Tuesday, December 06, 2016

New Antarctic panic is just the usual dishonest rubbish

At the risk of extreme tautology, the Larsen C Ice Shelf is a SHELF -- a long, narrow, frosty rim floating on the water alongside the coast of Antarctica.  And as Archimedes discovered over 2,000 years ago, the melting of floating ice does NOT raise the water level.  So the "rising sea level" threat can be put to bed conclusively.

But what about global warming?  It does get one brief mention below.  Since the Antarctic ice as a whole is growing, that is an impossible explanation.

The cause of the melting will undoubtedly be subsurface vulcanism.  The Larsen C Ice Shelf is on the Antarctic peninsula and the Western Antarctic as a whole is known for subsurface vulcanism.

And the Larsen C Ice Shelf in particular is in fact known to have cold seeps underneath it, which are a sort of cool volcano.  Whether they are warm enough to explain the recent melting is not clear but in the circumstances there is a good chance that there are hotter areas nearby

An enormous rift has opened up in a section of the Antarctic ice shelf spanning 300 feet. The Larsen C Ice Shelf is gradually breaking up and will eventually produce an iceberg the size of Delaware before it disintegrates entirely.

A team of researchers flew over the gigantic crack in the ice and calculated it to be about 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep.

'The crack completely cuts through the Ice Shelf but it does not go all the way across it – once it does, it will produce an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware,' NASA said in a press release.

The collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula in 2002 saw a 1,235 square miles (3,200 square km) section of ice break apart into thousands of icebergs in just 35 days.

Larsen B was thought to have been stable for up to 12,000 years, according to studies on the collapse, but had become a hotspot of global warming.

Previous studies had suggested that the ice shelf began melting only a few years before it disintegrated in 2002.

Rising summertime temperatures are thought to have increased the water flow into cracks which then acted like wedges to lever the ice shelf apart.

It sparked widespread concern about the impact that climate change is having on the ice sheet balance in Antarctica, although a recent study showed ice mass on the continent has actually increased.

Antarctica is gaining more ice than it loses, research by Nasa last year found. It said Antarctica's ice sheet is thickening enough to outweigh increased losses caused by melting glaciers.

The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report which says that Antarctica is losing land ice overall. But it also warns that losses could offset the gains in years to come.

The increase in Antarctic snow began 10,000 years ago and continues in East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica by an average of 0.7 inches (1.7cm) per year, according to the space agency.

Researchers analysed satellite data to demonstrate the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001.

That net gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008.

The collapse of the Larsen Ice shelf in 2002, which is one of the biggest on record, is thought to have triggered further acceleration and thinning of the glaciers behind it.

There are now growing fears over the remaining section of the Larsen B ice shelf - which is around 625 square miles, and the large Larsen C ice shelf further to the south.

A recent study revealed that on the opposite side of the Antarctic Peninsula, more than 386 square miles of ice – an area the size of Berlin – has been lost in the past 40 years.

But elsewhere in the Antarctic, the ice sheet has been growing. Satellite data showed that the continent's vast ice sheet has showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice each year between 1992 and 2001.

However, between 2003 and 2008, that has slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year.


One subsidy breeds another

Having distorted the market by big subsidies for "renewables", generating power from gas is no longer economic in Britain.  But Britain needs gas for baseload power.  So now they have to subsidize gas too -- or risk blackouts in the near future.  So huge amounts of money are being wasted for no advantage

As a result of Britain’s energy policies, building new gas-fired power plants is no longer economic. Now, the Government has to subsidise gas investors to keep the lights on.

Four years ago this week, the Government unveiled plans for a bold new dash for gas. New gas-fired power stations, then-energy secretary Ed Davey said, would be required to “provide crucial capacity to keep the lights on”.

A new Gas Generation Strategy backed “significant investment” in up to 26 gigawatts (GW) of new plants by 2030. Since then, energy ministers have come and gone, support for solar and onshore wind has been scrapped and the drive for new nuclear has faced security and cost worries.

But support for gas had been unwavering. Relatively cheap and quick to build, much cleaner than coal, and able to generate even when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, gas plants tick all the Government’s boxes. “In the next 10 years, it’s imperative that we get new gas-fired power stations built,” Amber Rudd, Davey’s successor, declared last year.

