Friday, July 11, 2014

Warmer Climate Could Mean More Kidney Stones?

Crap!  The underlying journal article is Daily Mean Temperature and Clinical Kidney Stone Presentation in Five U.S. Metropolitan Areas: A Time-Series Analysis.  The findings are correlational ones so do not enable inferences about causes.  And the elevation of risk associated with temperature was very slight anyway.  Relative risks were around 1.3.  The Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition says (p. 384): "the threshold for concluding that an agent was more likely than not the cause of an individual's disease is a relative risk greater than 2.0."

The consequences of global warming and climate change isn’t just limited to the decline in population of endangered species. A new study has now linked warmer climate to an increased risk of kidney stones among the individuals residing in the area.
Rising temperatures, it is believed, may be linked to an increase in the number of people who fall prey to kidney stones and other painful urinary tract obstructions.

“These findings point to potential public health effects associated with global climate change,” study leader Dr. Gregory Tasian, a pediatric urologist and epidemiologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explained.

The researchers examined medical records of over 60,000 patients who were diagnosed with kidney stones between the years 2005 to 2011, and also compared the information so obtained with the daily temperature data. The patients recruited for the study lived in cities with different climates- Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Careful observation revealed that as the annual temperature rose above 50 degrees, the number of individuals affected by kidney stones rose. Also, the number of kidney stone diagnosis rose within three days of rise in temperature.

“Although 11 percent of the U.S. population has had kidney stones, most people have not,” Tasian added. However, he believes that “it is likely that higher temperatures increase the risk of kidney stones in those people predisposed to stone formation.”
While the exact reason behind this strange relation is not very well understood, researchers believe that warmer temperatures contribute to dehydration, which in turn, cause calcium and other minerals to deposit in the urine, which can spur kidney stone formation.

“Kidney stone prevalence has already been on the rise over the last 30 years, and we can expect this trend to continue, both in greater numbers and over a broader geographic area, as daily temperatures increase,” Tasian concluded.

The results from this study are now published in the journal Environmental Health.


Power grab: EPA wants to garnish wages of polluters

Accused violators of pollution laws would have little recourse

The Environmental Protection Agency has quietly floated a rule claiming authority to bypass the courts and unilaterally garnish paychecks of those accused of violating its rules, a power currently used by agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service.

The EPA has been flexing its regulatory muscle under President Obama, collecting more fines each year and threatening individuals with costly penalties for violating environmental rules. In one case, the agency has threatened fines of up to $75,000 per day on Wyoming homeowner Andy Johnson for building a pond on his rural property.

“The EPA has a history of overreaching its authority. It seems like once again the EPA is trying to take power it doesn’t have away from American citizens,” Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said when he learned of the EPA’s wage garnishment scheme.

Others questioned why the EPA decided to strengthen its collection muscle at this time.

Critics said the threat of garnishing wages would be a powerful incentive for people to agree to expensive settlements rather than fight EPA charges.

EPA officials did not respond to repeated questions by The Washington Times about why they thought it was necessary to garnish people’s wages.

The EPA announced the plan last week in a notice in the Federal Register, saying federal law allows it “to garnish non-Federal wages to collect delinquent non-tax debts owed the United States without first obtaining a court order.”

The agency cited authority under the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 that centralized federal collection operations under the Treasury Department, which oversees garnishments of wages or tax refund checks.

Under the law, every federal agency has the authority to conduct administrative wage garnishment, provided the agency adopts approved rules for conducting hearings where debtors can challenge the amount of debt or terms of repayment schedule, a Treasury official said.

Still, the rule would give the EPA sweeping authority to dictate how and whether Americans could dispute fines and penalties, even as the amount of EPA fines collected from individuals, businesses and local governments steadily increase.

The amount of fines raked in by the agency has jumped from $96 million in 2009 to $252 million in 2012, a more than 160 percent increase, according to EPA annual reports.

Putting the collection powers on a fast track, the agency announced it in the Federal Register as a “direct final rule” that would take effect automatically Sept. 2, unless the EPA receives adverse public comments by Aug. 1.

The EPA said it deemed the action as not a “significant regulatory action” and therefore not subject to review.

The negative reactions began almost immediately.

In a comment letter submitted to the EPA, the conservative Heritage Foundation faulted the rule for giving the government “unbridled discretion” in controlling the process for challenging fines and wage garnishment, such as dictating the site of a hearing without consideration of the time and travel expense placed on the accused debtor.

The rule allows the EPA to decide whether a debtor gets a chance to present a defense and then picks whomever it chooses to serve as a hearing officer, even someone not trained as an administrative law judge, wrote David S. Addington, group vice president for research at The Heritage Foundation.

It also puts the burden of proof on the debtor, not the EPA, he said.

The EPA has been on the front lines of the battle over Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda, including issuing proposed rules that would require coal-fired power plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent over 15 years.

Critics say it will cause massive increases in the cost of electricity, lead to power shortages and eliminate jobs, while making scant impact on the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted worldwide.

The agency has been a magnet for criticism over new rules on things such as wood-burning stoves and small streams or ponds on private land, including waterways on farms and golf courses.


The EPA’s New Water Rule Leaves the Economy High and Dry

When the Clean Water Act was first conceived, the EPA could only restrict entrepreneurs when they attempted to pollute bodies of water that were used by their fellow businesses, or what the EPA calls ‘navigable waters.’ However, its original mission is far too modest for modern-day bureaucrats.

In March the EPA unveiled their proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule. If finalized, this rule would expand the federal government’s regulatory authority over millions of acres of wetlands and millions of miles of streams. It would place virtually all bodies of water, no matter how small their size or impact on commerce, under EPA authority.

Thankfully, legislators are taking action against this agency’s extraordinary power grab. Last week, 31 senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, introduced The Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, a bill that would prevent the EPA from expanding their authority under the CWA.

In the words of Senator Cruz, “The EPA is following in the footsteps of our lawless President. The EPA's unilateral expansion of the Clean Water Act to include regulation of puddles and temporarily flooded areas is an abuse of power that would allow the EPA to march into the backyards of many Americans. Congress must exercise its power to strictly define what the EPA may do under the Clean Water Act to protect our nation's landowners, farmers, and homeowners from undue harassment by the EPA."

In the House of Representatives, the Appropriations Committee approved a bill on June 18 that would fund the Army Corps of Engineers, but with a provision that bars the agency from enforcing the Waters of the US rule, a move in the right direction.

The way the agency justified this exponential expansion of their powers over bodies of water traditionally regulated by states and localities was by making the case that all bodies of water in one way or another flow into these larger navigable waters. In a study published last September, the EPA made the case that because all bodies of water have a connection to one another, pollution in a single stream could flow to the rest. Coincidentally, this study was released to the public the very same day that they proposed the rule.

If the EPA were to expand its authority over even more of America’s waters, its damaging effect on the economy would only grow. A business or property owner who simply wishes to move soil from one area of a body of water to another must apply for a permit, since this movement is considered to be polluting. The average permit can cost upwards of $271,000 and take 788 days to be processed which leads to private companies and municipalities annually being forced to pay $1.7 billion to the EPA for the right to develop or build over bodies of water. And if a developer fails to secure the proper permits, $37,500 in fines can be incurred every day for unlawfully developing a stream or wetland.

This is not the first time that the EPA has overreached in its authority. In 1986 the agency claimed that any body of water that a migratory bird landed in was under its jurisdiction. Its blatant and repeated abuse of its authority was checked first in 2001 and again in 2006 when the Supreme Court ruled in Rapanos v. The United States that the EPA could not block a developer from filling in a wetland in order to build a mall even though it was connected by a stream to a larger body of water. As Justice Kennedy wrote in his decision, the EPA must prove that a “significant nexus (connection)” exists between the body of water the agency claims jurisdiction over and navigable waters. So rather than accept the court’s decision, the EPA concocted a study last year that claims that all bodies of water have a significant connection to navigable waters, and thus should be under its authority.

At a time when it is still unclear if the country is on the road to economic recovery, we can’t afford additional burdensome regulations that inhibit entrepreneurs and farmers from working and investing on their own property.


Bast: If There’s No Global Warming, There’s No Climate Change Problem

  With satellite data showing no global warming for 17 years and 10 months, and even the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledging a “pause” in rising temperatures, it’s time to stop talking about a climate change problem, says Joe Bast, president and CEO of the Heartland Foundation.

"Global warming is still at the heart of climate change. All the climate changes are attributable to the increase in temperature in the climate, so even if they might want to talk about sea level rise and heat being stored in the lower ocean and all these indirect climate effects, the engine for that, the cause of all that is global warming,” Bast told

“And if there is no global warming, or if it’s paused, or if it’s less than what they thought, or if the human impact is less than they thought, then that whole paradigm collapses. Whether you call it climate change or global warming, if there’s no warming going on, it’s not a problem.”

“I would say two years ago, we could have concluded that,” Bast added. “NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said 15 years was the cut-off date in an influential [2008] report…. But even the alarmists said that if there was no warming for 15 years, that that would invalidate the models that they were using. So it’s rare that the other side puts a date on something like that, but they did it this time, and I think we ought to hold them to it.”

Noting that the behavior of prominent climate change scientists is “characteristic of a movement that’s about to crash,” Bast pointed out that the “alarmists” invited to debate the “skeptics” at Heartland’s 9th Annual Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas this week declined to defend their contention that the Earth is facing catastrophic warming and that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are to blame.

“We invited scores of scientists who are on the alarmist side of this debate to attend and present their ideas,” Bast told “In the past, we’ve had one or two willing to do that, and they’ve always been treated with great politeness and allowed to debate. But none of them this time agreed to take us up on our offer.”

“Why do you think that is?” asked Bast.

“I think they’re afraid to debate. They’re just afraid,” he replied. “They know in front of an audience of their peers that they will lose.”

On June 25, President Obama mocked those who challenge the theory that man-made global warming is causing catastrophic climate change, telling the League of Conservation Voters that it is a fact despite 17-plus years of evidence to the contrary.

"You can ignore the facts; you can't deny the facts," the president said.

But Bast criticized the Obama administration for doing just that by promulgating energy policies based on flawed computer models’ predictions of global warming, which actual temperature data have since proven to be wrong.

“I don’t think this administration’s policies are based on science at all, which is why they just ignore every report and every scientist who says they’re wrong on this,” Bast told

He also criticized Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) for claiming that “97 percent of scientists agree that [carbon dioxide] is leading to dangerous climate change that is affecting our families” at a June 18 hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee.

“The scientific community is deeply divided on some of the underlying science issues, like whether or not models can forecast future climate, and what the trade-offs, the feedbacks are in the environment, so there’s just tremendous uncertainty,” Bast said.

“This is one of the big unsolved scientific issues of our day, and for politicians to be saying 97 percent of all scientists agree on this is absurd.”

