Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Arctic cooling coming

No area of the earth gives Warmists erections like the Arctic. They are always talking about it. For reasons that I have never tried to follow, they say that the effects of global warming will be greatest and most significant there. And since the ice-cover there has always waxed and waned, they can always cherry-pick a particular period of years that suits their theories.

Every now and again, however, somebody nastily looks at the whole temperature record, not just a selected slice of it. And the latest example of that is woeful news for the Warmists. Some Norwegian scientists have gone to the town of Longyearbyen in Norway's far North (bordering the Arctic circle) and checked out the temperature record there -- dating from 1912.

They found two things: That the temperature changes there are cyclic and the cycles are mainly explained by the activity of the sun. That enables them to predict Arctic COOLING from now to the year 2020. Abstract below

The long temperature series at Svalbard (Longyearbyen) show large variations, and a positive trend since its start in 1912. During this period solar activity has increased, as indicated by shorter solar cycles. The temperature at Svalbard is negatively correlated with the length of the solar cycle. The strongest negative correlation is found with lags 10F12 years.

The relations between the length of a solar cycle and the mean temperature in the following cycle, is used to model Svalbard annual mean temperature, and seasonal temperature variations. Residuals from the annual and winter models show no autocorrelations on the 5 per cent level, which indicates that no additional parameters are needed to explain the temperature variations with 95 per cent significance.

These models show that 60 per cent of the annual and winter temperature variations are explained by solar activity. For the spring, summer and fall temperatures autocorrelations in the residuals exists, and additional variables may contribute to the variations. These models can be applied as forecasting models. We predict an annual mean temperature decrease for Svalbard of 3.5±2 degrees Celsius from solar cycle 23 to solar cycle 24 (2009-20) and a decrease in the winter temperature of around 6 degrees Celsius.


America’s energy pipeline dreams

The Keystone XL ruckus shone a light on pipelines like never before. From the heated nature of the debate one could be forgiven for thinking that long, high-volume pipelines are something new to America. Really, that couldn't be further from the truth: The United States built its first pipeline in the 1840s, and there are now more than a million kilometers of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the country.

When it comes to moving oil and gas across land, pipelines are far and away the best choice. They are the safest transportation mechanism for the people who work in the industry and for the environment, and they are the most efficient, meaning they burn less energy to move all that fuel than the other options. And really, there are not many other options. In a few places oil is moved by rail, but rail is slower and less energy efficient, and trucks are too small. Pipelines are it, and have been since that first pipeline moved gas from Pennsylvania to New York City to light street lamps. Every hour the world consumes a million tonnes of oil and a quarter of a trillion cubic meters of gas – and almost all of it moves, at one point or another, through a pipeline.

The pipelines in North America are among the safest in the world. According to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the average annual loss of liquid fuels from its pipelines is two liters for every million liters moved. In other words, Canadian pipeline companies have earned themselves a safety record of 99.99%. American operators are similarly laudable. The American Petroleum Institute tracks pipeline performance; the charts below show that not only are things pretty darn good, they also continue to improve.

Accidents do happen. The primary cause is corrosion in old pipes. But think about that for a second: The fact that old pipelines can become corroded and develop leaks is not an argument against pipelines – it's an argument for new pipelines. The charts above show just how much the pipeline industry has improved its spill record in just nine years. In that context, consider this: 41% of the pipelines in North America were built in the 1950s and 1960s, while another 15% are even older than that. Not surprisingly, technology has advanced leagues since then, and unfortunately many of those old pipelines were build using protective coatings that we now know break down over time.

So old pipelines need to be replaced with newer, safer ones, but that is only one side of the story. The other side is that North American oil and gas production is on the brink of a major upswing, and we need to add significantly to our pipeline network in order to move these huge new volumes of oil and gas from the field to the market.

Most energy-market watchers are aware of the natural gas boom, borne out of trillions of cubic feet of gas discovered in the continent's shale deposits. Production has already risen, but the best is yet to come. In the coming decades shale gas will come to account for some 40% of America's gas production and will be the reason the country's gas output is expected to climb come 30% instead of declining. These trends are illustrated nicely in the chart below, which we borrowed from the US Energy Information Administration.

