Monday, December 31, 2012

Lewandowsky again attempting to sound authoritative

De-Published and Australian-resident psychologist of climate, Stephan Lewandowski, has once again attempted to establish his wisdom in the matter of climate beliefs.  He has written an article for Australia's main public broadcaster (where else?) in which he makes some vanilla comments about what it takes to change people's minds (A lot.  He should know) and attempts to portray climate skepticism as an unreasonably fixed belief.

He does the usual appeal to authority that is typical of people who do not want to look at the evidence but has a few refinements beyond the usual.   I will add a few comments at the foot of the  "pearls" concerned: I quote:
Those elements of a successful rebuttal can be illustrated with a recent article (paywalled) by climate "sceptic" Matt Ridley that has attracted considerable attention, having first appeared in The Wall Street Journal, before being taken up by The Australian and Forbes.

According to this article, we have nothing to worry about: the author acknowledges that the globe is warming and human greenhouse gas emissions are to blame, but claims that the warming will be slight and good for us.

However comforting it may be, this claim is misleading. The article cites only one peer-reviewed study, by Ring and colleagues, and it misrepresents the implications of their work. When I contacted one of the authors, Professor Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, he replied:

    "The author of the Wall Street Journal article that mentions the findings of our paper is just plain wrong about future warming. Our research shows that global warming will exceed 2C, defined as dangerous climate change, by the middle of this century."

This correction is straightforward but may be insufficient to permit discounting of this misinformation. Let's apply the three principles for successful debunking.

First, one must point out that the author, Matt Ridley, has financial interests related to coal mining (it must be noted that he does declare this interest at the end of his article). The possible conflict of interest is clearly relevant. Moreover, because climate change is an exercise in risk management, the author's record of risk (mis-)management is also relevant. One must be concerned that Matt Ridley was chairman of a bank that experienced the first bank run in the UK in 150 years, which led a member of the UK Parliament's Select Committee on Treasury to ask of Matt Ridley:

    "you have damaged the good name of British banking; why are you still clinging to office?"

Second, one must point out that there is an overwhelming consensus in the peer-reviewed literature which suggests that future warming will be more than slight and that it will be far from beneficial for most societies. With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years already, it takes a considerable leap of faith to hope, let alone claim, that future warming will have beneficial effects overall.

Finally, one must visualise the future warming using a graph. The figure below was provided by Professor Schlesinger, whose work was misrepresented in the Wall Street Journal piece, from one of his recent papers:

The figure shows that regardless of which data set is being used to produce projections (i.e., GISS, HADCRU, or NOAA), there will be considerably more than 2C warming (ie, the UNFCCC threshold) by century's end.


I have just re-read the Ridley article and following is the whole of what Ridley said about the Schlesinger article:

"Michael Ring and Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, using the most trustworthy temperature record, also estimate 1.6°C."

What Lewandowsky has seized on was in other words entirely incidental to the thrust of Ridley's article, which relied principally on discussions with an IPCC statistician, Nic Lewis.  And what Ridley has said does not necessarily conflict with the out-of-context quote put up by Lewandowski.  Ridley quoted results for  "the most trustworthy temperature record" and those results  need not at all be the same as the results for all temperature records or even the mean temperature record.  So no points to Lewandowsky so far.

Lewandowsky then goes completely "ad hominem", a mode of argument that has no scholarly repute whatever and which therefore proves nothing: He points out that Ridley was chairman of a failed British bank.  I should ignore such an irrelevant argument but let me point out anyway that Lewandowsky somehow forgets to mention that heaps of banks worldwide -- mostly run by very bright people --  also went bust at roughly the same time (the 2007-2008 GFC).  That hardly merits pointing the finger at Ridley.  So no points to Lewandowsky for that little bit of nastiness either.

Lewandowsky then says: "With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years..."  but the link he gives for that claim is to  one of his own prior articles!   Since I have put up plenty of evidence to the contrary in recent times (e.g. here), I will say no more at this point.  But Lewandowsky is just cherrypicking.  Certainly no points for that.

His last stab is to put up a pretty-looking graph.  But note the timescale that the graph covers.  It is all prophecy and, as  such, unfalsifiable.  So in philosophy of science terms it is not even an empirical statement.  It is a statement of belief and not a statement of fact.  And prophecies are almost always false, as we saw with the recent Mayan debacle.  So no points for that either.

So when it gets beyond vague principles and onto matters of fact, Lewandowsky is left clutching at smoke.  And he greatly discredits his own claim to scholarship in the process -- JR

Sceptics weather the storm to put their case on climate

Some serious comments from an Australian cartoonist.  It's presumably only his status as a cartoonist that got him published in Australia's most  Leftist mainstream newspaper

WELL, so much for the 2012 apocalypse. If the ancient Mayans ever knew anything about the future, they made a serious miscalculation. The same fate has befallen the international climate change emergency brigade. About $1 billion and 18 "Kyoto" meetings later, the world has agreed to do nothing much more than meet again.

How did this frightening climate threat dissolve into scientific uncertainty and political confusion? What of the many billions of dollars of wasted public resources? Some might blame the "sceptics", the "merchants of doubt" or the "deniers". Others point to the global financial crisis.

We can say for certain that many hesitant individuals overcame the pressures of group-think, intimidation and tribal disapproval to have a closer look at the relationship between real science, politics and business.

I was once told by a friend that when it comes to scientific issues of major public concern, it is "not what you know but who you know". I think he meant that my fledgling scepticism about dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW) was pointless, for as a cartoonist I was as unqualified to assess the science as he was.

The implication was that all who are untrained in "climate science" are required to accept the scientific and political authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its local colleagues such as the CSIRO: the scientific establishment.

I found my friend's advice baffling. Anyone familiar with the judicial process knows the gravest issues of liberty and fortune are often determined by a jury selected from the public. Expert witnesses can give evidence in support of either side at a trial. The judge must rule on questions of admissibility, but in the end it is the jury that decides which scientific evidence is to be believed.

In the climate debate, the only "judge" is the scientific method - a testable hypothesis followed by factual or experimental challenge. The "facts" here represent an anxious problem for the DAGW advocates. For example, everybody agrees that the warming trend paused 16 years ago, despite a corresponding 10 per cent increase in atmospheric CO2. This ought to be an embarrassment to the global warming alarmists. What exactly is the relationship between CO2 and temperature? Why did the warming trend stop as it did between 1945 and 1975, when CO2 emissions took off?

As Dr David Whitehouse, the former BBC online science editor, said in the New Statesman in 2007, "something else is happening to the climate and it is vital we find out what or we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly". Obviously we should pay close attention to the computer models that form the basis of climate scientists' projections. In fact these models apparently failed to anticipate the current pause in global warming, not to mention the abundance of post-drought rainfall in Australia. Scientific "consensus" based on these computer models is becoming rather shaky.

The reason why scientific consensus emerged in this debate is because political activists want to get things moving, and if they say that consensus is scary and urgent, then sceptics had better get out of the way.

The activist cause peaked early in 2007 when Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth became an international hit. This documentary was superficially compelling for the uninitiated, but in October 2007 the British High Court found the film contained nine errors of fact.

Professor Bob Carter of Queensland's James Cook University gave evidence in this case; few people in Australia are aware of this severe embarrassment for Mr Gore.

Later that year, the ABC broadcast Martin Durkin's provocative documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, against the outraged objections of many prominent alarmists. How interesting. The science was "settled", the debate was said to be over and no further discussion was required. Any media professional should have been aroused by such an excited censorship campaign, and it stimulated my first cartoon on the subject (above), which depicted the family TV set as mediaeval stocks with an imprisoned climate sceptic being pelted by the family with their TV dinner.

It seemed to me that things changed after that documentary was screened. Perhaps the shock of hearing the likes of Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, and Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, had joined the ranks of the sceptical was just too much for some people.

Things got nasty. Someone came up with the brilliant but insidious idea of using the term "denier" to describe a person who remained agnostic or sceptical about the exact human contribution to the 0.7 degree global warming of the past 100 years. This malicious rhetoric came to be adopted by climate activists, media reporters and politicians up to head-of-state level. Many distinguished scientists such as Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, and Bill Kininmonth, former head of our National Climate Centre, were casually defamed in this way. The same label was applied to world-renowned theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson and Australia's distinguished Professor Bob Carter.

Holocaust denial describes the heartless and despicable refusal by anti-Semites to acknowledge the historical truth of the Jewish genocide of World War II. If you use the offensive term "denier" you do so for reasons best known to yourself. You may be calculating or you may be indifferent, but as Wong, Rudd and Gillard would have known, the effect is pungent. No sensible, morally responsible person wants to be stigmatised in such a way.

Some prominent Australian intellectuals to this day continue to explicitly endorse the moral equivalence between Holocaust and global warming denial. This is all the more incredible because it comes from academics who understand the horror of the Holocaust. For good measure, sceptics have also been compared with 18th century slave trade advocates, tobacco lobbyists and even paedophile promoters.

But times have changed, and since 2007, the non-scientific players in this great intellectual drama have been confronted by creeping uncertainty about many of the major climate science issues. These have included the composition of the IPCC and the credibility of its processes; remember Glaciergate? The IPCC predicted the end of the Himalayan glaciers based on non-scientific literature; the unusual (or not) melting of sea ice and glaciers; the evidence for warm temperatures during the mediaeval period; the importance of sun spots; changes (or not) in patterns of extreme weather events; ocean "acidification"; ocean warming and rising sea levels; bio-mass absorption and the longevity of molecules of atmospheric CO2; the influence of short-period El Nino southern oscillation (ENSO) and other similar oscillations on a multi-decade scale; the chaotic behaviour of clouds; and the impact of cosmic rays on climate. Even James Lovelock, the founder of the "Gaia", movement has turned sceptic.

