Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #288

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

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Quote of the Week. “The modern world, after all, is not the product of a successful search for consensus. It’s what’s emerged from centuries of critical enquiry and hard clash.” – Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister of Australia

Number of the Week: 2.2 million workers needed to replace 52,000?

Letter To Scott Pruitt: On October 17, SEPP President Kenneth Haapala sent EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt a letter requesting action on two science-based petitions for reconsideration of the Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases, one filed by the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) and one filed jointly by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Science and Environmental Policy Project. The letter stated a willingness to assist in a new Endangerment Finding assessment that is carried out in a fashion that is legally consistent with the relevant statute and case law. The letter contained the names of over 60 supporters of the petitions with expertise in climate science and related science fields or energy, public health, and welfare.

The letter was accompanied by a cover letter from CEI and SEPP emphasizing the burdensome nature of the wide-ranging regulations based on the Endangerment Finding. “These threaten access to affordable energy, as well as millions of jobs, and countless lives around the world. The finding has been used by other federal agencies to greatly expand their own regulatory programs, while other nations and international groups have relied on it to justify their own restrictions on affordable energy.” The cover letter was signed by Sam Kazman, general counsel for CEI. James Wallace and Joseph D’Aleo of the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) assisted in gathering supporters for the petition.

Given the current turmoil in Washington, unsurprisingly, some reporters did not have the story quite correct. Neither CEI nor SEPP is “conservative” organizations. CEI can best be described as libertarian. Unless the urging that “science-based” public policy be based on rigorous science is an ideology, members of SEPP defy political classification. Although SEPP has worked with The Heartland Institute, SEPP is not part of that organization. SEPP is incorporated in Virginia and has separate officers, board of directors, attorney, accountant, etc. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy – Petition.

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Two Separate Petitions: Immediately after the inauguration of President Trump, CHECC quietly filed a petition requesting the EPA to reconsider the Endangerment Finding, based on new science. The appeal focused on additional data showing that the “hot spot” cannot be found, which was central to theoretical claims of a distinct human fingerprint, and a new study by Wallace, Christy, and D’Aleo showing that natural variation explains changes in atmospheric temperatures far better than rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.

Using simultaneous equations, the new study finds that the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) explains atmospheric temperature variation, particularly if ENSO involves changes in solar activity and the 1977 Pacific Ocean Shift. The 1977 shift baffled scientists at the time.

CEI and SEPP approached the Endangerment Finding differently. After EPA made the endangerment finding in December 2009, ten petitions were filed to reconsider the finding including a joint petition by CEI, SEPP, and Freedom Works. EPA stated its reasoning for denying the ten petitions on July 2010, leading to an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn the EPA decision.

To prepare for a request to reconsider under the new administration, SEPP reviewed multiple volumes of text claimed to justify the denial of prior petitions to clearly delineate the reasons why a new petition for reconsideration is germane.

In the past, the EPA rejected arguments such as:

· conspiracy to manipulate data to produce artificial trends,

· errors in the 2007 Assessment Report (AR-4) of the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

· claims that climate change is not happening, and

· the failure to find a hot-spot.

It appears that supporters of the finding consider that the hot spot may be diffused through the atmosphere, thus not a key issue, even though it was a key issue for several of the IPCC reports.

According to the EPA reports “EPA relied on major scientific assessments, including reports from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, National Academy of Sciences, and IPCC, because they represent the best available information to determine the state of climate change science.”

Some of the best available scientific assessments are disturbing. For example, The summary of the report of the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) states:

“GREENHOUSE GASES such as carbon dioxide (CO2) absorb heat (infrared radiation) emitted from Earth’s surface. Increases in the atmospheric concentrations of these gases cause Earth to warm by trapping more of this heat. Human activities—especially the burning of fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution—have increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations by about 40%, with more than half the increase occurring since 1970. Since 1900, the global average surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F). This has been accompanied by warming of the ocean, a rise in sea level, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and many other associated climate effects. Much of this warming has occurred in the last four decades. Detailed analyses have shown that the warming during this period is mainly a result of the increased concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Continued emissions of these gases will cause further climate change, including substantial increases in global average surface temperature and important changes in regional climate. The magnitude and timing of these changes will depend on many factors, and slowdowns and accelerations in warming lasting a decade or more will continue to occur. However, long-term climate change over many decades will depend mainly on the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted as a result of human activities.” [Boldface added]

The conclusions states:

“This document explains that there are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. It discusses the evidence that the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities. Further climate change is inevitable; if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, future changes will substantially exceed those that have occurred so far. There remains a range of estimates of the magnitude and regional expression of future change, but increases in the extremes of climate that can adversely affect natural ecosystems and human activities and infrastructure are expected.” [Boldface added.]

