Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Breaking EPA’s climate science secrecy barriers
FOIA request seeks hidden data and analyses that agency claims back up its climate rulings
Paul Driessen and Lawrence Kogan
Can you imagine telling the IRS you don’t need to complete all their forms or provide records to back up your claim for a tax refund? Or saying your company’s assurances that its medical products are safe and effective should satisfy the FDA? Especially if some of your data don’t actually support your claims – or you “can’t find” key data, research and other records, because your hard drive conveniently crashed? But, you tell them, people you paid to review your information said it’s accurate, so there’s no problem.
Do you suppose the government would accept your assurance that there’s “not a smidgen” of corruption, error or doubt – perhaps because 97% of your close colleagues agree with you? Or that your actions affect only a small amount of tax money, or a small number of customers – so the agencies shouldn’t worry?
If you were the Environmental Protection Agency, White House-operated US Global Change Research Program and their participating agencies (NOAA, NASA, NSF, etc.), you’d get away with all of that.
Using billions of our tax dollars, these government entities fund the research they use, select research that supports their regulatory agenda (while ignoring studies that do not), and handpick the “independent” experts who peer-review the research. As a recent analysis reveals, the agencies also give “significant financial support” to United Nations and other organizations that prepare computer models and other assessments. They then use the results to justify regulations that will cost countless billions of dollars and affect the lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards, health, welfare and life spans of every American.
EPA utilized this clever maneuver to determine that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases “endanger” public health and welfare. It then devised devious reports, including national climate change assessments – and expensive, punitive regulations to control emissions of those gases from vehicles, electrical generating plants and countless other sources.
At the very least, you would expect that this supposedly “scientific” review process – and the data and studies involved in it – should be subject to rigorous, least-discretionary standards designed to ensure their quality, integrity, credibility and reliability, as well as truly independent expert review. Indeed they are.
The Information Quality Act of 2000 and subsequent Office of Management and Budget guidelines require that all federal agencies ensure and maximize “the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of information disseminated by Federal agencies.” The rules also call for proper peer review of all “influential scientific information” and “highly influential scientific assessments,” particularly if they could be used as the basis for regulatory action. Finally, they direct federal agencies to provide adequate administrative mechanisms enabling affected parties to review agency failures to respond to requests for correction or reconsideration of the scientific information.
EPA and other agencies apparently think these rules are burdensome, inconvenient, and a threat to their independence and regulatory agenda. They routinely ignore the rules, and resist attempts by outside experts to gain access to data and studies. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said she intends to “protect” them from people and organizations she decides “are not qualified to analyze” the materials.
Thus EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reviews the agency’s CO2 and pollution data, studies and conclusions – for which EPA has paid CASAC’s 15 members $180.8 million since 2000. The American Lung Association has received $24.7 million in EPA grants over the past 15 years and $43 million overall via a total of 591 federal grants, for applauding and promoting government agency decisions. Big Green foundations bankrolled the ALA with an additional $76 million, under 2,806 grants.
These payoffs raise serious questions about EPA, CASAC and ALA integrity and credibility.
Meanwhile, real stakeholders – families and companies that will be severely impacted by the rules, and organizations and experts trying to protect their interests – are systematically denied access to data, studies, scientific assessments and other information. CASAC excludes from its ranks industry and other experts who might question EPA findings. EPA stonewalls and slow-walks FOIA requests and denies requests for correction and reconsideration. One lawyer who’s filed FOIA cases since 1978 says the Obama Administration is bar-none “the worst” in history on transparency. Even members of Congress get nowhere, resulting in testy confrontations with Ms. McCarthy and other EPA officials.
The stakes are high, particularly in view of the Obama EPA’s war on coal mining, coal-fired power plants, businesses and industries that require reliable, affordable electricity – and families, communities and entire states whose jobs, health and welfare will suffer under this anti-fossil fuel agenda. States that mine and use coal will be bludgeoned. Because they pay a larger portion of their incomes on energy and food, elderly, minority and poor families are especially vulnerable and will suffer greatly.
