Sunday, August 09, 2015

Irrigated Farming traps carbon

Will this make Greenies like irrigated farming and the associated dams?  Unlikely.  Their hatred of dams and farming is deeply irrational

Since the dawn of farming, humans have been accidentally creating a huge carbon sink that by now may store more carbon than all of the world’s living plants.

But this sink is in the last place that you’d expect to find huge amounts of carbon – under the desert.

That is the surprising conclusion of work done in one desert in China. If the findings are confirmed in other deserts around the world, it could present a way of taking carbon out of the atmosphere. But it also means we need to be careful not to disturb the huge carbon sinks stored under desert sands.

“Basically, people thought the whole arid region is totally negligible to the global carbon budget,” says Yan Li of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Urumqi, China. “We are arguing that that’s not the case.”

Li and colleagues took samples of water from the Tarim Basin, a salty aquifer under a desert in north-west China. They measured the carbon content of the water there and dated it.

They then repeated the process with water that flows into Tarim Basin from glaciers, and with water that is used to irrigate local farms, which comes from a nearby river. Using that information, they could draw a timeline showing how much carbon got into the basin and at what time.

Remarkably, over human history, the rate at which carbon was sunk into the groundwater rose dramatically, increasing by more than 12 times over the past 8000 years. The particularly high levels of carbon storage in this region began 2000 years ago when the Silk Road opened up, which resulted in increased levels of human activity and farming around the Tarim Basin.

Desert sands have been examined for carbon storage before, but that did not reveal this process because the carbon is not stored in the sand – it is transported down into the groundwater, Li says.

The process begins when humans start to grow crops in the sandy soil. As the plants suck carbon dioxide out of the air, some is released into the sand and more is added by microbes that break down nutrients in the soil.

Normally that CO2 would escape into the air, but in arid farming, a lot of water is used to combat rising salinity caused by evaporating water. The extra water dissolves the CO2 and deposits it in the aquifer below.

So long as the aquifer is a closed system – which it usually is – the CO2 will stay there.

The mechanism makes sense and has been rigorously studied, says Pep Canadell of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia. Canadell is executive director of the Global Carbon Project, which aims to develop a complete picture of the world’s carbon budget.

But he has doubts about the global importance of desert carbon sinks.  “One needs a lot of irrigation in the desert to make this mechanism globally meaningful,” says Canadell. “One region in China doesn’t make the world.”

Li agrees, saying that this is the first time that this process has been identified, so it has not even been looked for elsewhere yet.

He says that the salty water in these sorts of aquifers is not usually thought of as a resource – it cannot be used for irrigation, for example – so it has barely been studied. “It’s basically out of sight, out of mind,” he says.

Li expects the process to occur elsewhere, although it will vary with the pH of the soil – the more alkaline it is, the more carbon can be absorbed by irrigation water.

And because between 5 and 10 per cent of arid regions are farmed, there will be about a trillion tonnes of carbon stored in saline aquifers if similar mechanisms are at work across the globe – a quarter more than is stored in living plants.

If confirmed, this has two important implications, according to Li.

The first is that these saline aquifers should be left alone. There have been plans to use them for various things, including geothermal energy and irrigation. “To open up the saline ground water would really be a problem for sure,” Li says.

But more positively, Li thinks the mechanism could be exploited as a form of carbon sequestration by expanding irrigated farming on the edges of deserts.


Poorly-founded claims about ocean acidification.  Bulk of research on impacts of ocean acidification is FLAWED, new study finds

Hundreds of doom-laden studies about the effects of climate change on the Earth's oceans may be flawed and unreliable, a major review has found.

For years, scientists have warned that rising levels of carbon dioxide are marking our seas more acidic – and that this spells disaster for marine life.

But a review of hundreds of studies into the effects of acidity on sea creatures suggest the vast majority may be unreliable or not fit for purpose.

The review – by two experts in Australia – said only 27 of more than 400 studies into the issue were appropriately carried out.

And 278 studies were 'clearly inappropriate' which means a huge amount of research is not fit for purpose. Some of the research, if 'reanalysed', might yield useful data, but not in its current form, say the authors.

