Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #308

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

Group Think – Harm: Over the past few weeks, TWTW has discussed group-think, when adopted by government entities supposedly involved in science becomes Bureaucratic Science. TWTW discussed bureaucratic science at NASA, where NASA ignored important evidence of safety problems with the Space Shuttle, which led to the Challenger disaster, from joint failure, and the Columbia disaster, from shedding of insulation foam. Deliberate ignorance can be deadly.

Unfortunately, Washington’s bureaucratic science has led to the preventable deaths of millions of people and the unnecessary suffering of hundreds of millions. Without hard evidence, EPA’s first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, banned DDT, claiming it may cause cancer. This ban became the springboard for a foreign policy attempting to ban DDT world-wide.

This policy ignored the medical findings that periodic indoor spraying of huts with DDT was a very cost-effective way of controlling malaria, especially in tropical countries. After 50 years, a better method has not been developed. Estimates vary, but about 200,000 to 300,000 children die each year. There are very good reasons for restricting the use of persistent chemicals, but they do not justify US government policies leading to mass death and harm to humanity. With bureaucratic science, no one is accountable for harm done to humanity.

The fear of carbon dioxide causing dire global warming is not based on hard evidence. It is based on speculation in the Charney report, published by the National Academy of Science in 1979, that the modest warming shown in over 100 years of laboratory experiments will be amplified by dire warming from increasing water vapor. This speculated water vapor warming has not been observed or demonstrated. However, dire warming, without hard evidence, has become part of the bureaucratic science of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

The USGCRP submitted its draft of the Fourth National Assessment (NCA-4) to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine for review. This would have been a perfect opportunity for the National Academies to revisit the Charney Report and update it with observations of atmospheric temperatures which did not exist at the time of the Charney Report. The atmospheric data contradict the speculation in the Charney Report. Entities using proper science procedures would revise the 1979 report.

Based on a brief look of the Prepublication Copy, “The Committee to Review the Draft Fourth National Climate Assessment, “The Committee,” convened by the Nation Academies in November 2017, did nothing to upset the bureaucratic science so fully entrenched in Washington.

TWTW will review the report by “The Committee” further to see if there is any hope that objective science, based on observations, has been added to the bureaucratic ritual. In so doing, TWTW will be conscious of the harm done by bureaucratic science in places such as Africa, where about 600 million people do not have access to reliable electrical power and are being denied funding for coal-fired power plants, based on false fears of carbon dioxide. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Defending the Orthodoxy, and Return of King Coal?


Quote of the Week: “It is dangerous to be right in matters where men in authority are wrong.” – Voltaire [H/t Tim Ball]

Number of the Week: 27.5 times in 10 years


Deliberate Ignorance: As Challenger disaster demonstrated, deliberate ignorance is characteristic of bureaucratic science. Evidence that contradicts policy must be ignored. The Global Warming Policy Forum posted an interview with Henrik Svensmark and his son Jacob. Henrik articulated the Svensmark hypothesis, that solar activity regulates, in part, cosmic rays hitting the earth’s atmosphere at high energy levels. These, in turn, cause cloudiness. Higher solar activity reduces cosmic ray impacts and thus reduces cloudiness. Although well tested, this hypothesis is largely ignored by the IPCC, the USGCRP, and the rest of the climate establishment.

The major objection seems to be the lack of a significant effect during a solar cycle. However, due to the internal stability of the climate system, particularly from the oceans, we may not see the effects of cosmic ray fluctuations [does more cloudiness cause warming or cooling?] for several solar cycles. If the alarmists use the solar cycle to dismiss the Svensmark hypothesis, they have no logically consistent basis to claim “global warming” is hiding in the oceans. See links under Science: Is the Sun Rising?, Commentary: Is the Sun Rising?, and Below the Bottom Line.


