Sunday, December 09, 2012

Pseudo forecasts good enough for NYT

Forecasting expert Prof. J. Scott Armstrong, of  University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia,  writes:

On November 24, 2012, The New York Times published an article titled “Is this the End?,” which warned that manmade global warming is likely to destroy our civilization. The article was published nine days after the NYT published Cass Sunstein’s article advocating that policies on dangerous manmade global warming should be based on cost-benefit analyses, that the government had calculated a net benefit for costly policies, and that Ronald Reagan once agreed with a cost-benefit analysis.

I was unable to contact Professor Sunstein to find the sources of the “cost-benefit analyses.”

In an effort to calm panic-stricken readers, I wrote a Letter to the Editor at The New York Times revealing that while cost-benefit analysis is indeed the proper method, none has shown likely net harm arising from global warming. Evidence-based forecasts of dangerous warming and of the effects of alternative policies are missing.

Strangely, my evidence-based forecasts that our civilization is not threatened by dangerous warming did not meet the NYT criteria of “All the news that’s fit to print.” If you know any NYT readers, please inform them that they are safe.


Another "We're running out" shriek

I remember the phosphorous scare from the '70s.  The big phosphate discovery in N. Africa shortly thereafter rather castrated it but the Green/Left never learn

A column by legendary asset manager Jeremy Grantham is more suitable for the tabloids than for one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious scientific weekly magazines.

Jeremy Grantham, a well-known presence in the financial world, recently published a World View column in the journal Nature in which he concludes that, “simply, we are running out’’ of almost all commodities whose consumption sustains modern civilization.

There is nothing new about such claims, and since the emergence of a vocal global peak oil movement during the late 1990s, many other minerals have been added to the endangered list. Indeed, there is now a book called Peak Everything. What makes Grantham’s column – published under the alarmist headline “Be Persuasive. Be Brave. Be Arrested (If Necessary)” – worth noticing, and deconstructing, is that he puts his claims in terms more suitable for tabloids than for one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious scientific weekly magazines.

His direst example is “the impending shortage of two fertilizers: phosphorus (phosphate) and potassium (potash). These two elements cannot be made, cannot be substituted, are necessary to grow all life forms, and are mined and depleted. It’s a scary set of statements…. What happens when these fertilizers run out is a question I can’t get satisfactorily answered and, believe me, I have tried.’’ Well, he could have tried just a bit harder: an Internet search would have led him, in mere seconds, to “World Phosphate Rock Reserves and Resources,” a study published in 2010 by the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

This detailed assessment of the world’s phosphate reserves (that are the part of a wider category of resources that is recoverable with existing techniques and at acceptable cost) concluded that they are adequate to produce fertilizer for the next 300 to 400 years. As with all mineral resource appraisals (be they of crude oil or rare earths), the study’s conclusions can be criticized and questioned, and the statement by the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative is perhaps the best document of that kind. But even the most conservative interpretation of IFDC’s assessment shows that phosphates have a reserve/production ratio well in excess of 100 years, higher than that of many other critical mineral resources.

Even the most conservative interpretation of IFDC’s assessment shows that phosphates have a reserve/production ratio well in excess of 100 years, higher than that of many other critical mineral resources.

Grantham could have also checked the standard, and the most often quoted, sourcebooks on the world’s mineral resources, Mineral Commodity Summaries, published annually by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In the latest edition, he would have found that the USGS made significant revisions to its phosphate rock reserves data for Morocco, Russia, Algeria, Senegal, and Syria, and that it now puts the global reserve/production ratio at about 370 years. Or he could have consulted the materials put out by the International Fertilizer Industry Association, whose members include many of the world’s most prominent fertilizer producers, traders, and shippers. The association (emphasis in the original) “does not believe that peak phosphorus is a pressing issue, or that phosphate rock depletion is imminent. Nevertheless, it believes that efforts to minimize phosphorus losses to the environment and optimize phosphorus use should be encouraged.’’