It ain't just gas that's booming. Oil production in North America is also rising, and if any small portion of the continent's shale oil deposits can be put into production economically, then output will shoot skywards. Right now America's total proven onshore oil reserves stand at roughly 15 million barrels. The oil that geologists believe lies within America's shale deposits dwarfs that number: estimates for the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Marcellus shales average 20 billion barrels each. Now, these barrels are not "proven," which describes reserves expected to be economic. But the oil is there and, as Canada's oil sands have so clearly shown, uneconomic deposits turn into black gold when the price of crude rises. Those oil sands are the other reason North America's oil output is climbing: The oil sands are already pumping out 1.5 million barrels of crude oil per day (bpd), with production expected to double by 2020 and then rise to 3.7 million bpd by 2025.

All of this domestic oil and gas is a blessing. People may not love the idea of oil and gas wells in their beloved homeland, but the only other choice is to continue buying oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Iraq, Angola, Colombia, and Algeria. The list speaks for itself – all are countries with US relations ranging from delicate to downright difficult and unstable.

Finally, whether or not one wants to believe that we need all this oil, the fact is that we do. North America is addicted to fossil fuels. That addiction needs to be treated, but the transition will take a long time, especially because none of the alternative energies developed to date stand the test of economics. Until those options improve and then expand, even environmentalists will need to heat their homes, buy food and goods transported on trucks and rail, use cars, buses, and planes to get around, and plug in their electronics.

And don't forget that oil is not just used to make fuel – oil is also a major ingredient in plastics, rubbers, fertilizers, paints, dyes, detergents, synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon, and makeup. We really do operate in a world that turns on oil and gas.

More HERE (See the original for graphics)

Green Prophets Miss it Again!

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

On May 21st of this year, thousands of expectant followers of cult leader Harold Camping eagerly awaited the end of the world. Some gave away all their possessions and quit their jobs, only to be bitterly disappointed when their prophet’s dire prediction proved to be wrong. While a number of these people undoubtedly learned a tough lesson, you and I both know that many will prepare in similar fashion for the next Armageddon date that sounds convincing. They believe because they want to.

It is a tragedy when people become so blinded by ideology that they waste their life savings or lose their jobs. When the blinded individuals hold power over federal spending, however, they waste other people’s money and lose other people’s jobs. Solyndra—the solar panel manufacturing company which became the graveyard for hundreds of millions of federal dollars—is just one of many such disasters.

Throughout the 2008 campaign and the early days of his presidency, the Obama administration prophesied about the coming “green” economy. They assured their followers that this administration would create no fewer than 5 million green jobs. These would be jobs working for companies that produced environmentally-friendly solar panels, wind generators, geothermal energy units and so on. We were told this was the future of economic growth for America.

To his credit, President Obama followed through immediately on his promise by setting his Department of Energy to work. They gave out millions of dollars to companies that produced such green products. Were these grants and loan guarantees based on sound research into the fiscal sustainability of such endeavors, or were they grounded in blind faith in the coming green economy? Time would certainly tell.

Solyndra was the poster child for this kind of company and these kinds of jobs. Throughout the first half of 2010, both President Obama and Vice President Biden publicly praised Solyndra as the type of company that was the future of American exports. The 1,100 people they employed were just “the first of those five million green jobs that were well on their way.” This was the key, they insisted, to revitalizing the struggling American economy.

I first wrote about the Solyndra debacle in a September 11th column, shortly after the company filed for bankruptcy on September 1, 2011. Despite over half a billion federal dollars, the company failed. Since that writing, leaked emails make it clear that Solyndra’s failure was anything but a surprise. The White House pressured the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve the loan guarantees in August of 2009, despite warnings that they had not had sufficient time to review the company’s risk to taxpayers. In the final days before its bankruptcy announcement, the White House considered another bailout to keep the company afloat, according to Politico. The White House believed Solyndra would be profitable because it wanted to believe.

Just as followers of Harold Camping threw away jobs and money for false promises, ideologically-blinded. policy makers are throwing away taxpayer money for the false promise of green jobs. To add insult to injury, the Labor Department announced on November 21st taxpayers would have to give another 14.3 million dollars to Solyndra (since its file for bankruptcy) to help its 1,100 employees with income assistance and job-retraining. I wonder if they will be retrained for one of those five million green jobs we were promised?