Eight Questions: Although The Heartland Institute published the NIPCC Reports, which were initiated by SEPP Chairman emeritus Fred Singer, SEPP is not a part of the Heartland organization. However, when preparing a response to the eight questions posed by the judge overseeing the public nuisance lawsuits of San Francisco and Oakland against oil companies, Jay Lehr of Heartland requested Ken Haapala to give brief comments.

The questions, presented in last week’s TWTW, are at different levels of complexity, posing a problem of at what level of complexity and scientific education should one respond. The 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA is useful. The court gave Massachusetts standing that the state could sue the EPA to regulate “greenhouse gases” under the Clean Air Act – which states that Congress must regulate “any air pollutant” that can “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

By a 5 to 4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled Massachusetts had standing to sue the EPA over potential damage caused to its territory by global warming, namely land lost to sea level rise caused by vehicle emissions. On this, the entire EPA edifice of regulating CO2 is based.

The decision ignored the fact that 18,000 years ago, Massachusetts was covered by thousands of feet of ice, and that the melting of the ice increased sea levels by some 120 meters (400 feet), which no doubt resulted in a loss of territory. Based on the Supreme Court argument, and absent any contradictory evidence, one must assume most federal judges have very limited knowledge of science, mathematics, geological history, etc. Further, there is no reason to assume a federal judge can understand complex charts, graphs, etc. With that in mind, Haapala wrote a preface to his response, part of which follows (typos revised):

The answers to these questions must be placed into a context that makes sense. Below is an effort to do so, followed by a brief answer to each question. Emphasis is placed on hard evidence, not speculation. The hard evidence comes from repeated laboratory tests or repeated observations which include all information, including that which contradicts an important concept. Computer models that are not rigorously tested or fail basic tests are not hard evidence, no matter how often repeated. US global climate models have not been rigorously tested.

Energy Flows: The issue is energy flow: what slows or intensifies energy flow to the earth and from the earth to space. It is not straight forward. There are several sources of instability and / or uncertainty.

The principle source of energy is the sun, electromagnetic light, solar wind (plasma), and solar magnetism. The changing intensity of the sun, changing orbit of the earth, and changing tilt affect the earth’s climate. Also, cosmic rays, from exploding stars, play a role (elements heavier than iron come from supernova explosions.) These are external sources of instability, uncertainty.

Complicating the issue even further is the earth’s rotation changing two dynamic fluids – the atmosphere and the oceans. Oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface. Fluid dynamics is not well understood. Forced by the rotation of the earth, these two dynamic fluids are unstable, but internal to the climate system.

Thus, we have natural variation without human influence, some of it is poorly understood or misunderstood. For example, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the atmospheric gas most readily absorbed by water, rain. Cold water more readily absorbs gases than warm water. When the oceans cool they absorb more atmospheric CO2, when they warm they release CO2, increasing its concentration in the atmosphere.

This variation in the composition of the atmosphere is seen in ice cores borings, such as those taken at Vostok in Antarctica. Unfortunately, many people, including Al Gore, had the time lines wrong. They falsely believe the variation in CO2 caused the variation in temperatures seen is ice cores, thus declaring CO2 was the cause of the temperature change. The cause-effect mechanism was the opposite. Temperature change caused by other mechanisms subsequently caused change in CO2 concentrations. Careful examination of the ice cores at the end of the last warm period, the Eemian, show that falling temperatures lead falling CO2 concentrations for about 14,000 years.

Based on geology, for over 2.5 million years the world has been in a cold period with ice ages interrupted by brief warm periods of 10,000 to 15,000 years. We have been in a warm period for about 11,500 years called the Holocene. The Earth’s orbital changes, known as Milankovitch cycles, are the generally accepted explanation for these broad changes in temperatures. What occurred earlier than 2.5 million years ago is not germane for this discussion.

