Thursday, September 16, 2010

Surprises Galore at Clean Energy Summit

Surprises ruled the day at the National Clean Energy Summit, held September 7 in Las Vegas. The Summit, coordinated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the leftist advocacy group Center for American Progress, featured surprise appearances by SUVs, environmental protesters, praise for hydropower, and a dreary, steady rain as speaker after speaker sang the praises of solar power.

As the Summit kicked off at 9:00 in the morning, approximately 50 environmental activists gathered in protest outside the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Thomas & Mack Center. Wearing t-shirts and carrying posters castigating coal and praising solar power, somebody forgot to tell the protesters that the Summit speakers actually agreed with them. Somebody also forgot to tell God or Mother Nature (take your pick) not to send a steady, gloomy rain to interrupt a solar power cheerleading session in the Mojave Desert. As the rain scattered the protesters before they could finish expressing their indignation about the lack of solar power, the National Clean Energy Summit would have been thrust into darkness if Nevada Energy or UNLV were following the protesters’ pro-solar advice.

Shortly before the rain hit, Harry Reid rushed out to assure the protesters that they and he were on the same team. Unable or unwilling to traverse the 100 yards of relatively empty parking lot between the Thomas & Mack Center and the protest on the sidewalk along Swenson Street, a caravan of gas-guzzling SUVs pulled up to the Mack Center to whisk Reid and a few aides to the protest. (Somebody must have Bogarted all the Priuses from the McCarron Airport Hertz station before Reid’s jet arrived from Washington.)

With the rabble finally mollified and dispersed, Reid hopped back into one of the SUVs in the caravan and made the lengthy 100-yard commute back to the Thomas & Mack Center. Inside, Reid praised the clean, renewable power provided by the Hoover Dam. To an audience of roughly 500 attendees, Reid said Las Vegas as we know it would not be possible without such a wonderful hydroelectric project. I quickly found a south-facing window to see if the Sierra Club activists were reassembling after Reid’s endorsement of one of their mortal enemy power sources, but apparently the Sierra Club and their fellow environmental activists had already taken Reid at his prior word and had completely dispersed.

Strolling among the exhibitor booths during a break, I came across a very pleasant, genuinely likeable fellow representing a solar power producer. The solar representative enthusiastically showed me literature for a solar power project being built in the Mojave Desert. I acknowledged that one can produce solar power less expensively in the Mojave Desert than anywhere else in the nation, and asked him if his company could produce solar power that was cost-competitive with coal, nuclear, or natural gas.

“Oh, we’re expensive,” the rep admitted, “but we just received a $2 billion grant from the federal government. We hope to be cost-competitive in a decade or so.”

This sounded an awful lot like, “We just received $2 billion last night from the tooth fairy. If we keep losing teeth at this pace, we might be able to turn a profit in a decade or so.”

After the break, speaker after speaker – including T. Boone Pickens, Center for American Progress CEO John Podesta, and Pacific Gas & Electric CEO Peter Darbee – spoke in broad terms and meaningless platitudes about the promise of renewable power. Nobody presented economic cost comparisons, nobody mentioned the billions of taxpayer dollars already being handed over to the renewable power industry every year, and nobody pointed out that T. Boone Pickens, PG&E, and the Center for American Progress all are in bed with the renewable power industry and have glaring conflicts of interest regarding renewable power issues.

As each successive speaker preached to the environmental choir but offered no economically viable plan of action, the legacy press in attendance fawned over Reid and laughed loudly at various weak jokes about the proponents of conventional energy.


Recycling the Big Green Lie

The Washington Post runs this cute item in the center of its opinion page by environmental scold Bill McKibben. Its on-line title is something less risible than in my print edition, tossed at the gym earlier, which was “Solar’s Shining Moment at the White House” or something very close to that. Fittingly, it is accompanied by a photo of Jimmy Carter.