There’s just one problem: pretty much no one’s building them. Only one new station, at Carrington in Manchester, has been completed since 2013 as investment has dried up. This week, though, that could be about to change. A subsidy scheme designed to keep the lights on could, analysts believe, secure construction of several big new gas plants.

Few could dispute that the UK needs new power plants. “An awful lot of capacity has either closed or is closing,” explains Richard Howard, of Policy Exchange. The think-tank calculates that some 23GW of conventional thermal power plant capacity has been closed or mothballed since 2010. “That’s more than a third of peak demand,” says Howard. “And a further 24GW of coal and nuclear is expected to close between now and 2025. We need to build some new capacity – otherwise the lights will go out.”

The problem is, the UK electricity market has changed so much – due in large part to the growth of subsidised renewables – investors say they can no longer justify building new plants based solely on their likely returns from selling power in the market. “Essentially no new capacity is being built without some form of government-backed contract,” Howard says.


Mass: West Roxbury pipeline to open, despite protests

A Houston energy company plans to start transmitting gas through a pipeline in densely populated West Roxbury on Thursday, despite two years of protests by neighbors and the continued objections of city officials concerned about public safety.

The news outraged neighbors who fear the pipeline could explode because it travels near an open quarry where dynamite is regularly detonated.

“If that thing is going to blow – and we believe it will blow at a certain point — we’re done,” said Nancy Wilson, who lives about three blocks from the pipeline and has been arrested twice while protesting its construction. “We just assume we will be incinerated because of this.”

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and other city officials sent letters Monday to federal energy regulators and to the Houston company that owns the pipeline accusing the firm of breaking its promise to share critical safety plans with the Boston police and fire departments.

The commissioners of those departments say that Houston-based Spectra Energy Corp. told them they could see the security plan for a crucial gas transfer station outside the quarry’s entrance on Grove Street as well as a “heat map” that indicates which neighbors would need to be evacuated in the event of a leak. But Spectra representatives have not shared that information with the city, the commissioners contend.

“Without this vital information, Boston police and fire will be unable to assess additional security that may be needed and unable to effectively respond in the case of an emergency,” Police Commissioner William B. Evans and Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn wrote to Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC, a Spectra subsidiary.

Spectra released a statement on Wednesday that noted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week approved the start of gas service in the pipeline and said that transmission is “ready to begin” on Thursday. The five-mile pipeline is part of a larger, $1 billion-project designed to increase the supply of natural gas to New England.

“The West Roxbury Lateral will provide National Grid with additional supplies of clean burning, affordable natural gas for homes, hospitals, businesses, and schools in the city of Boston,” the statement said. “The Algonquin system has operated safely in the region for more than 60 years. The . . . project facilities are designed, constructed, operated, and maintained to meet or exceed federal safety standards and regulations.”

The company said it was reviewing Monday’s letter from Evans and Finn and would respond. Evans said earlier this week during an interview on WGBH radio that city lawyers are considering what other steps they might be able to take to stop the opening of the pipeline.

Walsh already filed a federal lawsuit earlier this year challenging the federal commission’s approval of the project. Oral arguments have not been scheduled in the case.

Walsh said in an interview Wednesday that, unless the court intervenes, there is “virtually zero ability by the city or the state to be able to halt this type of pipeline after it gets approved by the federal government.”

He said, however, he is still hopeful that the pipeline can be relocated.

“If you’re looking for a place in any part of the city of Boston to locate this, the last place I would probably put this is next to a quarry,” Walsh said.

US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, another pipeline opponent, wrote to the commission twice this month, saying that it was reckless for the agency to allow the project to proceed and that it puts countless lives at risk.

He pointed to several recent pipeline disasters, including a Nov. 16 explosion in Canton, Ill., that killed one person and injured 12.

In addition to raising safety concerns, many neighbors also argue the project will delay the region’s long-overdue transition to renewable energy sources.

Neighbors have held frequent demonstrations at the site and tried to block construction of the project over the summer. Twenty-three people, including Al Gore’s daughter, Karenna, were arrested during one demonstration in June.