That is why the House of Representatives is moving forward on the Secret Science Reform Act. It is why the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development is again filing new FOIA requests with EPA and other agencies that are hiding their junk science, manipulating laws and strangling our economy.
The agencies’ benefit-cost analyses are equally deceptive. EPA claims its latest coal-fueled power plant rules (requiring an impossible 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030) would bring $30 billion in “climate benefits” versus $7.3 billion in costs. Even the left-leaning Brookings Institution has trashed the agency’s analysis – pointing out that the low-balled costs will be paid by American taxpayers, consumers, businesses and workers, whereas the highly conjectural benefits will be accrued globally.
That violates President Clinton’s 1993 Executive Order 12688, which requires that agencies “assess both the costs and benefits” of a proposed regulation, and adopt it “only upon a reasoned determination that the benefits … justify its costs.” EO 12866 specifies that only benefits to US citizens be counted. Once that’s done, the EPA benefits plummet to between $2.1 billion and $6.9 billion. That means its kill-coal rules cost Americans $400 million to $4.8 billion more than the clearly inflated benefits, using EPA’s own numbers.
Moreover, the US Chamber of Commerce calculates that the regulations will actually penalize the United States $51 billion. Energy analyst Roger Bezdek estimates that the benefits of using carbon-based fuels outweigh any hypothesized “social costs of carbon” by orders of magnitude: 50-to-1 (using the inflated SCC of $36/ton of CO2 concocted by EPA and other federal agencies in 2013) – and 500-to-1 (using the equally arbitrary $22/ton estimate that they cooked up in 2010).
Even more intolerable, these punitive EPA rules will have virtually no effect on atmospheric CO2 levels, because China, India, Germany and other countries will continue to burn coal and other fossil fuels. They will likewise have no effect on global temperatures, even accepting the Obama/EPA/IPCC notion that carbon dioxide is now the primary cause of climate change. Even EPA models acknowledge that its rules will prevent an undetectable 0.018 degrees Celsius (0.032 deg F) of total global warming in 100 years!
Fortunately, the Supreme Court recently ruled that EPA does not have the authority to rewrite federal laws to serve its power-grabbing agendas. FOIA requests seeking disclosure of EPA records that could reveal a rigged climate science peer review process – and legal actions under the Information Quality Act seeking correction of resultant data corruption – could compel courts to reconsider their all-too-common practice of deferring to “agency discretion” on scientific and regulatory matters. That clearly scares these federales.
The feds have become accustomed to saying “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” The prospect of having to share their data, methodologies and research with experts outside their closed circle of regulators, collaborators and eco-activists almost makes them soil their shorts.
Bright sunlight has always been the best disinfectant for mold, slime and corruption. With America’s economy, international competitiveness, jobs, health and welfare at stake, we need that sunlight now.
High Energy Costs Kill Manufacturing Jobs In Wales
Around 400 jobs are to go at the Tata steelmaking plant in Port Talbot, the company has announced. Chief executive Karl Koehler said the changes were vital if the company was to remain competitive.
He pointed to the UK's high business rates and "uncompetitive" energy costs as factors in the decision.
In 2012, 600 jobs went from Tata sites in Wales. It still has 7,000 staff with just over half working at Port Talbot.
The Welsh government said the news would be of concern to Tata staff, but was encouraged that the company planned to make the redundancies through voluntary means. A consultation process lasting at least 45 days will begin shortly.
The company said in statement the job losses would reduce costs and enable it to compete in an era of lower market demand.
Mr Koehler said: "Steel demand and prices are likely to be under pressure for some years. Our business rates in the UK are much higher than other EU countries' and our UK energy costs will remain uncompetitive until new mitigation measures come into effect.
"These proposed changes then are vital if we are to build a competitive future for our strip products business in the UK."
The company spends £60m on electricity in Wales alone, and pays about 40% more for the electricity than competitors in continental Europe.
The government introduced measures in the last budget to reduce energy costs for heavy industries but they do not come into force until 2016.
Steel has been produced on the current site for over 60 years
Mr Koehler said they would do everything possible to support staff "through this unsettling time".
He added the company had invested over £250m in the past two years in state-of-the-art technology and were making further investments in its hot strip mill in Port Talbot and at a site in Llanwern in Newport.