Recent warming and cooling: Within the Holocene, we have strong physical evidence of warming and cooling, less extreme than that of Milankovitch cycles. The strongest physical evidence, supported by extensive laboratory testing, indicates that changing solar energy is responsible. Changing solar energy, namely solar wind, changes the number of cosmic rays hitting the earth’s atmosphere with high energy levels, which, in turn, cause changes in condensation of water vapor causing cloudiness. More cosmic rays with high energy hitting the atmosphere results in more cloudiness. Fewer cosmic rays with high energy hitting the atmosphere results in less cloudiness. Small changes in cloudiness significantly effect the electromagnetic energy hitting the surface. For example, clouds reduce visible light, clear skies increase it, cooling and warming the planet, respectively.

Sunspots indicate the difference between the phases of an active sun with more solar wind, and a dormant sun with less solar wind. When Galileo started observing the sun with a telescope during the little ice age, there were few sunspots. In the 20th century, the sun was active, with more sunspots. These changes in solar activity explain warming and cooling periods during the Holocene, including the little ice age and the Medieval Warm Period. Russian astronomers, particularly, warn of a decline in solar activity over several solar cycles, each lasting about 11 years. This may result in a cooling period.

Greenhouse gases: The issue of greenhouse gas warming centers on how much of the energy flow passing through the atmosphere is absorbed by the atmospheric gases. Many laboratories have repeated tests for over a century, with handbooks published on the results since the 1920s. All gases absorb energy at various wavelengths, however in the wavelength of visible light, no energy is absorbed by gases. Absorption properties depend on the gas. Nitrogen, oxygen and other gases absorb energy in the ultraviolet spectrum – with wavelengths shorter than violet in visible light. Other gases, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, etc., absorb energy in the infrared spectrum, longer than red in visible light. [Infrared radiation is invisible to the human eye.] These gases absorb photons in the wavelengths of infrared radiation given off by the earth. If all the photons of a particular wavelength are absorbed, there is nothing more for gas to absorb in that wavelength. That wavelength is said to be “saturated”

Without atmospheric gases absorbing infrared radiation, the earth would be about –18 °C (0 °F) and largely uninhabitable. The day-night temperature range would be huge, similar to the moon. In the Holocene, the average temperature has been about 15 °C (59 °F), with periods of warming and cooling. The net effect of the greenhouse gases is to slow the emission of energy into space, thereby warming the planet.

Laboratory tests show the effect of greenhouse gases varies by type of gas. The dominant greenhouse gas is water vapor. It absorbs radiation from a broad range of wavelengths in the infrared range. Water vapor is also the most abundant greenhouse gas, consisting of about 1 to 2% of the atmosphere, near the surface. (Less in the deserts, more in the tropics.) However, with increasing altitude water vapor “freezes out”, falls as rain and the concentration of water vapor falls to a few parts per million. At about 10 km (33,000 feet), CO2, which does not “freeze out” becomes the most abundant greenhouse gas.

Still, CO2 constitutes only about 4 parts per 10,000 (0.04%, or 400 parts per million) of the atmosphere. Further, the absorption wavelengths of CO2 are limited. It is primarily in the 15-micron wavelength range of infrared energy that CO2 is an effective absorber, where the infrared energy emitted by the earth peaks. More significantly, the ability of additional CO2 to absorb energy falls rapidly, resulting in a rapidly declining warming effect (a logarithmic increase). For carbon dioxide, the absorption ability is far greater for the first 20 parts per million than for the later 200 parts going from 300 to 500 parts per million. After 60 ppm the absorption curve becomes quite flat!

For an overview of the Supreme Court decision see: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2006/05-1120


Combating the Beast From the East: A hard cold front hit northern Europe, which demonstrated the unreliability of depending on wind and solar for electricity. Further, the use of natural gas for heat in the UK was strained. Liquid natural gas (LNG) was required. The first shipment of LNG from the East Coast of the US was headed south in the Atlantic, apparently bound for Asia, when it was diverted to head north towards England.