Vilifying David Rose: Attacking The Messenger Over Sharp Drop In Land Temps

In the Mail on Sunday last week, David Rose penned an article pointing out the very sharp decline in RSS land only data to October 2016, indicating that ocean surface temperatures might also cool significantly soon and that perhaps scientists and the media over-played the role of man-made global warming in the spike in global temperatures in early 2016 which were precipitated by the natural warming event of El Nino 2015/16. Predictably, he has been vilified for doing so, called a denier, accused of cherry-picking the data to suit his ‘denialist’ agenda etc. etc.

All pretty familiar stuff now to those used to observing the spectacle which is warmist kick-back against any who dare to question any aspect of ‘The Science’.

James Delingpole then joined the fray and published at Breitbart, referencing Rose’s article, pointing out the “icy silence” from climate alarmists following the large drop in land temperatures (as measured by RSS satellite but also, as it happens, by GISS and UAH). Warmist fury peaked El Nino-like when the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology had the audacity to tweet a link to Delingpole the Denier’s Breitbart article. Cue rants from the Keepers of the True Science of Climate Change and numerous other lesser warmist offendotron minions.

The main objection to Rose’s article is that he ‘cherry-picked’ land only data from the RSS lower troposphere dataset and ignored the oceans (he did not) and that (bizarrely) he cherry-picked two data points and ignored the longer record. The whole point of Rose’s article is that this is exactly what the media and scientactivists were doing when they hyped the El Nino to promote the anthropogenic global warming message! And they did. There is no doubt about that (as we shall see).

Firstly, let’s examine whether Rose’s ‘cherrypick’ of the RSS land only data was indeed a cherrypick. As you can see, UAH shows a very similar drop:

The GISS land only dataset shows a similar large decline:

So obviously, it was not simply Rose cherry-picking the data because the evidence is there : over land, temperatures dropped precipitously from Feb to Oct 2016. As Rose points out, the ocean data has been slower to respond, but it’s reasonable to speculate that, in 2017, the oceans might continue to cool (as they are now, and especially if a strong La Nina kicks in), whereupon the Pause in global warming might re-establish itself in which case the El Nino of 2015/16 will come to be seen as a short term weather event only, contrary to the hype we saw from scientists and the media at its peak. Of course, there is the possibility global temperatures might remain at a new higher level in which case we can say that El Nino has contributed to the long term global warming trend (as in 1998). The fact remains, however, most of the short term increase in temperature that we saw over 2014/15/16 can be attributed to the building super El Nino, not GHG global warming. This was not what scientists and the media were saying when El Nino peaked:

Adam Scaife (Met Office): "The vast majority of the warming is global warming, but the icing on the cake is the big El Niño event” ... We think El Niño made only a small contribution (a few hundredths of a degree) to the record global temperatures in 2015.... The forecast for next year is about 0.8C above the 1961-1990 baseline. About 0.2 of that is likely to come from El Niño, hence the 25%"

Peter Stott (Met Office): "El Nino will have contributed a “small amount on top” to the global warming of 2015/16.

When the peak did happen, Gavin was like, ‘Wow’ and this was ‘special’:

The Guardian, supported by comments from a number of scientists, concluded that the global warming occurring at the time was “shocking” and that it constituted a “climate emergency”.


Drain the Swamp: Sunset the Renewable Fuel Standard

Just before the Thanksgiving weekend I spoke to a trade association about the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS)—why the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) wants to abolish it, and how reform-minded groups might constructively engage the incoming Trump administration given the President-elect’s well-known support for the RFS. Below is an edited version of my remarks.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, as our name suggests, believes that refereed competition—competition under rules of fair play—advances the public interest. Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek called competition a “discovery procedure.” Competition reveals “which goods are scarce,” “how scarce or valuable they are,” and even “which things are goods.” When government grants special privileges to some industries or firms at the expense of others, consumers pay more for inferior products and services, policymakers become captive to special interests, and the favored industry becomes dependent on corporate welfare. Not good!

CEI therefore opposes any government policy that aims to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. So naturally, we oppose the RFS and advocate its repeal.


How does the RFS limit competition? At a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing in June, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois asked Janet McCabe, the Environmental Protection Agency official who administers the RFS, why EPA proposed 2 billion gallons as the biodiesel target for 2017 when the biodiesel industry says it can produce much more.

