The Week That Was: January 11, 2020, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
Green Arrogance: Regardless of the political system, or ideology, arrogance can lead to destructive actions contrary to the interests of the public. History produces many examples, including major wars. We are seeing examples of arrogance in so called “green” laws and regulations which are actually contrary to nature. Humans can modify and use nature for their benefit but cannot regulate it. Unfortunately, politicians frequently ignore limits of power when passing sweeping laws and regulations. This week, three examples of arrogance, or hubris, are evident: 1) bushfires in Australia; 2) closing the Crescent Dunes power plant in Nevada; and 3) the continuation of a 2.5 gigawatt (GW) off-shore wind project off the coast of Virginia Beach ordered by the governor of Virginia.
Green Arrogance – Australia: Much is being written about the fires in Australia. Many news organizations are blaming climate change. However, these entities fail to report that bushfires in eastern Australia are part of natural events. Jo Nova and Tony Heller document past examples such as Black Friday, around January 13, 1939 in Victoria, Australia, in which almost 20,000 square kilometers (5,000,000 acres, 2,000,000 ha) of land were burned, 71 people died, 3,700 buildings were destroyed, and several towns were entirely obliterated.
The fire resulted in a battle of government bureaucrats, pitting the Forests Commission, which wanted controlled burns, against Board of Works, which wanted to protect water supplies from burns. The issue was settled latter in 1939 by the Stretton Royal Commission which recommended the Forests Commission receive additional funding and have responsibility for fire protection on all public land, including State forests, unoccupied Crown Lands and National Parks, plus a buffer extending one mile beyond their boundaries onto private land. The commission also encouraged the common practice on private lands of controlled burning of bush to minimize future risks.
Unfortunately, the greens have successfully fought controlled burns in recent years. Under the title “Environmental Crime in Australia,” the Australian Institute of Criminology lists numerous statutes titled “Illegal native vegetation clearing” and associated penalties. The Scope and Definition section states:
“Up until the last couple of decades, land and hence native vegetation clearance was a conventional and legally-condoned practice, largely committed to open up land for agriculture but standard for any private landowner wishing to modify the environment. In Australia, with an historically-sanctioned economic dependence on agriculture, there has been a valuation of the land mostly founded on the profit it can turn and often at the expense of its ecological worth. Agriculture and grazing still account for a great deal of native vegetation clearance occurring today but development of land for other purposes is a significant culprit.
“Definitions of clearing and native vegetation differ between the Australian states and territories (some of these are listed in Table 25). Native vegetation clearing, however, generally refers to any act that removes, disfigures or kills vegetation deemed indigenous to the region. Illegal clearance, then, is any such vegetative removal or destruction, or clearance that takes place without due authorisation.” [Boldface added]
It is amazing that governments outlaw actions by property owners who clear bush to protect their property from bushfires! Until the laws are changed, it appears that bushfires in Australia will become common once again. Even the aboriginal bushmen of Australia, before westerners came, understood the importance of controlled burns to stop bushfires.
As a side note, perhaps the worst bushfire in the US in recorded history was around Peshtigo, Wisconsin, on a cold, windy October 8, 1871, which burnt nearly 1.2 million acres, (4,860 square km), 50% larger than Rhode Island, destroyed twelve communities and killed between 1500-2500 people. This occurred the same day as the Great Chicago Fire.
Be they the burning of the Everglades, prairie fires, bushfires, forest fires, etc., destructive fires are common to nature. The issue is the best way to minimize the damage. Passing the blame to climate change is avoiding the issue. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Changing Weather – Australia, Expanding the Orthodoxy
Green Arrogance – Nevada: Even in sunny Nevada, the major issue with solar power is generating electricity when the sun is low or at night. The hottest time of the day in Las Vegas is around 3 pm. As electricity for air conditioning is needed the most, solar power is fading. This creates a time-of-day problem for solar energy. It does not work well when needed the most and does not work at night. Ignoring physical reality, the Nevada legislature passed laws requiring 50% of electricity used to come from renewable power by 2030.
The industrial solar plant, Crescent Dunes, was designed to address the time-of-day problem. The $1 Billion project used around 10,000 mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays to a tower — to drive steam turbines and to store energy in molten salt, well above 1000 K (725 C, 1350 F). The materials’ problems in such a configuration are tremendous. Molten salt is extremely corrosive.
Late last year, Crescent Dunes lost its only customer, NV Energy Inc., which cited the plant’s lack of reliability. An article in Bloomberg pointed out that the US government provided $737 million in loan guarantees for this failed project and said NV was paying about $135 per megawatt-hour, “compared with less than $30 per MWh today at a new Nevada photovoltaic solar farm, according to BloombergNEF, which researches fossil fuel alternatives.”