Noting that the solar panels that Carter had installed during his one term (Obama, you might better hurry), McKibben tells a whopper when he says that the contraption provided cheap power. That must be why that industry wouldn’t exist without federal subsidies more than 100 times those granted oil and gas, per unit of energy produced. And now demands a law mandating that people buy their stuff (McKibben does implicitly admit all of this with his citation of failed climate legislation being the hurdle to our miracle power becoming reality…). Such are the perils of prosperity, we are to believe. Or, possibly, be distracted from.

Regardless, the underlying argument, that now is the time for symbolic gestures (and mandates and more subsidies) because solar can be the miracle breakthrough technology solving our energy needs shows a deep commitment to recycling.

Consider this headline from the Wall Street Journal. Note the date.

It isn’t that Carter didn’t try to nag, subsidize and mandate breakthrough technologies into existence. You can’t legislate around the laws of physics or make the uneconomic into the economic (though it is true that you can, as President Obama serially says, make certain kinds of energy technologies “the profitable kind”; begging the obvious answer of “at the taxpayer’s and ratepayer’s expense”).

Add to this the insulting talking point that we need to begin investing in uneconomic technologies to bail out Ponzi-style speculation, which is premised on a falsehood while also ignoring what deep down most citizens surely know: the search for the ideal energy source never ended.

In fact, that search launched into over-drive, if into a ditch filled with taxpayer subsidy-addled distortions, about the time of the (also tiresomely invoked) Apollo Project. And so far we’ve spent half of what we spent on Apollo chasing Flubber and flying cars, having gotten nowhere. “Nowhere”? Yes. They admit as much, even as they try to hide it, with the very same talking point of begin to invest. The entirety of McKibben’s piece begging for more puts the lie to that.

All those billions and we’re at square one. By these modern carnival barkers’ own admissions, made while coaxing Peter into forgetting he has already had billions robbed from him to give to Paul.

Drop the symbolic gestures. Oh, and the decades of wasteful wealth transfers and inefficiencies piled on the economy. If this isn’t the time to call Bull on these boondoggles, will there ever be one?


These guys know a racket when they see one

Mafia arrests reveal mob was 'going green'

Police in Italy have seized Mafia-linked assets worth $1.9 billion – the biggest mob haul ever – in an operation revealing that the crime group was trying to "go green" by laundering money through alternative energy companies.

Investigators said the assets included more than 40 companies, hundreds of parcels of land, buildings, factories, bank accounts, stocks, fast cars and luxury yachts.

Most of the seized assets were located in Sicily, home of the Cosa Nostra, and in southern Calabria, home of its sister crime organisation, the 'Ndrangheta.

At the centre of the investigation was Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, 54, a man known as the "Lord of the Wind" because of his vast holdings in alternative energy concerns, mostly wind farms.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni called the operation "the largest seizure ever made" against the Mafia.

General Antonio Girone, head of the national anti-Mafia agency DIA, said Nicastri was linked to Matteo Messina Denaro, believed to be Mafia's current "boss of bosses".

Investigators said Nicastri's companies ran numerous wind farms as well as factories that produced solar energy panels.

"It's no surprise that the Sicilian Mafia was infiltrating profitable areas like wind and solar energy," Palermo magistrate Francesco Messineo told a news conference.

Officials said the operation was based on a 2,400-page investigative report and followed the arrest of Nicastri last year.

Senator Costantino Garraffa, a member of the parliamentary anti-Mafia committee, said the Mafia was trying to break into the "new economy," of alternative energy as it sought out virgin ventures to launder money from drugs and other rackets.


The Earth Doesn’t Care -- about what is done to or for it

The cover of The American Scholar quarterly carries an impertinent assertion: “The Earth Doesn’t Care if You Drive a Hybrid.” The essay inside is titled “What the Earth Knows.” What it knows, according to Robert B. Laughlin, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics, is this: What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must, Laughlin says, think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.