Solyndra’s failure is not unique. Just two months after its failure, Beacon, a Massachusetts based energy storage company (which received 43 million dollars in federal loan guarantees), also filed for bankruptcy. Ener1 which received a Department of Energy grant for 118.5 million dollars was also showing signs of trouble this month; Politico reported that it failed to file its quarterly report on time.

Green energy initiatives have proven unsustainable more often than not. This doesn’t mean that we should not keep trying. To the contrary, innovation—whether it is carbon capture and storage for existing plants, clean natural gas or any number of environmentally friendly methods of extracting affordable energy—hold the key to much of our nation’s future. What Solyndra’s failure reminds us is that when the government bets on the wrong company or the wrong technology, not only do the taxpayers foot the bill, but the very innovation we are hoping for is stifled and discouraged.

Economist and political scientist Joseph A. Schumpter once observed, “The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.” It seems to me that well meaning, but deceived people, lied to get Solyndra money in the first place. Then they misrepresented its failure, believing things would turn around. The Washington Post reported that the White House pressured Solyndra back in 2010 to postpone announcing its layoffs until after the 2010 elections.

As a man of faith, I understand how difficult it is took look at trends that contradict your belief system. But politicians must report real results to the public. To do anything less does not serve their constituencies. Ideology of any variety can indeed blind people to truth; and it can tempt anyone to misrepresent the truth.

In these tumultuous times, we cannot tolerate public servants whose consciences are seared. Neither can we tolerate those who take a Machiavellian approach - thinking they must use any means necessary to spare the public from “its own ignorance.” When blinded individuals control taxpayer money, their deception harms the entire nation. Both the administration and the nation deserve the truth - not false prophecies.


California Dreams and Low Carbon Fuels

Last month the Obama Administration announced it would delay a decision on whether to permit the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline – a 1,700 mile long proposed pipeline that will connect the Alberta oil sands and Bakken crude oil reserves to Gulf Coast refineries – until after the 2012 election. The decision was no doubt influenced by the boisterous protests led by environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Tar Sands Action among others.

What casual observers of the Keystone XL debate don’t realize is that opposition to the pipeline is only one front in a broader anti-oil sands campaign. At the heart of the oil sands opponents’ position is their contention that the carbon content of the oil sands is higher than other crude oils. The NRDC refers to the Alberta oil sands as “dirtier and more corrosive” than other oil supplies. Tar Sands Action referred to Keystone XL as “the fuse to North America’s biggest carbon bomb.” Indeed, these advocates have routinely circulated the alarmist claim that development of the oil sands means “game over” for the climate.

Another major front in the anti-oil sands campaign is an effort to implement Low Carbon Fuel Standards (LCFS). An LCFS is, in a nutshell, a cap-and-trade program for transportation fuels that forces consumers to ditch affordable fuels like gasoline and diesel and replace them with alternative and renewable fuels and technologies that are not fully developed yet, like electric cars and cellulosic biofuels. Ironically, the NRDC even admits that the advanced biofuels necessary to achieve the mandate “have yet to be produced on a large scale.”

Fortunately, the American public has not embraced the LCFS concept. According to polls by CNN and Rasmussen, 51% of Americans oppose carbon credit trading and energy mandates called for under LCFS. Even larger majorities of Americans oppose paying more in taxes and higher energy costs to artificially prop-up renewable energy. This explains why Congress failed to enact an LCFS mandate even when the Democrats had massive majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Realizing that they’re arguing against public opinion, environmental groups have shifted their strategy to the state level. As a result of intense lobbying by environmental activists, California – which has proven itself more than willing to sacrifice its economy in the pursuit of ideological goals – has adopted an LCFS that calls for a ten percent carbon intensity reduction in the state’s transportation fuel pool over 10 years.

Anti-oil sands activists hope that California’s LCFS will serve as a model for a national LCFS. However, a recent study by Charles River Associates finds that such a mandate would increase the costs transportation fuels by up to 170 percent over ten years, reduce household purchasing power by between $1,400 and $2,400 annually and kill up to 4.5 million jobs nationwide.