“Frankly, the science doesn’t matter to President Obama or to any of those Democratic senators. They’ve decided that they want to wage a war on fossil fuels, they’ve decided that they want to subsidize and promote a new energy industry, renewables, and global warming is just a handy excuse, or smoke and mirrors, that they can use to sell this agenda," Bast told

Asked whether most Americans are aware that the Earth has not warmed for close to 18 years, he replied:

“I think the people who are paying attention have figured this out. The American people see prominent left-wing politicians talking about this issue and the more they talk about it, the more the public understands that this is a political issue, not a science debate.”

Now that actual temperature data has confirmed the skeptics’ view that carbon dioxide is not causing catastrophic global warming, Bast says it’s time to move on, especially since billions of dollars have already been spent trying to stop a non-existent threat.

“I think the other side is just going to double down on ad hominen attacks and outrageous lies, like the 97 percent consensus and claims about the weather. They’re going to try to keep the focus away from what the real issue now should be,” he said.

“Going forward, the issue is: what do we do legislatively?  How should public policy be changed, now that we know global warming is not a crisis, now that we know the costs of trying to reduce emissions are enormous and would cause lots of negative consequences?”

“I would love to have that debate,” Bast continued. “We tried to start that debate a good 10, 15 years ago and people were so concerned about the science that they didn’t want to discuss how much it would cost to try to stop this thing. Now that the science has been thrown out, we need to be having a debate about what we should be doing.

“And that debate, I think, logically leads to we should start getting rid of all the subsidies to wind and solar and ethanol, we should start looking at ways of adapting to climate change regardless of whether it’s natural or man-made, and probably encourage innovation, both in the energy sector and manufacturing, because that’s where we have win-win solutions."

Meanwhile, he pointed out, more and more scientists are quietly backing away from their prior claims that the Earth has a “fever,” as former vice-president Al Gore once put it.

“I think the IPCC in its last report kind of hit a dead end, and some very prominent folks are saying that. The editors of Nature editorialized that this should be the last report from the IPCC,” Bast said, characterizing the reports as “massive compilations of obsolete research” trying to prove “a broken paradigm.”

“Now the folks at Nature are still committed alarmists, although I think they’re walking that back, admitting that it’s more complicated, or that it might take longer, or that reducing emissions might not be the way to try to respond to the possible problems,” he said.

Even groups that have been “sitting on the sidelines, not willing to challenge the science,” are now speaking out publicly, he added, noting that the Heartland Institute has done so since its founding in Chicago in 1984.

“We took a lot of bullets, a lot of arrows for doing that,” Bast said. “But it’s great. I love the company.”


Missouri Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Halt All EPA Regulations

For one Missouri lawmaker, fighting individual Environmental Protection Agency regulations — like the recent rule on carbon emissions from power plants — isn’t enough.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would halt all EPA rules that are currently in the works and prompt a review of all previous EPA regulations. H.R. 5034, titled the Stop the EPA Act, would also require Congress to approve all previous and new regulations that cost $50 million or more. Under the bill, any that aren’t approved by Congress won’t become law.

“My legislation will give the American people a voice in the regulator’s room when the President and the EPA try and go around Congress,” Graves said in a statement. “EPA aggression has reached an all-time high, and now it must be stopped.”

Graves’ legislation was prompted by the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” proposal, which aims to clarify what streams and rivers are under the jurisdiction of the federal government, under the Clean Water Act. It’s also aimed at the EPA’s new rule on carbon emissions from power plants, a proposal that multiple other lawmakers have attempted to undermine or overturn in recent months. House Republicans introduced an EPA funding bill this week that would block the agency’s new power plant rule, and nine states have signed on to coal company Murray Energy’s lawsuit against the agency, claiming that the new rule constitutes EPA overreach.

The EPA has long been the target of attacks from industry and lawmakers, however.

“The Obama EPA has waged an all-out War on Coal, promulgating a series of rules and regulations seeking to eliminate the United States coal industry, and the very good jobs, and low cost electricity, which it provides,” Murray Energy said in a release after filing its lawsuit against the EPA. “Indeed, the lives and livelihoods of entire families in many regions of America are being destroyed.”


Super pollutants

Joe Romm ups the ante below.  CO2 causes only 60% of warming, he says.  We have to fight the 40% caused by "super pollutants" too

Some confusion has been generated on this issue by a Tuesday New York Times piece, “Picking Lesser of Two Climate Evils,” which frames our optimum climate strategy as a choice between targeting CO2 and targeting super pollutants like methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and black carbon, that together cause some 40% of the warming we’re experiencing now.

But that is a “false choice,” as longtime NASA climate scientist Drew Shindell explained to me. We have to do both to maximize lives saved and minimize the chances of dangerous warming. That’s a point Climate Progress has made consistently.

The New York Times piece builds off an analysis by climatologist Raymond Pierrehumbert on “Short-Lived Climate Pollution” (SLCP). He concludes that an “implementation of SLCP mitigation that substitutes to any significant extent for carbon dioxide mitigation will lead to a climate irreversibly warmer than will a strategy with delayed SLCP mitigation. SLCP mitigation does not buy time for implementation of stringent controls on CO2 emissions.”



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Thursday, July 10, 2014

High quality NOAA Data Show U.S. in Decade-Long Cooling

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most accurate, up-to-date temperature data confirm the United States has been cooling for at least the past decade. The NOAA temperature data are driving a stake through the heart of alarmists claiming accelerating global warming.

Responding to widespread criticism that its temperature station readings were corrupted by poor siting issues and suspect adjustments, NOAA established a network of 114 pristinely sited temperature stations spread out fairly uniformly throughout the United States. Because the network, known as the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN), is so uniformly and pristinely situated, the temperature data require no adjustments to provide an accurate nationwide temperature record. USCRN began compiling temperature data in January 2005. Now, nearly a decade later, NOAA has finally made the USCRN temperature readings available.

According to the USCRN temperature readings, U.S. temperatures are not rising at all – at least not since the network became operational 10 years ago. Instead, the United States has cooled by approximately 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is more than half of the claimed global warming of the twentieth century.

Of course, 10 years is hardly enough to establish a long-term trend. Nevertheless, the 10-year cooling period does present some interesting facts.

First, global warming is not so dramatic and uniform as alarmists claim. For example, prominent alarmist James Hansen claimed in 2010, “Global warming on decadal time scales is continuing without letup … effectively illustrat[ing] the monotonic and substantial warming that is occurring on decadal time scales.” The word “monotonic” means, according to Merriam-Webster Online, “having the property either of never increasing or of never decreasing as the values of the independent variable or the subscripts of the terms increase.” Well, either temperatures are decreasing by 0.4 degrees Celsius every decade or they are not monotonic.

Second, for those who may point out U.S. temperatures do not equate to global temperatures, the USCRN data are entirely consistent with – and indeed lend additional evidentiary support for – the global warming stagnation of the past 17-plus years. While objective temperature data show there has been no global warming since sometime last century, the USCRN data confirm this ongoing stagnation in the United States, also.

Third, the USCRN data debunk claims that rising U.S. temperatures caused wildfires, droughts, or other extreme weather events during the past year. The objective data show droughts, wildfires, and other extreme weather events have become less frequent and severe in recent decades as our planet modestly warms. But even ignoring such objective data, it is difficult to claim global warming is causing recent U.S. droughts and wildfires when U.S. temperatures are a full 0.4 degrees Celsius colder than they were in 2005.

Even more importantly than the facts above, the USCRN provides the promise of reliable nationwide temperature data for years to come. No longer will global warming alarmists be able to hide behind thinly veiled excuses to doctor the U.S. temperature record. Now, thanks to the USCRN, the data are what the data are.

Expect global warming alarmists, now and for the foreseeable future, to howl in desperation claiming the USCRN temperature data are irrelevant.

Of course, to global warming alarmists, all real-world data are irrelevant.


Less than Half of Americans Say Humans Causing Global Warming

A newly released poll by the Pew Research Center reveals a majority of Americans believe either there is no solid evidence of recent global warming or recent global warming is caused by nature rather than human activity. According to the poll, merely 40 percent of Americans believe there is solid evidence of recent global warming and such warming is caused primarily by humans.

Looking more closely at the numbers, 61 percent say there is solid evidence the Earth is warming while 35 percent say there is no such solid evidence. Within the 61 percent saying there is solid evidence of warming, 40 percent say humans are likely the cause, while 18 percent say nature is the cause and 3 percent are unsure.

According to Pew, political liberals constitute the only group saying global warming is occurring and humans are the primary cause. The poll’s results show those same political liberals believe by overwhelming margins that politicians should “do whatever it takes to protect the environment.”

The same poll shows Americans support building the Keystone XL pipeline by a margin of 61 percent to 27 percent.


Salvation and Conservation, or Ruination and Confiscation?

“I’ve preserved more than 3 million acres of public lands for future generations, and I am not finished,” President Obama proudly declared before signing a proclamation newly designating the 500,000-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico in mid-May. “I’m searching for more opportunities to preserve federal lands where communities are speaking up, because wherever I see an opening to get things done for the American people, I’m going to take it.”

In the perfect centrally-planned fantasy world inhabited by Obama and his fellow Big-Government progressives, politicized and top-down bureaucratic control really is the smartest and most effective means for ensuring proficient environmental stewardship and preserving our natural heritage for future generations.

But back here in the real world, Big Government simply isn’t getting the job done.

Passed at the height of the progressive movement in 1905, the Antiquities Act empowers the executive to unilaterally declare public landmarks and assign the federal government with the seemingly simple and innocuous task of environmental preservation.

Back in March, the president used the act to designate more than 1,600 acres along the Northern California coast as the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands. And in March of last year, he used the act to “protect” more than 240,000 acres as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, also in New Mexico. And all of this despite the fact that the National Park Service (which only directly manages about 15 percent of all federal lands) already has an estimated deferred maintenance backlog of at least $12 billion.

Deferred maintenance projects include repairs for roads, bridges, hiking trails, sewer systems, and pollution controls which go unaddressed while the fate of our national parks and natural resources are often left to await the mercy of political and fiscal decisions in Washington, D.C.

The federal government already owns almost a third of the entire surface area of the United States, but is constantly in a position to acquire more through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a funding mechanism derived mostly from offshore oil and gas leases and used as a means for the federal government to grab more land without having to also provide for the funds to steward its existing lands. Obama’s 2014 budget asked that Congress fully fund the LWCF to the tune of $900 million, never mind that it is egregiously irresponsible for the federal government to be in the business of growing the federal estate when it cannot even properly manage the land that it already owns.

It can be quite politically difficult for opponents to argue against any executive action that gets to use something as apparently innocuous as environmental conservation as its ostensible mission statement, and don’t progressive environmentalist know it!