But, as energy expert Norman Rogers who has followed Crescent Dunes points out, the Bloomberg article avoids the central issue: what happens when the sun goes down? Photovoltaic does not work! The electrical generation must come from somewhere and Nevada is poor for wind. Perhaps the next step for Nevada’s government is to legislate that the sun stays at high noon well past midnight. One is reminded of the closing lines of “Ozymandias” by Percy Shelley:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
See links under Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind.
Green Arrogance – Virginia: Not to be outdone in arrogance, in September Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order calling for 2.5 GW of offshore wind by 2026. Of course, this set the wind world fluttering. It is part of a plan to have 30% of electricity carbon-free by 2030 and 100% carbon-free by 2050. According to reports, Virginia’s agencies and executive branch institutions will lead by example, aiming to procure at least 30% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2022. Who knows from where?
The planned facility will be about 26 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. TWTW was unable to find any realistic estimates of the costs involved. Reports on wind power from the North Sea are not encouraging to those who are concerned about costs. The corrosive effects of saltwater are a big problem, adding to the costs of maintenance at sea. The major Virginia electrical utility, Dominion Energy, does not care about costs because it is regulated, so it receives a profit on all authorized expenditures, no matter how ridiculous they may be.
The Governor’s plans may be complicated by a weather condition known as the Bermuda High. These extensive high-pressure systems occur offshore of the western Atlantic, and in the summer create hot, humid days and nights, with little wind in the Eastern US. They create prolonged heat waves, interspaced by thunderstorms. In Virginia, they often occur during peak electricity demand for air conditioning. Since the state government is planning a very expensive offshore project which will not generate electricity when it is needed the most, perhaps the next step in green arrogance is to order the winds to blow!
Greenhouse Effect – CO2 and Methane: Donn Dears has two posts showing graphs illustrating the results of physicist William Happer’s calculations of the greenhouse effect, which Happer presented at an independent press briefing held in Madrid during the 25th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December, which concluded without achieving its objectives.
The graphs illustrate Happer’s calculations on the effects of increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) on earth’s temperatures and the effects of increasing methane on temperatures. Unfortunately, the graphs can be somewhat tricky to read and TWTW will try to explain them somewhat differently than Dears did. [Suggest one looks at the graph as they read the comments below.]
In the first graph, Happer shows 1) the would-be infrared (IR) emissions to space from a hypothetical earth with one uniform temperature (60ºF, 16ºC) with no atmosphere, and 2) the actual IR as measured at the top of the atmosphere from space. The top smooth curve on the graph is the theoretical (Planck) curve with no greenhouse gases. The lower jagged line approximates the actual IR emissions as modified by greenhouse gases. In the region where greenhouse gases blocks IR, there is a wide range of frequencies blocked by atmospheric water vapor and narrower ranges of frequencies of IR blocked by other gases. Each greenhouse gas is identified. From that data, Happer infers how much IR each gas (CO2, H2O and other greenhouse gases) individually absorbs and re-emits, slowing the cooling of the earth. (Without greenhouse gases, Happer estimates the earth’s average surface temperature would be about 16ºF (minus 9 ºC).
Also, Happer illustrates (in green) the additional amount of heat energy that would be lost to space without any CO2. He then calculates the additional warming that would occur if the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere doubled from today’s 400 parts per million volume (ppmv) to 800 ppmv. The increased warming is slight. What economists call diminishing returns has already strongly set in.
In his second post, Dears gives Happer’s calculations for Methane (CH4). The effect of a doubling of methane is trivial. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Hurricanes and Other Tropical Cyclones: Roger Pielke Jr. and Ryan Maue have an article on 50 years of global hurricane landfall data. The article followed the annual report by the reinsurance company, Munich Re, which stated three tropical cyclones caused billions in losses which dominated the natural catastrophes in 2019. In their 50-year analysis Pielke and Maue conclude that there have been lots of up and downs but no trends. Regarding claims that storms are becoming worse, Pielke and Maui state:
“We have no doubt that battles over the science of tropical cyclones will continue to feature in the climate debate. We also have no expectation that these battles will be resolved soon. Fortunately, we have good data and good science to help inform decisions to help prepare for and respond to these monster storms, no matter how the future plays out. Consequently, we have every expectation that using this knowledge, the world is well poised to continue its notable progress of improving responses to tropical cyclones that has been seen in recent decades.”
See links under Science, Policy, and Evidence
The Worst of Times or The Best of Times: Contrary to what the UN and its followers claim, TWTW finds little evidence of a climate crisis or a similar global threat. Using data compiled by “Our World in Data” across 12 categories: extreme poverty (40 years), GDP per capita (multiple centuries), population (200 years), child mortality (200 years), fertility rate (65 years), life expectancy (centuries), hunger and undernourishment (16 years), education (145 years), access to improve water sources and sanitation (25 years), energy access (25 years), energy use (55 years), and CO2 emissions (215 years); there is no category where the data indicates a clear and present danger.
