Sunday, July 27, 2014

Half of Britain to be opened up to fracking

Ministers are this week expected to offer up vast swathes of Britain for fracking in an attempt to lure energy companies to explore shale oil and gas reserves.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change is expected to launch the so-called “14th onshore licensing round”, which will invite companies to bid for the rights to explore in as-yet untouched parts of the country.

The move is expected to be hugely controversial because it could potentially result in fracking taking place across more than half of Britain. Industry sources said the plans could be announced at a press conference tomorrow.

The Government is a big proponent of fracking and last year revealed that it would “step up the search” for shale gas and oil.

Ministers said they would offer energy companies the chance for rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles, stretching from central Scotland to the south coast.

Michael Fallon, the former energy minister, has previously described shale as “an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security”.

A previous government-commissioned report said as many as 2,880 wells could be drilled in the new licence areas, generating up to a fifth of the country’s annual gas demand at peak and creating as many as 32,000 jobs.

However, the report warned that communities close to drilling sites could see a large increase in traffic. Residents could face as many as 51 lorry journeys each day for three years, the study said.

It also warned of potential strain on facilities for handling the waste water generated by hydraulic fracturing, the process known as fracking, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into rocks at high pressure to extract gas.

There were also concerns over the potential environmental impact on the countryside.

Controversies include plans to offer land within national parks, despite National Trust opposition.

The areas expected to attract the most interest are the Bowland basin in the north of England, where it is estimated there could be enough gas to supply the UK for 40 years.

Ministers also anticipate strong interest in the South East and the central belt of Scotland.


New York Senate Rejects Fracking Ban

The New York Senate has declined to pass a bill extending a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing energy production in the state. Instead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and local governments will decide the fate of fracking in New York.

The New York State Assembly voted 89 to 34 on June 16 to continue the statewide moratorium, which was imposed as a temporary measure by former Gov. David Paterson (D). The Cuomo administration is currently reviewing the moratorium, and some legislators are trying to pass a law that would ban fracking even if Cuomo lifts the executive moratorium. The Senate, however, declined to vote on the bill.

New York environmental officials have missed multiple deadlines to issue final rulings on hydraulic fracturing. The Cuomo administration’s ongoing delay in making a final decision on fracking keeps the ban in place while enabling the governor to avoid the political consequences of making it permanent.

“Gov. Cuomo appears to be appeasing urban, far-left environmental activists while paying lip service to upstate voters who will decide his fate in the November election,” said Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News. “This is the same political strategy employed by President Obama regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.”


UK: Stop building offshore wind farms, says energy company

Britain should stop building expensive offshore wind farms, energy giant Centrica has said, claiming that billpayers could be saved £96bn by 2030 if ministers pursued a cheaper green strategy.

The British Gas owner - whose chief executive Sam Laidlaw is preparing to step down after eight years - on Wednesday took the unusual step of issuing its own manifesto for how to solve Britain’s energy crisis, claiming its plans were three times cheaper than Government’s.

Mr Laidlaw, whose exit and replacement by BP executive Iain Conn is expected to be confirmed as soon as next week, is said to have grown tired of taking the flak for rising energy bills.

The report, which points the finger of blame at Government for backing expensive green technologies, offers a “more affordable pathway to a lower-carbon future”, Mr Laidlaw said.  It advocates building no more offshore wind farms, which it calls “an expensive option that may not be needed”, stopping solar panel deployment, “since it generates no output at times of peak demand” and restricting use of expensive solid wall insulation for homes.

Instead it backs gas, nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS) plants. It claims the plan would save consumers £100 a year by 2030, compared with the Government’s strategy, while still hitting 2050 carbon targets.

But the manifesto would involve Britain failing to meet its legally-binding EU target for renewable energy generation by 2020, and would also involve weakening green targets for the late 2020s.

One Whitehall source dismissed the report, saying: “Centrica ignores legally binding targets that are not going to go away.”

Peter Atherton, of Liberum Capital, said Centrica had entered the debate on policy “at least five years late” having previously supported policies such as offshore wind “as that suited their short term profit outlook”.

Centrica last year sold its interest in the proposed Race Bank offshore wind farm after deciding subsidies were inadequate, and hopes now to build gas-fired power plants.

Sophie Neuburg, of Friends of the Earth, said the report was “cynical” and served Centrica’s own interests. She said it was "ridiculous" to stop building offshore wind when it was not clear if CCS would work.