And that is precisely as it should be, because wasteful use of all kinds of fertilizers is common and optimizing the applications brings substantial monetary and environmental rewards (phosphates are a major cause of aquatic eutrophication, their worst effects are persistent dead zones in many coastal areas around the world). Larger gains in reducing phosphate applications could be made by moderating typical per capita meat consumption, and a great amount of the element can be recovered from waste. In all Western countries, most fertilizers are now applied to feed not food crops, and hence moderating the current high rates of meat consumption (commonly in excess of 100 kg per capita) would reduce the amount of needed fertilizer. Such cuts would also have environmental and health benefits.

An even more important option – especially given the facts that much of modern meat, milk, and egg production is done in a concentrated manner, and that half of the world’s population lives in cities – is now available thanks to advances in phosphorus reuse from manures and municipal wastes. Grantham could have talked to many experts in this flourishing field, or could have simply consulted the SCOPE Newsletter, which reports, several times every year, the latest scientific and commercial achievements regarding phosphorus recovery. In the latest issue of this newsletter he would have also learned that the world has, at the current rate of consumption, about 600 years of minable potassium reserves.

Grantham cannot dismiss all of this as just usual propaganda put out by the fertilizer industry. That a financier and asset manager – whose expertise does not include resource geology, soil science, plant science, or agronomy – comes to “only one conclusion,’’ namely that the use of fertilizers “must be drastically reduced in the next 20–40 years or we will begin to starve,” is as wrong as it is understandable. Clearly, he was after sensational headlines and, indeed, in his column he implores scientists to engage in “overstatement’’ and to be arrested (if necessary) in order to call attention to the imminent perils he describes. That the world’s leading scientific journal prints such tabloid talk is harder to comprehend. Do we not have science precisely in order to provide us with the best available evidence so we can understand the real challenges and make well-informed decisions to pursue the most responsible and the most effective solutions?


Good snowfall replenishes Himalayan  glaciers

Report from  India.  Cycles are the norm for climate events but no Warmist wants to admit it. Cycles of precipitation are the main influence on glaciers

With high-altitude mountains in Himachal Pradesh experiencing up to 100 cm fresh snowfall in November month after 10 years, the abundance of snow on mountains has rejuvenated nearly one thousand glaciers and has ensured uninterrupted supply of water for drinking, irrigation and hydel [hydroelectric] projects.

Even after years of research on glaciers and climate of Himalayas, scientists have failed to learn the pattern of the weather here. While scanty snowfall and rising temperature in last decade had sparked the possibilities of fast shrinking of glaciers, good spells of snowfall in last three years have changed the trend with glaciers almost growing to their original size. Some scientists say that despite heavy snowfall in winters, the extreme heat in summers is causing the melting of the glaciers with abnormal speed and others say extreme cold in winters is neutralizing the minor effect of risen temperature in summer. Overall, speed of melting of glaciers has reduced over the past few years only due to good snowfall in winter months.

The 11-km-long Bara Shigri is the largest glacier in Himachal, but is shrinking very fast. The Dhaka glacier in Chandrabhaga mountain ranges is also losing its length, width and height. This was proved beyond doubt when wreckage of an AN-12 aircraft which remained beneath the glacier since 1968 recently surfaced due to melting of snow. However, the thick layer of fresh snowfall has again built a safety wall on all the glaciers. The extreme cold temperature is another advantage as melting of snow has stopped almost completely.

The Himalayas comprise about 15,000, glaciers which include more than 1,000 glaciers in Himachal and they store around 12,000 cubic kilometres of fresh water. Good snowfall in Himachal is beneficial for Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and other neighbouring provinces, besides Pakistan, which get water from the state.


Electric Cars: The Environmentally Friendly Way of Losing Money Since 2009

A Congressional Budget Office report released in the fall tells Obama what the rest of us have known for some time: Your bet on electric cars wasn’t an investment, but a gamble; a dumb gamble.