By early 2010, it seemed that nearly every single element of the global warming debate was up for grabs, and scandals like Climategate and gross mistakes in their work had weakened the credibility of the IPCC. Even Professor Paul Jones of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, a leading contributor to IPCC calculations, confirmed in a 2010 BBC interview that the warming rates of the periods 1860-80, 1910-40 and 1975-98 were statistically similar. He also said that "I don't believe that the vast majority of climate scientists believe that the climate change [debate] is over".

To the great credit of The Age and its pluralistic tradition, the occasional sceptical science article has been published along with regular cartoons on the issue.

However, I still feel that the voices of highly qualified sceptics are not heard enough. In an effort to redress this imbalance, an unusual book on the sceptics' view will be published in 2013.

The text, sprinkled with cartoons and illustrations, takes the Socratic form, giving answers to commonly asked questions about the science and economics of climate change. The content is provided by a collaboration of five highly qualified experts. They include a meteorologist, the former director of the Australian National Climate Centre; a geologist, a former member of the Australian Research Council and chairman of the Earth Sciences Panel; an independent energy consultant who manages his own small hydro power station; a professor of environmental engineering (hydrology) and one of Australia's leading tax consultants.

I trust the integrity and compassion of these "deniers", and admire their courage and awesome perseverance. We hope the book will help redress the imbalance in easily accessible knowledge for a "jury" of ordinary Australians.


The global warming scare has had almost continuous precursors

Though no other scare approaches it for profitability

In his 1702 opus Magnalia Christi Americana, the prominent Puritan Cotton Mather related a story about Francis Higginson, the first minister to serve the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts. Before Higginson sailed to New England in 1629, Mather wrote, he preached one last sermon to his old congregation in Leicester. The Lord, it seemed, was preparing a punishment for England. A war was coming, and Leicester in particular was going to suffer. So Higginson was heading across the sea to seek shelter in a place where God’s people could build a more holy commonwealth, a place safe from the destruction to come. The colonists, he concluded, were following the advice of Christ: “When you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then flee to the mountains.”

Mather wrote those words long after the English civil war that saw Leicester besieged and sacked. Skeptics might suspect him of inventing or exaggerating a story that made a fellow Puritan look prophetic. But the idea that America could serve as refuge from an Old World apocalypse was not limited to the perhaps-apocryphal story of Higginson’s final preachment.

John Winthrop, an early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared that “God hath provided this place to be a refuge for many whome he meanes to save out of the generall callamity.” William Bradford, an early governor of Plymouth, cited “the divine proverb, that a wise man seeth the plague when it cometh, and hideth himself.” After that civil war did break out in England, the Puritan poet and minister Michael Wigglesworth described the New World as a “hiding place, which thou / Jehovah, didst provide…When th’ overflowing scourge did pass / Through Europe, like a flood.” City upon a hill, schmitty upon a hill: America was a fallout shelter.

It wasn’t long before the settlers started spotting signs of Armageddon on this side of the Atlantic too. Wigglesworth described America as a place with “no enemyes” and with “such peace / As none enjoyd before,” but for Mather it was “a World in every Nook whereof, the devil is encamped.” When the Puritans weren’t fighting actual wars with French Catholic settlers and Native Americans, they were imagining conspiracies of Catholics, Indians, and invisible spirits all around them. Sometimes those alleged plots combined into a single cabal. At “their Cheef Witch-meetings,” Mather warned, “there has been present some French canadians, and some Indian Sagamores, to concert the methods of ruining New England.” Such anxieties would prove durable.

In Heaven on Earth, the Boston University historian Richard Landes presents a cross-cultural survey of millennialism—the conviction that we’re approaching either the end of the world or a sudden, radical global transformation. One theme of the book is the experience of “apocalyptic time,” that moment when men and women become convinced that the change they have anticipated is about to arrive. “Many things come to people who believe themselves in the midst of apocalyptic time; many things become possible,” Landes writes. “Such people bring us saintly men wandering through Europe preaching peace, and warriors with crosses wading in blood up to their horses’ bridles, both believing that this was the Day our Lord promised, to rejoice therein.”

The closer you look at American history, the more it seems that someone somewhere is always in apocalyptic time. Sometimes the whole country seems to plunge in together, as in such convulsive periods as the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the aftermath of 9/11. Other times a distinct subculture detects an eschaton invisible to everyone else. On October 22, 1844, the followers of William Miller abandoned their homes and fields and gathered to greet the end of the world; to quote Mark Twain’s account, they “put on their ascension robes, took a tearful leave of their friends, and made ready to fly up to heaven at the first blast of the trumpet. But the angel did not blow it.”

The Millerites came and went without hurting much more than the believers’ pride. But other millennial movements attracted a reputation for violence, for taking up arms to hasten or weather the oncoming collapse.

In the 1980s, for example, a far-right sect called the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord convinced itself that the last days were at hand. “It will get so bad that parents will eat their children,” church leader James Ellison predicted. “Death in the major cities will cause rampant diseases and plagues. Maggot-infested bodies will lie everywhere. Earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanoes, and other natural disasters will grow to gigantic proportions. Witches and satanic Jews will offer people up as sacrifices to their gods, openly and proudly; blacks will rape and kill white women and will torture and kill white men; homosexuals will sodomize whoever they can. Our new government will be a part of the one-world Zionist Communist government. All but the elect will have the mark of the Beast.” Ellison’s followers started conducting military maneuvers and plotting terrorist attacks. Their career concluded in a 1985 standoff with the feds, a siege that lasted for four days before the militants surrendered.

Sometimes the story is inverted: A millennial movement inspires apocalyptic fears in the mainstream, and believers become the targets of violence rather than its perpetrators. The classic example is the Ghost Dance, a 19th-century messianic movement centered around a Northern Paiute Indian called Wovoka. There would come a day, Wovoka preached, when the familiar world would end and a new age would begin, when the living would become immortal and the ghosts of the dead would return. To hasten this day, Indians must set aside their differences, give up guns and alcohol and idleness, dance the Ghost Dance, and spread the good news.

The faith was transmitted orally, so it mutated and adapted rapidly, absorbing different attributes in different places as different tribes encountered it. Among the recently defeated Sioux, licking their wounds in the Dakotas, the religion took on a militant flavor, introducing the ideas that the white race would be wiped out and that special shirts would make their wearers impervious to bullets. Even in this form, the Ghost Dance was an explicitly nonviolent religion. If anything, it may have tamped down the impulse to attack whites, since it allowed angry Indians to believe that the intruders would soon be removed by supernatural means.

Nonetheless, when the Hunkpapa Sioux leader Sitting Bull endorsed the Ghost Dance in 1890, he broke a peace pipe in public and announced that he was ready to fight and die for the faith. That was enough for Maj. James McLaughlin, Washington’s representative in its interactions with the local Indians, to fire off a letter to the federal commissioner of Indian affairs. Sitting Bull, he warned, was “an adept in influencing his ignorant henchmen and followers, and there is no knowing what he may direct them to attempt.”

The McLaughlin letter leaked to the newspapers. The Chicago Daily Tribune published it under the headline “TO WIPE OUT THE WHITES: What the Indians Expect of the Coming Messiah.”The Philadelphia Telegraph fretted that “Army officers may be perfectly well informed of Sitting Bull’s intrigues, but they can do nothing until he deliberately perfects his rascally plans and gets ready to start his young bucks on a raid.” The New York Times announced that “the redskins are dancing in circles,” then quoted a “half-breed” courier as to what such symbolism must mean: “The Sioux never dance that dance except for one purpose, and that is for war.” At one point the Tribune reported that a battle with the Indians had already left 60 dead or wounded. In fact the clash had never occurred.

Nervous whites begged the government for greater protection. On December 15, 1890, a botched attempt to arrest Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock reservation ended in violence: The police killed Sitting Bull and some of his supporters, and his supporters killed several arresting officers. Fearing retaliation, hundreds of the Hunkpapa fled their homes, hoping to seek shelter with the Indians at Cheyenne River, but the Seventh Cavalry caught up with them and brought them to Wounded Knee Creek on December 28.

What followed was one of the most notorious massacres in American history. Government troops ended up killing between 170 and 190 of the Indians, including at least 18 children. More than two dozen whites died too, largely from friendly fire. Fearing an apocalypse, the soldiers inflicted one instead.

There has been no shortage of millennial movements and moments since then, from the saucer cults that started to mushroom after World War II to Christian sects convinced that Christ’s return was close. The 1960s and ’70s saw a general fear of an onrushing cataclysm, an anxiety circulating in secular as well as religious circles. The environmentalists of the era were often prone to mistaking ecological problems for imminent planetary doom. (In 1969, Ramparts magazine warned on its cover that the oceans could be dead in just a decade.) In Christian America, Hal Lindsey, co-author with Carole Carlsson of the immensely popular The Late Great Planet Earth, interpreted world events through the lens of Biblical prophecy and argued that Armageddon was nigh. This was no fringe phenomenon: Since its release in 1970, Lindsey and Carlsson’s book has sold more than 35 million copies.

Meanwhile, the rise of nuclear weaponry made the sudden destruction of the United States an actual possibility. And if the end of the Cold War diminished that particular anxiety, the September 11 attacks thrust the country into something even more intense: the possibility not that someone far away will fire a missile, but that anything around you might be a sign of a new terror plot. When people enter an apocalyptic frame of mind, Landes writes, “everything quickens, enlightens, coheres. They become semiotically aroused—everything has meaning, patterns.” In the months following 9/11, that mentality was almost inescapable.

And then there is what may be the most persistent source of American apocalyptic fear: the country’s physical terrain. Every natural disaster enacts the endtimes in miniature. As Hurricane Katrina crushed the Gulf Coast in 2005, there were enough signs of the last days to fill a thousand folk ballads: a drowning city, death and starvation, martial law, rumors of barbaric behavior. “It was kind of like the end of the world,” one survivor told a reporter from KTRK-TV.

