Monday, September 17, 2012

Deplorable ignorance from a skeptic

In a completely unreferenced guest post by a Lloyd Robertson on Bishop Hill we read:

"Of course I am a skeptic, and I am giving the impression that the egregious faults are all on the other side. I suppose the skydragons, whoever they are, are plain ignorant, not trying to learn, but probably honest. I don't read them, I had never even heard of them until Judy Curry sharpened her lance against them."

The idea of judging someone whom you know nothing about is very adolescent and as ignorant and unscientific as any of those he criticizes. If he has any self-respect and intellectual integrity the ecclesiastical one should take this bit of foolishness down.

The article claims to be a taxonomy but the first step for a taxonomy is to be very familiar with the subject matter.

For reference I am not myself one of the "skydragons". Background on the "skydragons" here

Another laugh at Lewandowski

NASA Faked Moon Landing—Academic Psychologists Swoon, Tie It To Climate Change

By statistician W.M. Briggs

One day a terrific psychological study is going to be written on the madness and mass lunacy which arose after climate change swan into the public’s ken. I don’t mean of the actions and thoughts of the man-in-the-street, which were and are no different in this area than they were and are in any matter of politics. No: the real curiosity is what happened to academia, inside departments which haven’t anything to do with climatology.

There, surrounded by people eager to agree with each other and fueled by infinite estimates of their own intelligence, great hoards of degreed non-experts, people who couldn’t derive the Omega equation if you threatened to remove their tenure and who think Vorticity is a town in Spain, lectured all of mankind on why The End Was Near, Unless…

Unless they, the non-experts, were hearkened to, esteemed, feted, moneyed, and just plain listened to, dammit.

The cornerstone of this future pathological report may well be the peer-reviewed Psychological Science paper “NASA faked the moon landing—Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” by Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles Gignac, perhaps the completest, most representative work of its odd era.

Everything that could have been done wrong, was done wrong. Every bias that could have been manifested, was manifested. Every fallacy pertinent to the matter at hand was made. The conclusions, regurgitated from unnecessarily complicated statistical procedures, did not follow from the evidence gathered, which itself was suspect. In its way, then, the paper is a jewel, a gift to the future, a fundamental text to how easy it is to fool oneself.

Consider that its errors are not far to seek1. Take the opening sentence: “Although nearly all domain experts agree that human CO2 emissions are altering the world’s climate, segments of the public remain unconvinced by the scientific evidence.” Isn’t that gorgeous? I count at least seven mistakes, and we are only at the very beginning!

Mistake 1: Lewandowsky is not a domain expert, and by his argument is not qualified to speak on matters climatic, yet speak he does.

Mistake 2: His opinion about how to consider the science of climate change is therefore no more valuable than any other non-domain expert’s (about the physics), but he considers by this act of publishing that it is.

Mistake 3: He conflates voting with truth. His fallacy is to suppose that because the majority of domain experts say X, X is therefore true.

Mistake 4: He conflates numbers with weight of evidence. His fallacy is to suppose the minority of domain experts who do not agree with the majority are not to be listened to because they are only a minority.

Mistake 5: He confuses physics with economics, a vulgar but common error. It may be true that, say, temperatures will rise by 0.5o C in the next five decades, but it does not follow that any theory of what will happen because of this temperature rise is true, nor is it true that anybody’s suggestion to combat the adverse consequences of what will happen is therefore worthy of consideration.

Mistake 6: Since Lewandowsky committed this howler, and is obviously unaware of it, he cannot see it in the people he interviews, who often make a similar error. That is, when a civilian is asked, “Do you believe in climate change?” he often answers “No,” but the mistake is to assume he is answering the question as stated, when in reality he has answered the modified question, “Do you believe in climate change and should the government regulate, rule, tax, control, mandate, penalize, etc., etc. to combat this change?” Such an elementary mistake by a psychologist shows us just how far the madness has progressed.

Mistake 7: Lewandowsky, because he is not a domain expert, misunderstood the basic physics. There are no domain experts who do not agree that mankind changes the climate. The only matters in question are: how much? where? when? with what certainty can we know? Notice the absence of “What can be done?” because this requires expertise in human behavior, and that expertise is what is suspiciously missing in this paper.

