Tuesday, August 19, 2008

LOL! It's Almost Like Something Unusual is Poised to Happen in Denver

Is Mother Earth trying to tell them something?

(Via Ace. For non-American readers, the Democrat convention is about to open in Denver, Colorado)

More: Record low maximum temperature set in Denver for August 16th... The high temperature at Denver International Airport today was 58 degrees. This 58 degree reading will replace the previous low maximum temperature record for August 16th which was 63 degrees set 118 years ago in 1890.

VA city has 'coolest August in years' -- Not a single 90 degree plus day

High temperatures usually mark the month of August, but those dog days of summer have been scarce in Hampton Roads this year. This month, not a single day's temperature has risen above 90 degrees. Forecasters are calling for Tuesday to hit 92 degress, which would be the hottest day of August. This month's highest temperature has been 90 degrees.

This summer, Hampton Roads has had the lowest average temperature in five years. In fact, this decade has been cooler than previous decades. Since 2000, Hampton Roads has seen 58 days when the official temperatur has climbed above 90. That represents the smallest total since the 1980s. Unseasonably cool temperatures are hitting other parts of the country as well. In Chicago, for example, temperatures this summer are the lowest since the 1930s.

Despite popular debates over global warming and global cooling, both processes are difficult to track. Climate change is so intermittent that even professionals in the scientific community have difficulty understanding its many complexities and causes.

Scientists have no data to prove whether or not the cooling is noteworthy. Josh Willis, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says, "There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant."


Another cooling convert

The article is in Spanish here. Google Translated link from Spanish: here. Excerpt follows:

An expert from the National Autonomous University of Mexico predicted that in about ten years the Earth will enter a "little ice age" which will last from 60 to 80 years and may be caused by the decrease in solar activity. Victor Manuel Velasco Herrera, a researcher at the Institute of Geophysics of the UNAM, as argued earlier during a conference that teaches at the Centre for Applied Sciences and Technological Development...

Velasco Herrera described as erroneous predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), pursuant to which the planet is experiencing a gradual increase in temperature, the so-called global warming. The models and forecasts of the IPCC "is incorrect because only are based on mathematical models and presented results at scenarios that do not include, for example, solar activity," said the specialist also in image processing and signs and prevention of natural disasters. The phenomenon of climate change, he added, should include other kinds of factors, both internal, such as volcanoes and the very human activity, and external, such as solar activity....

"In this century glaciers are growing", as seen in the Andes, Perito Moreno, Logan, the highest mountain in Canada, and with Franz-Josef Glacier, New Zealand, said Velasco Herrera....

The prognosis on the emergence of a new Ice Age has little uncertainty as to their dates. The latest, according to Victor Manuel Velasco, could arrive in approximately two years. In another lecture he gave at the beginning of last December, the same expert had said that the cooling would arrive within 30 or 40 years. And in early July, Velasco Herrera said that satellite data indicate that this period of global cooling could even have already begun, since 2005.

A nasty one for the peak-oilers

You Can't Get Blood From A Stone. But Shell Oil appears to have found a way to get oil from a rock. The Denver Post describes a promising technology to extract oil - a lot of oil - from oil shale in the American West. There are many unanswered questions and many details that need to be worked out, but this is pretty promising. Shell's test site yielded about a 65% recovery rate for the oil. Versus about a 25% recovery rate for traditional methods. The resultant extracted oil is of an extremely high quality.
The ramshackle collection of wellheads and electric cables hidden in a pine-covered draw west of Rifle doesn't look like much now, but until three years ago it was the home of the oil industry's equivalent of the Manhattan Project. Over five years here, Shell Oil conducted a series of secretive experiments that have the potential to blow open the status quo of North American oil production, unlocking the vast reserves of oil shale that underlie Colorado's Western Slope.

Early attempts failed miserably. But beginning in 2002, Shell drilled a honeycombed series of wells, then lowered in giant heating elements, raising the temperature of the shale to 650 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 months. Out flowed an abundance of high-quality shale oil. "It was our 'eureka' moment," said Tracy Boyd, a spokesman for Shell, smiling as he showed off the historic spot. "Now we know we have a technology that works."