McCabe explained (hearing transcript, p. 71) that biodiesel is one of several fuels that qualify as an “advanced biofuel” in the RFS program. So a question EPA wrestles with is “how much of that advanced category should biodiesel basically get a guarantee on?” She continued: “. . . we believe that it is important to have competition and choice and opportunity for a variety of fuels to compete.” She noted the target is not a cap on how much biodiesel producers can offer for sale. Rather, it is a cap on how much refiners are obligated to buy and blend. Capping that obligation, she said, “leaves room” for other fuels to compete.

Think about what her explanation implies. If the quota for biodiesel leaves less room for other fuels to compete within the advanced biofuel category, then the RFS as a whole leaves less room for choice and competition in the total motor fuel market. Every gallon of renewable fuel which the RFS guarantees for sale restricts overall market competition and choice by the same amount.

Consider the statutory goal of the RFS—squeeze 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel into the marketplace by 2022, with up to 35 billion gallons blended with gasoline for passenger vehicles. That target won’t be met and becomes increasingly unrealistic each year. But imagine it could and will be done. Thirty-five billion gallons is more than one-quarter of the projected size of the total gasoline market in 2022 (see Figure 1 of this testimony). The ultimate aim of the RFS is to deny fossil fuels the opportunity to compete for one out every four gallons of motor fuel households buy.

Ask yourself: Would your company thrive or even survive if Congress required you to cede one quarter of the market to your competitors? What would you think of a World Series in which one team automatically wins one of the first four games? Or a Super Bowl in which only one team is allowed to go on offense in the first quarter?

This year, EPA proposes to lower the statutory RFS goals in light of the blend wall, a set of market constraints that effectively limits the quantity of ethanol sold to less than 10 percent of the gasoline market. EPA does want to force the market beyond the blend wall, but not as much as the corn ethanol lobby demands. A group of senators led by Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) claim the EPA may not consider the blend wall when determining refiners’ annual requirements, known as Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs). Specifically, they contend that “lack of distribution infrastructure was explicitly rejected by Congress as a reason to grant a waiver [from statutory goals] in 2005.”

The Senators don’t provide a source for their statutory interpretation. Yet even if correct, their claim is irrelevant. The blend wall had no bearing on the RFS as created in 2005. The original RFS annual blending targets maxed out at 7.5 billion gallons in 2012. That is only about half the quantity of ethanol U.S. markets can absorb as E10—gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol. Under the 2005 RFS, there was simply no prospect of biofuel production running up against the E10 blend wall.

Biofuel lobbyists often claim refiners have “obligations” to finance the blender pumps and storage tanks that supposedly would enable them to meet the RFS program’s statutory targets. But where in either the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which the created the RFS, or the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which expanded the program, is such an obligation discussed or mentioned?

Biofuel interests have never cited any such provision because it does not exist. Apparently, they want us to believe that if Congress willed the end, it must have willed the means. But sausage-making—writing and passing laws—is not an exercise in abstract logic. Laws embody tradeoffs and compromises and rarely give the affected interests everything they want. Congress considered several bills with provisions requiring refiners to install E85 infrastructure at their affiliated stations. None of those provisions actually made it into the law.

The proximate cause of the blend wall is the incompatibility of high ethanol blends with most retail fuel infrastructure and vehicles on the road. The vast majority of service stations are small businesses with thin profit margins. Installing an E15 or E85 dispenser with a dedicated storage tank can cost up to $200,000. Although EPA approved the use of E15 for 2001 and newer models, most owners’ manuals and warranties for vehicles manufactured before 2015 caution against using E15. Biofuel lobbyists yack a lot about those barriers and demand refiners “invest” in biofuel infrastructure to overcome them. However, they ignore the root cause of the blend wall: crummy fuel economy.

Although ethanol is cheaper by the gallon than gasoline, it has one third less energy. At today’s relative prices, the typical motorist, depending on the size of the vehicle, would have to spend $50-$300 more each year to fill up with E85 instead of regulatory gasoline. In recent years the annual price penalty has been as big as $1,450. If high-ethanol blends actually saved consumers money, they would demand it, and the ethanol industry itself would invest in the blender pumps and storage tanks required to serve that market. Why don’t they?