My dears, I emphasize that this was merely the opening sentence, and that much worse was to come. But before that, there was one more error, more grievous than any other, embedded in his starting sentence. This is Lewandowsky’s befuddlement that any non-domain expert could deign to question “the scientific evidence” (when much of what is “science” is instead politics). He assumes that any who do so, even in the admitted presence of disagreement over what “the” science is, is suffering from a psychological flaw.

Science has spoken, thinks he, and therefore nothing remains to be said. An actual instance of doublethink, and really quite marvelous when you consider the economy of words used to express it.

Now, the rest of Lewdandowsky’s work is more mundane. He commits the freshman mistake of only seeking evidence for his beliefs, and for none that would contradict him (and of which there is plenty); he says things like “Another common attribute of the contemporary rejection of science is its reliance on the internet” and then uses the internet himself in his “science”; he questions the influence of Steven McIntyre of Climateaudit forgetting that McIntyre is a domain expert and he, Lewandowsky is not.

He admits confirmation bias by calling dividing his sample into “pro-science” and “skeptic”, when the point in question is what the science says. He builds “latent variable” models to “prove” what he already believed, and biased himself to confirm; latent variable analysis being a lovely technique to give desirable results. He amusingly assures his audience of his “theoretical results”: not theories of climate, but psychological (academics do love a theory). He can’t help himself but use the ugly term denial, an appalling word one would have thought a psychologist would have understood was inappropriate.


Some wisdom at the Stanford Alumni Magazine‏

The letter below from meteorologist Martin Hertzberg appeared in only the on-line edition of the magazine. You can probably guess why it was not published in the print edition

Ted Arbuckle’s letter (“Research Flaws,” July/August) correctly points out that “climate science,” which promotes the fear of anthropogenic global warming, has ignored the scientific method because of the money to be made in perpetuating the theory, in the same way that drug and biomedical research is often biased to produce the desired outcomes given the large sums of money involved. As a result, he points out that those of us who disagree with that fabricated “consensus” have our scientific credentials challenged and are denigrated as “deniers.” Their claim that the science is settled provides them with an excuse for refusing to discuss the science involved.

Arbuckle calls for someone to investigate climate change science because “something doesn’t add up.” So let me try.

I became a graduate student at Stanford after serving as a forecasting and research meteorologist in the U.S. Navy. I had learned what climatologists and meteorologists had known for about a century and what most who call themselves climate scientists apparently never learned. Weather and climate are controlled by natural laws on an enormous scale that dwarfs human activity. Those laws engender forces and motions in our atmosphere and oceans that are beyond human control. Those forces and motions are driven by the following.

* First, the motions of the Earth relative to the Sun: the periodic changes in its elliptical orbit, its rotation about its polar axis; the changes in the tilt of that axis; and its precession.

* Second, the variation in solar activity that influences the radiant energy reaching the Earth and modulates cosmic ray activity, which influences cloudiness.

* Third, the distribution of land and water on the Earth’s surface, which controls the atmosphere’s temperature distribution, moisture availability, monsoon effects, hurricanes, and other storm tracks and intensities.

* Fourth, the topography of the Earth’s surface, which causes copious precipitation on the windward side of mountains and aridity on the leeward side.

* Fifth, the fluid motions within the oceans that determine moisture availability and ocean surface temperatures (El Niño and La Niña cycles).

Water in all of its forms is the main agent through which those forces operate. It provides moisture to the atmosphere, heat transport by evaporation and condensation, and the enormous circulating mass of the ocean whose heat capacity dominates. And finally, water provides the cloud, snow and ice cover that control the radiative equilibrium between the sun, Earth and free space.

While the presence of 0.04 percent of CO2 in our atmosphere is essential for life in the biosphere, the notion that such a minor constituent of the atmosphere can influence or control the forces and motions enumerated earlier is absurd. All the “climate scientists” seem to see something unprecedented in recent changes in the Earth’s average temperature.