For decades, litigious environmentalist groups have used the growing reams of regulations governing the federal estate to go to court to steer public-land management and policy decisions in the direction that they prefer. That direction reliably means pushing land-use policies away from the sort of dynamism and innovation that allows for diversified, productive uses like cattle grazing, timber harvesting, energy development, and even recreation, and usually toward shutting off entire areas from human use on the supposed behalf of the desert tortoise or the sage grouse or some other almost-approaching- endangered species.

Clinton-era U.S. Forest Service chief Jack Ward Thomas once noted that court battles have tied the agency into a

“Gordian knot” that creates a “vicious cycle of increasing costs, time delays, and inability to carry out management actions.” As a result, the Forest Service is severely limited in their forest- thinning and other fire-suppression activities. This has led to catastrophic wildfires that have ravaged the arid West.

Instead of bringing still more lands under the inept umbrella of top-down management, the federal government needs to start selling off federal lands, both for the sake of the environment and the budget (and if that seems a bridge too far for too many, then the Obama administration can at least open up the federal estate to innovative, more free-market techniques like commercial leasing or public-private park partnerships that can actually generate revenue and court management decision from the people on-the-ground with the most complete knowledge).

Big-Government-loving environmentalist types are all too happy to accept on faith that the federal government is the best possible steward of environmental quality across the American landscape, rather than the hotbed of inefficiency, incompetence, and increasing costliness that ruins ecosystems, restricts access, dampers rural economies, and runs up the national deficit that it actually is



The corporation now seems to take its orders from the green lobby and is generating alarm over the environment

The BBC’s behaviour grows ever more bizarre. Committed by charter to balanced reporting, it has now decided formally that it was wrong to allow balance in a debate between rival guesses about the future. In rebuking itself for having had the gall to interview Nigel Lawson on the Today programme about climate change earlier this year, it issued a statement containing this gem: “Lord Lawson’s views are not supported by the evidence from computer modelling and scientific research.”

The evidence from computer modelling? The phrase is an oxymoron. A model cannot, by definition, provide evidence: it can provide a prediction to test against real evidence. In the debate in question, Lord Lawson said two things: it was not possible to attribute last winter’s heavy rain to climate change with any certainty, and the global surface temperature has not warmed in the past 15 to 17 years. He was right about both, as his debate opponent, Sir Brian Hoskins, confirmed.

As for the models, here is what Dr Vicky Pope of the Met Office said in 2007 about what their models predicted: “By 2014, we’re predicting that we’ll be 0.3 degrees warmer than 2004. Now just to put that into context, the warming over the past century and a half has only been 0.7 degrees, globally . . . So 0.3 degrees, over the next ten years, is pretty significant . . . These are very strong statements about what will happen over the next ten years.”

In fact, global surface temperature, far from accelerating upwards, has cooled slightly in the ten years since 2004 on most measures. The Met Office model was out by a country mile. But the BBC thinks that it was wrong even to allow somebody to challenge the models, even somebody who has written a bestselling book on climate policy, held one of the highest offices of state and founded a think-tank devoted to climate change policy. The BBC regrets even staging a live debate between him and somebody who disagrees with him, in which he was robustly challenged by the excellent Justin Webb (of these pages).

And why, pray, does the BBC think this? Because it had a complaint from a man it coyly describes as a “low-energy expert”, Mr Chit Chong, who accused Lord Lawson of saying on the programme that climate change was “all a conspiracy”.

Lawson said nothing of the kind, as a transcript shows. Mr Chong’s own curriculum vitae boasts that he “has been active in the Green party for 25 years and was the first Green councillor to be elected in London”, and that he “has a draught-proofing and insulation business in Dorset and also works as an environmental consultant”.

So let’s recap. On the inaccurate word of an activist politician with a vested financial and party interest, the BBC has decided that henceforth nobody must be allowed to criticise predictions of the future on which costly policies are based. No more appearances for Ed Balls, then, because George Osborne’s models must go unchallenged.

By the way, don’t bother to write and tell me that Lord Lawson is not a scientist. The BBC also rebuked itself last week for allowing an earth scientist with dissenting views on to Radio 4. Professor Bob Carter was head of the department of earth sciences at James Cook University in Australia for 17 years. He’s published more than 100 papers mainly in the field of paleoclimatology. So bang goes that theory.

The background to this is that the BBC recently spent five years fighting a pensioner named Tony Newbery, including four days in court with six lawyers, to prevent Mr Newbery seeing the list of 28 participants at a BBC seminar in 2006 of what it called “the best scientific experts” on climate change.

This was the seminar that persuaded the BBC it should no longer be balanced in its coverage of climate change. A blogger named Maurizio Morabito then found the list on the internet anyway. Far from consisting of the “best scientific experts” it included just three scientists, the rest being green activists, with a smattering of Dave Spart types from the church, the government and the insurance industry.

Following that debacle, the BBC commissioned a report from a geneticist, Steve Jones, which it revisited in a further report to the BBC Trust last week. The Jones report justified a policy of banning sceptics under the term “false balance”. This takes the entirely sensible proposition that reporters do not have to, say, interview a member of the Flat Earth Society every time they mention a round-the-world yacht race, and stretches it to the climate debate.

Which is barmy for two blindingly obvious reasons: first, the UN’s own climate projections contain a range of outcomes from harmless to catastrophic, so there is clearly room for debate; and second, this is an argument about the future not the present, and you cannot have certainty about the future.

The BBC bends over backwards to give air time to minority campaigners on matters such as fracking, genetically modified crops, and alternative medicine. Biologists who thinks GM crops are dangerous, doctors who thinks homeopathy works and engineers who think fracking has contaminated aquifers are far rarer than climate sceptics. Yet Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth spokesmen are seldom out of Broadcasting House.

So the real reason for the BBC’s double standard becomes clear: dissent in the direction of more alarm is always encouraged; dissent in the direction of less alarm is to be suppressed.

I sense that some presenters are growing irritated by their bosses’ willingness to take orders from the green movement.


Liberal Mega-Donor Wants to ‘Penalize People’ Who Add to ‘Climate Risk’

Speaking in New York City last week, Wall Street billionaire Tom Steyer outlined his vision for penalizing people whose actions may contribute to climate change.

“We need to reward people whose behavior reduces climate risk and penalize people who add to it,” Steyer said. “If we can get this right, I think there’s no doubt that our economy is going to continue to do very well.”

Steyer’s comments came at an event with several wealthy businessmen—such as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former bankers and government officials Hank Paulson and Robert Reich—to unveil a report from Risky Business, an economic analysis of the financial impact to be caused by climate change.

Deemed the “liberal answer to the Koch Brothers,” Steyer is one of the richest businessman in America and played a key part in raising millions of dollars to elect President Obama in 2008 once Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination.

Steyer met with Obama this week to discuss what the White House could do to tackle climate change, and the “insurance industry’s role in helping American communities prepare for extreme weather and other impacts of climate change,” according to Reuters.

That points to a plan to allow insurance companies to begin assessing for “climate risk” in certain industries, a more market-focused approach to discourage industries from emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Some of the people who may be “penalized” for adding to climate risks, however, are workers in plants and factories all over the rust belt of the United States. Although they recognize the need to mitigate the effects of climate change, some believe this shouldn’t come to the detriment of industries and traditional blue-collar workers.

“It is a fact that global warming threatens our planet. Scientists are as certain of this as they are of the dangers of smoking or riding in a car without a seatbelt,” said Tony Montana, spokesman for the local United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh. “Declaring ‘war’ on entire industries, such as coal, oil, or natural gas, however, is not the answer. These industries created and supported a way of life for workers and their communities for generations.”

If the idea of penalizing carbon emitters eventually makes it to the political process, Steyer has assured he will have allies in the fight.

NextGen Climate Action, a multi-million dollar political action committee funded by Steyer, has already beefed up the Democratic Senate Majority PAC with more than $5 million in hopes of guaranteeing the issue of climate change remains a political issue in many key states. Key union groups have similarly received funding by Steyer.


More taxpayer dollars for green energy?

There is an intentional tension in Washington. Our founding fathers planned that opposing views would balance each other out — a push-pull takes place. Spend. Don’t spend.

This tug-of-war is seen, perhaps most obviously, in the so-called renewable energy field. After Solyndra, and the more than fifty other stimulus-funded green energy projects that have failed or are circling the drain, the public has grown weary, and wary, of any more spending on green energy. The money isn’t there to spend and the motive behind the 2009 rush to push billions of taxpayer dollars out through the Department of Energy has been tainted by corruption and illegal activity.

The green-energy emphasis was sold as a job creator for unemployed Americans, as a cure for global warming, and a way to slow a perceived energy shortage. It sounded so positive in the many speeches President Obama gave as a sales pitch to the American public.

Today, Americans know better.

They knew about Solyndra — which took millions and then folded. Thanks, in large part to my exposé, many now know about Abengoa and the Solana solar project—which took billions of tax-payer dollars and is now functioning and producing electricity but does so by breaking immigration and labor laws, giving foreigners hiring preference, and stiffing American suppliers.

Watching multiple predictions fail and proponents get rich, Americans instinctively know that the whole global warming agenda doesn’t add up — as evidenced by this week’s International Conference on Climate Change where more than 600 “skeptics” from around the world gather to discuss real science and policy.

With headlines heralding: “North Dakota has joined the ranks of the few places in the world that produce more than a million barrels of oil per day,” people know there isn’t an energy shortage. And America’s new energy abundance is on top of our rich reserves of coal and uranium that can provide for our electrical needs for centuries to come.

Yet, the White House keeps pushing the green-energy narrative and, on July 3, 2014, “The Energy Department Just Announced $4 Billion For Projects That Fight Global Warming,” as the headline reads at

Wind Energy and the Production Tax Credit

Simmering just below the headlines is the push-pull over the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for Wind energy that expired at the end of 2013.

A recent study from the Institute for Energy Research (IER) that examined the state-by-state burden of the PTC, called the PTC “an amazing subsidy” because it can “effectively give a utility a bigger subsidy than the actual market price. It would be as if Uncle Sam allowed car dealers to knock off $60,000 from their tax bill for every $50,000 car they sold. Indeed, the PTC is so generous that it can result in negative wholesale electricity prices.” The “Sharing the Burden of the Wind PTC” report shows which states benefit most from the federal subsidy and which lose—with Texas being the biggest winner having received $394 million in the form of PTC credits.

Texans might be elated at their good fortune, however the IER study points out that individual consumers “still lose from the existence of the wind subsidies.” It states: “it’s not as if the IRS takes the population of Texas and divides $394 million among them, evenly. Rather, the wind subsidies are concentrated in the hands of a small group of wind producers.” As a result, wind serves as a tax shelter for large corporations.