Now that and similar technologies have become fodder in the increasingly contentious energy debate, holding out the possibility that, in an era of $4-a-gallon gasoline, America might just be sitting on oil reserves equal to a 100-year supply of the country's imports.

The fight over oil shale has become a major issue in Colorado's U.S. Senate race as well as a regular talking point for Republicans nationwide. At the White House in June, President Bush blasted Democrats for "standing in the way" of oil-shale development and hurting ordinary Americans. The latest to enter the fray is Orrin Hatch, the powerful Republican senator from Utah, who accused Democratic Senate candidate Mark Udall of siding with "an elite, anti-oil crowd" by helping impose a moratorium on commercial leasing regulations for the shale deposits. (Utah is one of three Western states with oil-shale reserves.)

The technology still needs to be proven at an industrial scale and there are serious issues about the environmental impact, especially on water resources. Read the whole thing. The early battle lines are already forming both in the short term of this election and in the long term, decades away. But this appears to be promising. Certainly more promising than this incident over in Zimbabwe.



Russia's adventure in Georgia has been described as a "warlet," a contained firing spree that wound up and down within a week. But to Europe's energy markets, it was the equivalent of wide-scale carpet bombing. With the North Sea oil and natural gas fields running out of puff, Europe, in particular the European Union, is more dependent than ever on imported energy. The biggest single supplier is Russia, whose pipelines snake across Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova before poking into central and western Europe.

Russia's energy supplies are cherished. Germany, France and Italy have almost no oil and gas of their own. Russia's Gazprom, the world's biggest gas company, supplies 40 per cent or more of Europe's gas imports. The company, controlled by the Russian state and led by Dmitry Medvedev before he became Russia's President, is the equivalent of a one-country gas OPEC. By 2020, Gazprom's exports to the EU are expected to rise by more than 50 per cent. The company is unafraid to wield its mighty power. For four days in 2006, it stopped supplying gas to the Ukrainian market because of a contract dispute.

Since keeping the lights on is the minimum requirement to stay elected, Europe's governments were doing two things. They were buying every molecule of Russian energy available and were working hard to ensure that Russia alone did not control the entire show.

Enter Georgia. The pro-Western country became a convenient bit of non-Russian real estate on which to plunk pipelines to funnel non-Russian (and non-OPEC) oil and gas to the outside world. No fewer than three pipelines originating in Azerbaijan cross Georgian territory.

One of the trio, called BTE, was due for a massively enlarged role in the future. The BTE pipeline currently takes gas from Azerbaijan through Georgia and into central Turkey. An extension, known as the Nabucco project, would take the gas from there on to Austria, making it a hefty counterweight to Russian gas exports. Nabucco is backed by the EU and the United States and counts German power utility RWE among it biggest shareholders.

Thanks to Russia's invasion of Georgia on Aug. 8, Georgia's role as a secure energy transit point to Europe has been shattered. Russia has made clear it can make Georgia a puppet state if it wishes, and will almost certainly recognize the independence of the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Suddenly the risk premiums on oil and gas pipelines that pass through Georgian soil went through the roof. Some analysts are already predicting the death of the Nabucco project, whose construction was to begin in 2010.

So much for Europe's energy diversification plans. New, independent pipelines from Central Asia seem like a lost cause. With Georgia reined in, Moscow's grip on energy supplies to Europe must be close to complete. You have to wonder whether a Kremlin filing cabinet contains a plan that had laid out this very scenario a decade ago.

What is Europe to do? Time for Diversification Plan B. A big part of the plan would have to see Europe turning the Mediterranean into mare nostrum - our sea - as the Romans called it in the empire years. The North African countries of Libya and Algeria, and Syria in the Eastern Med to a lesser extent, have vast, undeveloped oil and gas fields.

Energy companies with an appetite for political risk have been pouring billions into these countries. One of them is Petro-Canada, which is already hauling 50,000 barrels of oil a day out of Libya and has targeted the country for significant growth. Algeria's gas reserves are mammoth. Last year, Italy and Algeria agreed to construct a 900-kilometre pipeline to take Algerian gas to Sardinia, then on to the Italian mainland. Other pipelines will have to be built. Speed is of the essence, because Gazprom's ambitions are boundless. Last month it offered to buy all of Libya's gas exports.