Environmental activist claims that enacting low carbon fuel standards or killing the Keystone XL pipeline will reduce demand for oil in the United States also fly in the face of government projections that we will continue to rely on gasoline, diesel and jet fuel for decades.

Similarly, claiming that blocking imports of oil sands to the U.S. will stop the Canadians from developing them ignores the fact that Asian markets will gladly take the oil. In fact blocking imports of oil sands into the U.S. – either by killing the Keystone XL pipeline or enacting low carbon fuel standards – would actually result in higher carbon emissions due to what’s known as “crude shuffling.” Instead of obtaining crude oil from a geographic neighbor through a pipeline – the safest and most efficient form of transport – America would instead import more oil via ocean tankers from places like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela (countries also not exactly known for ‘green’ policies). Meanwhile, the Canadian crude originally destined for the United States would go to Asia on bunker fuel-burning tankers. According to a 2010 study by Barr Engineering, this crude shuffle could result in a nearly three-fold increase in global GHG emissions from crude oil transport.

Blocking imports of Canadian oil into the United States is a terrible policy goal. In addition to increasing carbon emissions, it would drive up transportation and home heating prices, kill jobs and reduce household spending power.

Our economy is already a disaster. Do we really want to make it worse by following California off an anti-oil sands cliff?


Obama's Electric Car Aid Goes Bust

No one, no matter how bright, can possibly know what is in the best interest of everybody

If Tolkien was right that the burned hand teaches best, then a question arises: Will President Obama ever learn?

In a recent appearance on 60 Minutes, Obama traded in his old analogy about the car in the ditch for a new one, about a ship in rough seas. No matter how well the captain—Obama—steers it, if the ship is being tossed about with violent abandon, then the passengers will not enjoy the ride.

The implication is that Obama is doing a fine job, so don’t blame him. The president is right, in part: The voters should not blame him. But he is wrong about why. It’s not because the president is a great economic helmsman. He is an awful one. Consider his performance in just one sector: energy. The Obama administration has shoveled boxcars full of money to “green” energy, with demonstrably deplorable results.

Those results go well beyond Solyndra. Take the administration’s policy of pushing electric cars, in which it has invested billions of taxpayer dollars. As The Washington Post reported recently, “analysts say the risk is rising that taxpayers in many cases will not see a return on their money soon, if ever. Instead, they warn that some federally subsidized companies could be forced to shut down in coming months.” A123 Systems, a battery maker the administration supported to the tune of nearly $400 million, recently announced layoffs “instead of up to 3,000 new Michigan jobs as Obama and the company had predicted,” the story reported.

Despite a $7,500 tax credit for each vehicle sold, in October GM unloaded about 1,000 Chevy Volts out of 187,000 total cars sold that month. Even if the administration’s rosy prediction of 1 million electric vehicles by 2015 proves correct, that is a drop in the bucket in a nation with 250 million cars, so the effect on greenhouse-gas emissions—the ostensible justification for all this intervention—would be negligible.

What’s more, electric cars get their juice largely from coal-fired power plants, making claims about emissions highly dubious. Battery disposal is a huge environmental problem. Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are dangerous and expensive to work on. (Ask your local mechanic for an education on that score.) And they are hugely impractical. The Volt, a four-door compact, averages 30-40 miles on battery power alone. Then it needs to recharge for 10 hours.

Clara Ford, Henry Ford’s wife, owned an electric car. There’s a reason the idea has been collecting dust for the past century. Electric cars one day may take their place alongside the Internet as one of the great life-changing innovations of our time. But right now it looks as though they will join what Jimmy Carter called the “keystone” of his energy policy, the Synthetic Fuels Corporation, in the rogues’ gallery of gawdawful government flops.

In short, then, the president is using political power to reallocate economic resources to make people adopt an inferior technology that nobody wants. So much for his stellar performance as captain of the economy.