This event indicates several important changes with the development of natural gas from shale. The tanker came from Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay, where a long dormant facility was converted from receiving LNG to shipping LNG. The natural gas probably came from Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. According to the EIA, Pennsylvania produces about 20% of US natural gas, second only to Texas. Also, because the tanker changed course, there is an international spot market for gas, indicating more than adequate production capability, not requiring long-term contracts. Importers in the UK were willing to pay more for the gas, than the importers were willing to pay where the tanker was headed.

Russian gas pipelines into Europe give its companies a strong edge in price. The total cost of shipping LNG from wellhead to receiving pipeline is not clearly known but estimated to be about $6 per million BTUs. With increased US production, the geographical advantage enjoyed by Russian companies is diminishing and the shipping costs appear to be diminishing.

Unfortunately, Green politicians continue to limit the ability to use hydraulic fracturing for gas in the UK, playing on false fears. Similarly, Green politicians in the northeastern states of the US prevent the citizens from enjoying the Pennsylvania bounty. Building pipelines is highly restricted by New York and in New England. Worse, New York is preventing development of Marcellus Shale in its state. Now, Governor Cuomo has declared a massive subsidy of $1.4 billion to renewable energy. If these Green politicians have a medical emergency, will they demand the facilities operate only on renewable energy?

Please note that in his analysis, Paul Homewood refutes the current, popular idea the UK is receiving major supplies of Russian gas. See links under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind, Questioning European Green, Energy Issues – Non-US, and https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9050pa2a.htm


A Litigation Win! Tim Ball was sued by Andrew Weaver, an author in four IPCC Assessment Reports. After years, Ball won in court in British Columbia. Ball describes his experience and is assessing reviving the lawsuit Mr. Michael Mann initiated against him. Group Think does not necessarily win. See link under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Additions and Corrections: Long-time SEPP supporter and TWTW reader, Ken Towe recognized an error in the TWTW statement: “that it has never well demonstrated how dense molecules of CFCs rise to the stratosphere.” As Towe asserts, molecules of Fluorine and Chlorine have been demonstrated to exist in the stratosphere. Molecules of Freon do not survive but react with Ozone. We thank Ken Towe for bringing this discrepancy to our attention. Feedback from the readers of TWTW is always appreciated and valuable.


Number of the Week: 27.5 times in 10 years: According to the EIA, Pennsylvania Natural Gas Marketed Production grew from 198,295 million cubic feet in 2008 to 5,461,259 million cubic feet in 2017 – an increase of 27.5 times in 10 years. This increase occurred on private and state-owned lands, without any special subsidies or tax incentives. There has been no significant increase in oil and gas production on federally controlled lands or waters.

Yet, citing fears produced by bureaucratic science, without hard evidence, politicians restrict the public in the US northeastern states from enjoying this, and similar, bounties. Instead, these politicians glorify themselves by announcing grand subsidies to unreliable wind and solar energy, at a great cost to the consumers and the taxpayers. See: Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind, and https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9050pa2a.htm



1. A Modest Plan to Save Coal

Subsidies for renewables distort the market. My legislation would help level the playing field.

By Rep Larry Bucshon (R, IN), WSJ, Mar 14, 2018


SUMMARY: In arguing for a method for fighting the effects of an ill-conceived tax credits for unreliable, renewable electricity, the Congressman argues with another tax credit for coal. He writes:

“Americans take electricity for granted. When we flip a light switch or turn on a television, we expect it to work every time. A resilient and reliable energy grid to deliver affordable electricity is critical for the well-being of society, the expansion of the economy, and the security of the nation.

“There are many sources of energy that can power the grid. As a supporter of an all-the-above energy strategy, I believe utility companies should rely on a diverse mix of fuel sources, just as investors rely on diversified stock portfolios to ensure their financial well-being.

“Each option has its advantages. Coal-fired electricity is one of the most reliable, fuel-secure and affordable energy sources. This was evident during the 2014 polar vortex, when subzero temperatures strained the power grid. It was the reliable baseload power plants, such as coal and nuclear, that prevented blackouts in many regions of the country. During the bomb cyclone a few weeks ago, many states relied on coal to provide more electricity than any other fuel source.

