Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #321

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org The Science and Environmental Policy Project

By Ken Haapala, President

Sea Level Hockey-Sticks? Last week’s TWTW discussed the lawsuit by Rhode Island against oil companies, and the claims that dire increases in sea level rise will occur this century. These claims are like those made by Oakland, San Francisco, and New York City. To establish any observational basis for these claims, this week’s TWTW will further explore their sources.

The technical report, “The State of Narraganset Bay and Its Watershed. 2017,” is instructive. Figure 1 (p. 75) and Figure 2 (p. 76) show the decades-long sea level trends in Newport and Providence, RI, of 2.78 +/- 0.16 mm per year (1.1 inches per decade) and 2.25 +/- 0.25 mm per year (0.9 inches per decade), respectively, from the established NOAA publication “Tides and Currents.” Then, Figure 3 (p. 78) shows NOAA projections of a rise of up to 11 feet by the end of the century (extreme case)! How did a rise of 10 inches per century, with an error of about 10%, turn in to rise of 11 feet by the end of the century (280 mm per century to 3352 mm per century)? This increase in rate of rise of more than 10 times that being measured.

The average case in the NOAA projections given in Figure 3 is a sea level rise of 4 feet. This is given a 50% probability of occurring. From the observed data, this is more than 4 times that which should be expected! The citation given is Sweet, et al. 2017 which relates to the 2017 Climate Science Special Report published by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

Other citations for an acceleration of sea level rise include the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2013), which claimed that global sea level rise was 1.7 mm per year, 0.7 inches per decade, from 1901 to 2010; then jumped to 3.2 mm per year, 1.3 inches per decade, from 1993 to 2010. Satellite altimetry is used to substantiate the higher rate of sea level rise from 1993 to 2016. What caused this sudden increase in rate of sea level rise in 1993? Apparently, no one knows. There is no observational evidence given.

As readers realize, TWTW strongly supports comprehensive atmospheric temperature data taken by satellites. These calculations are strongly supported by direct measurements independently taken by weather balloons. But, TWTW has frequently criticized satellite altimetry data on sea level rise because the data are contradicted by a large body of data from many tidal gages around the world. Although some tidal gages are subject to variation from local conditions, such as plate tectonics, and readings are noisy, subject to seasonal variation and prevailing winds, long term trends in stable areas remain about 1 to 2 mm per year (4 to 8 inches per century). Tidal gages in tectonically stable areas show no acceleration in sea level rise – an acceleration claimed by those using satellite altimetry data. The current, claimed acceleration appears from satellite altimetry data appear to be the result of faulty calibration of satellite data with tidal gage data.

Independently, Ron Clutz and Paul Homewood have spliced together differences in the rates of sea level rise as measured by tidal gages and IPCC Model Projections. Clutz for Newport, RI, and Homewood for global data. What we see is a familiar shape – Mr. Mann’s hockey-stick.

How many false icons should the public allow the IPCC? Ben Santer’s falsely named “distinct human fingerprint” was featured in AR2, 1995; Mr. Mann’s hockey-stick in AR3, 2001; the Himalayan glaciers melting by mid-21st century in AR4, 2007; and accelerating sea level rise in AR5, 2013-14? At least the previous icons had some observational evidence, no matter how thin or vague. The latest version offers none.

The fingerprint had condensation of water vapor at higher altitudes (about 10 km (33,000 feet) over the tropics) giving off latent heat, no matter the cause. The hockey-stick had the work of Sherwood Idso and others on bristlecone pines in the White Mountains of California, which attributed recent growth to carbon dioxide (CO2) enrichment. Which was later falsely claimed to be from global warming. The melting of the Himalayas had some glaciers melting; but, as shown later, other glaciers were increasing. There is no strong evidence offered for the latest IPCC icon, the sea level rise hockey-stick, and it is contradicted by strong evidence from tidal gages in stable coastal areas. Should this not be the last false icon?

See links under Defending the Orthodoxy and Changing Seas.


Quote of the Week: “The chance is high that the truth lies in the fashionable direction. But, on the off-chance that it is in another direction — a direction obvious from an unfashionable view of field theory — who will find it? Only someone who has sacrificed himself by teaching himself quantum electrodynamics from a peculiar and unfashionable point of view; one that he may have to invent for himself.” – Richard Feynman “The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics,” Nobel Lecture (December 11, 1965)

Number of the Week: 3 MMb/d – 4 times more than 2016, or before.


False Analogies: One of the most prevalent false analogies given today is that the technological advances in computer chip manufacturing will occur in other industries. The advances in computer chip miniaturization are stunning, and the effects are prevalent from medicine and space to “down-hole” oil drilling. The promoters of the “alternative energy” industry, or “renewable energy” industry, wind and solar, are prone to such analogies. For example, RTO Insider, supposedly reporting on U.S. regional transmission organizations (RTO’s) and independent system operators (ISO’s) stated the following from John E. Kelly III, senior vice president for cognitive solutions and research at IBM, at renewable energy conference in Poughkeepsie, New York on Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“AI will transform society and the energy sector, said John E. Kelly III, senior vice president for cognitive solutions and research at IBM.