And now you’ve just come up snake eyes.

“Despite the federal government pumping $7.5 billion into the electric vehicle industry in the United States through 2019,” writes the, “overall national gasoline consumption is unlikely to be significantly affected, according to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).”

The CBO says that even if Obama increased the amount of the subsidy, it would make little difference to the gasoline usage or emissions output because automakers would still be required to hit fuel efficiency targets. Instead, the CBO says that either a tax on gasoline or carbon is the only way to increase the attractiveness of electric cars to consumers.

Duh.  That’s because electric cars don’t save gas, they don’t save money and they don’t save the “planet.”   They are only a vanity-plumping, amenity purchase for the metro-testicled.

“Assuming that everything else is equal” says the CBO, “the larger an electric vehicle’s battery capacity, the greater its cost disadvantage relative to conventional vehicles—and thus the larger the tax credit needed to make it cost-competitive.”

It’s not like none of us pointed this out at the time Obama unveiled his plan to put a million electric vehicles on the road before he destabilized the Middle East.

Ok, so he didn’t tell us that last part.  Dr. Strange-Chu told us about that one.  “Somehow,” Strange-Chu said, “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

Hey? How about a regional civil war? We could lob a few missiles at Libya?

But even with Middle East and North African disorders keeping oil prices high, electric vehicles are still not cost competitive- nor does the consumer seem to want them at any cost.      

General Motors essentially confirmed Obama’s bad bet when they admitted that the recent rash of “viral” Chevy Volt sales have been stoked by discounts of as much as $10,000 off the MSRP of $40,000.

Three months ago industry insiders revealed that General Motors was taking a loss of around $50,000 per Chevy Volt sold. That was assuming a sales price without the new and improved $10k discount. If you add in the $7,500 government subsidy, the Volt’s cost to the consumer is around $22,500.

Cost to the taxpayers is much, much higher.  Before the discount, the Volt cost General Motors- a joint venture between Obama, Inc., and the United Auto Workers that was subsidized by your tax dollars- around $650 million just this year according to estimates by industry insiders. In August alone the discount bumped up the price to GM by another $28 million.

So far this year the company has sold around 13,000 Volts, compared to the 60,000 unit goal that they set at the beginning of the year.

"Let's face it, over $40,000 is asking a lot for a compact car," says Bob Lutz, who helped develop the Volt- and was present when GM was hurling toward bankruptcy.

"Its prime purpose was to introduce a new generation of technology," says the now-retired Lutz, according to CBSNews. "And at the same time ... demonstrate to the world that GM is way more technologically capable than the people give it credit for."

Show-offs.  I never knew technology was capable of losing this much money so quickly.  I’m impressed.

And now so is the Congressional Budget Office.


UN conference adopts extension of Kyoto climate accord

But leaves out most of the important countries

Seeking to control global warming, nearly 200 countries agreed Saturday to extend the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that limits the greenhouse gas output of some rich countries, but will only cover about 15 percent of global emissions.

The extension was adopted by a U.N. climate conference after hard-fought sessions and despite objections from Russia. The package of decisions also included vague promises of financing to help poor countries cope with climate change, and an affirmation of a previous decision to adopt a new global climate pact by 2015.

Though expectations were low for the two-week conference in Doha, many developing countries rejected the deal as insufficient to put the world on track to fight the rising temperatures that are shifting weather patterns, melting glaciers and raising sea levels. Some Pacific island nations see this as a threat to their existence.

“This is not where we wanted to be at the end of the meeting, I assure you,” said Nauru Foreign Minister Kieren Keke, who leads an alliance of small island states. “It certainly isn’t where we need to be in order to prevent islands from going under and other unimaginable impacts.”

The two-decade-old U.N. climate talks have so-far failed in their goal of reducing the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that a vast majority of scientists says are warming the planet.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which controls the emissions of rich countries, is considered the main achievement of the negotiations, even though the U.S. rejected it because it didn’t impose any binding commitments on China and other emerging economies.