But 9/11 and Katrina also remind us that the last days never quite seem to arrive. We exit apocalyptic time. A city starts to rebuild. Normal life resumes. Many people’s worlds come to an end, but the world itself persists.

And then the next disaster strikes from above, or the next millennial fever surges up from below. The endtimes never really end. It’s always Armageddon somewhere. 


Proof of global cooling!  Britain has wettest year on record

If a drought this year in parts of the USA proves global warming, then surely record floods in Britain prove global cooling!

Up to three inches of rain could fall today as 2012 goes out with  a splash.  This will be followed by further downpours tomorrow night, forecasters warn. With the ground already saturated, there is a high risk of further flooding.

Last night 78 flood warnings were in place and a further 192 flood alerts were issued. The Environment Agency has told those travelling over the weekend to take extra caution and plan ahead.

But the New Year finally promises some respite. It means most people should have clear skies for their New Year's Eve fireworks, and from Tuesday onwards only occasional showers are forecast, with several dry days.

The Met Office has already confirmed 2012 as the wettest year in England since records began in 1910 – and the threatened storms are likely to confirm it as the wettest for all of Britain.

Less than two inches of rain is needed for the record to be broken, remarkable considering much of the country was in drought in March with huge swathes subjected to hosepipe bans.

And after heavy overnight rain, there will be further blustery downpours this morning.

Experts warn that the North West can expect up to three inches of rain, while other areas can expect up to an inch.

In the past 10 days, 520 properties have flooded across the country. High ground water levels have meant that even places such as Common Moor, near Liskeard – one of Cornwall's highest communities above sea level – have been put at risk.

Flood defences have so far protected more than 21,000 properties across England and Wales, including 4,000 properties in Cornwall, while the Environment Agency's Floodline has received 28,000 calls.

Met Office forecaster Dave Britton said: 'Heavier rain will return on Sunday evening, with a new band of wet weather from the west. New Year's Eve will see further outbreaks of rain, but after a sodden day, the early forecasts are for the rain to clear in the evening.


Guess what 'fossil' fuels don't come from

There must be a lot of fossils in outer space

Astronomers are providing new evidence hydrocarbons are not a biological product but instead are created by inorganic chemical processes that occur on a continuing basis.

Scientists working at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, using the 30-meter telescope of the Institute for Radio Astronomy, have discovered a vast cloud of hydrocarbons within the Horse Head Nebula galaxy in the Orion constellation, according to reports published in The Daily Galaxy and in the oil industry publication Rigzone.

“We observed the operation of a natural refinery of gigantic size,” astronomer Jerome Pety told The Daily Galaxy.

Astronomer Viviana Guzman explained to both publications that the nebula contains 200 times more hydrocarbons than the total amount of water on Earth.

In 1951, Russian scientist and professor Nikolai Kudryavtsev articulated what today has become known as the Russian-Ukranian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins.

Essentially, the theory rejects the contention that oil was formed from the remains of ancient plant and animal life that died millions of years ago.

Thomas Gold was a professor of astronomy who taught at Cornell University and died in 2004, at 84 years old. In 1998, when he was 78, he published a controversial book , “The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels.”

As an astronomer, Gold was well aware that hydrocarbons are abundant in the universe. Since the early part of the 20th century, spectrographs that analyze wavelengths have permitted astronomers to determine with certainty that carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, right after hydrogen, helium and oxygen.

Furthermore, Gold wrote, among planetary bodies, “carbon is found mostly in compounds with hydrogen – hydrocarbons – which, at different temperatures and pressures, may be gaseous, liquid, or solid.”

“Astronomical techniques have thus produced clear and indisputable evidence that hydrocarbons are major constituents of bodies great and small within our solar system (and beyond),” he said.

In other words, hydrocarbons are not “organic chemicals” resulting from life processes on earth, as is commonly assumed by proponents of the fossil fuel theory.

Rather, Gold argued, hydrogen is a fundamental element readily available in the universe that combines with carbon to form hydrocarbons, whether life is present or not.

What astronomers have known about the abundance of hydrocarbons in the universe, however, has not passed on to geologists. In contrast, geologists think of hydrocarbons as forming only through the activity of life – either in building life through photosynthesis or when forms of life die.

Abiotic oil found on Titan

NASA scientists, in conjunction with the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, have determined from a Cassini-Huygens probe that landed in 2005 on Titan, the giant moon of Saturn, that Titan contains abundant methane.

“We have determined that Titan’s methane is not of biological origin, so it must be replenished by geological processes on Titan, perhaps venting from a supply in the interior that could have been trapped there as the moon formed,” Hasso Niemann of the Goddard Space Flight Center told reporters Nov. 30, 2005.

The Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer, or GCMS, an instrument that identifies different atmospheric constituents by their mass, provided measurements demonstrating the methane on Titan is composed of Carbon-13, the isotope of carbon associated with inorganic or abiotic origins, whereas living organisms are typically associated with Carbon-12.

Each Carbon-13 atom has an extra neutron in its nucleus, making Carbon-13 atoms slightly heavier than Carbon-12 atoms, permitting the GCMS to distinguish between methane isotopes with Carbon-12 and methane with Carbon-13 atoms.

Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to a team of Johns Hopkins scientists reporting in February 2008 on their new findings from data collected from Cassini-Huygens probe radar data.

“Several hundred lakes or seas have been discovered, of which dozens are estimated to contain more hydrocarbon liquid than the entire known oil and gas reserves on Earth,” wrote lead scientist Ralph Lorenz of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., in the Jan. 29, 2008, issue of the Geophysical Research Letters.

Lorenz also reported dark dunes running along the equator cover 20 percent of Titan’s surface, comprising a volume of hydrocarbon material several hundred times larger than Earth’s coal reserves.

“Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material – it’s a giant factory of organic chemicals,” Lorenz wrote.


The Political Superstorm that Devastated New York

Paul Driessen

“Superstorm” Sandy killed more than 100 people, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and left millions without food, water, electricity, sanitation or shelter for days or even weeks. Our thoughts and prayers remain focused on its victims, many of whom are still grieving as they struggle with the storm’s wintry aftermath and try to rebuild their lives.

Unfortunately, too many politicians continue to use the storm to advance agendas, deflect blame for incompetence and mistakes, and obfuscate and magnify future risks from building and development projects that they have designed, promoted, permitted and profited from.

Sandy was “unprecedented,” the result of “weather on steroids,” various “experts” insist. “It’s global warming, stupid,” intonedBloomberg BusinessWeek. “Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared. We must protect the great NY metropolis from rising oceans, said the Washington Post. This storm should “compel all elected leaders to take immediate action” on climate change, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pronounced.

Unfortunately for the politicians and spin-meisters, the facts do not support this obscene posturing.

North America’s northeastern coast has been battered by hurricanes and other major storms throughout history. A 1775 hurricane killed 4,000 people in Newfoundland; an 1873 monster left 600 dead in Nova Scotia; others pummeled Canada’s Maritime Provinces in 1866, 1886, 1893, 1939, 1959, 1963 and 2003.

Manhattan got pounded in 1667 and by the Great Storm of 1693. They were followed by more behemoths in 1788, 1821, 1893, 1944, 1954 and 1992. Other “confluences of severe weather events” brought killer storms like the four-day Great Blizzard of 1888. The 1893 storm largely eradicated Hog Island, and the 1938 “Long Island Express” hit LI as a category 3 hurricane with wind gusts up to 180 mph.

Experts say such winds today would rip windows from skyscrapers and cause a deadly blizzard of flying glass, masonry, chairs, desks and other debris from high-rise offices and apartments. People would seek safety in subway tunnels, where they would drown as the tunnels flood.

Sandy was merely the latest “confluence” (tropical storm, northeaster and full-moon high tide) to blast the New York-New Jersey area. It was never a matter of if, but only of when, such a storm would hit.

People, planners and politicians should have been better prepared. Instead, we are feted with statements designed to dodge responsibility and culpability, by trying to blame global warming. The reality is, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose to 391 ppm (0.0391%) today, average global temperatures have not changed in 16 years, and sea levels are rising no faster than in 1900. Even with Hurricane Sandy, November 2012 marked the quietest long-term hurricane period since the Civil War, with only one major hurricane strike on the US mainland in seven years. This is global warming and unprecedented weather on steroids?

In Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath – with millions freezing hungry in dark devastation – Mayor Bloomberg sidetracked police and sanitation workers for the NYC Marathon, until public outrage forced him to reconsider. While federal emergency teams struggled to get water, food and gasoline to victims, companies, religious groups, charities, local citizens and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie worked tirelessly to raise money and organize countless relief efforts.

Most outrageous of all, though, was how ill-prepared the region was for another major storm – and how many political decisions had virtually ensured that any repeat of the 1893, 1938, 1944 and other storms would bring devastation far worse than would likely have occurred in the absence of those decisions.

In one of the most obvious, architects, city planners, mayors and governors alike thought nothing of placing generators in the basements of hospitals and skyscrapers built in areas that are barely above sea level. Past storms have brought surges12 to 18 feet high onto Long Island, and studies have warned that a category 3 direct hit could put much of New York City and its key infrastructure under 30 feet of water. Sandy’s 9-foot surges (plus five feet of high tide) flooded those basements, rendering generators useless, and leaving buildings cold and dark. Perhaps if Mayor Bloomberg had worried less about 32-oz sodas and seas that are rising a mere foot per century, he could have devoted more time to critical issues.

The mayor has also obsessed about urban sprawl. However, when new developments mean high rents, high taxes and photo-op ground breakings, he has a different philosophy.