UK Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "This is understandably a difficult time for the workforce at Tata Steel in south Wales as the company tries to weather challenging market conditions.
A Welsh government spokesperson said: "Tata has demonstrated its commitment to Wales by investing nearly £400m in the strip business over the past two years. Despite this investment it is clear that the industry is still being adversely affected by high energy costs in the UK.
"We continue to work with Tata to ensure we create and sustain a thriving steel industry in Wales but repeat our calls for the UK government to implement measures to reduce the burden faced by energy intensive companies in Wales."
Ethanol mandate Is One Reason the Price of Gas Will Increase
Not thinking things through is a chronic problem with policy-makers in Washington. Superficial and easily sound-bite-able policies dominate the thoughtful-but-complex ones. For instance mandates for biofuel use would seem to be driven by basic supply and demand—more domestic fuel would lead to lower fuel prices for consumers. But the reality is more complex.
On June 26, the Congressional Budget Office released a study on the impacts of the Renewable Fuels Standard and found that, if unchanged, the RFS will increase gasoline prices by 13 to 26 cents per gallon and increase the price of diesel fuel by 30 to 51 cents per gallon by 2017. Part of the popular, bi-partisan and totally misguided Energy Independence and Security Act, the RFS promoted increased production of various forms of ethanol and biodiesel with a host of mandates and subsidies.
The failure of advanced biofuels—especially cellulosic ethanol—to meet targets,along with the constraints of blend walls and consumer rejection of E85 gasohol, would force the oil industry to pay fines for producing fuels consumers do want and take huge losses on forced production of fuels consumers don’t want.
The chart below, from the CBO report, illustrates how miserably the mandate-it-and-they-will-make-it energy policy is failing. Proponents assured Congress and the president that commercially viable production of cellulosic ethanol made from non-edible plant material was just around the corner. Not only were they wrong, but as we see from the chart, there is no end of the tunnel in sight.
On the other hand, the corn-ethanol producers responded so vigorously to production incentives that they have been meeting targets but produce more ethanol than can be blended into regular gasoline. In the industry jargon, refiners have hit the 10-percent blend wall established by the EPA to prevent damage to engines and fuel systems not designed for the moisture-attracting higher-blend levels.
Lower energy content per gallon makes ethanol fuels unattractive to most drivers. To a certain extent, this weakness was hidden because most gasoline contains only 10 percent of the lower-energy ethanol. But refiners cannot legally add any more ethanol to E10 gasoline—the most common gasoline sold, which is comprised of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol—and cannot get consumers to buy E85 (a blend of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol) without selling it below cost of production.
The CBO estimates that to induce enough consumption of E85 to allow refiners to meet the targets set by Washington, they would have push down the price of E85 by as much as $1.27 per gallon. The necessary losses on the E85 are what, in large part, would drive up the cost of E10 gasoline used by the vast majority of drivers.
The failure of cellulosic ethanol to meet the fantasy-world targets set years ago means that the ethanol burned in our vehicles primarily comes from diverting food to fuel—nearly 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop goes to ethanol production. So, the net effects of the RFS are to drive up farm commodity prices (and subsequently food prices), drive up the cost of diesel fuel, drive up the cost of the gasoline used by the vast majority of drivers, and provide little, at best, environmental benefit. It’s not a simple case of supply and demand where more ethanol means lower fuel costs. Understanding the complete picture is more complex. But one thing is clear: The RFS is simply a bad idea whose time to go has come.
NOAA Reinstates July 1936 As The Hottest Month On Record
Good to see that Anthony Watts has stopped apologizing for NOAA
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, criticized for manipulating temperature records to create a warming trend, has now been caught warming the past and cooling the present.
July 2012 became the hottest month on record in the U.S. during a summer that was declared “too hot to handle” by NASA scientists. That summer more than half the country was experiencing drought and wildfires had scorched more than 1.3 million acres of land, according to NASA.
According to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in 2012, the “average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the warmest July and all-time warmest month on record for the nation in a period of record that dates back to 1895.”
“The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936, when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4°F,” NOAA said in 2012.