Christopher Cornwall, who studies ocean acidification at the University of Western Australia, and ecologist Catriona Hurd of the University of Tasmania, wrote in their paper in the ICES Journal of Marine Science: 'This analysis identified that most laboratory manipulation experiments in ocean acidification research used either an inappropriate experimental design and/or data analysis, or did not report these details effectively.'

To test the effect on ocean creatures – whether lobsters, plankton, mussels, or fish – is a complex business. It requires using big tanks of seawater containing sealife to slosh around on moving tables that simulate the effect of the tides for days on end. Seawater is made more acidic by adding chemicals.

Errors made in the studies include increasing acidity without increasing temperature, not looking at other effects such as an increase of chemicals called carbonates and failing to eliminate the risk of observer bias.

The authors, commenting in Nature, say the 'overwhelming evidence' of ocean acidifiation still stands. [They had to say that]. But they say it is hard to assess the impact of ocean life from most of the experiments that have been carried out.


Obama: Iranian oil, good. Canadian oil, bad. American oil, bad

President Obama’s confusing approach to energy encourages our enemies who shout “death to America,” while penalizing our closest allies and even our own job creators.

Iran’s participation in the nuclear negotiations that have slogged on for months, have now, ultimately, netted a deal that will allow Iran to export its oil — which is the only reason they came to the table (they surely are not interested in burnishing Obama’s legacy). International sanctions have, since 2011, cut Iran’s oil exports in half and severely damaged its economy. Iran, it is estimated, currently has more than 50 million barrels of oil in storage on 28 tankers at sea — part of a months’ long build up.

It is widely reported that, due to aging infrastructure and saturated storage, it will take Iran months to bring its production back up to pre-sanction levels. The millions of barrels of oil parked offshore are indicative of their eagerness to increase exports. Once the sanctions are lifted — if Congress approves the terms of the deal, Iran wants to be ready to move its oil. In fact, even before the sanctions have been lifted, Iran is already moving some of its “floating storage.”

On July 17, the Financial Times  reported, “The departure of a giant Iranian supertanker from the flotilla of vessels storing oil off the country’s coast has triggered speculation Tehran is moving to ramp up its crude exports.” The Starla, “a 2 million barrel vessel,” set sail — moving the oil closer to customers in Asia. In April, another tanker, Happiness, sailed from Iran to China, where, since June, it has parked off the port City of Dalian.

Starla is the first vessel storing crude offshore to sail after the nuclear deal was reached — which is, according to the Financial Times, “signaling its looming return to the oil market.” Reuters calls its departure “a milestone following a months-long build-up of idling crude tankers.” Analysts at Macquarie Capital apparently think the oil on Starla will not be parked, waiting for sanctions to be lifted. A research note, states that Iran is “likely assuming that either a small increase in exports will not undermine the historic accord reached or that no one will notice.” We noticed.

Already, before sanctions are lifted, global oil prices are feeling the pressure of Iran’s increased exports. Since the deal’s been announced, crude prices have lost almost all of their recent gains.

While the Obama Administration’s actions are allowing Iran, which hates America, to boost its economy by increasing its oil exports, they are hurting our closest ally by continuing to delay the Keystone pipeline — which would help Canada export its oil.

After six-and-a-half years of kicking the can down the road, and despite widespread support and positive reports, the Keystone pipeline is no closer to construction than it was on the day the application was submitted. It is obvious President Obama doesn’t like the project, which will create tens of thousands of jobs, according to his own State Department. Back in February, he vetoed the bill Congress sent him that would have authorized construction, saying that it circumvented “longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.” At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Congress won’t stop pursuing good ideas, including this one.” But he was not able to gather enough votes to override the veto, and, since then, we’ve heard nothing about the Keystone pipeline. In Washington, DC, silence on an important issue like Keystone isn’t always golden.

There is no pending legislation on Keystone, but the permit application has still not been approved or rejected. I had hoped that the unions, who want the jobs Keystone would provide, would be able to pressure enough Democrats to support the project, to push a bill over the veto-proof line. But that didn’t happen. For months, Keystone has been silently dangling. But that may be about to change.