On June 26, wind energy proponents — including pages of signatories who benefit financially from the tax credit — sent a letter to the top Congressional leaders urging them to “support the immediate passage of the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act.”

On the other side, citizens, like Mary Kay Barton of New York, are sending their elected federal representatives letters asking them not to support a PTC extension as proposed in EXPIRE. She sent a letter to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and he sent one back to her.

Schumer opens: “Thank you for writing to express your opposition to tax credits, and subsidies for alternative energy. I share your opposition to unsuccessful and unnecessary subsides.”

He then goes into a long paragraph about his effort to put an “end to subsidies for huge oil companies” and brags about being a “cosponsor of S.940, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, which would roll back huge subsidies and tax credit for large oil companies.” Green energy supporters, such as Schumer, like to mix the terms “subsidies” and “tax credits” with “tax deductions” — when they are completely different. A subsidy, or loan guarantee, and tax credit involves taxpayer dollars being doled out—or taxes not collected — to incentivize a favored activity. This is not how America’s oil-and-gas producers are treated. They do, however, receive tax deductions — like any other business — that allow them to write of losses and the cost of doing business against income. Additionally, as the New York Times, in a story about corporate tax rates, reported last year: “Large oil companies typically pay high rates.”  It shows that the average tax rate among companies is roughly 29 percent, while “large oil companies” are paying 37 percent and utility companies that “benefited from the 2009 stimulus bill, which included tax breaks,” have an “overall” rate of 12 percent.

In response to Barton’s letter about ending the PTC for industrial wind, Schumer continues: “I believe that it is necessary to balance our country’s increasing energy needs with the need to protect the environment. We must also focus on renewable energy and energy conservation in order to meet our growing energy demands. According to one study, if the U.S. increases its efficiency by 2.2 percent per year, it could reduce foreign oil imports by more than 50 percent. Such actions would not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil but would also safeguard the environment.”

Barton told me: “You’ll note that Senator Schumer still seems to think that subsidies for wind energy (electricity) will somehow ‘reduce foreign imports,’ and then references increasing ‘efficiency’ in response to a letter about inefficient, unreliable wind?” She’s picked up on one of my favorite soapboxes: we could cover every available acre with wind turbines and solar panels and it would do nothing to “reduce our dependence on foreign oil” or increase America’s energy independence. Wind and solar produce electricity and, through our coal, natural gas, and uranium supplies, we are already electricity independent. We import oil to fuel our transportation fleet.

As the fight over the PTC points out, wind energy cannot survive without the tax credits.

High Cost, Low Benefit

Wind energy is also more expensive than almost all other electricity sources — only solar is higher. A new study from the Brookings Institute on the “best path to a low-carbon future,” assumes that CO2 emissions are causing climate change and therefore must be reduced. It analyzes the costs and benefits of the most common solutions. The study found: “Adding up the net energy cost and the net capacity cost of the five low-carbon alternatives, far and away the most expensive is solar. It costs almost 19 cents more per KWH than power from the coal or gas plants that it displaces. Wind power is the second most expensive. It costs nearly 6 cents more per KWH.” The study puts these additional costs in context: “The average cost of electricity to U.S. consumers in 2012 was 9.84 cents per KWH, including the cost of transmission and distribution of electricity. This means a new wind plant could at least cost 50 percent more per KWH to produce electricity, and a new solar plant at least 200 percent more per KWH, than using coal and gas technologies.” The study concludes: “renewable incentives that are biased in favor of wind and solar and biased against large-scale hydro, nuclear and gas combined cycle are a very expensive and inefficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

Wind energy proponents cling to the idea that we must reduce fossil fuel use and believe, therefore, that the extra cost is worth it. However, because of the intermittency issues with wind and the reliability demand from the consumer, it requires fully dispatchable back-up power generation. Natural gas is the best form of back up because it can be easily adjusted to produce more or less electricity — however the constant adjustment results in less efficient use and more CO2 emissions.

I like to explain the preference for natural-gas back ups this way. Suppose you are going to cook a hamburger. You can cook it over charcoal or natural gas/propane. To use charcoal, you mound up the charcoal in the grill, soak it in lighter fluid, and toss in a match. You then wait 30 minutes for the coals to get nice and hot. Once hot, you put on your burger and cook it for 5-8 minutes. You remove your burger and leave the coals to die down — which could take several hours. On natural gas/propane, you simply turn it on and light the grill. After giving it 5 minutes to heat up, you toss on your burger. When your burger is cooked, you turn off the grill, and it is cool in minutes.

Natural gas is the preferred back up for wind (and solar) energy because, as in the burger example, its production can more easily be increased and decreased to follow the needed output — even though it operates most efficiently at a consistent level. Coal-fueled electricity generation cannot be simply turned up and down.

By way of answering the question: “Why are the costs of wind and solar so much higher, and the benefits not much different from other low-carbon alternatives?” the Brookings study states: “The benefits of reduced emissions from wind and solar are limited because they operate at peak capacity only a fraction of the time.”

It’s Not Just About the Money

If cost issues weren’t enough to make you a wind energy opponent, think of the health issues.

In late June, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) took President Obama up on his “so sue me” challenge and filed a lawsuit over his administration’s modification of the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act that now allows wind energy producers a thirty year permit to kill the majestic birds. According to ABC spokesman Bob Johns, “the Obama administration has gone too far with incentives for the wind industry.” The Washington Times quotes Johns: “Since the 1980s, wind turbines have killed an estimated 2,000-3,000 eagles, but the industry has paid only one fine.”

Wind turbines hurt more than birds. On June 16, a Michigan judge agreed with residents who live near the 56-turbine Lake Winds facility and who complained of health problems that began just after the turbines began operating. A lawsuit filed on April 1, 2013 argued that noise, vibrations, and flickering lights emanating from Lake Winds were adversely affecting their health.

Cape Wind

Despite these, and other harmful impacts — which include a loss of property values when wind turbines are installed in a neighborhood — and opposition from environmental groups and local fisherman, the Department of Energy has just approved a stimulus-funded $150 million loan guarantee for the controversial Cape Wind project planned to be built in the Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind, scheduled to begin construction in 2015, will be the first utility-scale wind facility in U.S. waters.

Addressing the loan guarantee announcement, the Boston Globe states: “Now, with a large portion of financing in place, regulatory approvals in hand, and most legal challenges resolved, the project has finally reached a threshold where it is likely to get done.” Validating my earlier point of higher cost, the Globe says the two largest utilities in Massachusetts “agreed to purchase a total of 77.5 percent of the power generated by Cape Wind at a starting price of 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour—well above typical wholesale prices.”

Like other wind energy projects, Cape Wind is dependent on the PTC extension. It is time for everyone who opposes government intervention in markets to contact his or her representatives — as Mary Kay Barton did — and voice opposition to the PTC extension. Call and say: “Stop supporting wind energy. It is an inefficient system that leads to perverse outcomes. The massive expansion of wind energy that we’ve seen in the past six years would not survive on a level playing field.”



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Climate Science Paper Censored By American Meteorological Society Journal

Research that questioned the accuracy of computer models used to predict global warming was “censored” by climate scientists, it was alleged yesterday.

One academic reviewer said that a section should not be published because it “would lead to unnecessary confusion in the climate science community”. Another wrote: “This entire discussion has to disappear.”

The paper suggested that the computer models used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were flawed, resulting in human influence on the climate being exaggerated and the impact of natural variability being underplayed.

The findings could have profound implications. If correct, they could mean that greenhouse gases have less impact than the IPCC has predicted and that the risk of catastrophic global warming has been overstated.

However, the questions raised about the models were deleted from the paper before it was published in 2010 in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. The paper had been submitted in July 2009, when many climate scientists were urging world leaders to agree a global deal on cutting emissions at the Copenhagen climate change summit in December that year.

Vladimir Semenov, a climate scientist at the Geomar institute in Kiel, Germany, said the questions he and six others had posed in the original version of the paper were valid and removing them was “a kind of censorship”.

He decided to speak out after seeing a former colleague, Professor Lennart Bengtsson, vilified for questioning the IPCC’s predictions on global warming.

Professor Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading, resigned from the advisory board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Lord Lawson of Blaby’s climate sceptic think-tank, in May after being subjected to what he described as McCarthy-style pressure from fellow academics.

Dr Semenov said some seemed to be trying to suppress suggestions that the climate was less sensitive to rising emissions than the IPCC had claimed.

“If you say there are some indications that the sensitivity is wrong, this breaks the stone on which the whole building is standing,” he said. “People may doubt the whole results.”

Dr Semenov said the reviewers who objected to the questions were technically correct because they “were not explicitly based on our results”. However, he said: “We had a right to discuss it . . . If your opinion is outside the broad consensus then you have more problems with publishing your results.”

A third reviewer was much more supportive of the paper, saying its “very provocative” suggestion that climate models were flawed was “so interesting that it needs to be discussed more fully”.

However, almost the entire paragraph was deleted, along with the conclusion that “the average sensitivity of the IPCC models may be too high”.

The journal chose to publish only the opening sentence: “We would like to emphasise that this study does not question the existence of a long-term anthropogenic warming trend during the 20th century.”

A spokesman for the American Meteorological Society said: “It is a natural part of the review process for the author to be asked to make changes, edits, and rewrites . . . The changes that are made in response to the peer review ensure that the research results are as accurate as possible.”


How Green Activists Were Allowed To Draft Obama’s White House Energy Policy

President Barack Obama’s aggressive and controversial Climate Action Plan grew out of a draft proposal from one of America’s richest environmental activist groups, it emerged Monday.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which spent $41 million of its $210 million nest egg last year pushing for changes in energy policy, circulated a 110-page document in 2012 that outlined what would become the president’s latest salvo in the global-warming wars.

Now that the Obama administration has adopted the green-group’s plan, the NRDC’s insider status is widely seen as an in-your-face response to oil, gas and coal companies that had a seat at the table 13 years ago when then-Vice President Dick Cheney convened meetings in secret to chart future energy policy.

While the Bush administration focused on extracting as much energy out of the ground as legally possible, the current White House’s policy is to erect roadblocks in the path of ‘big coal’ while rewarding alternative energy speculators with loan guarantees and other sources of public funds.

The NRDC’s proposal departed from the green movement’s previous one-size-fits-all approaches, allowing states to determine how to meet stringent carbon-emission targets while drawing them all toward the central goal of squeezing coal-generated electricity to the margins of the U.S. national power picture.

As with the Obamacare law, however, state-based solutions could result in a patchwork quilt of crisscrossing rules that aggravate tensions between businesses and the White House, while opening up the floodgates for a wealth of legal avenues by lawsuit-waving opponents.

Environmental Protection Agency regulators were among a narrow group of stakeholders who got private briefings on the proposal beginning in 2012, and based their eventual written rules on what they heard.