Joss Garman, of think-tank IPPR said: "Centrica’s proposals could fatally damage the UK’s efforts to reduce harmful carbon pollution because they directly contradict the recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change to introduce a 2030 decarbonisation target for the power sector. To regain the trust of consumers and bring down costs, Centrica needs to embrace new technologies and be part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem.”

The energy department said it was working to “ensure the UK’s energy security and achieve our carbon targets in the most cost effective way possible”.


Guillotine climate change skeptics?

Don Surber

If the world is warming, it is doing so at one-quarter of the rate the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted in its 2007 report.

The IPCC admits in a yet-to-be released report that it overestimated global warming, the London Daily Mail reported.

“But the new report says the observed warming over the more recent 15 years to 2012 was just 0.05C per decade -- below almost all computer predictions,” the newspaper reported.

That is a change of five-hundredths of a degree annually.  Feel the burn.

The weather is doing what Leona Woods Marshall Libby forecast 30 years ago.  She’s a big deal. At 23, she was the only female on physicist Enrico Fermi’s team that built the first nuclear reactor and first atom bomb.

Dr. Libby later developed the method used to measure temperatures centuries ago using tree ring data, which is a key tool in climatology.

In 1979 -- when the scientific consensus was global cooling -- Dr. Libby forecast a rise in temperatures until the year 2000 when it would get colder again for the next 50 years.

“Easily one to two degrees,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “And maybe even three or four degrees. It takes only 10 degrees to bring on an Ice Age.”

The first half of her prediction proved true. Temperatures peaked in 1998.

But why bother with the facts? Global warming is politics, not science. The head of the IPCC is an economist. Its Nobel is a Peace Prize.

Yes, horticulturists use water vapor and carbon dioxide in their greenhouses.  But that is to feed their plants. Carbon dioxide is your friend, not a pollutant.

As the evidence mounts that this is junk science, its promoters are getting ugly.

Two years ago, Professor Richard Parncutt of Graz University in Austria called for the execution of skeptics.

He later retracted his statement, but pardon people for being nervous. Austria was part of Nazi Germany.

And history shows that being right is small comfort.  In the 18th century, the scientific consensus backed the theory of phlogiston, which held that there were three elements.

Along came Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier who determined this was wrong.  People now consider Lavoisier as the Father of Modern Chemistry, because he did the math and used experimentation to prove his point.

But some people held on to the phlogiston theory for a while longer. They did so because everyone else had said it is true. And if you do not believe what everyone else believes, then you are an idiot.

Hans Christian Andersen mocked this conformity in his story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” in which con men sold the emperor cloth that didn’t exist. They told him the cloth was invisible to the hopelessly stupid and people who are unfit for their office.

Not wishing to be known as a fool or unfit, the emperor pretended to see the cloth.  He put on the non-existent clothing and paraded naked before the people, who were silent lest they be considered fools.  Finally, a child blurted out that the emperor was wearing nothing. That broke the spell.

And so it goes with global warming. If you do not believe then you are a denier, anti-science, and a tool for that great bogeyman, Big Oil.

The truth is every flood, every drought, every tornado, every hurricane, every cyclone, every dip in the polar vortex, every derecho, every wildfire, every blizzard and every other weather phenomenon does not prove global warming.

Forces that are beyond man’s comprehension control and deterimine the weather.

Skeptics beware, they guillotined Lavoisier.  His execution was unrelated to his debunking phlogiston, but his status as the father of chemistry did not spare him.

Legend has it that when he pleaded for a stay of execution so he could complete one final experiment, the judge replied: “La République n’a pas besoin de savants ni de chimistes; le cours de la justice ne peut être suspendu.”

That translates into “The Republic needs neither scientists nor chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed.”

A motto fit for today’s global warming fanatics.


Just Who is Waging the ‘War on Science’?

Paul Driessen

Left-leaning environmentalists, media and academics have long railed against the alleged conservative “war on science.” They augment this vitriol with substantial money, books, documentaries and conference sessions devoted to “protecting” global warming alarmists from supposed “harassment” by climate chaos skeptics, whom they accuse of wanting to conduct “fishing expeditions” of alarmist emails and “rifle” their file cabinets in search of juicy material (which might expose collusion or manipulated science).

A primary target of this “unjustified harassment” has been Penn State University professor Dr. Michael Mann, creator of the infamous “hockey stick” temperature graph that purported to show a sudden spike in average planetary temperatures in recent decades, following centuries of supposedly stable climate. But at a recent AGU meeting a number of other “persecuted” scientists were trotted out to tell their story of how they have been “attacked” or had their research, policy demands or integrity questioned.