As decades of laboratory tests show, the issue is not that increasing CO2 may cause warming. but the issue is: to what extent? Further, the “well understood physical mechanisms” may be a major issue!

As one example, the Kiehl-Trenberth Energy Budget model (which is generally accepted by the modelers) follows the speculation in the Charney Report. The release of latent heat in the troposphere causes warming far exceeding that from CO2 alone. But, rigorous testing of this mechanism is lacking.

Because these “well established” studies state the greenhouse effect occurs in the atmosphere, SEPP focused on atmospheric data rather than general climate change. Further, atmospheric temperatures calculated from satellite data are the most global, that is, most comprehensive, data existing.

SEPP found none of the reports cited by the EPA as evidence address atmospheric warming, or the lack thereof. Why the presidents of scientific organizations such as the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences would sign reports blaming atmospheric gases for global warming, without discussing atmospheric temperatures, can only be known to them.

By contrast, John Christy’s presentations to Congress, such as on February 2, 2016, showed the models greatly overestimate atmospheric warming. The atmospheric data his organization presents monthly is in marked contrast to the surface data, which may be subject to many other human and natural influences. CEI agreed that new atmospheric temperature data would be a focus in requesting a reconsideration of the Endangerment Finding, which was quietly filed in February.

Review of EPA postings in the closing days of the Obama Administration indicated that focusing on atmospheric data would be a more effective strategy for the brief petition than other strategies. These late postings are in three volumes under EPA’s Response to the Petitions to Reconsider. They are: Volume 1: Climate Science and Data Issues Raised by Petitioners; Volume 2: Issues Raised by Petitioners on EPA’s Use of IPCC; and Volume 3: Process Issues Raised by Petitioners.

The major points in the CEI/SEPP petition are: 1. There has been no statistically significant atmospheric warming despite a continued increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels; 2. Contrary to the endangerment finding’s second line of evidence, changes in global temperatures in recent decades are far from unusual; and 3. The growing accumulation and refinement of balloon and satellite data demonstrates that the atmosphere is far less sensitive to carbon dioxide forcing than predicted by the climate models.

Please note that high points in atmospheric temperatures from the El Niño year of 1998 to the El Niño year of 2016 show there is no increase in temperatures beyond that which can be attributed to instrument error – essentially zero increase. Yet, according to data from Mauna Loa the mean annual concentration of CO2 was 366.70 ppm (parts per million) in 1998 and 404.21 ppm in 2016, an increase of 10.2%. There appears to be no increase in the effect of CO2, and no amplification of temperature increase from water vapor as shown in the Kiehl-Trenberth Energy Budget model. Earlier temperatures were influenced by volcanic activity reducing measured temperatures.

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Challenging the Orthodoxy – Petition, and Defending the Orthodoxy.

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End Sue and Settle? The EPA has established a procedure called Sue and Settle. It would encourage certain organizations friendly to increasing government regulations to sue the EPA. Some of these organizations may be receiving funds from the EPA. Then, as the litigation continued in court, the EPA and the suing organization would reach an out-of-court agreement, often requiring the EPA to expand regulatory power. The court would certify the settlement, giving the EPA added legal power. Often, many individuals and organizations affected by this increase in regulatory power would be excluded from the procedure, thus have no say in procedures that may severely affect them, or rights to just compensation if property rights were taken.

The entire procedure is an expansion of executive power over what should be legislative power and the rights of citizens. EPA Administrator Pruitt has issued an order for the EPA to end this practice. Legislative action is needed to end the practice for good. See Article # 2 and links under EPA and other Regulators on the March

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California Wildfires: Sudden intense winds in Sonoma and Napa drove fires that caused significant damage and deaths in places such as Santa Rosa, typically not known for seasonal fires. Of course, global warming was one of the usual suspects. Meteorologist Cliff Mass has a description of the unusual weather that contributed to these fires:

“In short, this blog will make the case that the extreme nature of the wildfires were [sic] the result of a very unusual weather event, one that our weather models had the ability to forecast and warn about, if only their output were applied more effectively. The blog also suggests that better use of state-of-the-art weather prediction offers the hope of preventing a similar tragedy.”