This statement by NOAA was still available on their website when checked by The Daily Caller News Foundation. But when meteorologist and climate blogger Anthony Watts went to check the NOAA data on Sunday he found that the science agency had quietly reinstated July 1936 as the hottest month on record in the U.S.
“Two years ago during the scorching summer of 2012, July 1936 lost its place on the leaderboard and July 2012 became the hottest month on record in the United States,” Watts wrote. “Now, as if by magic, and according to NOAA’s own data, July 1936 is now the hottest month on record again. The past, present, and future all seems to be ‘adjustable’ in NOAA’s world.”
Watts had data from NOAA’s “Climate at a Glance” plots from 2012, which shows that July 2012 was the hottest month on record at 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit. July 1936 is only at 77.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Watts ran the same data plot again on Sunday and found that NOAA inserted a new number in for July 1936. The average temperature for July 1936 was made slightly higher than July 2012, meaning, once again, July 1936 is the hottest year on record.
“You can’t get any clearer proof of NOAA adjusting past temperatures,” Watts wrote. “This isn’t just some issue with gridding, or anomalies, or method, it is about NOAA not being able to present historical climate information of the United States accurately.”
“In one report they give one number, and in another they give a different one with no explanation to the public as to why,” Watts continued. “This is not acceptable. It is not being honest with the public. It is not scientific. It violates the Data Quality Act.”
Watts’ accusation of NOAA climate data manipulation comes after reports that the agency had been lowering past temperatures to create a warming trend in the U.S. that does not exist in the raw data.
The ex-post facto data manipulation has been cataloged by climate blogger Steven Goddard and was reported by the UK Telegraph earlier this month.
“Goddard shows how, in recent years, NOAA’s US Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has been ‘adjusting’ its record by replacing real temperatures with data ‘fabricated’ by computer models,” writes Christopher Booker for the Telegraph.
“The effect of this has been to downgrade earlier temperatures and to exaggerate those from recent decades, to give the impression that the Earth has been warming up much more than is justified by the actual data,” Booker writes. “In several posts headed ‘Data tampering at USHCN/GISS,’ Goddard compares the currently published temperature graphs with those based only on temperatures measured at the time.”
“These show that the US has actually been cooling since the Thirties, the hottest decade on record; whereas the latest graph, nearly half of it based on ‘fabricated’ data, shows it to have been warming at a rate equivalent to more than 3 degrees centigrade per century,” Booker adds.
When asked about climate data adjustments by the DCNF back in April, NOAA send there have been “several scientific developments since 1989 and 1999 that have improved the understanding of the U.S. surface temperature record.”
“Many station observations that were confined to paper, especially from early in the 20th century, have been scanned and keyed and are now digitally available to inform these time series,” Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch, told TheDCNF.
“In addition to the much larger number of stations available, the U.S. temperature time series is now informed by an improved suite of quality assurance algorithms than it was in the late 20th Century,” Deke said in an emailed statement.
But NOAA has apparently not just been adjusting temperatures downward, but also adjusting them upwards.
“This constant change from year to year of what is or is not the hottest month on record for the USA is not only unprofessional and embarrassing for NOAA, it’s bullshit of the highest order,” Watts wrote. “It can easily be solved by NOAA stopping the unsupportable practice of adjusting temperatures of the past so that the present looks different in context with the adjusted past and stop making data for weather stations that have long since closed.”
India & Developing Nations Defeat Obama’s Green Agenda
India will strengthen its climate change negotiation team and will do "better homework" before discussing with all stakeholders, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Monday.
Fresh from India's "success" at the Nairobi environment conference, Javadekar said the country has decided to "reposition" its role in the global stage on climate change issues by intensely "lobbying" for a "good strategic relationship" with like-minded nations on the matter.
"And we will do more meaningful representation in the world events," Javadekar said.
He was speaking after leading the Indian delegation in the first session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of the United Nations Environment Programme held at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi last week.
He said the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC to be held in Paris in 2015 was "very important" and it is one year window in which the post Kyoto Protocol will be decided.
"From 2020, the new protocol will start....We will strengthen our Climate Change negotiation team," the minister said.