Mr. Bloomberg’s Arverne by the Sea initiative transformed what he called “a swath of vacant land” into a “vibrant and growing oceanfront community,” with “affordable” homes starting at $559,000. (The land was vacant because a 1950 storm wiped it clean of structures.) The new homes were built on 167 acres of land raised five feet above the surrounding Far Rockaway area.

Those Arverne homes mostly survived Sandy. But the high ground caused storm surges to rise higher and move faster elsewhere than they would have on Rockaway lowlands that are always hit head-on by northward moving storms.

If Sandy had been a category 3 hurricane like its 1938 ancestor, the devastation would have been of biblical proportions – as winds, waves and surges slammed into expensive homes, businesses and high-rises, and roared up waterways rendered progressively narrower by hundreds of construction projects.

Lower Manhattan has doubled in width over the centuries. World Trade Center construction alone contributed 1.2 million cubic yards to build Battery Park City, narrowing the Hudson River by another 700 feet. The East River has likewise been hemmed in, while other water channels have been completely filled. Buildings, malls and raised roadways constructed on former potato fields, forests, grasslands and marshlands have further constricted passageways for storm surges and runoff.

As a result, storms like Sandy or the Long Island Express send monstrous volumes of water up ever more confined corridors. With nowhere else to go, the surges rise higher, travel faster and pack more power. It’s elementary physics – which governors, mayors, planners and developers ignore at their peril.

No wonder, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo and other politicos prefer to talk about global warming, rising seas and worsening weather – to deflect attention and blame from decisions that have put more people in the path of greater danger. Indeed, the very notion of packing more and more people into “sustainable, energy-efficient” coastal cities in the NY-NJ area is itself madness on steroids.

Worst of all, politicians are increasingly and intentionally obscuring and misrepresenting the nature, frequency and severity of storm, flood and surge risks, so that they can promote and permit more construction in high-risk areas, and secure more money and power. They insist that they can prevent or control climate change and sea level rise, by regulating CO2 emission – while they ignore real, known dangers that have arisen before and will arise again, exacerbated by their politicized decisions.

As a result, unsuspecting business and home owners continue to buy, build and rebuild in areas that are increasingly at risk from hurricanes, northeasters and “perfect storms” of natural and political events. And as the population density increases in this NY-NJ area, the ability to evacuate people plummets, especially when roadways, tunnels and other escape routes are submerged. Let the buyer beware.

Sandy may have been a rare (but hardly unprecedented) confluence of weather events. But the political decisions and blame avoidance are an all-too-common confluence of human tendencies – worsened by the dogged determination of our ruling classes to acquire greater power and control, coupled with steadily declining transparency, accountability and liability.

How nice it must be to have convenient scapegoats like “dangerous manmade global warming” and insurance companies – today’s equivalent of the witches whom our predecessors blamed for storms, droughts, crop failures, disease and destruction. It’s time to use the witches’ brooms to clean house.




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


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Insignificant and semi-literate attention-seeker jumps on the Warmist bandwagon

She is allegedly an academic but is a poor one.  She says, for instance:  

"From the moment I decided to carry my girls I have mitigated against every threat to their future."

She doubles confusion with that language.  It is common to misquote "militate against" as "mitigate against", which no-one who knows any Latin would do, but she actually uses even the mistaken usage in a mistaken way.  "Tried to mitigate" was what she probably meant. [Clue:  "Mitis" is Latin for "mild"]. One really does expect better from an academic historian.

But that is only one indication of her low intellectual level.  Her major failing is that she is completely unscholarly.  Instead of examining the evidence for or against anthropogenic global warming theory, she just accepts partisan judgments of it as true:  No evidence of critical thinking at all.  She would seem to be motivated by a need to pump up her own importance rather than by any concern for the facts

I reproduce a fair bit of her little emission below so readers can judge for themselves.  Note both the title she puts on her article and her acknowledged attention-seeking behaviour towards the end of the article

We are guardians of the future

By Liz Conor, a history (herstory?) academic at the National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University.

It is our duty to protect the rights of the next generation. Climate change is a threat and we must take action - we must hold governments to account, writes Liz Conor.

Whenever my 14-year-old asks me if she can get a 'stretch' earring, a piercing or a tattoo I tell her I am the guardian of her 40-year-old self who might not like living in the future with the permanent choices her 14-year-old self made.

From the moment I decided to carry my girls I have mitigated against every threat to their future. I steered clear of alcohol during the pregnancies, and drugs during their births. I slathered them in sun block and plonked hats on their curly-haired heads. I buckled their squirming bodies into every seat they were transported in, took their little hands across every street, rinsed the pesticides off their fruit, rubbed salt off their chips, and more recently chased off a risk-taking boyfriend and blockaded their screen time.

When the latest findings of climate scientists came out last fortnight, just as Doha was coming to its negligent close, I knew then sorry doesn't quite cut it. A report released by the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists, announced that the planet was on-track for the worst-case-scenario projections of the IPCC, of a rise in temperature of between 4 and 6 degrees by the end of the century. They found emissions have increased 54 per cent since 1990. A World Bank-commissioned study also warned that a four-degree leap was possible this century - even if current pledges to cut emissions are met. Meanwhile at the latest UN conference on climate change government heads finished a marathon meeting in Doha, Qatar, where they extended the Kyoto Protocol which proposes a set of measures many climate scientists have argued will be ineffective in halting rising greenhouse gas emissions.

For me the failure last fortnight to grasp the latest findings of peer-reviewed climate scientists, and act decisively to stop burning fossil fuels was my moral 'tipping point'. These reports are beyond alarming and frankly terrifying. They condemn our children and grandchildren to eke out a miserable existence, buffeted by violent weather, on a planet blighted by drought, fire, flood and no longer able to supply their basic needs. Already we see this nightmare of food shortages playing out in Africa as crops fail due to drought.

By any standard it is wrong, unconscionable, unfair and negligent to continue to go about my life in the business-as-usual bubble that we seem to have taken refuge in. On Monday last I took a bike lock to Parliament House and bolted myself to the members' gate. The police came and after cordial exchange called for Search and Rescue who would not wait for a key to materialise and angle grinded the lock. I was banned from the Parliament House precinct for a week and from the CBD for 72 hours. On the way home I picked up a new lock.

We are not in safe hands. For our children's and their children's sake the time has come to hold governments to account. When the full impact of climate change is massing on the horizon I hope to be able to look my girls and their children in the eye and tell them I did everything I could.


German Scientists Shoot Down Recent Claims Of “Rapid Warming” In Antarctica – Overall Continent Is Cooling!

The Bromwich data actually show NO WARMING since 1980.  All the warming they show is before that.  See the red line in Figure 2 below. Just the usual Warmist cherrypicking at work.  I immediately labelled the Bromwich claims as hokum two days ago  -- JR

Western Antarctica warms more quickly than thought – however, hardly at all in the last 25 years

By Dr Sebastian Lüning and Prof Fritz Vahrenholt
(Translated/edited by P Gosselin)

We recently got some hot news from Antarctica. According to a study by a team led by David Bromwich of Ohio State University in Columbus, which appeared just before Christmas 2012 in Nature Geoscience, Western Antarctica warmed up more quickly than first thought. This of course pleased alarmist newspapers like the online Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), who without hesitation wrote:

"With a temperature increase of 2.4°C since 1958, the central region of Western Antarctica is among the regions that are warming up the fastest on the planet. [...] There the temperature is rising three times faster than the global average.”

Now that really stirs up fear. Global warming is apparently advancing rapidly in Western Antarctica and temperatures are climbing and climbing. This is taking place year after year, and so it is only a matter of time before the catastrophe strikes.

To underpin this claim, the Süddeutsche Zeitung presents a temperature curve of Western Antarctica going back 55 years (Figure 1…in the SZ article it is necessary to click on the figure to see the curve). An enormous temperature jump is obvious beginning in the year 2000, as the temperature skyrockted. With another jump like that, the ice in Western Antarctica would never survive, one might think.

Figure 1: January temperatures of Western Antarctica. Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23 Dec 2012.

But wait. When it comes to the the Süddeutsche Zeitung one has to be a little careful. It has long been known that the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) is cozily cuddled together with climate alarmism (e.g. see our blog article “Schlimmer als befürchtet: Die Süddeutsche Zeitung verliert den klimawissenschaftlichen Boden unter den Füßen“ (Worse than we feared: The Süddeutsche Zeitung loses its scientific bearings). So let’s take a closer look.

Unfortunately we quickly discover mischief. The temperature curve for January readings used in the SZ does not even get mentioned or appear in the quoted paper. The warming value named by David Bromwich and colleagues has much more to do with the annual average temperature of the Western Antarctica, and whose curve is of course depicted in the paper (red curve in Figure 2). This curve, however, shows a completely different course than the one used by the SZ. Do you see it?

Figure 2: Temperature development at Byrd-Station in Western Antarctica. Source: Realclimate

Heavens! In the last 25 years the West Antarctic has not gotten warmer! If anything, the temperature has remained flat. It is indeed quite a stretch to claim that Western Antarctica is among the most rapidly warming areas on the planet.  Over the last two decades temperatures in the region have gone nowhere.

And now if you look a little closer, you see that the warming is mainly concentrated in the period of approx. 1962-1980. Did mankind produce an extraordinary amount of CO2 during that particular period? No. The Co2 emissions were nothing different from what we had at other times.

What is remarkable, however, is that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) during this time went from a negative cool phase to a positive warm phase (Figure 3). It cannot be ruled out that this nearby climatic oceanic phenomenon may have had something significant to do with the Western Antarctic 2.4°C warming until 1980 mentioned in the paper.

Figure 3: Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) over the last 110 years

Unfortunately the SZ reader is left alone with only the context of the article. According to new ICEsat satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet as a whole has increased in mass over the last years (see our blog article on this). The much larger Eastern Antarctica dominates, and that area has gotten colder over the last years. Also Antarctic sea ice reached a record high extent just a few months ago for the 30-year satellite era. Not a peep about both of these stories from the Munich-based SZ.