Note that TWTW considers increasing CO2 to be a benefit to the environment and humanity, not a danger and will do so until clear physical evidence is presented showing it is a danger. In short, the claims of a climate crisis are imaginary. Improvements are needed, such as access to reliable, clean energy. (Coal is not dirty with proper combustion and treatment of emissions (not CO2).) Yet, many of those who claim a climate crisis are denying access to electricity needed by those who do not have it. No wonder China, India, and other countries pay lip service to the UN and alarmist organizations but ignore their wishes. See links under Seeking a Common Ground.
Additions and Corrections: Richard Lindzen questioned the use of the term reanalysis data in the last TWTW. He wrote:
“Do you know what reanalysis data is? By definition, it is global, but it is not ‘data’. It is data that is interpolated so as to be consistent with models.”
As used in TWTW, the terminology was poor. In this instance, TWTW was referring to a graph by John Christy in the November 9 TWTW. For the period 1979 to 2025, it compared the mid-tropospheric temperature change (as calculate by three US models) with satellite and balloon observations. One of the observation lines was derived from reanalyzes.
Number of the Week: 79% up 16% in two years: A great deal has been written about the rapid growth of solar and wind energy, much of it vague. For 2018, the last year for which the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has full year statistics, in the Table 1.2, Primary Energy Production by Source, EIA numbers show that fossil fuels accounted for 79% of energy production. (Coal 16%, natural gas (dry) 33%, oil 24%, and natural gas plant liquids 6%) nuclear produced 9%, hydro 3%, solar 1%, and wind 3%. Biomass burning, largely from biofuels, waste, and waste wood accounted for almost 6%, more than solar and wind combined (geothermal is insignificant). Note, the table is total primary energy production not just electricity production.
Also, total production from fossil fuels went up 16% from 2016 to 2018 and even coal went up by 5%. It appears that the claim that wind and solar are driving out coal is more wishful thinking than fact. See links under Energy Issues – US.
1. U.S. Economy Added 145,000 Jobs in December
Employers have added jobs for record 10 years, longest stretch in 80 years of data
By Eric Morath and Amara Omeokwe, WSJ, Jan 10, 2020
TWTW Summary: The article states:
“Women overtook men to hold the majority of U.S. jobs for the first time in a decade, while employers added positions for a record 10th straight year, pointing to a growing and dynamic economy heading into 2020.
“The number of women on nonfarm payrolls exceeded men in December for the first time since mid-2010, the Labor Department said Friday. Women held 50.04% of jobs last month, surpassing men on payrolls by 109,000.”
After a political comment the article continues:
“Overall, the economy added a seasonally adjusted 145,000 jobs last month, and unemployment stayed at a 50-year low of 3.5%. In one dark spot, wages advanced 2.9% from a year earlier, the smallest annual gain since July 2018. Stock-market indexes finished lower Friday after rising earlier in the day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly crossing the 29000 mark.
“The gap between men and women on payrolls had been narrowing in recent years, reflecting growth in services industries that employ higher numbers of women, especially the booming health-care field. That is a different outcome than the one other time that women outnumbered men—a stretch in 2009 and 2010—when men disproportionately lost construction and manufacturing jobs.
“Women account for a larger share of U.S. adults but are less likely to work than men, according to a separate Labor Department survey. But their participation in the labor force has been growing, especially among younger and Hispanic workers, helping drive job gains. Men, meanwhile, are more likely to hold nonpayroll jobs, such as being self-employed or working on farms.
“December’s jobs report capped a decade of payroll gains—the longest stretch in 80 years of record-keeping.
“Employers are adding jobs, despite low unemployment, by pulling workers off the sidelines—including women, Hispanics, blacks and those with lower levels of education that have historically faced barriers to employment. However, those jobs are often in lower-paying fields, and those workers tend to be paid less than white, male counterparts.
“An alternative measure, which captures underemployed and those marginally attached to the workforce, the U-6, fell to 6.7%, the lowest on records back to 1994. But the share of adults working or looking for work held steady last month at 63.2% and remains well down from a peak of 67.3% in 2000.” [Boldface added]
After several other political type comments, the article concludes with:
“For the decade, the U.S. added 22.6 million jobs, a dramatic turnaround from the 2000s, when the economy shed nearly 1 million. Still, in percentage terms, the 2010s were the second weakest decade for payroll growth on records back to the 1940s.”
TWTW Comments: The unemployment rate of 3.5% is well below the 5% that, a few years ago, many popular economists were predicting as impossible in a modern economy. According to figures by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 3.5% is the lowest unemployment rate since the late 1960s when about 2 million more Americans were on military active duty (now about 1.35 million), many not voluntarily. Further, over the past six months the black unemployment rate has been below 6%, the lowest ever calculated since BLS started compiling those numbers in the early 1970s.