They are inevitably cherry-picking factoids such as the recent heat wave in the United States, as they purposefully ignore the totality of the data. The Earth’s average temperature last month showed nothing remarkable. Recent changes have been matched or exceeded many times in the past: the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Warm Period, The Holocene, and the periodic interglacial warming of the last million or so years that preceded them—all long before any significant human production of CO2.

More details are available in several books that have recently been published. The one I recommend is Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, because I am one of its co-authors.

It would be disingenuous not to point out that, for whatever their motives, some of the major supporters of the human-caused global warming/climate change theory were faculty members at Stanford who should have realized a long time ago that something doesn’t add up. The catastrophe that they were fear-mongering about may indeed be realized, but only if we are stupid enough to continue to implement draconian measures and policies of “carbon control” based on the erroneous theory they espouse.

Received via email

Families facing £2,000 bills for green heating 'that does not work in Britain'

Millions of pounds of public money have been spent installing a ‘green’ central heating system that residents claim doesn’t work properly – and that has made their heating bills four times higher than expected.

Annual running costs had been estimated at £500, but instead some housing association tenants have been saddled with bills of up to £2,000 a year – nearly twice the UK average.

Some families in ‘affordable homes’ said their electricity bills last winter were so high that they had to choose between heating and eating.

The so-called exhaust air system works by sucking heat from waste air leaving the house and pumping it back in to provide heating and hot water. But if it does not raise the boiler water temperature enough, an electric immersion heater kicks in, sending bills rocketing.

Government grants were spent on the all-electric Swedish NIBE systems but experts say they are wrong for most British homes, which are not as well insulated as those in Sweden.

Heating expert Geoff Morgan, of Rodney Environmental Consultants, has inspected homes in the UK with NIBE heating and said: ‘In Sweden, very little heat escapes through walls, doors and windows, so more is available to be pumped back in. ‘These systems are just not very suitable for your average British home when mains gas is available – it’s just not going to be economical.’

One housing association in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, is considering legal action after claiming that it was ‘mis-sold’ the systems, which cost about £6,000 each. Another in Runcorn, Cheshire, recently spent £145,000 ripping out 69 NIBE sets and replacing them with gas boilers.

To be eligible for public money for new housing from the Government’s Homes and Community Agency, housebuilders have to follow its Code for Sustainable Homes, which urges low-carbon solutions. But residents have reported problems on at least 15 estates from East Anglia to Orkney, and various Facebook sites have been set up by disgruntled householders.

Mother-of-four Sam Claussen said she and her partner Jeff were excited in May 2010 when they moved into a three-bedroom house in St Neots, on an estate owned by the Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association (BPHA).

‘I loved the idea of having this modern and green heating system which we were told was going to give us really low bills,’ said Ms Claussen, 40. Indeed, Energy Performance Certificates issued on the new properties estimated annual electricity costs for heating and water at between £400 and £500.

But after living in the property for two months, Ms Claussen was shocked to receive an electricity bill for £252. Costs continued to mount for Ms Claussen and her neighbours on the Loves Farm Estate, and eventually the BPHA stepped in to help meet tenants’ bills – to the tune of £45,000.

By last Christmas, the Claussen family had unpaid bills of £1,500 and were on a key meter.

They found that during a cold snap they were having to spend £10 a day. ‘With such a high electricity bill, we had to choose between eating or keeping the house warm,’ Ms Claussen said. ‘The children were fed, but I hardly ate at all. It was an awful Christmas.’

A spokesman for the BPHA said the NIBE system was recommended by the contractor, Kier Homes, to comply with the Government’s green code. ‘We had representations from NIBE and as a result we were convinced that it was a very good solution. Unfortunately that has not been our experience. Some residents have reported excessive bills, and also there wasn’t enough hot water for their needs.

‘We are currently replacing 43 of the systems with gas boilers. We are also taking legal advice on the next step forward.’

Kier admitted that some NIBE systems were found to be undersized and that some houses had two wall vents rather than one, which meant more heat was escaping.

The company has agreed to underwrite the cost of replacing undersized units with gas boilers, replacing all vents and contributing towards a hardship fund for residents.