‘Once enacted,’ The New York Times reported on Monday, the new EPA regime ‘could do far more than just shut down coal plants; it could spur a transformation of the nation’s electricity sector.’

Such a wholesale shift is high on the list of NRDC’s priorities, and its three activists who wrote the proposal – and frequently advocate for green policies with government agencies – had all the resources they wanted to pull it off, according to an NRDC insider.

‘This was the most talked-about thing going on inside the organization,’ the veteran D.C. activist told MailOnline. ‘Nothing else we were doing – not pollution control or ESA [Endangered Species Act] work or marine protected areas – nothing had as much juice behind it.’

‘Of course, fundraising was always a trump card, but other than that, the carbon policy team got everything it wanted and pretty much had a blank check.’
The statistical analysis alone coast ‘a few hundred thousand dollars,’ NRDC lawyer David Doniger told the Times.

Doniger wrote the document along with fellow lawyer David Hawkins and Daniel Lashof, an activist described by the Times as a ‘climate scientist.’

Lashof holds a Harvard bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics, and a Berkeley Ph.D. from an ‘Energy and Resources’ program that describes its goal not in research terms but as a policy outcome: ‘a sus­tain­able envi­ron­ment and a just society.’

Before co-authoring what became the Obama White House’s latest climate rules, he helped draft the U.S. Senate’s failed ‘cap and trade’ carbon emissions bill.


Data Deleted From UN Climate Report Highlight Controversies

A chart removed from the IPCC summary but published in Science shows that much of the growth in recent greenhouse gas emissions comes from Asia

When the United Nations' last major climate change report was released in April, it omitted some country-specific emissions data for political reasons, a trio of new papers argue, sounding a warning bell about the global politicization of climate science.

Written by thousands of science, policy, and economics experts from around the world, the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports represent a synthesis of existing climate research knowledge, focusing on the evidence of a warming climate ("virtually certain"), the global impacts, and the ways we might avert its most catastrophic effects. The Summary for Policy-makers draws on the detailed technical report and offers recommendations on cutting carbon emissions and preparing for climate change.

Although the underlying technical material in the IPCC's fifth major report was widely agreed upon and published intact, "heated negotiations among scientific authors and diplomats led to substantial deletion of figures and text from the influential 'Summary for Policy-makers,'" writes Brad Wible, an editor at the journal Science, in the introduction to three papers published Thursday.

Wible notes there is "some fear that this redaction of content marks an overstepping of political interests, raising questions about division of labor between scientists and policy-makers and the need for new strategies in assessing complex science."

On the other hand, some observers have suggested that the policy summaries be even more explicitly co-produced with national governments, says Wible.

This discussion was sparked just days after the publication of the IPCC report in April, when report co-author and Harvard environmental economics professor Robert Stavins released a controversial open letter to the IPCC leadership. Stavins criticized the last-minute intervention by several governments in the approval process of the IPCC report in Berlin and called the resulting policy summary document "a summary by policy-makers, not a summary for them."

"Over the course of the two hours of the contact group deliberations, it became clear that the only way the assembled government representatives would approve text for SPM.5.2 [the Summary for Policy-makers] was essentially to remove all 'controversial' text (that is, text that was uncomfortable for any one individual government), which meant deleting almost 75 percent of the text," Stavins wrote on his blog on April 25.

Scientists vs. Diplomats

Wible points out that the stated intention of the IPCC since it was founded in 1988 has always been to "balance governmental and scientific input."

That mandate is unlikely to change, says David Victor, one of the lead authors of the policy discussion in the April IPCC report and the head writer of one of the papers published Thursday in Science, called "Getting Serious About Categorizing Countries."

"I think in an ideal world there would be a firmer separation between the diplomats and the scientists" when it comes to the IPCC process, says Victor, who is a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego.

However, Victor adds that he "can't imagine" the national governments from around the world that participate in the IPCC process agreeing to any substantial reforms in that area.

The best that can be hoped for are small changes that streamline the report process, says Victor. "Intergovernmental bodies that require consensus are very bad at handling politically difficult topics," he says. "I don't see a way to fix that problem."

Instead, the public should look more to individual governments and organizations and national climate assessments (such as the one released by the Obama administration May 6) for more concrete action on controversial topics like emissions caps and geoengineering. (See "Climate Report Provides Opportunity for Bridging Political Divide.")

But the second paper in the Science series, "Political Implications of Data Presentation," disagrees. Written by other authors of the last IPCC report, led by Navroz Dubash of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, the paper suggests that what is needed are more and earlier discussions between scientists and policymakers in development of future reports.

"Claiming government overreach and calling for greater insulation of the process come from a misleadingly simple interpretation" that would hinder the effectiveness of IPCC reports in actually influencing policy, Dubash and co-authors write. The fact that governments must approve the policy summary gives it more weight than other technical reports, which is a "process worth preserving."

Victor calls that argument "overly optimistic" and says he doubts earlier conversations between scientists and diplomats would have made a difference. In the 38,000 comments received and evaluated over the IPCC report's development, almost none hinted at the battle over individual country data that erupted in Berlin just days before the document was released, he says.

When governments hold the power to approve the policy document, "they are going to use that power to avoid having anything in the summaries that is politically inconvenient," says Victor.

IPCC co-author Charles Kolstad, a Stanford economist who was not involved with any of the papers released in Science, tells National Geographic that there is a "perception that the main product was the summary for policymakers and that it appeared to be a censored version of what we wrote." Kolstad says it would be better if the public had a clearer distinction of the two sides of the report and says "it would be a mistake to move the policymakers away from the process."

Kolstad adds that it was gratifying "how much the diplomats seemed to care about what was in the IPCC product" and says "remaining relevant is of paramount importance."

Value of Individual Country Data

When the IPCC met in Berlin in April to approve the latest report, representatives from several countries objected to a section in the summary that listed emissions by nation and classified countries according to their economies, says Victor. Those objecting countries included Brazil, China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia, he says.

Victor and colleagues wrote in Science that growth in a country's income was the strongest correlating factor with emissions. Developed countries continue to produce the highest emissions on a per capita basis, but most of the growth in global emissions over the past few decades has occurred in developing countries.

A chart removed from the IPCC summary but published in Science shows that much of the growth in recent greenhouse gas emissions comes from Asia, with smaller contributions from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Emissions in developed countries have continued to rise, but at a much slower rate.

To Victor, the logical conclusion of this trend is that "developed countries should be doing more to address climate change, but it is also the case that it is not mathematically possible to stabilize the world's climate unless developing countries are involved."

If the IPCC were to classify countries by their economies, it would "set the stage for political discussions" about what each country's responsibility might be, he says.

However, some governments worried that classification "could be disadvantageous in upcoming negotiations for a new international climate regime," IPCC authors Ottmar Edenhofer and Jan Minx write in the third policy paper in Science, called "Mapmakers and Navigators, Facts and Values."

Still, when all country data was stripped out of the policy summary, other useful information was lost, Victor and colleagues argue. For example, without that data it is harder to understand the impact of trade on emissions.

Reaching Consensus?

Although Dubash and colleagues suggest that the IPCC process can be improved with more collaboration between scientists and policymakers, Victor argues that the fundamental international nature of the group makes it unlikely to be able to reach consensus on controversial topics. "The IPCC is an inherently conservative body," says Victor.

Edenhofer and Minx write that "the real challenge is how the IPCC conducts assessments and deals with entanglement of facts and values at the science-policy interface." They suggest that future reports attempt to allow for different perspectives on policy questions and introduce analysis of how past climate policies have worked.

The IPCC has a choice, say Edenhofer and Minx. It can produce more sanitized reports that are even less relevant to policy or attempt to take on policy questions more directly, with a rational approach that acknowledges different viewpoints.

Stanford's Kolstad says he prefers the latter, although he acknowledges that it can be challenging because "any diplomat can veto any sentence." He adds that colleagues at Stanford and Harvard and their European counterparts are planning a workshop in February on how the IPCC might work better, in preparation for the next round of work.

Despite the most recent report's shortcomings, "when the IPCC says something declarative, such as that humans are responsible for most of the changes to the climate we are seeing, that means there is tremendous consensus around that," says Victor.


There's No Place Like Foam

Washington, DC, being the seat of the U.S. Government, has a higher than average tendency to exert legislative control over its citizens. For some reason, the issue of food storage seems to be a particularly high priority, as evidenced by the city's abhorrent 5 cent tax on plastic grocery bags.

In the latest effort to choke off just a little more freedom from DC residents, the government has announced a ban on single-serving styrofoam containers - the kind used for take out food or to hold inexpensive beverages. In a town where busy workers rely heavily on food trucks and where home cooking is a time-consuming luxury few can afford, this is going to be a major blow to the city’s hungry.

The ban is being justified on environmental grounds. Styrofoam is famously durable, not able to be broken down by the ordinary bacteria that helpfully take care of the rest of our waste. This, it has been decided, poses an unacceptable risk to our planet, and must be stopped, without much - if any - consideration for the costs.

When a business makes a decision to use a certain type of product, it is calculated to be in that business’ best interest. This means not only inexpensive, but providing the customer with a value that will keep them coming back for more. There are very good reasons, apart from mere greed, that so many food service businesses rely upon styrofoam rather than alternative materials. As mentioned above, it’s durable. Food doesn’t leak out of it or gradually render it useless, as tends to happen with plain paper containers. It’s lightweight, it doesn’t impart an alien taste to its contents, and yes, it’s cheap. Simply put, it’s ideally adapted to food service.

So what will be the consequences of a ban on this most perfect of containers? Lower quality products for consumers at a higher price. A basic understanding of supply and demand shows that any kind of cost increase on business will be shared between the customer and the business owner, depending on how responsive consumer demand is to price changes. This means that not only will customers be paying higher prices, but business owners will be making less money. This might not be a problem for national chains like McDonalds and Starbucks, but for businesses on the margin - and a great many of DC’s food trucks are undoubtedly operating on the margin - increased costs could mean the difference between entrepreneurial life and death.

There are further unintended consequences to these kind of bans, as when cities like Los Angeles banned single--use plastic grocery bags in favor of reuasable cloth ones in an effort to be eco-friendly, not realizing that these bags turned out to be breeding grounds for dangerous diseases.

A cost-benefit analysis is only useful, however, once you accept that there is a role for government intervention in the market in the first place. Economic theory, recognizing the benefit of free markets, dictates that a market failure be demonstrated before government gets involved. Let's take a moment to see whether this criterion is met in the case of styrofoam containers.

The argument traditionally offered by economists is the problem of externalities, situations where the full cost of a good’s use is not borne by those who use it. The customer pays for the production of the styrofoam in the price of his food, but the costs to the environment are borne by everyone. Thus, there is a market failure resulting in overproduction of styrofoam, and the government must intervene to correct it.