Kyoto was due to expire this year, so failing to agree on an extension would have been a major setback for the talks. Despite objections from Russia, which opposed rules limiting its use of carbon credits, the accord was extended through 2020 to fill the gap until a wider global treaty is expected to take effect.

However, the second phase only covers about 15 percent of global emissions after Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia opted out.

The decisions in Doha mean that in future years, the talks can focus on the new treaty, which is supposed to apply to both rich and poor countries. It is expected to be adopted in 2015 and take effect five years later, but the details haven’t been worked out yet.

U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern highlighted one of the main challenges going forward when he said the U.S. couldn’t accept a provision in the Doha deal that said the talks should be “guided” by principles laid down in the U.N.’s framework convention for climate change.

That could be interpreted as a reference to the firewall between rich and poor countries that has guided the talks so far, but which the U.S. and other developed countries say must be removed going forward.

“We are now on our way to the new regime,” European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said. It definitely wasn’t an easy ride, but we managed to cross the bridge.”  “Hopefully from here we can increase our speed,” she added. “The world needs it more than ever.”


Obama’s Walt Disney Energy Policies

In Walt Disney’s 1940 animated film “Pinocchio,” woodcarver Geppetto dreams that his wooden marionette will turn into a real boy. Geppetto’s hopes are immortalized in the song “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which begins: “When you wish upon a star/ Makes no difference who you are/ Anything your heart desires/ Will come to you.”

The song won an Academy Award. It didn’t win a Nobel Prize for Economics or any awards for public policy, and was never intended as a guide for government energy and environmental programs.

Nevertheless, President Obama and the radical environmentalists who helped him win a second term seem to believe that, if only they wish hard enough, they can make the sun, wind, waves, algae and fields of corn replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary energy sources.

Never mind that these misnamed “clean and green” energy sources are still too impractical, unreliable, expensive and land-intensive to compete with oil, natural gas and coal on a level playing field. Team Obama will make non-hydrocarbon energy more competitive, by tilting the playing field.

Knowing hope and hype energy can’t survive without mandates and subsidies, they are doubling down on grants and loans for campaign-contributing corporate cronies. They ignore environmental study, health and endangered species laws, to green-light favored projects and technologies, overlooking bird kills and habitats blanketed or impacted by wind turbines, solar panels and algal ponds, and disregarding impacts of wind turbines on the health of people living near industrial wind facilities. They dismiss the fact that ethanol production requires billions of gallons of water and prodigious amounts of diesel and natural gas.

President Obama’s hype, hope and wish energy extracts tens of billions of dollars a year from productive, profitable sectors of the economy – to subsidize “alternative energy,” at the rate of some $200,000 per job “created” by government dictate and taxpayer money. Equally bad, that expensive energy increases costs for every family, factory, farm, hospital, restaurant and other business in the country, adversely affecting job creation and retention throughout the nation.

For hydrocarbon producers, the Obama Administration is tilting the playing field the other way. Federal bureaucrats delay and prevent leasing, drilling, mining and production of the fossil fuels that provide 85% of all US energy, versus less than 3% from these favored “renewable” sources.

Hydrocarbons generate millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars annually in economic activity, royalties and taxes. And yet, the Administration continues to throw senseless obstacles in the way of efforts to produce more onshore and offshore oil and gas right here in the United States, utilize our abundant coal resources, and bring Canadian oil to U.S. refineries by building the Keystone XL pipeline.

While they ignore the slaughter of countless eagles, whooping cranes, egrets, falcons, hawks, geese, bats and other flying creatures by wind turbines – Interior Department bureaucrats use sage grouse and prairie chickens to stymie leasing, drilling and hydraulic fracturing on public and private lands alike.

Fracking was developed by private industry, using private funding and innovation on private lands. It is the primary reason petroleum production (oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids) has increased in the United States, despite Team Obama’s leasing and drilling moratoria. No wonder it blossomed in North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas, where the federal government owns just 2-5% of all land, and not in the thirteen states where the feds own and control 30% (Montana) to 85% (Nevada) of the land.