Mediterranean gas cannot be the entire solution. Europe will have to rethink its nuclear strategy. Germany and Spain have committed to phase out nuclear power. Surely, that strategy will have to be reversed. Italy has no nuclear power plants. That will have to change, too. A few nuclear plants are under construction in Europe after a moratorium that began with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The number will have to soar if Europe is to take energy diversification seriously.

Coal might make a big comeback, too, in spite of the horrendous amounts of soot and carbon dioxide produced by coal-fired electricity plants. Fortunes will have to be plowed into "clean coal" technology, which so far is more myth than reality.

Before the Georgian crisis, Europe seemed to be doing all the right things, with little Georgia at the centre of a sensible energy diversification plan. A column of Russian tanks wrecked that strategy in an instant. Europe is learning quickly that the only way to curtail Russia's energy control is to compete with it. A new energy war is about to begin.



Britain's Conservative Party tried to exploit global warming alarmism. It backfired enormously. Lesson learned?

Britain's Conservative Party has surged to an historic 22-point opinion-poll lead over the incumbent Labour Party. This turnabout has followed an energetic campaign by the Tory leader, David Cameron, to wrench the party out of its ideological comfort zone and overhaul its public image. Cameron has indeed handled many issues deftly. However, his initial attempt to spark a bidding war over climate alarmism backfired enormously, and it should serve as a warning to other Western political parties that are trying to burnish their green credentials.

From the moment he was elected Conservative leader in 2005, Cameron was eager to woo the upper-class voters who had shunned the party in the post-Thatcher era. He chose to make environmental policy the focus of his stylistic revolution, and he commissioned Zac Goldsmith (a fellow Eton graduate and director of The Ecologist magazine) to chair a "Quality of Life" policy group. Goldsmith, an heir to a billion-dollar fortune and well-known green activist, claimed "an invitation to be radical."

Goldsmith's policy group soon unleashed a fury of impractical ideas. It proposed placing prohibitive taxes on landfill and big cars, halting investment in air and road infrastructure, taxing parking at out-of-town malls, and even mandating that car advertisements include emissions statistics. The Conservative MP Tim Yeo, who chairs the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, declared that domestic plane flights should be taxed out of existence. (Yeo boasted that he now travels to Scotland by train "as a matter of conscience.")

Without doing much to appeal to suburbanites interested in clean rivers and parks, the new Tory agenda threatened the low-cost flights that had only recently made European travel affordable for millions. It also confirmed the suspicion of many working-class voters that the Conservatives were rich elitists who cared little about job loss.

While many of the Tories' environmental proposals were harmlessly ridiculous and had no real prospect of enactment, the empty rhetoric proved very costly. The Labour government, refusing to let the Conservative Party claim the mantle of environmental champion, swung left on the issue. The failure of environmental taxes to change behavior was taken as a sign that those taxes should be raised even further. Big increases in annual road taxes were rolled out; drivers of Honda Accords will owe over $500 per year by 2010-11. Taxes on gasoline went up, forcing motorists to pay nearly $9 a gallon. Meanwhile, taxes on plane flights were doubled, despite evidence that such a change may actually increase emissions.

British leaders have long struggled to convince the public that significant resources should be allocated to fight climate change. Yet the burgeoning global warming industry-a motley assortment of activists and NGOs-has relentlessly driven its agenda through bureaucratic and legal channels that are cut off from democratic accountability. Further insulated from political attack by Cameron's green posturing, the climate change alarmists were able to set the terms of the debate.

While most peer-reviewed cost-benefit analyses of climate change tend to find that the costs of global warming do not merit a radical and immediate shift away from carbon-based fuels, moderate anti-carbon policies have failed to satisfy the demands of climate activists. In response to the inconvenient economics, the Labour government decided to base all its policymaking on a Treasury study by Nicholas Stern. The Stern report used an extremely low discount rate to grossly magnify the future environmental costs of climate change.

Yet, far from rebuking this folly, the Conservative Party's Quality of Life policy group criticised the Stern report for tolerating too much planetary warming. As the Labour government advocated a 60 percent reduction in British carbon emissions by the year 2050, the Tories shot back with a demand that the nation roll back 80 percent of its emissions by that time. This merely upped the ante. The third-party Liberal Democrats responded with a call for complete decarbonization-a 100 percent reduction in emissions. No matter how hard the Tories tried, they could never "out-green" their rivals on the left.