A statement added: ‘Since the issues with the NIBE system came to light, we have stopped specifying the boilers.’

NIBE managing director Phil Hurley said: ‘These systems are working brilliantly in thousands of homes across the UK without increased energy costs and, according to independent research, have dramatically reduced costs in many cases. ‘Where costs are high, the issue isn’t with the system, it’s with the way it has been installed or is being used.’


The Taxing Power of the EPA

When is a tax not a tax? When it is a fine, penalty or a “project.” Not everything in the government is paid for by deficit spending. Submitted for your consideration are just of few of the instances of ways in which the Environmental Protection Agency fuels the Big Government Machine. Below is a partial list of fines and penalties levied by the EPA against corporations and individuals starting with this calendar year. And remember, this is a partial list.

January 4th: The City of Scranton was given $12,619 penalty and made to undertake a $300,000 tree planting project because it failed to comply with a risk management plan.

January 9th: The owners and managers of 11 housing units in the Boston area agreed to pay $16,000 for not handing out the EPA’s lead paint brochures.

January 10th: The Heath Oil Company in Pennsylvania was hit with a $25,347 penalty. The company did not have a spill prevention plan that met the EPA’s specs.

January 10th: Northeast Housing, LLC, and Balfour Beatty Military Housing Management, LLC were faced with a potential $153,070 fine for allegedly not informing tenants at two New England housing developments about the dangers of lead-based paint.

February 28th: The Western Digital Corporation was fined $62,500 for failure to properly label and seal containers, failure to control tank emissions, failure to adequately train personnel, failure to monitor equipment, failure to provide an adequate contingency plan, and failure to provide a leak detection system.

February 28th: Sanders Wood Products in Liberal, Oregon (No really, that is the name of the town) was fined over $108,000 in penalties for leaks in three PCB-containing transformers.

March 6th: The Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing in Kansas agreed to a civil penalty of more than $970,000 along with more than $4.25 million on new pollution controls and $6.5 million in operating costs for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

March 16th: CRM Rental Management of Rome, New York found itself facing $143,000 in fines for failure to provide lead disclosure statements.

March 26th: Crespo Realty of Flushing, New York was cited for failure to provide lead disclosure statements. It was not clear how many violations the company was facing, but each count has a maximum fine of $11,000.

March 28th: Coltec Industries and National Steel and Shipbuilding Company agreed to pay a civil penalty of $280,000 and spend approximately $500,000 on an environmental project The companies build ship engines and did not attach the proper EPA label to their product and did not have a certificate of conformity with them.

April 3rd: The Duvall Development Co., Inc., Duvall & Son Livestock, Inc. and the president of both companies, Jeffrey H. Duvall, were hit with a $30,000 penalty and have purchased five acres of forested land that was donated to the Chattahoochee National Forest. The EPA alleges that Between 2004 and 2005, the defendants illegally discharged fill material into waters of the United States by encasing or “piping” portions of four tributaries of Stekoa Creek that run across the Duvall Development Company’s property in Clayton, Georgia.

April 3rd: The Cosmoflex Company which makes rubber hoses in Hannibal, Missouri agreed to pay $800,000 in penalties for reporting and documentation violations.

April 5th: The Polidori Company a Utah developer was hit with $30,000 for allegations that it put fill material into a lake in Panguitch, Utah and its adjacent wetlands.

April 5th: The EPA announced the Colin Wentworth fined $10,000 for improperly using power equipment to remove lead-based paint from an 1850’s apartment building in Rockland, Maine, and that he had improperly trained his workers. The same day, the agency announced that the Johnson Sash and Door Company in Omaha did not provide owners and occupants of pre 1978 housing with EPA-approved lead paint pamphlets.

April 10th: In a rare case of “government-bites-government” the EPA fined the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health $68,000 for improperly labeling and storing pesticides.

May 3rd: The Kanto Company in Portland, Oregon which manufactures chemicals was penalized $58,200 for reporting violations

May 16: QEP Field Services was given a $3.65 million civil penalty and agreed to pay $350,000 into a Clean Air Trust Fund for alleged Clean Air Act Violations in northeast Utah. The company must also reduce its emissions. The alleged violations occurred at natural gas compression stations.