For example: The world’s total precipitation in a year is about one meter—“the height of a golden retriever.” About 200 meters—the height of the Hoover Dam—have fallen on earth since the Industrial Revolution. Since the Ice Age ended, enough rain has fallen to fill all the oceans four times; since the dinosaurs died, rainfall has been sufficient to fill the oceans 20,000 times. Yet the amount of water on earth probably hasn’t changed significantly over geologic time.

Damaging this old earth is, Laughlin says, “easier to imagine than it is to accomplish.” There have been mass volcanic explosions, meteor impacts, “and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor.”

Laughlin acknowledges that “a lot of responsible people” are worried about atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This has, he says, “the potential” to modify the weather by raising average temperatures several degrees centigrade and that governments have taken “significant, although ineffective,” steps to slow the warming. “On the scales of time relevant to itself, the earth doesn’t care about any of these governments or their legislation.”

Buy a hybrid, turn off your air conditioner, unplug your refrigerator, yank your phone charger from the wall socket—such actions will “leave the end result exactly the same.” Someday, all the fossil fuels that used to be in the ground will be burned. After that, in about a millennium, the earth will dissolve most of the resulting carbon dioxide into the oceans. (The oceans have dissolved in them “40 times more carbon than the atmosphere contains, a total of 30 trillion tons, or 30 times the world’s coal reserves.”) The dissolving will leave the concentration in the atmosphere only slightly higher than today’s. Then “over tens of millennia, or perhaps hundreds” the earth will transfer the excess carbon dioxide into its rocks, “eventually returning levels in the sea and air to what they were before humans arrived on the scene.” This will take an eternity as humans reckon, but a blink in geologic time.

It seems, Laughlin says, that “something, presumably a geologic regulatory process, fixed the world’s carbon dioxide levels before humans arrived” with their SUVs and computers. Some scientists argue that “the photosynthetic machinery of plants seems optimized” to certain carbon dioxide levels. But “most models, even pessimistic ones,” envision “a thousand-year carbon dioxide pulse followed by glacially slow decay back to the pre-civilization situation.”

Laughlin believes that humans can “do damage persisting for geologic time” by “biodiversity loss”—extinctions that are, unlike carbon dioxide excesses, permanent. The earth did not reverse the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today extinctions result mostly from human population pressures—habitat destruction, pesticides, etc.—but “slowing man-made extinctions in a meaningful way would require drastically reducing the world’s human population.” Which will not happen.

There is something like a pathology of climatology. To avoid mixing fact and speculation, earth scientists are, Laughlin says, “ultraconservative,” meaning they focus on the present and the immediate future: “[They] go to extraordinary lengths to prove by means of measurement that the globe is warming now, the ocean is acidifying now, fossil fuel is being exhausted now, and so forth, even though these things are self-evident in geologic time.”

Climate change over geologic time is, Laughlin says, something the earth has done “on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself.” People can cause climate change, but major glacial episodes have occurred “at regular intervals of 100,000 years,” always “a slow, steady cooling followed by abrupt warming back to conditions similar to today’s.”

Six million years ago the Mediterranean dried up. Ninety million years ago there were alligators in the Arctic. Three hundred million years ago Northern Europe was a desert and coal formed in Antarctica. “One thing we know for sure,” Laughlin says about these convulsions, “is that people weren’t involved.”


Former British Civil Service Chief Calls For Climate Shakeup

The former head of the civil service has called for a new approach from scientists and policy makers to restore waning trust in climate scientists. Speaking to The Register, Lord Andrew Turnbull, former cabinet secretary and head of the Home Civil Service between 2002 and 2005, says the University of East Anglia's internal enquiries into the Climategate affair were hasty and superficial, and called for Parliament to sponsor two wide-ranging investigations.

One study should examine the "ethos and governance" of climate science. The other should conduct "a fundamental review of the science itself". He thinks policy makers are getting skewed and self-centered advice.