RFS defenders claim it’s because Big Oil uses its “market power” to prevent retail outlets from offering high-ethanol blends. Rubbish. More than 95 percent of gas stations are independent businesses, and more than 50 percent are unbranded single station operators. A franchise agreement may require the service station to offer premium, regular, and mid-grade gasoline, so if the station has only three pumps, none will be available to provide E15 or E85. But that is not an abuse of market power. It simply means that infrastructure is not free.

Think about it this way. When you take the kids to McDonald’s, you expect the local franchise to carry all the standard items on the McDonald’s menu. That’s the same kind of reliable, predictable service oil companies require their franchisees to offer customers. With this critical difference. McDonald’s does not allow franchisees to sell Burger King Whoppers even if they do so at their own expense. In contrast, branded service stations are free to offer products in addition to the standard fare if they want to and can raise the requisite capital. So far, however, the biofuel lobby has shown little interest in putting its own skin in the game.

How come? Maybe because they know that if ethanol were really the great bargain they claim it is, we would not need a law to make us buy it.

Legal Plunder

I jokingly call the RFS a Soviet-style production quota system. Jokingly, because Lenin and Stalin had the intellectual modesty to establish only five-year plans whereas the RFS, as expanded by Congress in 2007, is a 15-year plan. It sets annual biofuel targets for 2008 through 2022.

Like other central planning schemes, the RFS is fraught with unintended consequences. It incentivizes land conversions eradicating millions of acres of wildlife habitat. Compared to the gasoline it replaces, the RFS increases certain types of air and water pollution, raises food prices, and may actually increase net greenhouse gas emissions.

But even if the RFS worked exactly as advertised, Congress should still repeal it. The RFS literally compels one set of companies to purchase, process, and create a market for other companies’ products. It makes one business the involuntary servant of another. That is not the American way.

To see the anomaly, imagine the shoe were on the other foot. Suppose Congress proposed to enact WVOs (wheat volume obligations) requiring corn farmers to buy and sell annually increasing quantities of wheat. Or IVOs (input volume obligations) requiring corn farmers to purchase annually increasing quantities of specific seeds, fertilizers, and farm machinery—those deemed “sustainable” by the EPA. The howls from RFS supporters would be loud and furious. And justifiably so.

The implication is obvious. The RFS is a system of special privilege. It conflicts with the basic constitutional principle of equality under law.

Prospects for Reform

In the Texas GOP primary debate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) opined that Congress doesn’t have to repeal the RFS because “it is phasing out” and by 2022 “it will go away.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Although the statutory targets don’t increase after 2022, the RFS does not expire. Rather, Section 211(o)(2)(B)(ii) of the Clean Air Act directs EPA, in coordination with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, to establish RVOs for the motor fuel industry in “other calendar years”—in principle, until the end of time. The provision also limits EPA’s authority to reduce post-2022 RVOs for biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, and biomass-based diesel.

Terminating the RFS after 2022 will require congressional action and executive leadership.

Our various groups must keep making our separate yet complementary cases for repealing the RFS so there’s a fighting chance the program will sunset after 2022.

How should we engage the Trump administration on RFS reform? In 2007, Congress and President Bush touted the RFS as a policy to mitigate climate change, enhance U.S. energy security, and strengthen rural economies. I suspect only one of those three rationales resonates strongly with the President elect.

Trump doesn’t seem to worry much about climate change. Besides, many environmentalists now attack corn ethanol as more carbon-intensive than gasoline.

Trump cares about energy security but also likely understands that fracking, not the RFS, has made America great again as an energy producer.

So what Trump probably likes most about the RFS is the jobs and wealth it creates in rural America. We need to familiarize him with other side of the story—the costs and risks the RFS imposes on the livestock farmers and chain restaurants.

In general, we should connect the RFS to core Trump campaign themes. Explain why the RFS is a posterchild for bipartisan collusion to “rig” the marketplace on behalf of special interests. “Draining the swamp” includes abolishing the RFS.

Trump wants to downsize or even dismantle the EPA. Well, if the new administration and Congress don’t amend the Clean Air Act, EPA’s power to meddle in motor fuel markets and dispense corporate welfare will increase after 2022. RFS reform is critical to shrinking the EPA.



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.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  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 or here


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