To fight back against this “harassment,” the American Geophysical Union actually created a “Climate Science Legal Defense Fund,” to pay mounting legal bills that these scientists have incurred. The AGU does not want any “prying eyes” to gain access to their emails or other information. These scientists and the AGU see themselves as “Freedom Fighters” in this “war on science.” It’s a bizarre war.

While proclaiming victimhood, they detest and vilify any experts who express doubts that we face an imminent climate Armageddon. They refuse to debate any such skeptics, or permit “nonbelievers” to participate in conferences where endless panels insist that every imaginable and imagined ecological problem is due to fossil fuels. They use hysteria and hyperbole to advance claims that slashing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions will enable us to control Earth’s climate – and that references to computer model predictions and “extreme weather events” justify skyrocketing energy costs, millions of lost jobs, and severe damage to people’s livelihoods, living standards, health and welfare.

Reality is vastly different from what these alarmist, environmentalist, academic, media and political elites attempt to convey.

In 2009, before Mann’s problems began, Greenpeace started attacking scientists it calls “climate deniers,” focusing its venom on seven scientists at four institutions, including the University of Virginia and University of Delaware. This anti-humanity group claimed its effort would “bring greater transparency to the climate science discussion” through “educational and other charitable public interest activities.” (If you believe that, send your bank account number to those Nigerians with millions in unclaimed cash.)

UVA administrators quickly agreed to turn over all archived records belonging to Dr. Patrick Michaels, a prominent climate chaos skeptic who had recently retired from the university. They did not seem to mind that no press coverage ensued, and certainly none that was critical of these Spanish Inquisition tactics.

However, when the American Tradition Institute later filed a similar FOIA request for Dr. Mann’s records, UVA marshaled the troops and launched a media circus, saying conservatives were harassing a leading climate scientist. The AGU, American Meteorological Society and American Association of University Professors (the nation’s college faculty union) rushed forward to lend their support. All the while, in a remarkable display of hypocrisy and double standards, UVA and these organizations continued to insist it was proper and ethical to turn all of Dr. Michaels’ material over to Greenpeace.

Meanwhile, although it had started out similarly, the scenario played out quite differently at the University of Delaware. Greenpeace targeted Dr. David Legates, demanding access to records related to his role as the Delaware State Climatologist. The University not only agreed to this. It went further, and demanded that Legates produce all his records – regardless of whether they pertained to his role as State Climatologist, his position on the university faculty, or his outside speaking and writing activities, even though he had received no state money for any of this work. Everything was fair game.

But when the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a FOIA request for documents belonging to several U of Delaware faculty members who had contributed to the IPCC, the university told CEI the state’s FOIA Law did not apply. (The hypocrisy and double standards disease is contagious.) Although one faculty contributor clearly had received state money for his climate change work, University Vice-President and General Counsel Lawrence White falsely claimed none of the individuals had received state funds.

When Legates approached White to inquire about the disparate treatment, White said Legates did not understand the law. State law did not require that White produce anything, White insisted, but also did not preclude him from doing so. Under threat of termination for failure to respond to the demands of a senior university official, Legates was required to allow White to inspect his emails and hardcopy files.

Legates subsequently sought outside legal advice. At this, his academic dean told him he had now gone too far. “This puts you at odds with the University,” she told him, “and the College will no longer support anything you do.” This remarkable threat was promptly implemented. Legates was terminated as the State Climatologist, removed from a state weather network he had been instrumental in organizing and operating, and banished from serving on any faculty committees.

Legates appealed to the AAUP – the same union that had staunchly supported Mann at UVA. Although the local AAUP president had written extensively on the need to protect academic freedom, she told Legates that FOIA issues and actions taken by the University of Delaware’s vice-president and dean “would not fall within the scope of the AAUP.”

What about the precedent of the AAUP and other professional organizations supporting Dr. Mann so quickly and vigorously? Where was the legal defense fund to pay Legates’ legal bills? Fuggedaboutit.

In the end, it was shown that nothing White examined in Legates’ files originated from state funds. The State Climate Office had received no money while Legates was there, and the university funded none of Legates’ climate change research though state funds. This is important because, unlike in Virginia, Delaware’s FOIA law says that regarding university faculty, only state-funded work is subject to FOIA.

That means White used his position to bully and attack Legates for his scientific views – pure and simple. Moreover, a 1991 federal arbitration case had ruled that the University of Delaware had violated another faculty member’s academic freedom when it examined the content of her research. But now, more than twenty years later, U Del was at it again.