‘When I joined the company in 1980, my first job was to figure out how do we put 1,000 transistors on a tiny chip for our mainframes; today, we put 15 billion transistors on a chip the size of your fingernail,’ Kelly said.

“He shared how the benefits of AI stem from the exponential curve in data growth. He described how IBM’s Watson platform can absorb 30 years of data in a few minutes and then continue to ‘learn’ as it interacts with people and individual case decisions, whether in health care or the energy industry.

“The world’s fastest supercomputer requires 12 MW to mimic what the human brain performs on 20 W of electricity, Kelly said, but AI can spot what no human could. For example, when ‘Australian energy giant Woodside adopted Watson, the computer determined that most hand injuries occurred around 11 a.m., so the company now sends text messages to rig workers at 10:45 a.m. to remind them to take a break or have a cup of coffee, reducing the accident rate.’

“‘You are going to be disrupted and transformed by this technology,’ Kelly said. ‘We’re finally going to be able to take advantage of the integration of renewable energy and traditional energy in ways that we couldn’t before.’”

The analogy fails. Certainly, miniaturization may enhance the “smart gird.” But, try running a data center on unreliable electricity! Current technology will not make unreliable, weather dependent electricity reliable and resilient, unless there are fundamental breakthroughs in storage. Miniaturization of solar collectors or wind turbines will not enhance the intensity of solar radiation hitting a square meter of land or rooftop or enhance the volume and speed of wind passing through a turbine. But, many, including politicians supporting subsidies, believe that such advances will appear shortly.

Recently, New York State has “invested” in schemes that make little practical sense, such as the Buffalo Billion including a “$750 million, 1.2 million-square-foot, state-built and equipped “Gigafactory” for SolarCity, the solar-panel company co-founded by Elon Musk and since merged into his Tesla Inc.” The factory is in south Buffalo and has been leased to Tesla and is yet to open. With some of the heaviest snows in the East Coast, and cold winters, Buffalo is not an ideal place for solar panels. More importantly, solar power is unreliable.

Four years ago, in discussing renewables replacing fossil fuels, Euan Mearns of Energy Matters, wrote:

“Much of the energy debate at present is based around the risks associated with energy procurement systems; emissions from burning fossil fuels (FF) and radiation hazards linked to nuclear power. New renewables (wind, solar and wave power) are presented as a risk-free alternative to FF and nuclear. However, what is systematically overlooked by renewables advocates are the risks associated for individuals or for society not having access to affordable energy when it is needed. [Boldface was italics in original]

In reviewing his earlier comments, Mearns now writes:

“The more I think about it, deliberately introducing expensive stochastic noise into this finely balanced system seems quite insane.”

See links under Energy Issues – Non-US, Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind and Other News That May be Of Interest.


Oil Production: Contrary to what many may believe, technology in oil field drilling and production is not stagnant. The results are quite spectacular, without subsidies or “investments” by government entities. As Article # 2, below, states, a petroleum engineer can track five rigs drilling 24 wells in a complex project that will tap multiple layers of rock simultaneously. The operator can observe the progress of a 2-mile-long horizontal well drilled 10,000 feet underground in a narrow layer, sometimes less than 10 feet (3 meters).

These changes have resulted in fewer people employed in oil, and gas, operations. But, according to Devon Energy, one of the pioneers of horizontal drilling:

“Devon estimates its drilling and construction costs per well are down 40% since 2014, and it has improved its initial production rates, a key metric in determining how much oil a well will produce, by 450% since 2012.

Costs by down 40% and production up by 450% are achievements the “renewable energy” industry only imagines. Fossil fuel energy is benefiting from the advances in computer chip technology in ways that many energy experts do not realize, far more so than wind and solar. See Article # 2 and articles under Oil and Natural Gas – the Future or the Past?


Legal Issues: Mr. Trump’s nomination of US Court of Appeals Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to fill the position being vacated by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is producing comments from many parties, many of which are irrelevant for the purposes of TWTW. Thus far, the most salient points reviewed come from two diverse sources, the individual blog, Manhattan Contrarian, and Inside Climate News. In general, some respect the judge’s opinions that the laws of the nation should be properly constituted, others believe the view is too restrictive. As discussed in last week’s TWTW, over Republican opposition, the last time Democrats controlled the Senate the body enacted rules that a simple majority is all that is needed for the Senate to confirm a presidential nomination to the Supreme Court. See links under Change in US Administrations


Number of the Week: 3 MMb/d – 4 times more. According to weekly statistics from the Energy Information Administration, US exports of crude petroleum reached 3 million barrels per day during the week of June 22. They subsequently fell to 2 million barrels per day, but there is no reason why exports will not again reach 3 million barrels per day soon. By way of contrast, prior to January 2017, weekly exports were less than 700,000 barrels per day, less than 25% of June 22, which was more than 4 times than the maximum reached in 2016, or before. The petroleum world is changing.