There are problems with this argument, most notably the tenuous claim that styrofoam results in externalities at all. When someone finishes using a styrofoam container, assuming they don’t violate existing anti-littering laws, they typically contract with a private company to carry the trash away and store it on land designated for that purpose.

If the owners of that land decide they want to store styrofoam there, they are free to refuse (no pun intended) and consumers will have to find another way of dealing with the waste. However, if they are willing to store the trash, then what is the problem? Where is the externality? The environmental cost is borne entirely by landowners voluntarily accepting waste. There is no market failure, and no justification for government intervention.

If the issue is that many landfills are classified as public land, Congress is free to make a law prohibiting the storage of styrofoam on public land, but to outright ban a privately made product that satisfies the needs of consumers and businesses alike simple because it is durable is an unacceptable violation of individual rights from a city that makes a habit out of that sort of thing.


Lord Lawson, The Climate And The BBC: Who’s The Real Expert?

Lord Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, is now the [Chairman] of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. So when global warming policy is debated, he has sometimes been invited to debate the issue on television and radio, often with climate scientists.

Last week it was revealed that the Radio 4 Today Programme has been rebuked over a particular exchange between Lord Lawson and Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College, London. In the exchange in question, Lord Lawson contended that nobody knows the extent of climate change and that 2013 was unusually quiet for tropical storms. The BBC’s Editorial Complaints unit accepted that it was not made sufficiently clear that Lord Lawson’s views on climate change are not accepted by the majority of climate scientists.

If the debate is about how many storms there were in a particular year, and Lord Lawson got his facts wrong, that is obviously a mistake on his part. But the affair points to a more general issue.  Lord Lawson has no extensive scientific training or track record of peer-reviewed research into climate change science. So when he is invited on to debate climate change policy with some established mainstream climate scientist, is it genuinely a debate between peers, or is it a matter in which viewers and listeners should be clear that one of the debaters is a established expert with a long track record of productive work in the relevant area and the other is, at best, a semi-informed amateur?

I say the latter – it is not a debate between equals. Let’s see why.

A debate about climate change policy is a debate about what policies should be introduced to respond to the consequences or risks of human-induced climate change.  What does that involve and which of the components of the discussion are matters on which Lord Lawson has any relevant knowledge or expertise, and which are those on which his climate scientist adversary is really the expert?

Well, first, we need insights into how humans have induced and/or will  in the future induce climate change (absent any policy change or other human response – e.g. via market forces). The first part of that is an economic model. All models of human-induced climate change include, at their core, economic models – otherwise how would we forecast the human contribution without a model of how much output there will be, how much energy will be used in producing that output, and so on. Who, out of Lord Lawson, former Chancellor the Exchequer and before that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and before becoming an MP for many years an economics writer, and a climate scientist, do you suppose might have the more relevant expertise in the assessment of economic models or forecasts for the future of the economy?

Maybe some climate modellers do in fact have knowledge of the relevant economic models, but many others will actually be experts in the physics of the atmosphere and related matters. Normally, Lord Lawson will have the advantage here.

Next, we need a model of how carbon emissions will affect the climate (absent any automatic equilibrating mechanisms of the earth responding to carbon emissions). On this the climate scientist will clearly have the advantage. But then again, Lord Lawson is most unlikely to disagree with the climate scientist about anything to do with this, since the science on this point is pretty much undisputed by anyone sensible (and certainly not disputed by Lord Lawson).

Third, we need a model of how the earth might respond to changes in CO2 or other greenhouse gases. This is a point on which the climate scientist will undoubtedly have more direct expertise than Lord Lawson. It is also the non-human aspect of the issue that climate science understands the least. For example, see this transcript of the American Physical Society climate change statement review workshop of January this year. The very limited increase in global surface temperatures over the past fifteen years now goes well beyond anything that could be written off as “noise” in climate change models – it simply wasn’t initially predicted.

It obviously in no way follows that climate change is not real or not human-induced. But what does follow is that our models of how the earth responds to increased CO2 could be improved materially. Some researchers have been seeking to explain the current hiatus for a number of years, but the conclusion a number of perfectly respectable mainstream scientists draw is, as per the American Physical Society workshop transcript (p105): errors in current models “raise serious questions about the ability to simulate processes and feedbacks that are temperature dependent“. So, to be sure, the climate scientist will probably understand more about the detailed drawbacks of such models than Lord Lawson does, but it is a hotly debated topic (genuinely hotly debated, not 99pc vs 1pc) with each climate scientist having her own pet theory and no consensus at this time. Let’s score this one to the scientist.

Since government policy interventions only become an issue if market processes or other forms of natural ingenuity would not address climate change automatically, the next element we need is a view about how market processes and ingenuity might respond to climate change. That’s obviously again an economics question, on which Lord Lawson will be fairly expert and most climate scientists almost nowhere. [...]

So, overall, I agree. Given that how, if at all, we should respond to climate change is a matter of economics and political judgement, not (emphatically not) atmospheric physics (for nothing whatever follows from any climate change model about what policy should be adopted in response to its findings), I entirely agree that when Lord Lawson debates climate change policy with climate scientists there is only one person there with relevant expertise and the other party is, at best, a semi-informed amateur. The relevant expert is Lord Lawson.

The sooner people grasp that climate change policy is not a scientific question, the sooner our debate on this matter will become a whole lot more rational and balanced.


The Rage of the Climate Central Planners

The conversation with a good friend — brilliant man but a head full of confidence in the planning state — was going well. We’ve agreed on so much, such as war, civil liberties, the dangers of religious intolerance and so on. We’ve always argued about points concerning economics and property rights but it has always been polite.

Then the other day that changed. For the first time ever, the topic of climate change and policy response came up. I casually dismissed the idea that mandatory steps away from industrialization plus global regulatory controls could accomplish anything. Plus, how can we really know the relation between cause and effect, cost and benefit, problem and solution?

These are not radical points. The same crew — tax-funded experts and functionaries — that claims to be able to fix global temperature and save humanity from melting ice caps decades from now also said 25 years ago that they would bring peace, happiness, and understanding to Iraq. They spent $2.4 trillion and smashed a civilization.

This is what bureaucrats do. They always pretend to know what they cannot really know, and are more than happy to squander other people’s money and liberty in order to realize their dreams. When they screw up, no one pays the price. This is why government almost always, make that always, gets it wrong.

Whatever the problem, government is not the answer. Hardly any proposition concerning life on earth strikes me as more obvious.

So, my tossed-off, slightly dismissive comments on the global warming crusade didn’t seem so outlandish to me. I was merely extending F.A. Hayek’s “knowledge problem.”

We can’t know with certainty whether, to what extent, and with what result, and in light of possible countervailing factors, how climate change (especially not 50 years from now) really affects life on earth. We can’t know the precise causal factors and their weight relative to the noise in our models, much less the kinds of coercive solutions to apply and whether they have been applied correctly and with what outcomes, much less the costs and benefits.

We can’t know any of that before or after such possible solutions have been applied. Science requires a process and unrelenting trial and error, learning and experimentation, the humility to admit error and the driving passion to discover truth. In other words, real science requires freedom, not central planning. The idea that any panel of experts can have the requisite knowledge to make such grand decisions for the globe is outlandish and contrary to pretty much everything we know.

Plus, throw politics into the mix and matters get worse. From everything I’ve read, I’m convinced that fear over climate change (the ultimate public goods “problem”) is the last and best hope for those lustful to rule the world by force. Some people just want to run the world, and this entire nightmare scenario that posits that our high standard of living is causing the world to heat up and burn is the latest and greatest excuse. And that remains true whether or not everything they claim to be true is all true or all nonsense.

In my conversation with my friend, I didn’t say all of this; I just hinted at it vaguely. It was enough. He began to shake. He turned white and began to pace. He called me a denialist. He was horrified to discover that his good friend turns out to be some kind of extremist weirdo who disparages science. He began to accuse me of believing in things I never said, of failing to read the science (though later admitting that he hadn’t read the science).

I stood there stunned that I could have so quickly and inadvertently changed the whole dynamic of our conversation and even friendship — all for having suggested that something seemed a bit out of whack with mainstream opinion on this topic.

This is not the first time this has happened. In fact, I should have come to expect it by now. Every time this subject comes up with anyone who favors government action on climate change, the result has been the same. We seem to be unable to have a rational conversation. It’s like an article of faith for them, and I’m suddenly the dangerous heretic who believes the world is flat.

Now, in light of this, I read Paul Krugman this morning. He writes in his column: “Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.”

The denialists? My whole experience has been the opposite. By denialists, I’m assuming he means people who doubt the merit of his grand central plan for the world economy. Among them, I’ve found a vast range of views, an open mindedness, and curiosity about the full range of opinion, and, quite often, an attitude that seems to me — if anything — to be far too quick to defer to all main conventions of this debate.

I have no interest in taking on the science of climatology but every time I’ve looked into this in depth, I’ve found that the consensus is far more loose than people like Krugman would suggest. Real scientists do not have the intensity of certainty that the politicians and pundits demand they have.

Discerning cause and effect, cost and benefit, problem and solution, in a field that touches on the whole of the social and natural science — come on. We are kidding ourselves if we think there is just one way to look at this.

If you want tolerance and humility, and a willingness to defer to the evidence and gradual process of scientific discovery, you will find it among those who have no desire to manage the world from the top down.

What can we say about those who want to empower a global coterie of elites to make the decision about what technologies we can use and how much under the guise of controlling something so gigantically amorphous and difficult to measure, detect, and precisely manage as earth’s surface temperature?

This is a level of chutzpah that surpasses the wildest fantasies of any socialist planner.

Even without knowing anything of the literature, without having read any of the best science on the topic, anyone with knowledge of the politics of science and the politics of public policy can know this much: this is not going to end well.

And perhaps this explains the incredible intolerance, belligerance, and stunning dogmatism of those who are demanding we shut down the free market in order to accommodate their wishes.

They really can’t allow a debate, because they will certainly and absolutely and rightly lose.

When that is certain, the only way forward is to rage.

Which is precisely what I expect to happen in the wake of what I’ve just written.



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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Could Consuming MORE Energy Help Humans Save Nature?

By John Horgan

Even before I arrived at the annual “Dialogue” of the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland, California, think tank that challenges mainstream environmental positions, I was arguing about it.

"Ecopragmatists" contend that higher energy consumption may help us "decouple" from, or reduce our impact on, the environment. Photo: Breakthrough Institute.

When I explained some of the institute’s positions to two green friends, they were aghast that I would hobnob with a group that favors nuclear power, natural gas, genetically-modified food—and, more generally, the notion that environmentalism is or should be compatible with rapid economic growth.

