Thursday, December 20, 2012

U.N. body now says humanity is causing warming AND cooling.  No matter what, it's all YOUR fault

Interestingly from a philosophy of science viewpoint, they have no means of predicting which will be the stronger effect.  They can only be wise after the event,  What they say is not science, in other words.  It's just a money-grubbing racket to fool the public

Ever wonder why IPCC scientists are losing credibility?   Rudolf Kipp in a reader comment here points out an interesting claim being made by the IPCC 5 AR Summary for Policymakers (SPM) on page 10. It states:

    "The greenhouse gas contribution to the warming from 1951–2010 is in the range between 0.6 and 1.4°C. This is very likely greater than the total observed warming of approximately 0.6°C over the same period. {10.3.1}"

What they are saying here is that the warming due to CO2 may have been as much as 1.4°C, but some external factor may have cooled the globe and offset much of that warming. According to the IPCC it is actually 0 to 0.8°C cooler than it should be. Chapter 10 (Page 15) mentions aerosols as the likely cooling factor:

    "Over the 1951–2010 period, greenhouse-gas-attributable warming at 0.6–1.4 K is significantly larger than the observed warming of approximately 0.6 K, and is compensated by an aerosol-induced cooling of between 0 and –0.8 K (Figure 10.4b) (Jones et al., 2012).”

That means that the man-made global warming is actually more than what the temperature rise shows because man-made aerosol cooling offsets a part of the warming. Kipp surmises:

    "If it doesn’t get warmer over the next years, then it likely will be blamed on the increased share of anthropogenic cooling.”

Obviously the IPCC is giving itself a back door for an escape should temperatures continue to stay flat or fall. No matter what happens, the IPCC will blame man-made climate change.

Kipp writes:  "Is it any wonder that the credibility of climate scientists within the public has fallen to levels we usually associate with used car dealers or politicians?"

With this latest wishy-washy claim, the IPCC  is thus admitting their models have huge uncertainty. This is hardly the kind of science that policy should be based upon.


U.S. oil prices could sink to $50

U.S. oil prices could sink to $50 a barrel at some point over the next two years, according to analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  But don't expect a corresponding drop in gas prices.

Merrill analysts expect U.S. oil prices to still average about $90 a barrel over the same time period. Global oil prices meanwhile, which more closely dictate the price of gasoline in the United States, are expected to remain high as growth in global oil supplies lags population growth and economic output.

The drop in U.S. oil prices would likely be temporary, caused by the difficulty in moving huge amounts of new oil from places like North Dakota's Bakken shale or Texas' Eagle Ford to market. Already, all the new production has led to a glut of oil in the region.

"No one expected output to grow by a million barrels per day last year," Francisco Blanche, Merrill's head of commodity research, said at a press briefing in New York. "No one."

As a result, oil has been accumulating in Cushing, Okla. -- home to the convergence of several pipelines and dozens of oil storage tankers that acts as the delivery point for the most commonly quoted U.S. oil price, West Texas Intermediate.

The problem for U.S. drivers is that WTI crude accounts for just a small percentage of the oil used to make gasoline in the United States. And prices for other types of oil -- such as Louisiana Light Sweet, Alaskan North Slope or Nigeria's Bonny Light -- remain high.

In fact, Blanche said the U.S. government may have to approve exports of WTI if it wants the oil boom in this country to continue, as $50 a barrel is below the cost of production.

Merrill also predicted relatively slack economic growth in both the United States and globally in the years ahead.

The bank predicts the U.S. economy will grow by 1.5% in 2013 and 2.8% in 2014. Globally, it sees 3.2% growth in 2013 before returning to a more average level of 3.9% the following year.

But there is some good news for investors.

Continued high prices and low yields on bonds, plus the successful resolution of the so-called fiscal cliff and an improving outlook in Europe, means money should pour into stocks. Returns could run between 9% and 16% in 2013, while the S&P 500 may hit an all time high, the firm predicts.

"We are unapologetically bullish for 2013 when it comes to the U.S. equity market," said Savita Subramanian, Merrill's head of U.S. equity research.