The shift in US policy to allow for crude petroleum exports, other than to Canada and Japan, began under the Obama administration, but the administration tried to stop pipelines and drilling on public lands, curtailing the industry.

The 3 MM b/d is equivalent to 10 fully-loaded Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) per week, each with a 2 MMbbl capacity. The supertankers have an average length of about 1,100 feet, with an average beam (or width) of about 200 feet and an average fully loaded draft of 72 feet. These are the most cost-effective way of transporting crude to China and India. According to independent analysts (links unavailable), there is only one terminal on the Gulf Coast that can fill a VLCC — the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) — and pipeline connections from key Texas and Oklahoma oilfields to LOOP are limited. Elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, VLCCs need to be loaded in offshore deep water by using smaller vessels — a slower and more costly process. But the physical restrictions are changing. (Unlike liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, the newly opened Panama Canal expansion cannot handle VLCC, because of their draft.) https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=WCREXUS2&f=W



1. Pruitt Leaves a Proud Legacy at the EPA

His political offense wasn’t ethics but his forthright challenge to the myth of renewable energy.

By George Melloan, WSJ, July 11, 2018


SUMMARY: The former deputy editor of the Journal editorial page writes:

“Scott Pruitt wasn’t chased out of the EPA because of his ethical lapses but because he was derailing the environmental left’s radical effort to tighten its grip on the U.S. economy. Mr. Pruitt was implementing President Trump’s executive order to scuttle Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have forced sharp cutbacks in the use of fossil fuels, at great cost to consumers and with little purpose.

“Under President Obama, the EPA’s bureaucrats became the shock troops of a new ‘green revolution’—quite different from the one that revolutionized agriculture. Mr. Trump chose Mr. Pruitt to lead the counterrevolution. Accordingly, Mr. Pruitt scotched the agency’s encouragement of ‘sue and settle’ litigation that effectively gave outside lobbyists the power to set EPA policies.”

“Further horror of horrors, the president pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, ending the longstanding collaboration between the EPA and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Governments throughout the world have already spent hundreds of billions of dollars to meet U.N. goals for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide. Last July, Danish scholar Bjorn Lomborg predicted the cost of implementing the Paris Climate Accord would hit $2 trillion by 2030.

“CO2 is a natural component of the air we breathe and without it there would be no life on earth. The U.N.’s alarms about a CO2 ‘greenhouse’ causing global warming are based on dubious computer models. As the Cato Institute’s Pat Michaels and Ryan Maue observed on this page last month, global surface temperature hasn’t risen significantly since 2000.

“The stakes are high. Government restrictions on carbon emissions have spawned a large renewable-energy industry specializing in solar panels and windmills. In places where those industries have best thrived, such as Germany and Australia, the result has been unreliable power at sharply higher cost. Germans pay roughly three times what Americans pay for electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

“The idea that ‘renewables’ are some kind of modern planet-saving technology is preposterous. Other than fire, renewables were mankind’s only energy sources for eons. Primitive people built their huts with solar-fired mud bricks. The 15th-century European explorers relied on the wind to fill their sails. ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ described the well-known peril of being becalmed on the vast ocean with water everywhere, “nor any drop to drink.” Modern mariners, with ships driven by fossil-fueled turbines, seldom face that problem.

“It’s hardly a new discovery that renewables don’t work when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. What is less understood is that even when governments force public utilities to buy renewables, power companies still have to use fossil fuels or uranium to keep the grid up and running when the sun and wind are off duty. So renewable power is superfluous to power companies, but its cost reduces their ability to finance baseload power plants. The result is either higher electricity bills or an unreliable grid. Consumers get punished either way.

“Even the Bonneville Power Administration, a grand government hydropower complex that provides the U.S. Northwest with 28% of its electricity, has been plagued with this problem as the requirement to make way for government-subsidized wind and solar reduces its ability to utilize its system efficiently. Said a BPA statement in January: ‘Our power customers have expressed serious concerns that BPA’s recent pattern of rising costs and rates is unsustainable.’

“Matters are even worse in some of the countries where parties of the environmentalist left have been more successful. At the behest of its Greens, Germany shut down not only coal plants but also some nuclear facilities after the meltdown at the badly designed Fukushima plant in Japan. High electricity costs were an important factor, along with the refugee influx, in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s election debacle last year.