According to IHS Global Insight, this unconventional oil and gas revolution has already created 1.7 million new jobs, pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the US economy, and generated over $60 billion in federal, state and local tax receipts during 2012 alone. By 2035, it could create another 2 million jobs, rejuvenate American manufacturing, inject more than $5 trillion in cumulative capital expenditures in the US economy, and generate over $2.5 trillion in cumulative added government revenues, to offset some of the profligate spending by the White House, Congress and many states (including California, Illinois and New York, which have thus far refused to tap their own ample shale resources).

Fracking has driven US natural gas prices to $3.70 per thousand cubic feet (or million Btu) today – versus a high of $8 in the US a few years ago, and $14 in Europe and $17 in Japan today. That means cheaper electricity for homes, businesses and charities, low-cost transportation fuel for natural gas-powered vehicles, and less expensive feed stocks for petrochemicals – which means more jobs, economic productivity and tax revenues. This natural gas has also replaced coal in factories and electric power plants, reducing emissions of particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide.

Fracking has also reduced US oil imports (and the export of US dollars). That’s made Russia, Venezuela and Arab states nervous that prices will fall and demand for their gas and oil will shrivel. It’s persuaded the United Arab Emirates to bankroll actor Matt Damon’s new anti-fracking film, “Promised Land.”

Contrary to what Damon and frack-frenzied factions assert, the process is safe. Having “fracked” almost 2.5 million wells since 1949, the industry increasingly uses kitchen-cabinet chemicals and saline water that is unfit for agriculture, recycles that water, and has disproven virtually every claim of water contamination. The “controversy” over fracking was manufactured, to enrich environmentalist groups.

Their latest “concern” is that methane leaking from well completions and pipelines could contribute to “runaway manmade global warming.” However, methane represents barely 0.00018% of Earth’s atmosphere (1.8 ppm, equivalent to 18 cents out of $100,000); its link to climate change is conjectural at best; and whatever might possibly escape from US operations is dwarfed by CH4 emissions from termites, cows, landfills, coal seams, and sloppy oil and gas operations in countries like Nigeria.

No wonder Great Britain has decided to embrace fracking – and give UK families and businesses a break from the soaring energy prices that have so outraged its citizens. No wonder former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has told fellow Democrat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo he’d be “frackin’ crazy” to continue banning the practice in economically depressed Upstate NY. Many families in the area are on the verge oflosing their farms and strongly support drilling operations that would generate jobs and revenues – and save their farms from vulture environmentalists who are waiting for foreclosures, to swoop in and grab them on the cheap, to create new parks and weekend homes for New York City elites.

Where are Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and other Farm Aid celebrities, when you really need them?

Meanwhile, EPA and Interior are devising excuses to impose layers of new federal regulations on fracking for oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids from state, federal and private lands alike: water use, water contamination, methane leakage, wildlife impacts, whatever it takes to delay and obstruct.

By raising interminable objections to proven, safe technologies, Team Obama hopes to limit supplies and raise production costs of these fossil fuels. This, they theorize, will increase oil and gas prices, making hype and hope energy more competitive – at the expense of jobs, economic growth and tax revenues.

In the final analysis, energy policy is about choosing among imperfect sources of power to support modern societies and living standards. No source of energy, anywhere, anytime, has zero environmental impact and carries no risk of something going wrong.

Rather than wasting billions more taxpayer dollars pursuing energy wishes on stars, President Obama, Congress and Governor Cuomo should pursue energy reality and security. They should let states continue regulating hydraulic fracturing on private land, and make it easier to get drilling and fracking permits on federal land – to ensure job creation, revenue generation, and sensible environmental protection for wildlife and ecological values that might be threatened by petroleum, wind, solar or ethanol programs.




Preserving the graphics:  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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