Obviously, academic freedom means nothing when one’s views differ from the liberal faculty majority – or when they contrast with views and “science” that garners the university millions of dollars a year from government, foundation, corporate and other sources, to advance the alarmist climate change agenda. All these institutions are intolerant of research by scientists like Legates, because they fear losing grant money if they permit contrarian views, discussions, debates or anything that questions the climate chaos “consensus.” At this point, academic freedom and free speech obviously apply only to advance selected political agendas, and campus “diversity” exists in everything but opinions.

Climate alarmists have been implicated in the ClimateGate scandal, for conspiring to prevent their adversaries from receiving grants, publishing scientific papers, and advancing their careers. Yet they are staunchly supported by their universities, professional organizations, union – and groups like Greenpeace.

Meanwhile, climate disaster skeptics are vilified and harassed by these same groups, who pretend they are fighting to “let scientists conduct research without the threat of politically motivated attacks.” Far worse, we taxpayers are paying the tab for the junk science – and then getting stuck with regulations, soaring energy bills, lost jobs and reduced living standards…based on that bogus science.

Right now, the climate alarmists appear to be winning their war on honest science. But storm clouds are gathering, and a powerful counteroffensive is heading their way.



Warmists have rivals for crookedness in journal publication

Every now and then a scholarly journal retracts an article because of errors or outright fraud. In academic circles, and sometimes beyond, each retraction is a big deal. jvc

Now comes word of a journal retracting 60 articles at once.

The reason for the mass retraction is mind-blowing: A “peer review and citation ring” was apparently rigging the review process to get articles published.

You’ve heard of prostitution rings, gambling rings and extortion rings. Now there’s a “peer review ring.”

The publication is the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC). It publishes papers with names like “Hydraulic engine mounts: a survey” and “Reduction of wheel force variations with magnetorheological devices.”

The field of acoustics covered by the journal is highly technical:

Analytical, computational and experimental studies of vibration phenomena and their control. The scope encompasses all linear and nonlinear vibration phenomena and covers topics such as: vibration and control of structures and machinery, signal analysis, aeroelasticity, neural networks, structural control and acoustics, noise and noise control, waves in solids and fluids and shock waves.

JVC is part of the SAGE group of academic publications. Here’s how it describes its peer review process:

[The journal] operates under a conventional single-blind reviewing policy in which the reviewer’s name is always concealed from the submitting author.

All manuscripts are reviewed initially by one of the Editors and only those papers that meet the scientific and editorial standards of the journal, and fit within the aims and scope of the journal, will be sent for peer review.  Generally, reviews from two independent referees are required.

An announcement from SAGE published July 8 explained what happened, albeit somewhat opaquely.

In 2013, the editor of JVC, Ali H. Nayfeh, became aware of people using “fabricated identities” to manipulate an online system called SAGE Track by which scholars review the work of other scholars prior to publication.

Attention focused on a researcher named Peter Chen of the National Pingtung University of Education (NPUE) in Taiwan and “possibly other authors at this institution.”

After a 14-month investigation, JVC determined the ring involved “aliases” and fake e-mail addresses of reviewers — up to 130 of them — in an apparently successful effort to get friendly reviews of submissions and as many articles published as possible by Chen and his friends. “On at least one occasion, the author Peter Chen reviewed his own paper under one of the aliases he created,” according to the SAGE announcement.

The statement does not explain how something like this happens. Did the ring invent names and say they were scholars? Did they use real names and pretend to be other scholars? Doesn’t anyone check on these things by, say, picking up the phone and calling the reviewer?

In any case, SAGE and Nayfeh confronted Chen to give him an “opportunity to address the accusations of misconduct,” the statement said, but were not satisfied with his responses.

In May, “NPUE informed SAGE and JVC that Peter Chen had resigned from his post on 2 February 2014.”

Each of the 60 retracted articles had at least one author and/or one reviewer “who has been implicated in the peer review” ring, said a separate notice issued by JVC.

Efforts by The Washington Post to locate and contact Chen for comment were unsuccessful.

The whole story is described in a publication called “Retraction Watch” under the headline: “SAGE Publications busts ‘peer review and citation ring.’”

“This one,” it said, “deserves a ‘wow.’”

Update: Some additional information from the SAGE statement: “As the SAGE investigation drew to a close, in May 2014 Professor Nayfeh’s retirement was announced and he resigned his position as Editor-in-Chief of JVC….

Three senior editors and an additional 27 associate editors with expertise and prestige in the field have been appointed to assist with the day-to-day running of the JVC peer review process. Following Professor Nayfeh’s retirement announcement, the external senior editorial team will be responsible for independent editorial control for JVC.”


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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