CA: Solar power adds to nonusers’ costs

Booming rooftop solar installations in California are bringing an unwelcome surprise to the homes and businesses that don't have the devices: an extra $1.3 billion added to their annual bills, more than half of that for Pacific Gas & Electric customers.

Power companies in the state, the nation's biggest for solar power, are required to buy electricity from home solar generators at the same price they resell it to other customers, meaning utilities earn nothing to cover their fixed costs. The rules are shortsighted because eventually rates must be raised to make up the difference, according to Southern California Edison, which has joined with competitors to estimate potential losses.

As more homes and warehouses get covered in solar panels, higher rates imposed on traditional consumers risk a growing conflict between renewable-energy advocates and power companies that foresee a backlash in California and 42 other states with similar policies. The tension has also emerged in countries including Spain and Germany, where solar investments are curbing investment in the power grid.

"You get into a situation where you have a transmission and distribution system with nobody paying for it," said Akbar Jazayeri, vice president of regulatory operations at Edison, a unit of Edison International and California's second-largest electric utility.

To deter losses as solar abounds, states typically set a cap on the amount of photovoltaic power utilities must buy under what is called net-metering policies. Those allow a meter to run backward during the hours a day when a home or business is selling the power to the utility. California's limit is 5 percent of a utility's aggregate peak load.
New customers

About 20,000 customers of San Diego Gas & Electric had connected 146 megawatts of solar panels to its grid as of Nov. 1, accounting for 1.2 percent of its peak load. The company is adding 409 new net-metering customers a month, said Stephanie Donovan, a spokeswoman for the state's third-largest utility.

SDG&E can't collect about $18 million to $20 million a year in grid costs from customers with rooftop solar panels, according to Dan Skopec, vice president of regulatory affairs for San Diego's Sempra Energy, the utility's owner.

The utility will be shifting about $200 million in annual costs to customers without panels when the state reaches its cap, Skopec said. Solar customers "avoid charges, not just for energy, but also the costs of the transmission and distribution system," he said. "That's why we say it is not sustainable."

Pacific Gas & Electric, the state's biggest utility, will pass on about $700 million in annual costs to people without solar systems when the state hits the cap, according to Denny Boyles, a spokesman. Southern California Edison will transfer about $400 million annually, according to spokesman David Song, for a total of $1.3 billion from the three utilities.

That's about 3.9 percent of the $33.5 billion spent on electricity in 2010 in California, based on the latest figures available from the U.S. Energy Department.

"The problem exacerbates with each new system that goes on a roof," said Mark Bachman, an analyst at Avian Securities Inc. "Utilities will need to get reimbursed for their grid costs by a shrinking number of consumers."

California utility customers installed 245 megawatts of solar panels in 2011 and have already added more than 315 megawatts this year, according to the California Solar Initiative, a state program to encourage rooftop energy systems.
Solar growth

Installations of U.S. residential and commercial solar systems totaled about 1,050 megawatts in the first three quarters of the year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, compared with about 1,100 for all of 2011.


Green building: More expensive and less efficient

Lawmakers are preparing to pass a tough new “green building” code, which supposedly will make our buildings more energy efficient and save money. But experience with such codes elsewhere show that they don’t always work as planned.

My colleague Todd Myers of the the Washington Policy Center has done a great job highlighting the many pitfalls associated with  green building mandates. Myers has shown consistently that “green building” does not live up to its energy-saving  promises. In particular, he points out that many of the certified “green schools” in his home state of Washington are among the least energy efficient schools. In a recent blog post, he explains: “[Green] Schools cost more to build and then end up using more energy, not less, in most cases. The state [Washington] itself confirmed those findings in its audit completed last year.”

A recent news story in USA Today, Myers notes, shows that the failure of “green” schools is a national problem. “[T]he real winners with green building standards aren’t students or the environment. They are the architects and engineers who charge more to design these buildings, and the politicians who tout support for ‘green’ standards in public campaigns, even if the schools are short on delivering real benefits,” Myers explains.