My friends agree with ethicist Clive Hamilton that the Institute’s “ecopragmatist” policies (other common descriptors are ecomodernist, neogreen and techno-utopian) “will lead us to disaster.” Hamilton argues in Scientific American that Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, founders of the Breakthrough Institute, “do not deny global warming; instead they skate over the top of it, insisting that whatever limits and tipping points the Earth system might throw up, human technology and ingenuity will transcend them.”

Like environmental journalists Andrew Revkin and Keith Kloor, who are friends, I admire the work of Shellenberger and Nordhaus. We share (I think) several basic assumptions, which for me are emotional as well as intellectual. First, optimism about the future is reasonable, given how much progress humans have already achieved in the realms of medicine, human rights, prosperity and even the environment. Second, optimism, even wishful thinking, are more conducive to achieving further progress than alarmism and despair. Third, we can solve our problems by being more open-minded and creative–and scrutinizing all our assumptions.

Take, for example, the provocative agenda of the 2014 Dialogue, which was held in Sausalito, California, June 22-24, and was titled “High-energy Planet.” (See also the institute’s recent report “Our High-Energy Planet.”) Here is how the Dialogue brochure introduces the agenda:

"For the past 40 years, rising energy production and consumption have been widely viewed as inherently destructive of nature. A steady stream of government, United Nations, and environmental proposals have identified lowered energy consumption as the highest goal of climate and environmental policy. But during that same period, global per capita energy consumption has risen by 30 percent. And over the next century, global energy consumption is anticipated to double, triple, or more. The reality of our high-energy planet demands that we rethink environmental protection. The question for Breakthrough Dialogue 2014 is, ‘How might a high-energy planet save nature?’

Universal energy is a fundamental requisite of development. The transformation of natural energy assets into usable energy services allows not just for household lighting and electricity, but also modern infrastructures and societies. Affordable energy is used to power tractors, create fertilizers, and power irrigation pumps, all of which improve agricultural yields and raise income. Cheap and reliable grid electricity allows factory owners to increase output and hire more workers. Electricity allows hospitals to refrigerate lifesaving vaccines and power medical equipment. It liberates children and women from manual labor and provides light, heat, and ventilation for the schools that educate the workforce.

A world with cheaper and cleaner energy could be a world where humans tread more lightly, leaving more space for other species while reducing pollution. Cheap, clean energy could power advanced water treatment plants that remove phosphorus from livestock effluents, returning clean water to rivers and recycling phosphorous as a fertilizer. Desalination could spare aquifers, rivers, and lakes, while rehabilitating freshwater ecosystems. Materials recycling and incineration could make landfills a thing of the past. And vertical agriculture could spare more land for nonhumans.

There is no guarantee that a high-energy planet will be a better place for nature. While land used for agriculture has grown only modestly, frontier agriculture continues to devastate old-growth rainforests in Indonesia and Brazil. Coal continues to be the fastest-growing fuel, and the carbon intensity of the global economy has been increasing in recent years. And while consumption of some key resource inputs such as wood and non-agricultural water appear to have peaked, demand for others is still growing rapidly.

Ultimately, what will determine whether our high-energy planet is better or worse for nature will be the ways in which our technologies, our economies, our values, and our politics evolve. What are the ways that we might shape the trajectory of the current transition and what are the ways that we won’t? What does an ecomodernist politics look like that is simultaneously realistic and aspirational about the future of the planet?

Agricultural innovations have boosted the productivity of farmland over the last 50 years, sparing enormous swathes of land, according to a 2012 analysis by Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University and co-authors. Other energy-consuming innovations could help further reduce humanity's impact on nature, according to Ausubel."

Breakthrough speakers did not all find the concept of a sustainable, high-energy planet plausible. Far from it. The vision of a prosperous, green, “high-energy planet” was supported by some speakers, notably environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University, who received the 2014 “Breakthrough Paradigm Award.”

Ausubel emphasized that energy-consuming advances such as tractors and synthetic fertilizers already enable humans to produce food far more efficiently, using less land and water. Ausubel asserted that our technologies are allowing us to “decouple” from nature–that is, to meet our needs with much less impact on the environment. Environmental researcher Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado argued, moreover, that large increases in energy consumption are required to eradicate the poverty that still afflicts a large proportion of humanity.

But key tenets of the high-energy proposal were criticized by other speakers. Energy analyst Arnulf Grubler of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis questioned whether nuclear energy will ever be as economically viable as proponents hope. Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity feared that by the time humans achieve their green, high-energy utopia, much of the planet’s biodiversity will have already been wiped out.

I saw these disagreements as productive. The conference fulfilled its goal of “achieving disagreement,” defined as “overcoming misunderstandings to get at genuine disagreements.”

I have one suggestion for the Breakthrough Institute: I hope it considers how militarism can exacerbate our environmental problems, and, conversely, how reducing militarism can benefit environmentalism and other social causes. Perhaps a topic for a future Dialogue?


“Demand-side management”: Blackouts by another name

UK: In a recent speech Ed Davey announced that energy intensive companies would be paid to switch off their machinery during times of high demand. As many have noted, this not what happens in healthy energy markets. Although this policy is called ‘demand-side management’, jargon does not disguise what is still a blackout. But simple economics can determine a much better approach to energy policy than the managed decline preferred by the deeply unpopular minority party in the coalition.

The problem of the UK’s diminished capacity is caused by energy policies, (not shortages of fuel), largely but not entirely driven by EU directives to reduce CO2 and other emissions from power stations.  Much of the UK’s generating capacity has been forced to close by the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD), followed by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), both of which are intended to reduce the emissions responsible for pollution. Nobody is against clean air, but the combination of these policies has compounded the UK’s energy problems, leaving an energy gap which threatens wide-spread blackouts.

The LCPD and IED force the operators of coal-fired power stations either to shut down within a given time (17,500 operational hours between 2016 and 2023), or to add systems to comply with the standards they set out.  Retro-fitting older but still serviceable plants may not be economically viable, so the operational lifespan of these plants is reduced by a decade or more.  Somewhat late in the day, the Department for Energy and Climate Change commissioned a report on the feasibility of building new gas and coal-fired capacity and extending the life of the UK’s existing power plants by making them compliant with the IED.

The existence of the report demonstrates that the current and previous governments’ plans for a greener energy sector have not materialised, and cannot now be achieved. No amount of wind turbines and domestic solar PV installations can replace the capacity that has already been lost to the LCPD and will be lost to the IED. So the government is now forced to face the consequences: begging energy companies to keep remaining coal and legacy gas plants operational for as long as possible in order to avert a deeper crisis.

Along the way, the report shows some interesting things about the history of the UK’s fleet of power stations. The following graph shows two main periods of building. Approximately 3.3GW a year of coal plant between 1965-75 and 2.5GW a year between 1990 and 2000, under different economic regimes.

This demonstrates that relatively rapid deployment of conventional plant is technically feasible. In contrast, the UK’s onshore wind fleet expanded by an average of just 0.5GW a year between 2004-12, equivalent to just 0.15GW when we take into account the variability of wind energy. At this rate, it would take nearly 80 years for onshore wind to replace the 11.8GW of coal and gas-fired capacity that will have been shut down by 2020, by the LCPD and IED. If we include the 6.1GW of nuclear capacity that will have been closed by 2020, the current rate of onshore wind farm construction will take 120 years to replace what took fewer than 6 years to build in the 1960s. So much for green economic ‘progress’.

And the cost? The report rules out building new coal-fired plants, but more interestingly finds that new gas-fired plants can be built for around £500 per KW of capacity – £500 million per GW at a build rate of up to 6GW a year. This is consistent with DECC’s own estimates, which includes onshore wind at £960 per KWh of capacity, or £3,300, when we take into account wind variability. That’s £3.3 billion per GW.  So to close the energy gap with gas-fired capacity would cost around £9 billion, and take three years. But closing the gap with onshore wind energy would cost £59 billion (not including the cost of extensive changes to the Grid to cope with intermittent sources like wind) and take longer than a century. And we’d still need to spend the £9 billion on gas-fired back-up anyway.

It is remarkable, given these facts, that the government should ever doubt the need to keep the legacy power stations open. According to research by The Tax Payer’s Alliance, green energy subsidies will amount to £5.8 billion a year by 2018-19. That could pay for the energy gap to be closed in just 18 months.

These are of course, rough calculations. And they don’t take into account the cost of fuel. But the cost of financing £59 billion worth of wind farms – interest payments – would be far greater than the cost of fuel for gas plants, which is one reason why wind farms need to be so heavily subsidised. No wonder green campaigners are so violently opposed to fracking, and so resistant to a second ‘dash for gas’. The argument for closing down coal and gas-fired power stations, and replacing them with wind farms and other renewables is factually, empirically and morally bankrupt. And no wonder the government is so worried about keeping the lights on that it is asking factories to shut down. It is policies, not technical, economic or environmental challenges, that have caused the energy gap to open up.


U.S. Fracking Has 'Cut Carbon More Than The Whole World's Wind And Solar'

Fracking in the US has led to a greater reduction in carbon emissions than all the wind turbines and solar panels across the entire globe put together. This is the stark fact presented at a meeting at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg last week.

Chris Faulkner, who is chief executive of Breitling Energy Corporation based in Texas, explained: "Fracking has succeeded where Kyoto and carbon taxes have failed. Due to the shale boom in the US, the use of clean burning natural gas has replaced much more polluting coal by ten per cent. In 2012, the shift to gas has managed to reduce CO₂ emissions by about 300 megatonnes (Mt).

"Compare this to the fact that all the wind turbines and solar panels in the world reduce CO₂ emissions, at a maximum, by 275 Mt. In other words, the US shale gas revolution has by itself reduced global emissions more than all the well-intentioned solar and wind in the world.”

The economic impacts of fracking and shale gas are also indisputable: as natural gas prices in the European Union have doubled since the year 2000, US prices have fallen by about 75 per cent in the past few years. Annually, the global solar and wind subsidies cost $60B, whereas the US is saving at least $100B from cheaper energy

The Economist predicts that by 2020 the fracking revolution will have added 2 to 4 per cent ($380–$690B) to American GDP and created more than twice as many jobs as car makers provide today. US GDP today is about $16T, and US car makers employ about 800,000 people.

Chris Faulkner continued: "Many countries in Europe, and across the world, have similar opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint, and to experience the same economic benefits.”

"These are not opportunities governments should overlook, or discount, as carbon reduction targets will not be achieved through renewables or any other current energy generation technology.

"But shale is not a silver bullet, it is a stop-gap fuel while other energy generation technologies are developed, which will replace carbon-based fuels in the coming years.

"Opponents of fracking and shale exploitations cite various risks. Yet a million and a half wells have been fracked in the US since 1947 and 95 per cent of all wells in the US are fracked today. It is a very safe method of exploration and production. Fracking occurs at several thousand feet below freshwater aquifers. It is virtually impossible for any of the fracking fluid to climb back up through the rock formations between the shale gas deposits and the aquifer.