Javadekar said unlike the past UN Climate Conferences, India will organise side events and dinner meetings to highlight the world's largest democracy's role in tackling the Climate Change.
"There will be big preparation....Dinner, breakfast meetings and exhibitions to strengthen the lobbying. On international forum we have to put forth our points very strongly and take everyone along and we are working out plans for that," he said.
Speaking about the Nairobi Environment Conference, he said India lobbied with Arab countries, G-77 plus China and BRICS to defeat the US position that Rio principles should not be made part of its final outcome document, official sources said here today.
"In negotiations, we were active this time. America was saying that don't refer to Kyoto Protocol, CBDR, Rio principles.
We resisted that...we lobbied...all Arab countries, BRICS, G-77 plus China...all came together to oppose America's position and ultimately Rio principles were part of the final outcome document," he said.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development met at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 had proclaimed 10 principles which include human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development and they are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.
Bill Gates gets the need to stop shafting poor countries
For years, I took energy for granted. There’s no telling how many times I walked into my office, flipped a light switch, and powered up a PC without thinking at all about the magic of getting electricity any time I wanted it. But then I started traveling to poor and middle-income countries, and I had a very different experience.
I remember going to Buenos Aires and seeing where the government had run big wires to distribute electricity. But people couldn’t afford it, so they tapped their own power cables into the government’s and stole the electricity. This is a very common experience—according to the United Nations, some 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity, and a billion more only have access to unreliable electricity networks. I’ve talked to women in rural Africa who spent hours every day hauling wood so they could cook food and light their homes. Others buy fuel to run a generator, which pumps out pollutants that cause asthma and lung cancer and, at 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, is more than twice as expensive as what the average American homeowner pays for electricity. Another example of the high cost of being poor.
Here is a picture of some students in Conakry, Guinea. They’re studying under street lamps, because they don’t have reliable lights at home. This is one of the most vivid examples of life without electricity at home that I’ve seen.
Think about what it has meant to America to have access to affordable, reliable energy. Electricity powers the streetlights that make our cities far safer than they were a century ago. The American construction industry never would have taken off if we didn’t have lots of affordable energy for making cement and steel.
Our farmers became much more productive when they replaced their plows and oxen with tractors—but only because they had fuel to run these new machines. The historian Vaclav Smil found that in the 20th century the average American’s energy use jumped roughly 60-fold. At the same time, the price we pay for electricity fell by roughly 98 percent.
That’s why I think any anti-poverty agenda has to look at giving more people access to affordable energy. For countries to lift themselves out of poverty, they need lights in schools so students can study when it’s dark out. Refrigerators in health clinics to keep vaccines cold. Pumps to irrigate farmland and provide clean water.
In the rich world, we are right to worry about conserving energy, but in poor places, people need more energy.
There is also a demand side to this equation. As people get richer, they want more energy-consuming goods, like computers and refrigerators, and energy-hungry services like health care. We’ve seen it already in Brazil, India, China, and other countries, and it’s a trend that will continue well into the future. The U.S. government estimates that the world’s energy needs will increase by more than 50 percent by 2040, but I think it could go even higher as the global population grows and incomes continue to rise. We want to provide this energy as efficiently as possible, but that’s no reason to deny the poor access to the services that rich countries enjoy.
What about climate change?
It’s a huge problem, one of the biggest we face today. The more energy we produce with today’s technology, the more carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere. While there is some uncertainty about the exact impact, there is nearly universal scientific agreement that these effects will be bad. And they will be worst for the poorest people on earth, who have done the least to cause the problem. Energy can’t just be affordable—it also has to be clean.
That’s why it’s so important for the United States and other rich countries to invest more in research into clean energy. A few years ago, I shared a few thoughts on this subject in a TED talk about developing energy sources that produce zero carbon. And I’m investing in a number of projects to develop cleaner, more affordable sources of energy. I hope to have more to share about them as they move through the R&D cycle.
These days, I don’t take energy for granted. I know what a difference it can make in the lives of the poorest, and I’m committed to helping them get it.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
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Posted by JR at 6:18 PM