Monday, September 13, 2010

The Week That Was (To September 11, 2010)

By Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

This week Nature published an editorial decrying the increase in skepticism of science among the public. Nature did not distinguish between advocacy of human caused global warming and science. The editorial blamed "deniers" and "right wing" US politicians.

Nature failed to note it published the now debunked "Hockey Stick" that went against the first two publications of the IPCC, a large body of scientific research, and human history and refused to publish careful research contradicting this computer model driven deceit.

The editorial illustrates a serious concern that it fails to make. The more intensely scientific institutions embrace the findings of the IPCC and its speculative computer projections, the greater the public backlash will be against all science. Thus it is important to differentiate between the politicized science of the IPCC and science in general, which the editorial does not.


For some time TWTW has mentioned the momentous change in the affordable energy prospects for the US, and for many other countries, since the development of practical hydraulic fracturing of shale containing natural gas, combined with horizontal drilling. The extent of this change has scarcely been noticed in the press and by official Washington. This week two items appeared of note. A company that owns a facility in Louisiana designed to import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) received preliminary approval to use the facility to export LNG. The US has a number of LNG facilities that were built, some about 30 years ago, to be importers of LNG as the US was projected to run out of natural gas.

The second item is that the EPA is requesting drilling companies provide it with the chemicals used during drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Chemical fracturing of wells has been commonplace for many years and it is appropriate that the chemicals for hydraulic fracturing be known so that waste water can be properly treated.

However, given the recent history of the EPA in regulating energy producers, other than wind and solar, there is reason to be concerned that this request may be the beginning of an effort to hobble the very bright spot in the US energy picture and the US economy. The EPA's "scientific" finding that carbon dioxide emissions endanger human health and welfare is but one example of the extent to which EPA abuses its power.

Also, solar and wind have powerful political supporters in Washington and in many state government. The new wave of natural gas promises to overwhelm any practical prospects for wind and solar making the mandates of producing high percentages of electricity from solar and wind expensive and wasteful. Will these politicians try to hobble the promise of abundant, affordable natural gas?


My encounters with the "hockey stick"

By S. Fred Singer

I first learned of the Hockey Stick by reading the original paper by Mann, Bradley, and Hughes in Nature in 1998 and was surprised that it showed an extended decline of global (or NH) temperatures since the year 1000AD, until a sudden and major warming in the 20th century (the "blade" of the Hockey Stick). But providing some reassurance, there seemed to be good overlap between 1900 and 1980 with the instrumental record of Phil Jones, which showed a continuing rise in temperature from 1980 to the end of the century.

I had no basis to question the MBH work, but I noticed that the proxy record suddenly stopped in 1980 and did not extend beyond.

At that time, I was heavily influenced by the satellite data of Christy and Spencer that showed no atmospheric warming trend from 1979 to 1997 -- in contrast to Jones' surface data from weather stations. Since Mann was using the Jones temperature data for calibration of the proxy record, I asked Mann if he had any post-1980 proxies. He replied rather brusquely that there were no suitable data available. This was my only exchange with Mann, and I've preserved those emails.

Of course, I did not believe Mann, since I knew of tree ring data (by Jacoby in 1996) that showed no temperature rise since 1940 (see figure 16 in my 1997 book Hot Talk Cold Science). I also knew that Dahl-Jensen's ice cores showed no temperature rise since 1940. Hence I had doubts about the Jones data -- and still do.

Following this unsatisfactory e-mail exchange with Mann, I had correspondence with McIntyre, Charles Keller, and others, trying to collect some post-1980 proxies to decide whether the Jones record was sound -- and whether Mann had stopped his proxy record in 1980 because it did not agree with Jones. Today we know, thanks to Climategate, that this might have been "Mann's Nature trick" in order to "hide the decline [of temperature]."

I visited Ed Cook at the Lamont Geophysical Laboratory to get post-1980 tree ring data, but was unsuccessful and finally gave up and turned to other matters. I also had a chance to speak briefly to Mann at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, but could not extract any information from him. By then, he clearly regarded me as an 'enemy' and would not have given me anything of value.