Was he speaking out because of the damage to Britain's academic reputation, or the implications for policy? Both, he told us. "The so-called guardians have bought into a particular narrative. I'm not a skeptic, I can compare what my childhood was like, and I can see climate change going on," said Turnbull. Nor does he contest the radiative properties of CO2. But the hypothesis depends on positive feedbacks that are far from certain, and these haven't been explained to the public, with confidence wrongly assumed.

"We get fed a Janet and John version - a simplified story, and the world's politicians use this to persuade the world's electorates to take action, and action soon."

Now we're in the internet age, he thinks is untenable. "This is backfiring because people are intelligent enough, and well-armed enough with information.

"The deference is no longer there. We don't live in that kind of world any more. People in the blogosphere don't have to accept these and other statements from the authorities, and they will challenge them. We have seen that they can challenge them quite effectively."

Trouble in Watermouth (Watermouth is a quiet and peaceful holiday resort --JR)

Did he think the inadequacy of the Climategate enquiries would leave lasting damage to the British reputation?

"I see some damage to British academia, and lasting damage to the [University of East Anglia] Climatic Research Unit which is possibly terminal, really. I don't see how it can now recover.

"The Russell Report talks about the 'rough and tumble' of academic argument. But all this is publicly funded research programs. They're not arguing about whether Dickens is better than Jane Austen - their work goes to the basis of public policy."

Wouldn't academics resent the intrusion, and defend the principle of academic freedom?

"Does academic freedom include the freedom to stop other people being published at all?" he asks.

"There's an observation in Muir Russell's report that's very good, you can't fault it, and I'll quote it. The report points out that 'It is important to recognise that science progresses by substantive challenges based on rigorously logical, published arguments that present a different view of reality from that which they challenge'. This is absolutely correct.

"But then you get the CRU scientists saying the opposite. They were engaging in groupthink. And having set out the principles the enquiries haven't used them to make judgement about what they found."

Parliament probably doesn't have the resources to conduct the two studies by itself, Turnbull says, and staffing them with people who haven't bought into the 'Janet and John' version might be tricky - but not impossible.

"There are some people in the Royal Society who think it's gone too hard over onto the simplified consensus. There are climate changers who believe in the most sophisticated version and who are prepared to be more admitting of doubt - but they all fear they get branded as 'deniers'

What do civil servants really think?

What about the civil service itself, we wondered. How deeply wedded is it to an increasingly unpopular position?

"It's almost totally embedded. Ministers don't get a range of views presented to them.

"The public is under pressure. If you take a family or small business, they're facing ten rather austere years. But they're also being asked to incur major costs and make significant changes to your lifestyle. So people ask 'do I really have to?'

"So three things happen. They begin to worry about the science. They see that the scientific consensus isn't as solid as they were led to believe. And they don't see other countries doing the same things - the prospects for another Kyoto are worse than ever.

"So if we decarbonise by 2050 there's a risk we'll suffer double jeopardy. We'll incur a cost to moving to higher-priced energy and others won't follow."

Turnbull adds that decarbonisation policies are now hugely unpopular with electorates, and led to the collapse of the Rudd government in Australia.

What's going to give, then? Not a lot, he thinks. "Initially I would predict there won't be very much change in attitudes. The scepticism isn't there. Ministers and civil servants still believe what the scientists tell them.

"We'll still pay lip service to all these obligations but the urgency will fade. It will be like the [Minimum Development Goals] commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of GDP to overseas aid - it will rest there. We will just fall further behind the schedule. Then, eventually, there'll be the dawning that we're doing this when nobody else is."

Turnbull makes his call for new enquiries in the foreword to analysis of the Climategate enquires published today. The review of the two internal University enquires - Sir Muir Russell's Climate Change Emails Review and Lord Oxburgh's Scientific Assessment Panel was conducted for the Global Warming Policy Foundation think-tank by Andrew Montford, author of The Hockey-Stick Illusion. More from the Foundation website later today. ®


More climate fraud: Australian Temperatures in cities adjusted up by 70%!?