It also would have been nice if the SZ had provided its readers with another important piece of background information: Unexpected but true: the post Ice Age temperatures at the Antarctic Penninsula were at today’s levels for 7000 years (also see our blog article on this here). With this background, the temperature development of the last 55 years discussed by the SZ loses considerable relevance. And it was also a pity for the SZ that David Bromwich and his team dumped cold water on their results for sea level rise. With a gnashing of teeth, the SZ had no alternative but to report:

    "Because at the high elevation Byrd-Region mean temperatures of -10°C prevail in the summertime, the warming does not lead directly to large-scale melting, say the scientists.”

It is quite amazing that the SZ creates almost only dramatic climate stories. Sober, non-alartmist reports just don’t seem to be of any interest for SZ editors. There’s plenty of non-alarmist material out there. At our blog we present new scientific results almost daily. We welcome editors at SZ to help themselves to it..

SOURCE  (See the original for links)
Central West Antarctica among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth

By David H. Bromwich et al.


There is clear evidence that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is contributing to sea-level rise. In contrast, West Antarctic temperature changes in recent decades remain uncertain. West Antarctica has probably warmed since the 1950s, but there is disagreement regarding the magnitude, seasonality and spatial extent of this warming. This is primarily because long-term near-surface temperature observations are restricted to Byrd Station in central West Antarctica, a data set with substantial gaps. Here, we present a complete temperature record for Byrd Station, in which observations have been corrected, and gaps have been filled using global reanalysis data and spatial interpolation. The record reveals a linear increase in annual temperature between 1958 and 2010 by 2.4±1.2 °C, establishing central West Antarctica as one of the fastest-warming regions globally. We confirm previous reports of West Antarctic warming, in annual average and in austral spring and winter, but find substantially larger temperature increases. In contrast to previous studies, we report statistically significant warming during austral summer, particularly in December–January, the peak of the melting season. A continued rise in summer temperatures could lead to more frequent and extensive episodes of surface melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. These results argue for a robust long-term meteorological observation network in the region.


1947 Shock News : “Enormous” “Alarming” “Serious” “Catastrophic” Polar Melt To Drown The Planet. International Agency Needed To Study The Problem

Saturday 31 May 1947

Dr. Ahlmann added that temperatures in the Arctic have increased by 10 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900. An ‘enormous’ rise from the scientific standpoint. Waters in the Spitsbergen area, in the same period, have risen from three to five degrees in temperature, and one to one and a half millimetres yearly in level. ‘The Arctic change is so serious that I hope an international agency can speedily be formed to study conditions on a global basis.’ said Dr. Ahlmann. He pointed out that in 1910 the navigable season along the western Spitsbergen lasted three months. Now it lasts eight months.

Forty years later scientists told us that we were all going to freeze to death, and that we needed a commission to study it.

SOURCE  (See the original for links)

Climate Consensus: Do Little for Now

The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that continued emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) will raise the Earth’s temperature by 1.8°C (3.2°F) and sea level by one foot by 2100. Projected climate changes, if they come to pass, will have a number of effects on society, though not all of those effects will be negative.

Although debate over the IPCC’s projections continues, less attention has been focused on the ultimately more important result: cost-benefit analysis implies we should do very little to prevent climate change. Instead, we should create wealth. Expanding the productive capacity of the economy will compensate future generations better than reductions in GHG will. A richer world in 2100, after all, will be able to afford to do things like relocating people affected by rising sea levels and constructing new port facilities and seawalls.

A report by the liberal Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University observes, “Economists frequently . . . calculate the optimal policy response [to climate change]. This calculation often leads to the conclusion that relatively little should be done for now.”

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Businesses operate under the discipline of profit and loss based on market prices. Profit signals that an action generates benefits for the economy. Government does not face the discipline of profit and loss, but cost-benefit analysis, performed honestly, offers guidance about whether government actions benefit society.

Measures to reduce GHG emissions today typically fail a cost-benefit test due to the discounting of benefits. Discounting refers to applying a real interest rate to future values. Two arguments support discounting in CBA. The first is impatience, or what economists call time preference: $100 is worth more today than it is one year from now, even without inflation. The second is the return on savings and investment, or the opportunity cost of capital. Money spent now to reduce GHG could be saved and invested instead. The interest rate equates impatience and the return on investment on the margin, as investors must be compensated for delaying consumption.


The mathematics of discounting makes values more than about 50 years in the future worth little today. The Federal government makes cost-benefit calculations using 3 percent and 7 percent annual real (or adjusted for inflation) interest rates, approximating the historical risk-free interest rate and the annual real return on stocks. The present value of $1 million 100 years from now is $52,000 at a 3 percent discount rate, and $1,150 at a 7 percent discount rate. To see how this affects climate change economics, suppose that spending $100 billion annually—starting right now—we could prevent $1 trillion in annual damage, beginning in 100 years. The ratio of $10 in benefits to every $1 cost appears favorable, but this fails a benefit-cost test at either a 7 percent or 3 percent real discount rate.

Some observers respond to this math by arguing against discounting in climate change economics. Time preference is a questionable argument in intergenerational settings because future beneficiaries will not have to wait 100 years to realize climate benefits. But the opportunity cost argument remains. The Stern Commission in the U.K. applied an implausibly low discount rate to its calculations. Others imagine current benefits from GHG reductions rendering discounting irrelevant. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included private benefits in a CBA of higher fuel economy standards to reduce GHG emissions, arguing that making people purchase higher-mileage cars than they prefer makes car buyers better off. Creating benefits today effectively makes reducing GHG a free lunch.

Wealthier is Healthier

Resources put into reducing GHG can’t be invested elsewhere, so the opportunity cost of GHG reduction amounts to the returns that could have been expected, based on historical rates. Maintaining opportunities to invest and create wealth for future generations requires the institutions of a market economy, or a high level of economic freedom, as the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World: 2012 Annual Report demonstrates. Bequeathing a higher standard of living to future generations also requires preserving economic freedom. Discounting mathematics ultimately tells us that economic freedom addresses climate change more effectively than energy central planning through carbon taxes or cap-and-trade.

Compensating the “victims” of climate change with extra wealth does have a potential limit. Extra resources provide inadequate compensation if climate change dramatically alters the world. Money will not typically fully compensate for a catastrophic injury; a quadriplegic is unlikely to enjoy the same level of utility or satisfaction after their injury, even if his medical bills and care needs are paid. Wealth accumulation will not adequately compensate future generations if climate change produced a world like those depicted in Waterworld and The Day After Tomorrow. Future generations would not be adequately compensated if climate change destroyed the economy’s ability to produce goods and services. Fortunately Waterworld is the stuff of Hollywood fiction; the largest of the upper range of sea level rise in any 2007 IPCC climate scenario is about 2 feet. That will have serious consequences, but it will hardly flood the entire world. It can be offset by wealth accumulation.

A Hundred-Year Plan?

Property rights and prices lead basically self-interested people to worry about the future. For example, property rights and markets for existing homes provide owners with incentives to keep their houses livable long after they plan to own them. And yet the mathematics of discounting implies that events too far in the future should not affect decisions much today. Growth, progress, and creative destruction limit the horizon for detailed planning in a market economy. Imagine a business in 1900 trying to plan its operations in 2000. The plan could not have included automobiles, planes, television and radio, satellites, computers, and many other conveniences of modern life.

Now let’s project ahead and consider planning for climate change. A number of fundamental innovations could substantially reduce if not eliminate the threat from climate change, such as effective, low-cost carbon sequestration or effective weather modification to smooth out precipitation patterns. And the development of a radical new clean energy source like nuclear fusion could render remaining stocks of fossil fuels uneconomic at any price.


A dynamic market economy will feature too much creative destruction to allow detailed planning for the distant future. Nothing is sure in a market economy ten years from now, much less 100 years, and discounting in cost-benefit analysis simply reflects this reality. The economic future becomes more predictable when government controls economic activity, but then stagnation results. Discounting in climate change economics tells us to create wealth to protect future generations. Economic freedom and the institutions of the market economy, not central planning of energy use, is the prudent policy approach to a changing climate.


About time Canadian skeptics put their money where their mouth is

American President Barack Obama has indicated that “stopping climate change” will be an important focus of his second term. Because our climate policies are closely tied to those of the U.S., it is therefore crucial that the Canadian government finally gets its act together on the issue. If it doesn’t, we will be swept up in increasingly expensive programs that many in the Conservative party, Prime Minister Stephen Harper included, must know are utterly futile.

Before first forming the government in 2006, Harper, a longtime climate realist, promised that the Conservatives would re-examine the file and handle it more sensibly. But they haven’t. Here are some of the ways the government is letting Canadians down on climate change, and what they must do differently in 2013.

 *  Despite strongly opposing the Paul Martin government’s decision to add carbon dioxide (CO2) to the list of toxic substances in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), the Conservatives have left the benign gas on the list. This provides the legal foundation for costly and useless CO2 emission regulations now being imposed sector by sector across Canada. CO2 is in no way toxic and so should be immediately removed from a list that includes mercury, lead, arsenic, sulphuric acid and PCBs.

Billions of dollars are being wasted trying to reduce CO2 in other ways as well, all based on the improbable assumption that emissions contribute to climate problems. Most egregious are pointless and potentially dangerous projects to stuff CO2 underground. Such speculative programs must be cancelled and the money transferred to worthwhile environmental initiatives such as cleaning up toxic waste dumps and reducing air pollution where it is a problem.

 *  Vast sums of money are also dedicated to wind and solar power, energy sources that have little chance of becoming economical in the foreseeable future. This raises electricity prices and drains funds away from upgrading conventional power systems we need to survive. Wind and solar power have had decades to mature. If they are not yet ready for head-to-head competition with conventional power systems, the government needs to stop throwing good money after bad.