To summarize: the intense localized winds were the result of established, mountain-wave breaking intensified by a thermal inversion. The 60-90 mph winds were local, with near-by areas having moderate winds. [The records date back only to the 1990s.] The fires had nothing to do with “climate change.” A similar situation can be seen along a beach, where stronger breaking waves occur in certain areas. See links under Changing Weather.

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Instrumentation Issues: Australian Jennifer Marohasy brings up a problem with the changes in instrumentation. If the new, automated instruments measure at shorter intervals than previous instruments, higher record temperatures may result than with the prior instruments. Such a change creates a problem in maintaining meaningful records. Careful calibration is required, and it is doubtful that blanket mathematical formula are sufficient. See link under Measurement Issues – Surface.

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Number of the Week: 2.2 million workers needed to replace 52 thousand? One of the sillier essays in Politico stated: “And as jobs go, coal mining is now a tiny sliver of the U.S. economy, employing about 52,000 Americans last month, down 70 percent over three decades… By contrast, the solar and wind industries employed almost 10 times as many Americans last year, and they’re both enjoying explosive growth.”

If this essay is correct (it is not, and the definitions are vague), the energy industry that employed only 52,000 in mining produced 30% of the US Electricity in 2016, but wind and solar required 520,000 employees to produced 7% (6% wind and 1% solar). To generate the electricity produced by the coal industry, the wind and solar industries would need 2.2 million workers. Who can afford such inefficiency? See link under Defending the Orthodoxy and https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_in_the_united_states

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ARTICLES:

 

1. The Clean Power Plan’s Counterfeit Benefits

The Obama EPA claimed its regulation would have a $55 billion payoff. You’ll never believe how.

By Steve Milloy, WSJ, Oct 15, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-clean-power-plans-counterfeit-benefits-1508104504?tesla=y

SUMMARY: The author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA” who served on the EPA Trump transition team, now writes:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is a milestone. No Republican administration has ever mustered the courage to roll back a major EPA regulation. In a clever twist, the Trump administration has done so by directly challenging the plan’s purported health benefits.

Although the Clean Power Plan was pitched as a way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants, averting climate change was not how the Obama EPA justified the rule. In 2015 House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith forced Obama’s EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, to acknowledge that the plan would produce no change to global temperatures. Instead, the EPA justified the net benefit of the rule based on collateral reductions in power plants’ emissions of fine particulate matter. In regulatory parlance, this soot is called PM2.5.

While the compliance costs to industry of the Clean Power Plan could be as high as $33 billion a year, the Obama EPA claimed that the economic benefits from reducing PM2.5 emissions would be even larger—as much as $55 billion a year.

What are the supposed $55 billion in economic benefits? That sum is intended to represent the value of thousands of premature deaths allegedly prevented every year by the Clean Power Plan via the co-benefit of reduced PM2.5 emissions. The EPA values lives “saved” at around $9 million each. Thousands times millions equal billions.

EPA staff invented this calculus in 1996 to justify the agency’s first effort to regulate PM2.5, although there’s no scientific evidence, then or now, to support the notion that particulates in outdoor air kill people. The EPA regulated them anyway, stiff-arming not only the Republican-controlled Congress’s demands for proof of the danger of PM2.5 emissions but the objections of then-Vice President Al Gore, who thought the rule too costly.

The Clean Air Act requires air-quality standards for pollutants such as PM2.5 be set at a “safe” level. The EPA has long claimed that there is no safe level of exposure to PM2.5 and that inhalation can cause death within hours. But the EPA could never lower the PM2.5 standard to zero because such a standard could not be attained even if the economy was entirely shut down.

The Trump EPA has now largely jettisoned the notion that PM2.5 is a killer by slashing the supposed economic benefits of reduced emissions by $29 billion per year. That nets out favorably against the rule’s anticipated annual costs of as much as $33 billion.

A robust body of scientific literature—from large epidemiologic studies to clinical research to historical air-quality data—supports the EPA’s reversal. Standing against it are a few decades of dubious agency-funded studies, the underlying data for which the agency has kept well hidden in order to prevent independent analyses. The Obama EPA even defied a congressional subpoena in order to keep its PM2.5 epidemiologic secret.

Mr. Malloy concludes that this may be the beginning of the end of the “war on coal”, but green groups and NY Attorney General Schneiderman threaten to sue. However, according to Mr. Malloy:

“When the Supreme Court voted to stay the Clean Power Plan in February 2016, it was a clear signal that the coal industry and red-state plaintiffs would prevail on the merits in any future legal challenge. The EPA’s acknowledgment that the Clean Power Plan has no economic or climate benefits is the final nail in the regulation’s coffin.”