Government meteorological records can now not be relied on

Ken Stewart has been hard at work again, this time analyzing the Australian urban records. While he expected that the cities and towns would show a larger rise than records in the country due to the Urban Heat Island Effect, what he found was that the raw records showed only a 0.4 degree rise, less than the rural records which went from a raw 0.6 to an adjusted 0.85 (a rise of 40%). What shocked him about the urban records were the adjustments… making the trend a full 70% warmer.

The largest adjustments to the raw records are cooling ones in the middle of last century. So 50 years after the measurements were recorded, officials realized they were artificially too high? Hopefully someone who knows can explain why so many thermometers were overestimating temperatures in the first half of the 1900’s.

50 years later?

The raw Australian urban temperature records are in blue. The adjusted records in red. Note that temperatures in the middle of last century appear to be adjusted downwards. These are the annual average recordings for all 34 sites.

Remember Dr David Jones, Head of Climate Monitoring and Prediction, National Climate Centre, Bureau of Meteorology said: "On the issue of adjustments you find that these have a near zero impact on the all Australian temperature because these tend to be equally positive and negative across the network (as would be expected given they are adjustments for random station changes).”

Yet it’s obvious that there are far more warming adjustments than cooling ones, and remember, many (almost all?) of these urban sites will be markedly different places than what they were in say 1920. The encroachment of concrete, cars and exhaust vents can surely only go in one direction, though I guess, it’s possible all these sites have new sources of shade (why aren’t the themometers moved, if that’s the case?) Like the rural records, the temperatures overall are roughly a quarter of a degree higher after the “corrections”.

Ken explains:
The raw trend is about 0.4C (actually slightly less than 0.4C)- that’s a full 0.2C less than the non-urban raw trend using the same comparison; the adjusted trend is about 0.78C: and that’s a warming bias of 95%. (The 70% figure is based on averaging all the changes in trends- from the table of 34 towns. 95% is from plotting the average temperature for all sites each year, then calculating the trend from this average. It’s artificial as BOM say they don’t do it but it’s a way of comparing at the large scale. It removes much of the error.)

So much for “these tend to be equally positive and negative across the network”.

Of course, BOM says that this data is not used in their climate analyses, so my trend lines shown above are for illustration and comparison purposes only. However, they illustrate the problem quite well: there is a warming bias apparent in the High Quality data.

As well, the “quality” of the High Quality stations leaves much to be desired. Many of the sites have large slabs of data missing, with the HQ record showing “estimates” to fill in the missing years. Some sites should not be used at all: Moree, Grafton, Warnambool, Orange, Bowral, and Bairnsdale.

8 of the 34 are Reference Climate Stations (RCS) and were used by BOM and CSIRO in their State of the Climate Report released in March 2010.

What does it mean for our weather records?

These sites and trends are not used for analyzing Australia’s climate, but nonetheless, in some cities new records will be set that don’t really reflect what the raw data says, and while plenty of scientists don’t want to be seen talking about a single hot season (it’s weather, remember, not climate), there are plenty of other groups who issue press releases conflating a single season “heat wave” with carbon dioxide.

Ken sums up the problems
* The raw data and the adjusted data both show much less warming than the non-urban sites.

* Many of the sites show distinct cooling, especially in south east Australia.

* The data has been subjectively and manually adjusted.

* The methodology used is not uniformly followed, or else is not as described.

* Sites with poor comparative data have been included.

* Large quantities of data are not available, and have been filled in with estimates.

* The adjustments are not equally positive and negative, and have produced a major impact on the temperature record of many of the sites.

* The adjustments produce a trend in mean temperatures that is between roughly 0.3 degree Celsius and 0.38 degree Celsius per 100 years greater than the raw data does.

* The warming bias in the temperature trend is from 60% to 95% depending on the comparison method.

More HERE (See the original for links etc.)


For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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