 *  All government climate programs focus on possible warming impacts. The far more damaging effects of cooling are ignored. A drop of 2 C, for example, will result in the loss of virtually all of our wheat harvest, while, if it warms, we simply adopt farming practices used to the south of us. We must concentrate on preparing for dangerous possible climate change, and that is unquestionably not warming.

 *  Environment Minister Peter Kent promotes a worldwide climate treaty based on the United Nations Cancún Agreements. He does not seem to know that Cancún has an out-clause for developing countries that is not available to those in the developed world. In the unlikely event that the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused climate change were true, a treaty that lets China and India off the hook will accomplish very little climatically, and simply transfers wealth and jobs from developed to developing countries. Kent must stop promoting what is, in effect, another Kyoto Protocol.

 *  To substantiate its climate plans, the Harper government continues to use the rhetoric employed by previous Liberal governments. Kent is clearly being misled by activist scientists within Environment Canada who assert that there is no credible evidence to support the climate skeptics’ perspectives.

 *  But the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) demonstrates that the alarmists are mistaken. Citing hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers, NIPCC shows how the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has ignored or misinterpreted much of the research that challenges the need for CO2 controls. In other words, the science being relied upon by the Canadian government to create multibillion-dollar climate and energy policies is almost certainly wrong.

 *  Harper must order ministers to stop using the damaging and erroneous language of climate alarmism. Taking their talking points from David Suzuki while completely ignoring reports such as those from NIPCC is feeding the fire that threatens to burn down Canada’s economy.

 *  Aside from the Dec. 15, 2011 testimony of four climate experts before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, the Conservatives have not permitted well-qualified scientists who disagree with climate catastrophism to testify in government hearings. Instead they invite members of non-governmental organizations with no training in science to testify in support of the scare. This must stop.

During the height of the oilsands pipeline controversy, the prime minister asserted “the only way that government can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis, scientifically, and not simply on political criteria.”

2013 is the year they must at last do this on climate change.



Three current articles below

Greens seek millionaire tax to revive parent payments

Bandt was a Trotskyite but there were no votes in that so he  turned Green.  Sounds like his thinking hasn't changed

A "millionaires tax" increase of 5¢ in the dollar would raise enough money to restore payments to single parents cut in this year's budget.

The Greens' policy, costed by federal Treasury, would generate at least $790 million over the next three years by lifting the top tax rate on income above $1 million from 45 per cent to 50 per cent.

The revenue boost could even be much higher, closer to $500 million a year, but Treasury has assumed some people on high incomes will not earn as much if their top tax rate is lifted.

The acting leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, compared the money raised by the tax increase to a similar amount saved by the government when it cut payments to some single parents, which take effect from the start of next year.

"I think this is a reasonable step that should get the support of the government," Mr Bandt said.

"What possible justification could Labor have for hurting single parents and yet not touching millionaires? The Treasurer said he's been listening to Bruce Springsteen but he must've been listening to the records backwards," the Greens MP said of Wayne Swan's vaunted affection for the US rocker.

It was the second Greens policy to be costed by Treasury's Parliamentary Budget Office, established by the Gillard government as a price of securing the Greens' support in Parliament, and the party plans to release at least two dozen more by the time of the next election.

The tax increase would bring the top marginal tax rate to a level it last sat at in 1987, but would affect only about 8000 people listed by the Australian Taxation Office as recording annual incomes above $1 million.

The expected revenue would double from about $800 million to $1.6 billion in the next four years if Treasury dropped its assumption of "tax income elasticity", which says that growth in tax revenue will fall if tax rates are lifted.

The Greens are framing the policy in the context of cuts that kick in next week for single parents. From January 1, single parents on the parenting payment with a youngest child over the age of eight will be moved onto the lower newstart allowance, costing them about $60 a week.

The measure will save the government about $700 million in the next four years, but it has been criticised by the welfare sector and by some backbench Labor MPs.

The Gillard government argues the benefit of the measure is in encouraging parents back into the workforce.

Mr Bandt said: "If the government is wanting to improve the budget position by somewhere around $300 million a year it has a choice. It could either increase taxes on the wealthiest Australians or it could hurt single parents."

In the 1950s, Australia's top marginal tax rate sat at 75 per cent. It was above 65 per cent for most of the 1960s, and was above 60 per cent for most of the 1970s and 1980s. It now sits at 45 per cent, for any money earned about $180,000 a year.

The first Greens policy costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office was a revised mining tax that showed the government could raise an extra $26 billion in the next four year if it reversed concessions to the mining industry.


Fall in demand dents shift to low emissions

THE shelving of EnergyAustralia's gas-fired power plant in Victoria raises fresh doubts about the incentives for power companies to move from high-polluting coal to lower-emitting technology, with one expert saying more projects could be cancelled.

The proposed plant, on the Yallourn power station site, was one of several gas-fired projects put on the drawing board several years ago by power companies to reduce emissions, and therefore costs, under the carbon price.

But the downturn in electricity demand due to retail price rises and the strong dollar has put pressure on generators to abandon new projects.

Bruce Mountain, the director of Carbon Market Economics, said more energy companies would be forced to consider moving away from low-emissions investments because of these changes.

"Many market pundits had three years ago indicated there would be more rapid transfer to low-emission technologies like gas-fired power generation," he said. "But with lower demand and higher gas prices, that shift is being pushed back in time."

He said power companies were more likely to close parts of their coal capacity to save money.

"Existing generators are having to fight very hard to compete in the market," he said. "The partial closures of brown coal plants makes more sense, because although they lose contribution to their profits, they are able to drive prices higher."


Greens platform 'will fail'

ANY attempt by the Australian Greens to make policies more palatable for mainstream voters is deceptive and doomed to fail, says Senate opposition leader Eric Abetz.

On Thursday The Age reported that the Greens had redefined the party platform to portray many core beliefs as "aims and principles" rather than explicit policies, to present a smaller target to critics in a federal election year.

Acting leader Adam Bandt said on Thursday the revised policy platform would give voters more information on what the party stood for and how its ideas would be funded.

Mr Bandt said the minor party wanted to go to the next election able to tell voters it had a fully costed set of policies. "Treasury wouldn't cost them for us and there wasn't an independent body that would do it," he said.

"So what we now have is a very strong policy platform that has been voted on and determined by our members by consensus."

Mr Bandt said the Greens would go to the next election on the same footing as the two major parties. "So our updated policy platform, together with the new parliamentary budget office, will allow the Greens to go to the next election as the most economically responsible party out of all the parties contesting the election."

But Senator Abetz said the Greens were trying to hide "extreme impulses" and this would fail. "The Greens will always be 'watermelons' - Green on the outside and red inside - no matter how they cloak their policies," he said. "The Greens need to actually repudiate their extremist policies before people will believe they've changed. Deciding simply not to talk about them simply will not wash."

Senator Abetz said the public viewed the party not as "benign environmentalists", but a hard-left movement bent on "Marxist social engineering".

The Greens were simply trying to change tack after setbacks in several recent state elections, he added. In the ACT election in October, the party's Legislative Assembly seats were cut from four to one.

The Greens will reportedly soften their stance on cutting federal government funding for private schools, and stop calling for the abolition of the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.

Senator Abetz said the party had a history of supporting controversial ideas.




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


Friday, December 28, 2012

Climate Change Misinformer Of The Year: Al Gore

Chief promoter of the global warming scare, Al Gore  has been called "the Matt Drudge of climate scarers" the "king of the believers" and "a central cell of the climate-scare machine," and he revels in these descriptions.

Although he has no scientific expertise, he is adamant that manmade global warming is an urgent problem based on "settled  science."

Gore gained prominence in politics for his time in the Senate and his Presidential bid and  notoriously called climate change "the greatest threat ever to face the American people"

Gore has profited hugely from his advocacy.

The above is just a slight reworking of a hit piece on Marc Morano put up by Media Mutters.

Wind power by the numbers

We are constantly being told that wind is now a large-scale producer of electrical power, with much talk in the green press about the thousands of homes it is often said to light and heat. Well, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and such praise for wind turbines demonstrates that precise point.

Let me explain: The power that a wind turbine might produce under ideal circumstances is known as “nameplate capacity”, and to understand that, let’s consider a notional wind farm with, say, 150 towers, each topped by 2.5MW generator. That would give us a theoretical total output of 375MW.

Seldom mentioned is the fact that wind generators produce, on average, barely 30% of that nameplate total. This much lower number is referred to as the “capacity factor” (CF). The difference between nameplate and capacity is due to the fact that, as you may have noticed, wind is variable and does not always blow at the required speed to keep the blades turning, the turbine spinning and all those homes supplied with electricity. With no wind, the blades fall still; similarly, when the wind is too strong, they “feather” and also stop rotating. Let us now look at some actual figures, which will demonstrate just how little electrical power wind plants make available for actual consumption. For reasons of simplicity and access I will use Wikipedia as a reference for total wind power plants in the U.S.

This link quotes the total installed nameplate capacity for all wind power in the US as 51,630MW, which may seem a very impressive number. Compare that with a large nuclear plant (or coal-fired power station, for that matter), where a typical nameplate capacity is 2000MW. Wind turbines come in many sizes, with the current generation of individual units typically capable of 2.5MW to 3MW, substantially larger than earlier models. I will use an average generator size of 2MW, and with that overall nameplate capacity of 51,360MW we get a ballpark figure of 26,000 wind towers. In fact, since earlier generators were smaller, the actual number of US wind towers is more than 40,000 as shown at this link.

So, because this comparison is with nuclear plants, let’s then look for a total nameplate capacity, and for this I will use the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) site and the chart, provided at this link, detailing the nameplate capacity for all electrical power generation in the U.S. This reveals total nameplate capacity for nuclear power in the US is 106,731 MW. What we also see is that wind is listed as having almost half the nameplate capacity of nuclear. (51,630 MW). So wind is large contributor, right?

