fund and added $800 million of debt. Three years later it raised $2 billion for its next and borrowed $1.3 billion. The fund bought wells in the Texas Panhandle, Utah, outside Dallas and elsewhere, according to securities filings from some of the sellers. The purchases were made largely as U.S. oil prices hovered in the $100-a-barrel range and when natural-gas prices were higher.

CONTINUE READING –>

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