My next encounter with the Hockey Stick was to review the IPCC's 3rd Assessment draft report in 2000. In the draft, the Hockey Stick was represented along with the Jones instrumental record, using colors of black and blue. I prevailed on IPCC to use colors that were easily distinguishable and was glad to see the Jones record appearing in red in the final IPCC version.

My next encounter came in 2003 when the editor of Energy & Environment sent me the first of the McIntyre and McKitrick papers for review. I was surprised to learn of some half dozen or so cases where Mann had clearly mishandled the data, even substituting imaginary sequences to fill gaps where data were not available. Of course, I endorsed publication of this first of the M&M attacks on the Hockey Stick.

I also witnessed the encounter between Mann and McIntyre at the hearings arraigned by the National Academy (NAS), charged to write a report on the Hockey Stick. Tellingly, Mann presented a brief account of his work and then immediately walked out without taking any questions or listening to the McIntyre presentation. It was a thoroughly disappointing performance, particularly since some have misinterpreted the NAS report as an endorsement of the Hockey Stick. Actually, it was just the opposite, but it was misleading. The NAS stated that the 20th century was the warmest in the last 400 years, without making it clear that 400 years ago the earth was in the depth of the Little Ice Age.

It is certainly noteworthy that the IPCC in its fourth assessment report [2007] no longer displays the Hockey Stick. It had been demolished by able statisticians like Wegman and von Storch. M&M had shown in the meantime that random numbers fed into the Mann algorithm would always produce a hockey-stick-shaped result.

The "Last Hurrah" for the Hockey Stick came in 2009 in a report by the United Nations Environment Program. Apparently, UNEP wanted to dramatize matters before the crucial Dec 2009 Copenhagen meeting and brought back the Hockey Stick in an inexpertly written report on climate change. They called it an "update" of the IPCC, but I'm sure that responsible IPCC scientists would not have agreed with that characterization.

When we inquired where their Hockey Stick graph originated, we were led to a Norwegian biologist who had republished a graph he had found in Wikipedia - too funny for words! UNEP immediately reissued their report and replaced their Hockey Stick graph with a less controversial one.

There is a serious matter, however, which bears discussion: Did Mann commit fraud? I would give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that his initial Nature publication contained many errors, including major statistical ones, which he might not have been aware of. But certainly, after these errors had been pointed out to him in no uncertain terms, how could he maintain his original posture and claim that the Hockey Stick truly represented the global temperature record of the last 1000 years? All this in spite of many publications, both before and after 1998, that clearly told a different story: The compilation of temperature values by Soon and Baliunas, who were viciously attacked by the IPCC crowd; the isotope data of Cuffey; the global proxy data (omitting tree rings) of Loehle, which clearly showed the medieval warm period to be warmer than today; the deep-sea sediment record of Kegwin; and, of course, the historical record.

The Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Kenneth Cuccinelli, is currently engaged in extracting from the University of Virginia (where Mann was a faculty member from 1999 to 2005) the e-mail records and other material relating to Mann. The University is fighting this demand in court yet it had already agreed some months ago to deliver the e-mail records of Patrick Michaels to Greenpeace! At that time, no cries of "academic freedom" were raised by the usual suspects. The silence then, and vociferous objections now expose the hypocrisy of the UVa Faculty Senate, the AAUP, the AAAS, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It is quite likely that Cuccinelli will discover a "smoking gun." Perhaps some of the emails that Phil Jones admitted to having deleted might tell us just when Mann became himself aware that the Hockey Stick was bogus and a fraud.

SEPP SCIENCE EDITORIAL #25-2010 (Sep 11, 2010)

Putin dismisses alternatives to nuclear

It's a sad day that there is more sanity coming from Russia than there is from the USA. I am beginning to like Mr. Putin

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has said that nuclear energy is the only alternative to traditional energy sources, RIA Novosti reported. Speaking at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, he said that while the global gas market has been recovering from the recent economic downturn, demand for energy sources will soar over the next few years.