But Obama is less concerned with what the public wants than what he thinks is best for it. This is modern liberalism’s chief project: empowering a cognitive elite to correct what it sees as the poor choices of the stupid, venal masses. (Energy Secretary Steven Chu neatly summarized this approach when he argued for new lightbulb standards by saying, “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.”) And the president is more cognitively elite than most. Or at least he thinks he is, referring sometimes to “teachable moments," i.e., occasions for people to be given the gift of his enlightenment.

As California Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a Democrat, wrote recently in The Hill, “President Obama has behaved more like Professor Obama,” constantly lecturing others about their shortcomings and trying to impose his will on them. “In the president’s first year in office, his administration suffered from what I call ‘idea disease.’ Every week, and sometimes almost every day, the administration rolled out a new program for the country.” You don’t get to the Oval Office through a surplus of humility. Still, it takes a remarkable amount of hubris to come up with so many great new ideas about how other people ought to live their lives.

No one, no matter how bright, can possibly know what is in the best interest of everybody. Nor can any government, no matter how large, possibly manage the monumental complexity of the modern economy, or even one sector of it. Much of the current economic mess is indeed beyond Obama’s control. The trouble is, he doesn’t think so. And the harder Washington tries to run everything, the more likely it will bollix everything up. The pages of history are littered with case studies, which now include Solyndra and (probably) electric cars.

Perhaps one day Obama will look back on them as teachable moments, too.


Global warming would REDUCE malaria

In their usual simple-minded way, the Warmists say the opposite, of course

A common assumption is that rising global temperatures will increase the spread of malaria — the deadly mosquito-borne disease that affects millions of people worldwide. But a study out today in Biology Letters finds that warmer temperatures seem to slow transmission of malaria-causing parasites, by reducing their infectiousness1.

The study was done with rodent malaria, but the researchers, at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, expect the pattern to apply to human malaria and possibly to other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and West Nile virus.

Studies predicting that warmer climates will increase malaria infections commonly assume that the disease-causing parasites will develop faster and that the ability of the mosquito to acquire, maintain and transmit the pathogen will remain constant. They conclude that as temperature rises, mosquitoes become infectious quicker and therefore malaria transmission increases.

But the latest study shows that temperature has a more complex effect. As temperature rises, parasites do develop faster, but fewer of them become infectious.

“It is a trade-off between parasite development and parasite survival,” says Krijn Paaijmans, an entomologist and study author. “And if you don't factor this in I think you come to the wrong conclusions.”

To tease out the factors involved, Paaijmans and his colleagues incubated mosquitoes infected with Plasmodium yoelii, which causes rodent malaria, at 20, 22, 24 and 26 degrees Celsius for 5–14 days. The researchers then examined the salivary glands of the mosquitoes — where the parasite travels when it is mature — and found that the parasite developed more quickly in warmer temperatures. But they also found fewer sporozoites — the infectious form of the parasite — indicating that the mosquitoes were less infectious at higher temperatures.

Although parasite development peaked at 26 ºC, malaria risk was higher at 24 ºC, because parasite survival rates peaked at a lower temperature of 22 ºC. “We see better potential transmission at these lower temperatures,” says Paaijmans, although he adds that the effect of temperature on other factors, such as mosquito biting rate, still needs to be explored.

Paaijmans says that there are several possible explanations for why parasite survival falls as temperature increases: the parasite may not be able to cope with the higher temperatures, or mosquito immune systems may work better at warmer temperatures.

Sarah Reece, a malaria researcher at Edinburgh University, UK, who reviewed the study but was not involved in the work, says that although interest in the effects of climate change on the transmission of malaria is increasing, details about the interactions between parasites and mosquitoes are often overlooked. “[This study] demonstrates the importance of paying attention to parasite ecology,” she says.

Simon Hay, an expert in malarial epidemiology at the University of Oxford, UK, who in 2010 reported a scant correlation between malaria and global warming, says that the study could have wide significance, if the results can be extended to human malaria. Rising temperatures “may well contribute to the host of other changes that have occurred during the last 100 years that have caused malaria to contract in extent and intensity globally,” he says.

The researchers plan to repeat the experiments with human malaria, a more challenging prospect. But Reece thinks that it should also be done outside the lab with wild mosquitoes. “The [reduced transmission] effects might be even stronger if mosquitoes in the wild are in poorer condition than in the lab,” she says.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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