May 17th: The El Paso Midstream Group settled with the EPA to the tune of $20,000 in civil penalties and $235,000 to fund and maintain two air quality monitors, again in northeast Utah. The EPA claims that prior to 2009 the company did not control hazardous emissions and did not implement a leak detection and repair program.

July 25th: Talisman Energy USA Inc. was told to pay a $62,457 penalty to settle alleged violations of hazardous chemical reporting requirements at 52 hydraulic fracturing facilities throughout Pennsylvania that include natural gas well sites and compressor stations. Talisman discovered the violations and self-disclosed them to the EPA. So much for honesty.

August 24th: The Stone Energy Corporation of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, was fined $7,055 because the company did not conduct inspections in accordance with federal SPCC regulations. The inspection also found the facility’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure plan did not discuss flowline high pressure devices and well shut-in valves as well as adequate protection of sub-marine piping against environmental stresses.

August 28th: College Pro house painters in Massachusetts agreed to pay a $7,200 penalty and to spend $65,000 on an environmental project at a school in Cambridge to settle claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it failed to provide required lead hazard information to home owners in four New England states on 41 occasions. College Pro will spend $65,000 to replace or restore 79 windows that likely contain lead paint at Congregation Eitz Chayim or the Harvard Hillel Children’s School on Magazine Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I tried adding up all of the fines, fees and settlements, but my calculator rebelled at having to work that hard.

I didn’t do in-depth research on all of these and some of them may be true ne’er-do-wells who were carelessly fouling the environment. But I know in the cases of lead paint, most people do not know they are in violation and know nothing about the EPA pamphlet unless they happen to be visit agency’s website. How often do you surf over to in a given month?
What is noteworthy and in the case of the lead paint violations, egregious is the amount of fines that were imposed. No warnings, no fix-it tickets, no chances to replace the divot that did not involve scratching out a hefty check to Uncle Sam. And it begs the questions: With this number of fines in 9 months from one agency, what is the government doing with this money , and why does it feels the need has to hike our taxes? And, how much of this is going to Obamacare?


Green crony capitalism in Maine

The Obama administration is famous for its crony capitalism. It’s famous for wasting money on disastrous investments like Solyndra to pay off its political allies. It now appears, however, that they go a step further: they put public funds in bad investment loans, then double down on their bad loans with free cash grants.

Here’s the short story: Angus King, former governor of Maine, Obama supporter, and front-running independent Senate candidate, owned a wind company. Obama’s Department of Energy handed over a deeply questionable $102 million loan to that company. It appears that as that company was coming under investigation, King quickly divested himself of his interests, hoping he was doing so just in time to escape scrutiny, and as he was preparing to announce his candidacy for Senate.

But that's not where the story ends. It seems that before he left the company, King helped apply for a Department of Energy grant worth some $33 million. Which means one of two things: either the company was thriving, in which case King was helping bilk taxpayers for an additional $33 million; or the company was having financial difficulties, in which case the $33 million grant was designed to help cover the cost of the loans, $23 million of which was coming due with a maturity date of April 27, 2012.

Either way, the situation doesn’t look good for King, or the Obama Administration. Either the two were working to ensure that King’s company got paid millions so that King could reap the benefits, or they were working to cover up a troubled company and highly questionable investment subsidized with federal tax money.

Here’s the more complete story.

In 1997, Governor King signed into law a bill that would require utilities to generate at least 30 percent of their energy from “green” sources like wind. In 2007, King decided to take advantage of his mandate and founded a wind energy company, Independence Wind. The first major project of Independence Wind was to build the Record Hill wind farm, near Roxbury, Maine.

Ironically, King once said, “In the process of rebuilding Maine, we must never compromise the integrity of our environment. It’s not only immoral, it’s bad economics.” Yet his wind project has blasted the tops of mountain ridges along many of bucolic Maine’s well-known and beloved mountaintops to make way for a new and much less attractive landscape consisting of hundreds of windmills.