Putin noted, "You couldn't transfer large electric power stations to wind energy, however much you wanted to. In the next few decades, it will be impossible." He said that future energy consumption patterns will only undergo minor changes. Nuclear energy is the only "real and powerful alternative" to oil and gas, Putin asserted, calling other approaches to meeting future energy demand "claptrap."


Carbon offsets: Green project offends Indian farmers who lose land to windmills

A Dutch bank that bought carbon offsets to neutralize its carbon footprint was unaware that poor Indian farmers had been aggrieved by the green project.

Like his father before him, Yashwant Malche has worked the same piece of land on this parched plateau a day's drive and decades away from Mumbai. As an adivasi, or tribesman, he and his ancestors have been relegated to desolate land like this, mostly left out of India's modernization.

"That's the livelihood of my family, so I couldn't possibly sell...." Mr. Malche says he told them. "When I refused to take the money, the people said the windmill will stand there no matter what."

It did. The Dhule wind project brought the erection of about 550 windmills on land used by 2,000 adivasi. The tussle over the land resulted in a confrontation between stone-throwing tribesmen and truncheon-wielding police, bringing tear gas and arrests. Some 12,000 trees were cut to erect the turbines.

The footprint of one windmill took less than an acre from a corner of Malche's small farm. But the loss means he no longer earns enough farming and now must spend part of the year in another state working in sugar-cane fields. He used to own three sets of clothes, he now makes do with two.

The Dhule project is an example of the dark side of a new industry that harvests profits from green energy and carbon offsets through projects in developing countries. The eco-conscious buyers of carbon offsets rarely see the consequences of the projects.

The environmental payoff has been meager in the Dhule project, which produces significantly less renewable power from the windmills than expected by investors and regulators. In part that's because of theft of windmill parts, says one company that bought into the project, Essel Mining. The overall project, developed by Suzlon Energy Ltd., has spawned legal battles, a government investigation into deals involving tribal lands, and a cloud of acrimony and accusations.

All of this was news to Rabobank, a Dutch consortium that bought 175,000 tons of carbon offsets in 2008 to help the company become carbon neutral, says Bouwe Taverne, head of sustainable development for Rabobank in the Netherlands. "It's sad to hear. This was not what we were looking for."

In 2007, Rabobank launched an effort to negate the carbon footprint for its global operations, cutting air flights, reducing emissions, and switching to electricity created by natural gas. That achieved a savings of 40 percent, and the company asked for bids to offset its remaining emissions for 2007.

Offsets generated by Dhule windmills were assured by an independent verifier and vetted by Rabobank's financial auditors, and the bank paid about $8 a ton for them, Mr. Taverne says. "The offsets were verified. We were certain of the quality. We are a good brand worldwide. When we state we are carbon neutral, we have to prove it."

It didn't look that way in the Indian countryside, where adivasis – long promised legal paths to ownership of these lands – saw their hopes dashed by the windmill project.

"There were so many trees they took down," says Dharma Sonawane, a villager who resisted the developer's offer of money for land his family had worked for three generations. The project, he adds, "is taking land away from us and we are poor people."

Rabobank is now more wary about the unintended consequences of large offset projects in distant lands, Taverne says. To counterbalance the bank's emissions the following year, they bought other offsets in smaller projects. And the bank's goal is to use minimal offsets recommended by – and known to – Dutch nonprofit organizations.


The real energy future: Boutique nuclear

The Savannah River site could host the first Hyperion small reactor after a siting deal intended to allow rapid development of the new power generator.

A memorandum of understanding signed by Hyperion and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions "envisions collaboration with [site owner] the Department of Energy (DoE) on an array of technical and policy issues." Hyperion told World Nuclear News that as a DoE site, there is leeway to develop nuclear facilities at Savannah River without having fully completed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's usual licensing procedures. Nevertheless, the company stressed that the regulator still be closely involved.

The company told WNN the demonstration would cost "less than $50 million" and that it would hope to source this from the private sector. Hyperion declined to elaborate on a timeline for the development.