"As with any energy source,” added Chris Faulkner, "there are risks. But if there is proper regulation and enforcement, those risks can be managed and minimized. In many states in the US there are effective regulations and monitoring in place.”

Chris Faulkner was invited to present at the Council of Europe by UK MP David Davies. The 'fringe' meeting was attended by over 30 Council of Europe members from across Europe, including eight UK MPs.

"The UK is the only country in Europe which is progressing with shale exploration,” added Chris Faulkner. "The rest of Europe is watching the UK very closely to see what happens.

"The UK government is making every effort to get this right, albeit without much help from the shale industry which has spectacularly failed to properly engage with governments and, more importantly, with the public at large.

"The handful of companies operating in the field have not made any real effort to engage with local communities around sites, enter into proper discussions with local councils, or discussed fracking with environmentalists, allowing them free range to influence public perceptions using inaccurate, misinterpreted or exaggerated information mainly from the US experience.

"The industry has also failed to come forward with any suggestions for compensating landowners and local communities, seemingly leaving it to government to regulate.

"The UK government has suggested a lump sum payment and then 1 per cent of revenue going forward. This is very limited compared to the model that operates in the US where landowners can get over 20 per cent of revenue over the life of a well.”


UK: Green ‘smart meters’ are plain stupid

Ideology is a bad guide to action in the real world. It makes otherwise sensible people ignore important facts and pursue policies which are obviously flawed.

The current Green dogma is constantly pushing governments, businesses and much of the media into policies and actions which we will later regret.

The plan for ‘smart meters’ is one such mistake. Even those who now promote them do not fully understand them. Experience in other countries shows they will not fulfil their optimistic official targets and that they are fraught with risks.

They do not work properly in several types of building. Their complex technology could take years to bed down.

Yet the policy is to be implemented anyway, publicised at great expense with a launch event starring Bob Geldof. And we, the actual consumers, will pay for it for many years ahead in higher charges, even if we opt not to have the new equipment in our homes.

This is a classic example of starting with a theory and trying to force reality to fit. Similar attitudes led to the sclerosis and ultimate collapse of the old Communist systems, which promised utopia and produced poverty, concrete-headed official obduracy and rust.

The Green fashion has gone unchallenged long enough.

It is time for Ministers, MPs and the media to re-examine the claims of a belief system which has so far brought nothing but higher prices, diminished efficiency and ugly blights on the landscape.


Report from a British summer

By the end of this week, the Met Office is predicting it will be Phew, What A Scorcher! time again. It’s called the British summer.

Not according to the Government, it isn’t. Officially, we don’t have weather any more.

We have ‘climate change’, a catch-all excuse for everything from raising taxes and refusing to empty the bins to exploding manhole covers.

That’s right, exploding manhole covers. The Health and Safety Executive has warned pedestrians to be on the alert after a series of manhole cover explosions in London’s West End.

There have been 64 such incidents already this year, compared with just nine in 2011. ‘Experts’ blame the ‘wettest winter on record’ for rainwater damaging underground electric cables.

The heavy rainfall, which brought flooding to many parts of the country, is naturally attributed to ‘climate change’, which is also allegedly responsible for last week’s hot weather and the subsequent deluge at the weekend.

Today’s political class thinks the answer to unpredictable weather is to close perfectly serviceable coal-fired power stations, litter the landscape with useless windmills and jack up the cost of fuel to meet ‘green’ energy targets.

They also assume the right to lecture us about our behaviour. An outfit called ‘Public Health England’ has taken it upon itself to draw up a ‘Heatwave Plan 2014’ to be distributed to all homes.

I only became aware of this patronising drivel when Mail reader Tony Singleton sent me a copy of a leaflet which had been pushed through his letter box by Devon County Council’s ‘Emergency Management’ team.

It begins: ‘Although many of us enjoy the sunshine, as a result of climate change we are increasingly likely to experience summer temperatures that may be harmful to health.’

We are instructed to obey a shopping list of precautions to keep us safe. For instance: ‘Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm. If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf.

‘Eat cold foods, particularly salads. Take a cool shower, bath or body wash. Sprinkle water over the skin or clothing or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.’ (I never leave home without one.)

As if this isn’t sufficiently insulting to our intelligence, we are also told how to act in our own homes.

‘Close curtains that receive morning and afternoon sun. However, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat. Consider replacing or putting reflective material in between them and the window space.’

What? Covering your windows with Bacofoil is normally associated with lunatics who are convinced they are being targeted by invisible death rays from alien space ships. It’s the kind of thing which gets people sectioned.

Now, though, it appears to be official Government policy. After reading this rubbish, I presumed it couldn’t be confined only to Devon.

I was right. The Heatwave Plan 2014 has been adopted by councils and NHS Trusts all over Britain as part of a national action plan.

I’ve stumbled across websites called ‘Norfolk Prepared’ and ‘Staffordshire Prepared’ giving identical advice.

The author of this extraordinary 45-page document is Professor  Sally C. Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Officer at the Department of Health.

She has drawn on the expertise of a wide range of healthcare ‘professionals’ from across the public sector. It even contains advice to Muslims on how to avoid becoming dehydrated in the event of a heat wave coinciding with fasting during Ramadan.

They think of everything, don’t they? It was only a matter of time before the ‘climate change’ and ‘diversity’ agendas collided. Goodness knows how much all this madness is costing us.

Meanwhile, in other news, the BBC has decided to stop giving airtime to ‘unqualified climate change deniers’ and the EU is issuing new recycling rules and demanding higher petrol taxes to ‘combat climate change’.


‘Energy Independence’: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

    “Unfortunately, at the first sign of political and economic trouble most people are spontaneously inclined to put the brakes on international trade and to increase local production of critical things such as food and energy. This stance often has dire consequences.”

As some apparently inexplicable behaviour illustrates (say, being a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs), humans are profoundly territorial creatures. According to evolutionary psychologists, this is because for approximately 90% of their time on this planet, modern humans belonged to small groups that were constantly fighting each other over the possession of land and resources. Deep down, most people’s behaviour is not all that different from that observed on Animal Planet’s Meerkat Manor…

Peace and Open Trade

As recent events in the Ukraine remind us, sometimes the other tribe is still out there to get us. By and large, however, the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker demonstrates in his book The Better Angels of our Nature that we are living “in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence,” a relatively blessed state of affairs made possible through ever greater international trade and the worldwide exchange of ideas and culture over the last few centuries.

More than two centuries before Pinker, the French philosopher Montesquieu had similarly observed:

Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that wherever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners… Peace is the natural effect of trade.” In the immortal words of another French thinker of the time, Voltaire: “Go into the [Stock] Exchange in London, that place more venerable than many a court, and you will see representatives of all the nations assembled there for the profit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion, and reserve the name of infidel for those who go bankrupt.

Unfortunately, at the first sign of political and economic trouble most people are spontaneously inclined to put the brakes on international trade and to increase local production of critical things such as food and energy. This stance often has dire consequences. As the old saying goes, if goods don’t cross borders, armies eventually will.

Less dramatically though, these policies typically deliver lower standards of living (after all, no one would bother moving good over long distances if they did not provide better and cheaper alternatives to local productions) and greater insecurity (for instance, promoting “food security” through increased local production essentially amounts to putting more of our agricultural eggs in one regional basket, a recipe for disaster when droughts, floods and other unavoidable natural calamities strike).

Energy No Exception

Energy security is no different. Policies in this respect typically involve a combination of reduced dependence on any one foreign supplier by increasing their number, ramping up domestic production and reducing overall demand through energy conservation measures. While none of these things are inherently bad when they occur spontaneously (such as when new profitable local energy sources are developed), they are counterproductive when they occur solely as a result of government subsidies, mandates or barriers to trade, as the history of U.S. energy markets abundantly illustrates.

Over a century ago, the United States was the most important oil producer in the world with significant drilling operations in states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and California. The country’s only serious global rival back then was Russia whose large oilfields around the Caspian sea (in what is now Azerbaidjan) had been developed largely at the instigation of Robert and Ludvig Nobel, brothers of the better known Alfred (of Nobel Prizes fame). In later decades though, the rapid development of the American economy and the discovery gigantic petroleum reserves in the Middle East, Venezuela, Canada and other places turned the USA into a net importer.

Greater dependence on foreign imports was not problematic until the energy crisis of the early 1970s that prompted President Nixon to launch the Project Independence whose goal was to make the United States self-sufficient. Similar policies were later embraced by many politicians. As many readers know, one of the main goals of the Obama administration was to create millions of well-paid, abundant, stable, unionized (with full benefits), healthy, environmentally beneficial, and geographically dispersed “green jobs” in everything from electric cars to wind turbines.

Unfortunately, overturning the laws of physics and economics proved more challenging than herding free-range and grass-fed unicorns. Try as they might, no visionary policy maker found a way to convert the Green Job Kool-Aid into an affordable, convenient, and reliable energy drink.

But while green schemes were falling apart, production of the much-maligned hydrocarbons soared to such an extent that, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, US crude oil imports peaked in 2005, while in 2013 the country became the world’s top producer of petroleum and natural gas, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Of course, the sheer size of the U.S. economy means that its petroleum consumption still depends for about 40% on imports of crude oil and petroleum products, but BP’s Energy Outlook now forecasts that the U.S. will produce 101% of its energy needs by 2035, making the country de facto energy independent. While such forecasts should be taken with a grain of salt, the possibility of an energy “Independence Day” is now, for the first time in several decades, eminently plausible. This type of self-sufficiency is desirable, for it rests on superior local alternatives to those that the rest of the world could provide.

If history is any guide, however, something completely unexpected could emerge in energy markets in the coming two decades and foreign alternatives might again become more desirable. If that was the case, the U.S. would be ill advised to cling to less desirable local alternatives. As was the case before the fracking boom, energy security would be best achieved not by reducing the physical volume of imported oil, but by diversifying supplies and letting creative people in the private sector come up with better alternatives.

Risk Management 101 tells us to diversify our investment portfolio. The same is true from the perspective of energy consumers and national governments. If energy security is the goal, then strengthening energy interdependence the world over is the way to achieve it. The more suppliers you depend on, the more secure you will be. As Andy Grove put it, out true goal should be energy resilience through adaptability and substitutability.  In fact, resilience is one of the best features of market processes as individual buyers and sellers can adapt, each in their own way, to changes in supply and demand conditions conveyed through market prices.


World markets not only deliver cheaper and better goods, but they also make countries and consumers more secure and resilient. Now as in the past, for most of the world more energy security means less energy independence. The U.S. is now in the unique position of benefitting from a significant local energy boom and should enjoy it while it lasts, but this should not detract from this greater truth.



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