In 2011, King’s company received a $102 million for development of Record Hill. The loan came through the same stimulus program that funded Solyndra. The original federally-guaranteed loan was as questionable as the Solyndra loan. As it turned out, there was no need for a federally-guaranteed loan on the surface; the company supposedly had $127 million in liquid assets available, assets it had to have under Maine state law in order to commence construction. The loan program was specifically designed to help companies that couldn’t get private loans otherwise.

Furthermore, the company may not have been eligible for the loan, since its technology wasn’t innovative under the applicable regulation. But the company got the loan anyway, from an Obama administration eager to help out its cronies. Angus King was, of course, an Obama supporter, endorsing him and having contributed at least $10,000 to Obama’s reelection campaign.

Record Hill promptly used the money on foreign companies. Just a quarter of the cash was reinvested in the State of Maine; 58 percent of the cash went to Siemens to pay for building 22 windmills. The turbines themselves were manufactured in Europe “because that’s where the biggest turbine market is, and the tower sections are made in Asia, because that’s where the new efficient steel mills are,” said King’s partner in Record Hill, Rob Gardiner. About 467 people worked on the site, reportedly, but “at least some of these jobs could measure their duration in days rather than weeks or months.” Today, nobody is employed by the wind farm itself.

In March, King declared his Senate candidacy. He would run as an independent, but he would likely caucus with the Democrats. He was a solid lock to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

But the loan was coming under scrutiny. As steam picked up on the curiosity about Record Hill, King spoke out. “The project is operating and actually is ahead of its production schedule,” he claimed. “The risk now basically is that the wind won’t ever blow again, and that is a pretty low risk.”

Despite King’s assessment of the situation, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Darrell Issa, released a report bashing the Department of Energy and singling out Record Hill as a loan that shouldn’t have happened. Two days before the report was released, King dropped his association with Record Hill, dumping all of his stock. He told a Maine news outlet the timing was an “amazing coincidence.” Actually, Record Hill was notified that they’d be mentioned, and King almost certainly wanted to avoid blowback. Gardiner admitted that he’d received a letter of notification from the Committee two days before King sold his stock.

But wait, there's more! From August 2011 to January 2012, the federal financing bank signed checks worth $101.5 million to Record Hill. In March 2011, King and Gardiner said they’d expect another $70 million in stimulus funds; as of July 2012, they’d received another $33.7 million in Section 1603 cash grants. A grant, not a loan.

Was the grant designed to help Record Hill cover loan repayments that the company couldn’t pay? Or was it just double-dipping by a highly-connected company?

If it’s the former, this is fraud. For the federal government to guarantee a loan, know the loan is going bad, and then give a “grant” to a company to pay off that loan is cooking the books.

If it’s the latter, King and company were all too happy to grab more and more taxpayer money.

King, for his part, continues to maintain that the company is in solid financial shape. But if it is, why should the Department of Energy give it a $33 million grant? What need would the company have for such a grant? Angus King and his former partner are wealthy magnates; the company supposedly had $127 million in liquidity when it began. If these 1 percenters are so flush, why do they insist on taking money from the 99 percent to pay for their already-flourishing company?

This isn’t Solyndra. This is far worse than Solyndra. It wasn’t just a Solyndra-like loan to a wind energy company designed to make a Senate candidate rich – although it appears that the Department of Energy loan was Solyndra-lite. It’s the follow-up grant that’s even more troubling. The cash grants arrived just two months after King cut ties with the company – and it takes several months for such grant applications to be filed. If the company was doing well, it wouldn’t need a grant; if it was doing poorly, it didn’t deserve a grant. But it got a grant nonetheless.

This is not the first time that Angus King has been involved in a Solyndra-like situation. King’s son, Angus III, is vice president of First Wind, another wind boondoggle that received federal stimulus dollars and almost went bankrupt.

King’s wind fixation certainly enhanced his wealth. It hasn’t enhanced the wealth of Maine or American taxpayers, though. It’s cronyism at its finest. And it’s a double-down Solyndra story that should make any taxpayer cringe.




The graphics problem: Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility. 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 and here


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