Installed underground, the unit would be small - "about the size of a refrigerator" - with a thermal capacity of 75 MW. From this is should be possible to generate 25 MWe, which Hyperion said is "enough to power a US military base, university or government complex."

The fast reactor design uses lead bismuth coolant and uranium nitride fuel enriched to almost 20% uranium-235. It would need refuelling only every ten years and this would be done by removing the entire power module, which includes the reactor core and primary coolant loop. At Savannah River the plan is to remove these in standard nuclear transport containers to a specialist facility so that no high-level radioactive materials are stored on site.

Hyperion CEO John Deal said, "Transportable, permanently sealed small reactors providing localized distributed power can be ideal for isolated locations that require an uninterruptible source of power, but they also have the potential to give utilities greater flexibility to add generation in a way that's comparatively inexpensive." He noted, "About 70% of the countries in the world don't have the capability to transmit electricity any appreciable distance and 25% of the planet's population has no electricity generation at all."

Signing the agreement for Savannah River Nuclear Services, pesident and CEO Garry Flowers said, "This is a another logical way to maximise the nation's return on 60 years of investment at Savannah River."


Australia's coal industry is safe, insists new Climate Change Minister Greg Combet

Putting a miners' representative in charge of the environment is amusing -- and very telling

THE nation's new Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, has vowed to bring "common sense" to the climate change debate, warning that he will fight for coal industry jobs as he pursues a price on carbon.

The former union leader has predicted the coal industry "absolutely" has a future as he pursues his three key policy reform objectives: pursuing renewable energy; energy efficiency; and the development of a carbon price for Australia.

Insisting the Climate Change portfolio was an economic reform challenge, he said: "You don't take the back of the axe to the fundamentals of the Australian economy."

Julia Gillard yesterday moved to stamp her authority on her new government after elevating her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, to the senior portfolio of Foreign Affairs and shifting Stephen Smith to Defence. With 42 ministers and parliamentary secretaries, the front bench and junior ministry now outnumber Labor's own back bench.

Among the biggest winners were senator Penny Wong, who was shifted from Climate Change to the important Finance portfolio, and Peter Garrett, who takes up the Schools portfolio, despite the insulation scheme debacle happening on his watch as environment minister. Mr Combet's new role puts him in cabinet for the first time.

As part of its deal to secure government, Labor signed a formal alliance with the Greens, whose policies include the eventual phasing out of the coal industry, Australia's biggest export earner. But in an interview with The Australian, Mr Combet said his background as a former coal engineer, union official and MP with coal workers in his NSW electorate meant he did not believe his job was to shut down the coal industry. "I don't agree with that. That's not part of my job at all," he said.

"I am acutely aware of the challenges that this policy presents. But people jump to these absolute positions, and I just don't think that's appropriate. "I've got a responsibility to support those people's jobs. The coal industry is a very vibrant industry with a strong future. What you've got to do is look to how we can achieve in the longer term things like carbon capture and storage for coal-fired power stations."

Greens leader Bob Brown has described Australia as being like a heroin addict "feeding the habit" of the world's reliance on coal. The party's stated policy is to oppose development of any new coalmines or the expansion of existing coalmines and to phase out all existing coal subsidies. It wants to work towards stopping the development and granting of export licences for all new coalmines.

But in a statement last night, Greens senator Christine Milne, who has the party's portfolio responsibility for climate change, said she did not intend to rehash the policy differences with Labor as she sought to build "trust" with the new Gillard government.

"I have put in a call to Greg Combet to congratulate him and begin the exciting conversation," she said.

"In the meantime, I hope we can all respect the delicate process of building trust between people coming from different policy positions so we can achieve the best outcomes possible for the climate."

Mr Combet said his job as minister was to build a stronger, deeper consensus on climate change issues, including election campaign policies to develop efficiency standards.

During the election campaign, the Prime Minister vowed to ban new coal-fired power stations that use "dirty" technology and require that any power station built can be retro-fitted with developing clean-coal technology.

But yesterday, Mr Combet said he was not in the business of applying the adjective "dirty" to coal.



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