Not so fast! While you are inspecting that same chart, look at the total listed for Overall Nameplate Capacity (ONC), which is stated as 1,138,638 MW. From this we can work out the percentages of the total nameplate capacity for both wind and nuclear.Wind comes in at 4.53% of the total and nuclear represents 9.37% of ONC. Again, those figures make it look like wind power is making major inroads into total U.S. power generation.

And, once again, a little knowledge deceives. Remember, this is nameplate capacity, not the real-world power being generated for consumption -- the power actually delivered to the grid. However, we do have accurate data for that, drawn from the EIA’s huge database, and as of December, 2012, the available information was only three months old.

Let us now compare the actual power delivered for consumption from both wind and nuclear.

This is the link for the page that shows the overall data and at that page I will point you to the figures for nuclear, and also the total overall power figure. This is the link for the page that shows the data for renewable power, and at that page we find the figures for wind power.

At that first page look at the figures for the actual total generation (power delivered to the grid) from nuclear plants (scroll to the bottom of the chart and they are the figures along the line headed Rolling 12 Months Ending in September). The nuclear figures are the sixth from the left, shown as 783,940 GWH (GigaWattHours), each GWH being the equivalent of 1000 MWH.

Look next at the far right and you’ll see the total power delivered to grids for consumption from every power source in the U.S. That figure is 4,051,044 GWH.

Now, from those figures, we can work out the percentage of actual power  delivered by nuclear, and it comes to 19.35%. Compare that with the percentage mentioned earlier for nameplate capacity, which was 9.37%, and the discrepancy demands an explanation. After all, how could nuclear be supplying more than twice the power of its listed theoretical maximum?

The answer isn’t too hard to nut out: Nuclear’s actual contribution is so much higher because other, less consistently productive sources – like wind, for example -- fall short. According to the EIA’s numbers, nuclear plants are producing reliable power almost 90% of the time, pretty much the only interruptions coming when they are offline for fuelling and maintenance.

See how using the nameplate capacity figure is misleading, vastly understating the actual level of power generated by nuclear? Use that smaller nameplate figure and it gives the impression that nuclear is not much of a contributor, when the fact of the matter is that it is the third-largest electrical power delivery source in the U.S. after coal- and gas-fired generation.

Now, do the same exercise for wind. At that second link, you will see the rolling, 12-month figure for wind is 135,506 GWH. After comparing that to the total power delivered, the percentage for wind comes in at only 3.34%, vs. the nameplate total of 4.53%.

What is interesting here is to compare both overall nameplate figures with power-delivered figures: nuclear delivers almost six times the power while being only twice the size in terms of nameplate capacity.

I mentioned earlier the variability of wind power, and cite again the capacity factor (CF). Wind’s CF, going on this data, is currently running at almost 30%. (29.9%)  Over 12 months, and bearing in mind the total number of wind generators, that means a rule-of-thumb average per unit of just seven and a quarter productive hours per day.

And it gets worse – or just plain silly, depending on your capacity to be amused by human folly. Because of that inherent variability, wind power cannot be counted on to be available when needed, so conventional generating plants cannot be turned off if blackouts are to be avoided. What green advocates never seem capable of remembering is that conventional power plants are not wall switches; rather, they take hours to power up and power down. To be ready to make up for wind’s variability, they must be kept operating pretty much all the time.

Bottom line: wind plants provide power that isn’t needed and can never replace traditional methods of generation. As to the power they do provide, 40,000 turbines equal just nine nuclear plants.

Wind-power advocates may be inclined to accuse me of writing this in order to besmirch their favourite technology. They would be mistaken. I have no need to make wind generation look bad. It does that all by itself


Up to 70,000 British jobs 'are at risk from Brussels climate change law'

Up to 70,000 British jobs are at risk as a direct result of European carbon reduction targets, according to a report.

The policies have pushed up the cost of energy, threatening the vital mineral industries which deal in materials such as  cement, chemicals, glass, ceramics and steel, the study claims.

It says the aluminium industry has been ‘virtually eradicated’ after closures in Anglesey and Northumberland, and blames policies which penalise ‘energy-intensive’ industries for emitting too much carbon dioxide.

As a result, firms in such industries, which employ 70,000 people, could be driven abroad where there are less stringent targets, costing jobs on our shores with no overall environmental benefits.

The study by think-tank Civitas claims the only way to save the £400billion-a-year industry is to scrap plans to fine firms which produce too much carbon dioxide.

Ministers should exempt such companies from the climate change levy – a tax on industries which do not use renewable energy – to the maximum extent permitted under EU directives.

And it says the Coalition should abandon its ‘unachievable’ target of generating  20 per cent of electricity by renewable methods by 2020 – the most far-reaching target in the EU.

The report said that EU legislation adds ‘considerable costs’ to energy prices, while the UK’s environmental strategy raises energy prices to high levels, even in comparison with the rest of the continent.

Unlike other countries with ambitious carbon reduction targets, Britain does not currently legislate to protect key industries.

Study author Kaveh Pourvand said: ‘Germany is careful to protect its energy-efficient industries with significant concessions on energy costs, estimated to be  nine billion euros in 2011.’

The report advocates scrapping the ‘carbon price floor’, the amount companies will have to pay per ton of carbon dioxide they emit, which is intended to come into force in April.

The author points out that the EU-wide policy means that the continent is allowed to emit a certain amount of CO2 each year.

But the ‘obvious flaw’ is that if Britain reduces its amount of CO2, other countries will be allowed to produce more, meaning British industry is unfairly shackled.

It concludes: ‘Following David Cameron’s pledge to lead the “greenest” government ever, the Coalition has stuck firmly to the implementation and continuance of the 2008 Climate Change Act, committing the UK to a unilateral cut in carbon emissions of 80 per cent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.

‘For British manufacturing to revive, the Government should abandon its expensive climate change policies.’


Environmental Protection Lessons from Ronald Reagan 

‘Trust but Verify’

Cass R. Sunstein is a professor at the Harvard Law School and a former administrator of the Obama White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. His op-ed in the NY Times (Nov 11, 2012) tells us that a cost-benefit analysis convinced President Reagan of the value of the 1987 Montreal Protocol (to control substances that deplete the stratospheric ozone layer).

Sunstein then admonishes Republican lawmakers to apply Reagan’s lesson to global warming and CO2.  But he seems to have forgotten his own published paper “Of Montreal and Kyoto: A Tale of two Protocols” (Harvard Environmental Law Rev 2007) in which he quite clearly explained why Kyoto does not work, one reason being that costs are huge and benefits small. But even Sunstein’s historical account is challenged in a guest post by Reiner Grundmann, a professor of Science & Technology Studies at the University of Nottingham.

According to Sunstein, Reagan evidently trusted and accepted the numbers he was given by his economic advisors. But he certainly didn’t verify them. Had he done so he might not have been as quick in his support as Sunstein suggests. The moral of the story: Cost-benefit analysis is fine, but the numbers must be supported by sound science. Note that chief US negotiator Richard Benedick recounts (with obvious pride) in his book Ozone Diplomacy, that the Montreal Protocol was negotiated without the benefit of any support from science.

The Antarctic Ozone Hole

In reality, the drive for Montreal was propelled by panic generated by lurid newspaper accounts of possible health consequences from the Antarctic Ozone Hole (AOH), which was discovered in 1985. Having personally devised the satellite instrument that tracked the AOH, I remember well the scary accounts of blind sheep in Patagonia—with suggestions that people living in the southern hemisphere would be similarly affected.

It is ironic that the AOH was never predicted but discovered by serendipitous observations. The original mechanism for ozone destruction discussed by the late Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina applied only to the upper stratosphere, where there is very little ozone—and is therefore of little practical significance. A more complicated mechanism apparently operates in the lower stratosphere where most of the ozone is concentrated; it was worked out only after the AOH discovery. It still involves chlorine as the agent for ozone destruction, but it also requires the presence of particulates in the stratosphere.

It is worth noting that at the time of the Montreal Protocol, published evidence did not indicate a detectable human contribution to stratospheric chlorine. It had been known that long-lived CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons, with a lifetime of a century or so) could reach the stratosphere. After all, there was an observed increase in fluorine, but there was no corresponding increase in chlorine. If there had been an important contribution from anthropogenic CFCs, one should have seen a gradual increase in the concentration of stratospheric chlorine. But that was only established some years after Montreal when NASA scientist Curtis Rinsland repeated some of the crucial measurements and found a quite different result. Up until then, it had seemed that natural sources would swamp any chlorine contributed from CFCs. In fact, the expert opinion of Professor Rowland was that the (natural) contribution to stratospheric chlorine could be ignored—that from ocean salt spray would be less than 1 part per 10,000—a claim nearly impossible to verify.

So President Reagan missed the chance to verify the benefits numbers he got from his economic team. He should have noticed, however, that despite the measured increase in CFCs there was no corresponding increase in solar ultraviolet radiation at the earth’s surface - as a consequence of possible ozone depletion. (Solar UV-B is the presumed agent that causes skin cancer.)

Fast forward to the Bush (41) administration: Premature reports of an incipient Arctic ozone hole (the notorious “Hole over Kennebunkport” that never existed) threw George Bush into a panic and caused him to advance the US phase-out date of CFCs by five years—at great expense. On the other hand, China will be the last country required to phase out CFCs—by 2016.  Meanwhile, the rest of the world has switched to HFCs; they won’t deplete ozone, but they are global-warming gases which will face controls in the near future.