“Australia’s left used to boast that their nation had more solar panels per capita than anywhere else in the world. They said less about Australia’s household electricity costs—also among the world’s highest. When South Australia suffered blackouts in the summer of 2006, politicians began to realize something was amiss. Last October, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull scrapped plans to set new renewables targets, and his government expects to have a new, more reliable, energy plan by next month. It may include such irreligious means as renewed use of the country’s plentiful coal deposits.

“Mr. Trump dumped the Paris Agreement to stop the U.S. from going the way of Germany and Australia. Mr. Obama had drunk the U.N. Kool-Aid, echoing the claim that global warming was an existential threat to the planet. His 2015 Clean Power Plan was designed to reduce CO2 emissions from the electric-power sector by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030, notably through greater dependence on wind and solar.

“When Mr. Obama launched the CPP (sans congressional legislation) it drew challenges from 150 entities, including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electrical cooperatives and three labor unions, the EPA reported. Taking those complaints seriously, the Trump administration moved to scrap the plan. This will save up to $33 billion in compliance costs by 2030, according to a new EPA estimate.

“Mr. Pruitt’s successor at the EPA, acting director Andrew Wheeler, will now take the sniper fire. But consider this: Enviro-shaman Al Gore warned in ‘Earth in the Balance’ that the planet was in imminent peril from global warming fully 26 years ago. Yet temperature readings from weather stations and satellites today show that the earth’s sundry climates are pretty much what they were then. Hyderabad still gets very hot in summer, as it has for centuries, and Yakutsk gets very cold in winter, ditto. San Francisco is pretty nice year-round, except for the fog and the politics.


2. Oil’s New Technology Spells End of Boom for Roughnecks

One of the last industries where blue-collar laborers can earn high salaries is being transformed as artificial intelligence and automation replace workers

By Christopher Matthews, WSJ, July 10, 2018


SUMMARY: Tracing the oil industry 20-year job experience of a worker with only a high school education, the journalist reports that jobs paying in six figure salaries in the oil industry for those with a minimal education are becoming increasingly scarce. Many of the jobs are being replaced by automated control systems. The journalist writes further:

“Baker Hughes, a GE company that is the successor to GE Oil & Gas, said it is focusing on recruiting high-tech workers, increasingly from Silicon Valley. ‘You need to combine talent from the tech industry with oil and gas expertise,’ said Binu Mathew, who was hired from Oracle Corp. in 2013 and heads the company’s newly created digital products division. ‘[Everyone] understands this is going to change the industry.’

“Major oil companies and smaller shale producers including Chevron Corp. Devon Energy Corp. Baker Hughes and EOG Resources Inc. are recruiting computer scientists, who develop algorithms and other tech tools.

“At Devon’s WellCon center—short for well construction—in Oklahoma City, a small team of engineers and scientists monitor every well the company is drilling and fracking across the U.S.

“From several screens, Kyle Haustveit, a 28-year-old completions engineer—he has a bachelor’s in petroleum engineering—watches the company’s ‘Showboat’ development, where five rigs are drilling 24 wells in a complex project in Kingfisher County, Okla., that will tap multiple layers of rock simultaneously.

“One screen displays the progress as a 2-mile-long horizontal well is drilled 10,000 feet underground. A graph tracks the budgetary impacts in real time using customized software. If the drill bit goes outside the sweet spot where the company believes oil and gas to be—an area sometimes no more than 10 feet across—dollar signs tick up and a call is made to workers in the field to adjust equipment.

“Another screen tracks four fracking crews working within a square mile. Mr. Haustveit is collecting data on how the sand, water and chemicals the crews pump to release oil and gas from the rock affect the pressure on the other wells. He will feed it, along with microseismic and acoustic data captured by fiber-optic cables, into a program that will use machine learning to determine the best way to frack to produce the most oil as quickly as possible.

“‘I grew up in a small town in North Dakota, so I thought all oil and gas happened in the field,’ Mr. Haustveit said. ‘I didn’t have a clue that this is what it would be like.’

“The center was manned by about 80 people monitoring 40 rigs before the 2014 oil bust. Today, roughly a dozen people monitor the company’s 21 active rigs. Tony Vaughn, Devon’s chief operating officer, said the transition was difficult but has improved the company’s operational efficiency. ‘It required a lot of people with an old-school mind-set to leave the company, frankly,’ he said.

“Devon has around 3,100 employees, down from 5,500 in December 2014. The company laid off 300 workers in April.

“Devon estimates its drilling and construction costs per well are down 40% since 2014, and it has improved its initial production rates, a key metric in determining how much oil a well will produce, by 450% since 2012.

“The company has invested more than $100 million in technologies ranging from fiber-optic cables to augmented reality. Some of the most significant returns have come from centralizing and organizing data. The company had to scan millions of pieces of paper just to get a handle on what it had. Now, everyone has access to real-time drilling software companywide.

The article concludes by the journalist discussing the negative impact the reduction in manual jobs is having in Western rural communities.


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