“Green” Wrapping Expensive Environmental Policies

From the World Resources Institutes initiative for Keeping Options Alive to the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, calls for conserving biodiversity are persistent. This goal appears reasonable, at least on its face. Who would argue against a wider variety of plants and animals increasing our chances for a life-saving drug in the future? It has, after all, happened before.

As we think through this appeal, however, harder to reconcile truths emerge. Policies to maintain or expand biodiversity may act as an attractive green wrapper on politically motivated redistributions that do little to improve environmental quality or economic opportunity.

One way to see through this wrapper is to consider not only the future benefits that people might enjoy from conserving biodiversity, but also an accounting of associated costs. A good way to measure these costs is to piggyback on those who buy and sell options in markets that are more economically mindful than those for political decisions that is, financial exchanges.

Ignoring an options cost can be politically attractive, but creates big losses if you are an exchange trader. Traders look to the Nobel Prize winning formula of Fischer Black and Myron Scholes for analytical guidance. Applying this model to biodiversity options suggests that conservation comes at a considerable cost, and this cost likely increases with top-down directives like those in charge of the UN.

According to this model, options cost more the longer they are open. They also cost more when interest rates are higher, which tends to be the case for long-term obligations. Programs to maintain biodiversity options, where benefits might be realized years from now, are expensive on both counts.

The cost of biodiversity options also increases with the expected price-volatility of associated assets. In the biodiversity case, such an asset could be a forest that might facilitate new biofuels. But the future price of such a habitat is sensitive to environmental conditions, the forecasts of which are highly variable.

From every economic angle, biodiversity options are expensive. Political-legalese can try to hide this price tag, but someone has to pay it.

The point here is not that maintaining biodiversity lacks merit. Rather, it is that pursuing such goals through detached and high level bureaucracies can miss the mark. The risk of doing so increases as those who will pay the price, such as todays high-income earners, become easier political targets. In addition, top-down conservation efforts are less likely to succeed when measuring a policy-success is difficult. It is hard to distinguish whether a medicinal cure or new biofuel should be counted as a policy-success or as a discovery that would have happened anyway.

Top-down programs to maintain or expand biodiversity options lack accountability on both dimensions. Bottom-up approaches, on the other hand, benefit from information reaching decision makers faster and from competitive markets encouraging an efficient use of that information. After reviewing several unsuccessful centralized attempts to preserve biodiversity, Professor R. David Simpson argued for arms-length payments to people in return for changing their land-use practices. Simpson appreciates that public support for businesses like ecotourism can work toward such ends, but points out they also keep wasteful enterprises alive and enrich those that would succeed on their own.

Real market strategies succeed by anonymously creating environmental and economic opportunities. Politics, instead, often supplants the invisible hand of economic efficiency with the visible hand of inefficient redistribution.


Back from the brink of extinction

Woods bison, muskeg swamps and Canadian oil sands prove energy and wildlife coexist

Dennis T. Avery

The last woods bison in the United States was apparently shot by a hunter in West Virginia around 1835. For many decades, the woods bison was presumed extinct – until an airplane spotted an isolated herd in the muskeg swamps north of Alberta, Canada.

My farm is near a Virginia village called Buffalo Gap, documenting the existence of these ”buffalos” long ago and this far south.  These cousins of the Great Plains bison prefer wooded areas and they’re much larger than the species hunted by the Sioux Indians and Buffalo Bill.

So I was delighted to actually see another herd of the nearly extinct animals calmly munching on hay – right in the middle of the oil sands mining project in northern Alberta, which I visited a few weeks ago. Much of this oil is destined for the USA, to reduce imports from dictatorships, and more will come in the Keystone XL Pipeline, if President Obama ever approves it.

The bison living at the oil sands recovery site are direct descendents of the remnant herd found in 1957. They were busily browsing about 300 yards from a huge diesel shovel that loads 400 tons of oily sand at a time into a lineup of huge trucks. The trucks carry the sand toward a giant “cooker” where the oil is steamed out.

Then they haul the now-clean sand to an enormous pile where it is reserved for later reclamation work. Even the topsoil that covered the sand is set aside to recreate the hillocks, ponds and swamps much as they were before mining.