“But federal policies are distorting the energy marketplace in favor of less reliable, less resilient, less affordable sources of electricity. Renewables have received various tax subsidies for the past four decades. Even after the recent tax reform greatly simplified the code, federal taxpayers continue to provide heavy subsidies for less dependable and more expensive sources of electricity. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that tax subsidies for renewables will total more than $36 billion from 2016-20. The result is an unlevel playing field that gives an advantage to fuel sources subsidized by federal taxpayers.

“Since 2010 more than one-third of the nation’s coal-fired power plants have shut down or announced plans to close. That’s equivalent to shutting down the entire electricity supply of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky combined. Thirty-nine coal-fired electric generating units have been forced to close in the Hoosier State alone. Federal and some state policies put coal-fired generating plants at a disadvantage in the energy marketplace and make it more difficult to keep them running and providing reliable and affordable energy to American consumers.

“Ideally, these distorting taxpayer subsidies would not exist, letting market forces determine which sources of energy utility operators select. But they do. To help ensure Americans continue to enjoy reliable and affordable electricity, Congress must level the playing field.

‘That is why I am introducing the Electricity Reliability and Fuel Security Act, which would create a tax credit covering a small portion of the costs to operate and maintain existing coal-fired power plants. My proposed credit would last only five years, in contrast to 40 years of subsidies for renewables. This temporary tax credit is necessary to avoid more coal retirements while Congress, the Energy Department, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, grid operators and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. continue working together to ensure that the nation’s electricity grid remains both reliable and resilient.

The Congressman concludes with the need for reliable and affordable electricity.


2. Biofuel Mandates Are a Bad Idea Whose Time May Be Up

There’s bipartisan support for relaxing the 2005-07 mandate. It’ll have to get past Iowa’s GOP senators.

By Thomas Landstreet, WSJ, Mar 11, 2018


SUMMARY: In arguing against a government policy that is obsolete, the founding partner of N3L Capital Management states:

“The political tide may be turning against the corn ethanol mandate. The Renewable Fuel Standard, which forces oil refiners to mix corn-based fuel into gasoline, is one of history’s great policy boondoggles. Even ex-Rep. Henry Waxman of California, a key sponsor of the original legislation establishing the standard, said Thursday that he favors phasing out the mandate.

“There’s bipartisan support in Congress for such a move. Sen. Tom Udall (D., N.M.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.) have introduced the Greener Fuels Act, and Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) is said to be working his own legislation altering the mandate, in response to the recent closure of a Pennsylvania refinery.

“The corn ethanol mandate was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Two years later, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which expanded the program by providing generous tax credits and subsidies to corn growers and ethanol blenders. It also established ambitious targets, increasing annually, for biofuels in the national fuel mix. The mandate soon diverted 40% of America’s corn crop away from the food supply.”

After going through some of the problems of ethanol, including reduced fuel economy in automobiles and that ethanol cannot be shipped via conventional pipelines, the author concludes:

“One of the professed goals of the ethanol mandate was to wean the U.S. from its reliance on foreign oil—but the U.S. is already approaching energy independence because of offshore drilling programs unleashed by the Trump administration’s deregulatory blitz. And if the ethanol mandate were really about encouraging biofuel consumption, why has Congress imposed tariffs that keep out cheap Brazilian sugarcane ethanol? The truth is that the program is motivated more by the demands of domestic corn-growers than by concern over oil dependence or climate change.

“Revising the mandate will take significant courage and political will, but it’s clearly the right thing to do. The ethanol lobby is extraordinarily powerful, recycling profits gained from this self-dealing policy right back into efforts to protect it. Iowa’s Republican senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst —otherwise solid conservatives—are in thrall to this corporate welfare program and will fight to the death to keep it. But the time has come to modify the ethanol mandate before the costs to the economy and the environment grow steeper.”

The author does not discuss the harm to people in poor nations that biofuel mandates in rich nations have caused.



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