The popular press were less indulgent of such nonsense, and many media outlets lampooned the proposed climate initiatives. Voters did not like having wealthy politicians lecture them on the demerits of prosperity, and every green policy that the Tories promoted was greeted with derision or worse. When the Tory Quality of Life group's disastrous report was eventually released in September 2007, the Conservatives were in disarray. They were so far behind in the opinion polls that Prime Minister Gordon Brown even considered calling an early election.

Cameron had no choice but to change tack. The recovery that saw the Tories rise to their present poll lead began with a call to significantly reduce the inheritance tax. This was followed by proposals for comprehensive school choice and welfare reform. The Conservatives also suggested some tough new anti-crime initiatives. The idea that proved most useful in de-stigmatizing the Tory brand was a plan to rebuild poverty-stricken communities in disadvantaged areas.

To be sure, the Conservatives have also benefited from a complete collapse of popular support for the Labour government. Indeed, this has been perhaps the biggest factor in the Tories' resurgence. The British economy has faltered, and voters have become less tolerant of fiscal extravagance. They are especially angry about an increase in the annual car tax, which was sold as a green measure. In a recent YouGov poll commissioned by the TaxPayers' Alliance, 63 percent agreed with this statement: "politicians are not serious about the environment and are using the issue as an excuse to raise more revenue from green taxes." When a recent Mori poll asked voters to name important issues facing Great Britain, only 7 percent cited the environment, while 42 percent named immigration and 35 percent said crime.

None of this is to say that conservatives should neglect the environment. Over the past few months, Cameron has been trumpeting a more holistic environmentalism, arguing that being green is "not just about the stratosphere, it's about the street corner." He stresses the need to eliminate graffiti and cut crime in local parks. While there is little public appetite for raising energy taxes or overhauling the British economy to deal with climate change, there is widespread support for boosting investment in green-friendly technologies, and the Tories are well-placed to advance this.

The recent success of the Conservative Party has owed little to quixotic environmentalism, and almost every Tory attempt to play the green card has been a disaster. The party seems to have learned its lesson, and is now embracing a results-driven conservation policy that defends green spaces and promotes the development of efficient clean-energy technologies. While the climate debate is often dominated by clamorous activists, ordinary voters tend to favor a more pragmatic approach. If the Tories want to maintain their huge lead over Labour, that is the type of approach they should endorse.


Prominent Australian conservative says Oz must go nuclear

AUSTRALIA must embrace nuclear power to cut greenhouse gases, argues a Liberal [Party] frontbencher who warns coal-fired power generation is deadlier. In the strongest pro-nuclear remarks since former prime minister John Howard left politics, Coalition trade spokesman Ian Macfarlane says Australia "must get real" on nuclear energy to tackle climate change. "If we are serious about reducing global greenhouse emissions, the nuclear option is one we cannot ignore," the Queensland Liberal MP will say in a speech tonight.

Mr Macfarlane's comments will be seized on by the Rudd Government, which believes the Coalition harbours a secret plan to resurrect Mr Howard's nuclear framework. They will not be welcomed by sections of the Liberal Party - including senior frontbenchers - who also believe nuclear is political poison.

In a mining speech in Brisbane tonight, Mr Macfarlane will argue the Government "must include" nuclear in any future base-load energy mix. He will argue that nuclear must be "among the first options worthy of consideration" as Australia decides the best way to tackle climate change. "The biggest gains in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation in the shortest possible time and at the lowest cost and least economic risk will come from nuclear power," Mr Macfarlane will say. "It's a black and white answer. Or should I say black and yellow answer. Clean coal and yellowcake - we must include nuclear in our future base-load clean energy mix."

The Coalition's position on nuclear power has been confused since the election, when Labor ran an effective scare campaign on the prospect of 25 nuclear reactors. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson appeared to shift position on the volatile issue in December - but some other frontbenchers believe nuclear should remain on the table. Other Liberal MPs, such as Opposition defence spokesman Nick Minchin, are very cool towards nuclear power, believing it is politically unpopular.

Mr Macfarlane says deaths from nuclear power generation "are less than half a percent of the total" of deaths attributed to the coal-fired power sector.



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