Skin Cancer Facts

Another fast forward—to the Clinton administration: One of the hot issues then was the possible ban on Methyl Bromide (MeBr), an extremely important agricultural chemical, used as a fumigant to preserve stored grain from all sorts of spoilage and pests. It became a ’cause celebre’ for environmental zealots who wanted to ban every possible agent that might destroy stratospheric ozone. Yet MeBr is very different from CFCs. Most of it originates from natural sources rather than from manufacture. Its atmospheric lifetime is only a few months rather than a century or so; it really is doubtful if it lasts long enough to reach the stratosphere. In any case, there was no measurement showing a stratospheric increase in bromine compounds. So again, no scientific evidence of a human contribution—and no effort to verify.

A key factor in phasing out MeBr was testimony by EPA assistant administrator Mary Nichols. (Yes, this is the same Mary Nichols who now heads the powerful California Air Resources Board). She told a hearing chaired by Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA) that the benefits of phasing out MeBr would be 32 trillion dollars—an incredible sum of money in the 1990s when even a billion dollars was real money.

Now it turns out that she got those numbers from a trusted (activist) economist in the Clinton White House, but of course she didn’t verify. If she had, she would have found that the serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, seems to be caused mainly by solar UV-A radiation, rather than UV-B. (All this was established in experiments by Richard Setlow at Brookhaven National Lab; in fact, recent research indicates that melanoma may develop without any solar radiation.) And since UV-A is not absorbed by ozone at all, efforts to protect the ozone layer would not protect against melanoma.

Prof. Sunstein tries to extrapolate the lesson from Montreal (as he sees it) to the Kyoto Protocol and to global warming. I agree with him that cost-benefit analysis is a wonderful tool, but it has to be verified by proper science. When we do that, we will find that all of the current efforts to eliminate the greenhouse-gas carbon dioxide are pointless, extremely expensive—and counterproductive.


The Obama Green Energy Scam You May Have Missed

Have you seen the latest development in President Obama's waste-ridden, clean energy program that's now under federal investigation at the U.S. Treasury Department?

Three of the country's biggest residential solar panel installers -- SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity -- have been subpoenaed by Treasury's Office of Inspector General for their financial records to determine if they had inflated the market value of their costs when they applied for federal reimbursement.

The firms have reportedly received more than $500 million in federal grants and tax credits. Officials in two of them, Solar-City and SunRun, have been among some of Obama's most generous campaign donors.

The money these companies tapped into flowed from a $13 billion investment fund in Treasury that came from the president's economic stimulus program which has poured huge sums of money into clean energy programs across the country.

Obama has sunk billions of tax dollars into a scandal-ridden swamp of other energy deals that were crafted and promoted by administration business cronies who also were among his biggest fundraisers.

After an exhaustive analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e-mails about Obama's green-technology spending program, the Washington Post concluded that it was "infused with politics" at every level of the decision-making process. Political considerations dominated the White House's deal-making and all too often overruled warnings that billions of tax dollars would be lost on shaky energy projects that should never have been approved.

Take, for example, Sanjay Wagle, a venture capitalist and one of Obama's fundraisers in 2008. He left his firm in California to work in Obama's Energy Department on a $40 billion spending program to stimulate the economy by investing in clean technology companies.

It's questionable just how much "stimulus" much of this money provided to the economy when unemployment is still close to 8 percent, and a number of these firms went bankrupt and eventually laid off thousands of workers.

Nevertheless, over the next three years the Energy Department officials Wagle was advising plowed $2.4 billion into clean energy corporations that Wagle's former company, Vantage Point Venture Partners, had invested in.

"Overall, the Post found that $3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers," the newspaper reported at the time.

Those insider connections helped grease the wheels for dubious clean energy investments that went belly up, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill on loans guaranteed by the government.

One of them was a $535 million loan to the now-bankrupt solar panel firm Solyndra that Obama promoted against the better judgement of top budget and contract officials who warned the White House against the deal.

What has come to light so far as part of a congressional investigation is the administration's willful order to approve a bad loan, despite dire warnings from a number of federal officials that the California-based Solyndra was in deep financial trouble.

A steady stream of government e-mails released by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee tell a sordid tale of a company Obama turned into an energy showcase for his $40 billion loan program -- until Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August, putting 1,100 employes out of work.

One of the people promoting Solyndra's $535 million million loan, which will be paid off by federal taxpayers, was Steven J. Spinner, a senior Energy Department adviser, an Obama campaign fundraiser, and a Silicon Valley investor given the job of guiding the administration's clean technology investments.

He was not only one of Solyndra's insider defenders, his wife worked for the California law firm that represented the solar panel company and helped it file for the federal government loan her husband was promoting, according to the Post investigation.

While growing internal concerns were being raised about Solyndra's shaky finances as early as the summer of 2009, Spinner e-mailed a top aide to then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that Solyndra was a financially solvent company that fully deserved the administration's support. "I haven't heard anything negative on my side," he assured Emanuel's aide in an e-mail about the warnings.

As the loan deal stalled over internal criticism of the firm's looming insolvency, Spinner grew more impatient. "How [expletive] hard is this?' he wrote to a career Energy staffer on Aug. 28, 2009 about its delayed clearance by an Office of Management and Budget official. "What is he waiting for?"

But complaints from Office of Management and Budget and Treasury officials about Solyndra's finances, as well as its favorable loan terms, still persisted.

"In an administration that said it would curtail lobbyists' influence, the documents show ardent lobbying by political appointees inside the agencies and significant White House access given to venture capitalists with a major stake in the $40 billion stimulus investment program for clean energy," the Post reported.

The demise of Solyndra and the loss of 1100 jobs was one of the administration's many investment failures.

Others have included Ener 1 that was awarded a $118 million "stimulus" deal from Obama, only to go bankrupt on Jan. 26, 2011; the North Las Vegas-based solar power firm Amonix that laid off 700 workers and shut down in May after receiving $6 million in federal tax credits and a $15.6 million federal grant; and Abound Solar that reaped a $400 million federal loan guarantee to build photovoltaic panel factories before halting production and laying off 180 employes in February and has since declared bankruptcy.

Although Obama declared that the energy grants and loans were all "based solely on their merits," Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer reported in his book, "Throw Them All Out," that 71 percent went to "individuals who were [fundraising] bundlers, members of Obama's National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party."


Obama’s wind-production tax-credit swindle

Serves big business, hurts the environment

Regarding the federal deficit, President Obama famously said, “I will not support any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans [and yet does not ask] the biggest corporations to pay their fair share.” Now, however, Mr. Obama vigorously supports at least one policy that violates that pledge: the federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy.

Conceived in 1992 as a means to spur the construction of wind-energy facilities that could compete with monopoly-owned conventional fossil-fuel power plants, this hefty tax credit mostly has benefited the same monopoly: conventional nuclear and fossil-fuel-fired electricity producers.

With wind plants totaling 9,289 megawatts of capacity, Florida-based NextEra Energy/FPL (aka Florida Power & Light) is the largest recipient of this tax credit. Of course, NextEra is only the largest, not the only, corporate beneficiary of taxpayer largesse. Nonetheless, the largesse it receives is huge.

Primarily because of the PTC’s generous tax benefit, BusinessWeek reports, from 2005 to 2009 “FPL has paid just $88 million in taxes on earnings of nearly $7 billion.” That gave FPL a tax rate of merely 1.25 percent over that period. Most corporations average a 30 percent tax rate. At that rate, FPL’s tax obligation would have been more than $2 billion.

This $2 billion tax avoidance is a result of the company’s “taking advantage of incentives to develop renewable resources.”

One might argue that these lavish tax credits are warranted, as they supposedly level the playing field between startup producers of “clean” wind energy and established “dirty” conventional energy producers. Yet NextEra/FPL is the eighth-largest power producer in the United States, with the bulk of its generation coming from fossil or nuclear sources.

The company owns the largest fossil plant in the United States, the recently completed West County Energy Center’s combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant, located on a 220-acre site in the environmentally sensitive Everglades.

Curiously, the price tag for this facility is also $2 billion, nearly equal to the value of NextEra/FPL’s combined tax credits from 2005 to 2009.

NextEra/FPL boasts that its huge number of PTC-driven wind-generation plants have “allowed FPL to avoid building 13 medium-sized power plants since 1980.” Ignoring the fact that intermittent wind turbines never can replace steady, reliable fossil plants, it appears that FPL more honestly could have stated the impact of the PTC thus: The wind-energy production tax credit funded the construction of America’s largest fossil-fuel generation plant, located in the heart of the environmentally sensitive Florida Everglades.

NextEra’s huge wind-turbine fleet seems impressive. When adjusted for wind’s on-again, off-again nature, however, the United States’ largest fleet of wind turbines will have an average capacity of perhaps 2,700 megawatts (ranging from zero to 9,000 megawatts hourly and daily) yet will cost $18 billion.

Had this $18 billion instead constructed eight gas turbine plants like NextEra/FPL’s new one in the Everglades, the company would have nearly 30,000 megawatts of dependable capacity versus wind’s paltry and unreliable 2,700 megawatts. Moreover, gas turbines, unlike wind turbines, actually could replace dozens of coal plants while reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by half.

This, too, is a return wind generation can never match because it forces “backup” fossil-fuel plants to ramp up and down constantly as wind speeds rise and fall, causing inefficiencies, high fuel use and high carbon-dioxide emissions.

What of the president’s pledge? While being committed to both “stopping the ocean’s rise” by controlling carbon dioxide and asking the “biggest corporations to pay their fair share,” he has let the PTC fail him on both counts.

Not only has the PTC helped a Fortune 200 company evade its “fair share” of corporate income tax, Mr. Obama has unwittingly let his beloved production tax credit fund the construction of the largest fossil-fuel gas-fired turbine plant in the United States a mere 1,000 feet from the Everglades’ Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge.

If Mr. Obama is serious about protecting the environment and making the “biggest corporations” pay their fair share, he should oppose any extension of the PTC.




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