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2 Stopping Sue and Settle

The EPA moves to limit extortion by environmental lawsuit.

Editorial, WSJ, Oct 18, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/stopping-sue-and-settle-1508369052

SUMMARY: Claiming that the end of “sue and settle” lawsuits is a victory for democratic consent over legal extortion, the editorial states:

“For years green activists have used sue and settle to impose policies they can’t get through Congress. Their allies in the EPA would invite lawsuits, then settle with the greens by agreeing to implement some or all of their policies in consent decrees. When citizens or business complained, EPA would claim its hands were tied by the settlement.

“Mr. Pruitt saw the abuses first-hand as Oklahoma’s attorney general, notably as the state battled over the EPA’s Regional Haze Plan. Under the Clean Air Act, states are supposed to develop programs to reduce emissions. Oklahoma came up with a smart plan to do so at minimal cost by replacing coal with natural gas.

“But under a consent decree between the EPA and green litigants, the federal government prescribed a plan that required retrofitting six Oklahoma power plants with sulfur-dioxide controls. The cost: $1.8 billion. Even as the state’s utility bills skyrocketed, “the resulting impact on regional haze would be practically imperceptible,” Oklahoma Gas & Electric concluded.

“The agency overrode 17 states’ regional haze programs after sue-and-settle agreements. In total, the Obama EPA imposed a record-breaking 55 federal implementation plans under the Clean Air Act. And since 2009 EPA agreements with litigious environmental groups have resulted in no fewer than 137 new Clean Air Act regulations. The costs of several of these rules run well into the billions, including some of the most expensive ever written.

“Mr. Pruitt’s directive says the EPA will no longer commit to specific policy outcomes in its settlements or consent decrees, instead agreeing only to review a rule or provision. It will also require the EPA to provide vastly more opportunity for diverse public comment.

“Too often, bureaucrats and greens have been the sole parties involved in sue-and-settle negotiations. That has meant no dissenting perspectives and no representation for voters and consumers who pay for heavy-handed federal regulation. Under the new directive, the EPA will invite states and industries affected to weigh in. Proposed consent decrees and settlements will be open to public comment the way new or modified regulations are now.

“Environmental groups will also no longer be considered the “prevailing party” when litigation does end in settlement. This is an immediate victory for taxpayers, given that green activists have used their prevailing party status to get the EPA to reimburse them for millions of dollars in legal fees.

“These are useful changes that will improve transparency and lead to more honest policy. They are also a lesson to Congress that it needs to write environmental law with more precision so the next EPA Administrator can’t easily revive sue and settle.”

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3. Big Oil Touts Its Core Business: Fossil Fuels

Renewables alone not enough to satisfy world’s energy needs, executives say

By Sarah Kent and Lynn Cook, WSJ, Oct 18, 2017

https://www.wsj.com/articles/big-oil-touts-its-core-business-fossil-fuels-1508344897

SUMMARY: The article begins:

“Big oil company executives asserted that fossil fuels would remain the central part of their business for decades, despite recent investments in renewables and other energy sources made in response to efforts to curb carbon emissions.

“’Despite the attraction of renewables, the world can’t run on them alone and won’t be able to for some time,’ BP PLC Chief Executive Bob Dudley told the Oil & Money conference in London Wednesday.

“The remarks by Mr. Dudley and other executives at Europe’s largest oil companies represented a defense of the industry’s traditional work at a time of growing pressure from investors and activists to manage their risks related to climate change. The optimism comes as oil prices are on the rise in the recent months, closing in on $60 a barrel for Brent crude, the international benchmark, in recent days after a prolonged downturn caused by a global oversupply.”

Readers of TWTW are aware how promoters of renewables have greatly exaggerated the ability of wind and solar to deliver reliable, stable electricity at costs similar to those of fossil fuels. Despite the recent publicity of renewables, the authors conclude:

“Mr. Dudley said BP is approaching investments in renewables with caution after efforts to move ‘beyond petroleum’ in the 1990s faltered. The company is more certain of its bet on the “low-carbon” fossil fuel, natural gas, he said, arguing that the target shouldn’t be to simply race towards renewables, but to seek a solution that lowers greenhouse gas emissions.”

CONTINUE READING –>

 

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