Once a sizable area of the enormous oil sands deposit has been cooked, and the oil has been further processed for shipment via pipeline, the sand and topsoil are put back into the mined area.  The Canadian government resumes title to the land when its habitat and wildlife experts have ensured that each wilderness recovery is complete and sustainable.

The only thing missing is the smell, taste and ooze of oil, which has always permeated the local soils and often seeped into local streams. There was absolutely no noticeable oil or diesel smell anywhere at the mine, except inside one of the wellhead control buildings we visited.  That’s where you would certainly expect to find it, but even there it was minimal.

The bison seem willing to “loan” this moving five-square-mile of surface mine (what some environmental activists prefer to call an “open wound”) in the midst of their vast muskeg swamp. They certainly don’t let it spoil their lunch or breeding.  They may even sense that the intrusion is only temporary.

This part of Alberta features spindly black spruce and tamarack trees, intermingled with the muskeg--sphagnum moss and sedge grasses. It’s actually about 40 percent water, when you add up the ponds, lakes, streams and marshy areas.  It isn’t much to look at, but it harbors lots of beaver, wolves that prey on the beaver and, hopefully soon, wild herds of woods bison that will continue to grow in number.

The open pit mining cycle travels slowly, with about 25 years of mining followed by another 25 years for complete site restoration. The miners and drillers bring up their own processing water from deep brackish groundwater formations, and they’re increasingly reusing the water.

The tar sands are a geological marvel: an 84,000 square miles deposit – an area the size of Kansas – but the sand is soaked with 5–25 percent heavy petroleum. In total, the Alberta sands are estimated to contain 169 billion barrels of oil, making it one of the largest petroleum deposits in the world. Experts say the oil sands’ operations could produce 465,000 U.S. jobs in construction, refining, petrochemicals and other sectors by 2035, if President Obama finally lets the Keystone XL pipeline go forward.

Where the sand is near the surface, as in the woods bison area, it’s mined with huge shovels and trucks. However, 98 percent of the oil sands lie in a thick bed 200 to 400 feet below the surface. That oil is recovered via drilling and steam injection.

Crews drill a pair of wells a precise five feet apart – one above the other. Each well goes straight down about 150 feet, and then turns to run horizontally for about a mile! Steam is pumped into the upper line. It escapes through perforations in the pipe, then heats and liquefies the oil. The hot liquid oil drips down to the lower pipeline, where more perforations collect the petroleum and pump it to the surface.

The steam recovery units occupy clearings in the muskeg forest, each several miles apart, and covering only about two football fields’ worth of land. These “wounds” also move slowly over the years. As each section of oil sands is steam-cleaned of about 75 percent of its petroleum, the drilling, steam and processing pad is vacated.  Then it’s turned back into muskeg and forest.

Eco-activists loudly decry the oil sands, but it’s hard to understand why. If 84,000 square miles of wildlife habitat was being permanently converted to fields of corn and switchgrass for biofuels, I’d understand their concern about lost habitat. Taking that much land out of food crops has radically raised the price of corn, and thus of all the world’s meats, dairy products, corn syrup, tortillas. Even bread.

Instead of high-cost biofuels, the tar sands produce enormous quantities of petroleum for transportation, petrochemicals – and for the fertilizers and diesel fuel needed to produce high-yield crops on the world’s prime soils.

This modern farming method has saved nearly 7 million square miles of wildlife habitat (nearly twice the area of the entire United States) over the past 50 years.  The high-tech farmers do this by raising far more food per acre than any other farmers in all history. To cap it all off, the tar sands’ pipeline product has a greenhouse gas profile much like that of Arab Medium, one of the oil market mainstays: in other words, not many greenhouse gases.

The activists have made a big mistake in offering the public only solar and wind energy.  Both are costly, land-intensive, erratic and unreliable – and incapable of supporting our cities and farms. Biofuels are even worse. They use enormous quantities of water and sharply increase food costs for the world’s poor.

If the Greens had supported nuclear power, which emits no CO2 at all, they might have already won their battle over using coal and natural gas to generate electricity.

As it is, the activists risk losing their credibility on energy and other issues, by opposing virtually every technology that has been developed to benefit humans, wildlife and the environment.




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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