Reliable sources tell me that Obama is prepared to, finally, announce his decision on Keystone. According to the well-sourced rumor, he is going to say, “No” — probably just before or after the Labor Day holiday. He’ll conclude that it is not in the “national interest.” So helping our ally grow its economy and export its oil is not in our national interest but helping our sworn enemy do the same, is? It’s like the “Channeling Jeff Foxworthy” parody states, we just “might live in a country founded by geniuses and run by idiots.”

Speaking of economic growth and oil exports, what about here at home, in the good old U.S. of A.? Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) questions the deal that allows Iran to export its oil, while we cannot. “As Congress begins its 60-day review of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about whether it is in our nation’s — and the world’s — best interests. Not least among them are the underexplored, but potentially significant, consequences the deal will hold for American energy producers.”

Most people don’t realize that the U.S. is, as Murkowski says in her op-ed, “the only advanced nation that generally prohibits oil exports.” Due to decades-old policy, born in a different energy era, American oil producers are prohibited from exporting crude oil because it was perceived to be in “short supply.” (Note that refined petroleum product, such as gasoline and diesel, can be exported and is our number one export. We are also about ready to ship our first major tanker full of natural gas to Europe.) Today, when it comes to crude oil, our cup runneth over. The U.S. is now the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. Rather than short supply, we have an oversupply — so much so that American crude oil (WTI) is sold at a discount over the global market (Brent). This disadvantages U.S. producers but doesn’t benefit consumers because gasoline is sold based on the higher-priced Brent.

Murkowski argues that it is time to lift the 40-year-old oil export ban. She’s introduced bipartisan legislation that would do just that, but, if he were so inclined, President Obama could reverse the policy himself — if he found it to be in the national interest. And how could it not be?

Allowing U.S. crude oil onto the world market enhances global energy security, as it would be less impacted by tensions in the Middle East. Our allies in Europe and Asia would have access to supply from a friendly and reliable source — remember the Arab Oil Embargo crippled Japan’s economy because it had no domestic supply and was overly reliant on Arab sources. Lifting the oil export ban would allow U.S. crude to be sold at the true market price, not the discounted rate, which would help stem the job losses currently being felt throughout the oil patch due to the low price of oil and exacerbated by the drop in the price of crude triggered by the Iran deal.

So, the Obama Administration is lobbying Congress to lift the sanctions on Iran, a country that views America as The Great Satan. Lifting sanctions would allow Iran to resume full oil export capabilities and boost its economy — while refusing to give our allies and our own country the same benefit. Iranian oil will enter the world market, while Canadian and American oil is constrained. How is that in the “national interest?”

It appears we might just be living in a country founded by geniuses and run by idiots.


EPA: A Rogue Agency

The Fourth Circuit has joined a growing number of courts, including the Supreme Court, in slapping down actions by the EPA. The court recently denied the EPA’s challenge to a discovery order from a federal judge in West Virginia.

The case, Murray Energy Corp. et al. v. Gina McCarthy, involves §321 of the Clean Air Act. This section creates a nondiscretionary duty for the EPA to conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts in employment due to EPA regulations under authority of the Clean Air Act.

Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the EPA, has not been tracking employment movement. Her theory is that continuing evaluations do not have to begin immediately, but can begin at any time. This is just another example of an executive branch agency acting like they are above the law.

Murray Energy had enough of the agency ignoring the law and sued Gina McCarthy, in her official capacity as administer of the EPA. They ask the court to do three things in their lawsuit. First, they ask the court to declare Gina McCarthy to be in violation of §321 of the Clean Air Act, Second, they ask for a court order directing her to look at potential job losses and shifts as a result of the EPA’s regulations. Third, they ask for injunction barring any new regulations affecting the coal industry before the §321 requirements are met.

Murray Energy believes that Gina McCarthy’s dereliction of her duties under the Clean Air Act is part of the Obama EPA’s “War on Coal.” The theory is that the EPA is using the Clean Air Act to encourage power providers to shut down coal plants or switch them over to other fuels. Since 2010 an estimated 330 coal-fired plants have been shut down or converted to other fuels.

McCarthy sought to dismiss the lawsuit, which the district court denied. Since then, the EPA has been uncooperative. According to Murray Energy, the EPA has refused to designate witnesses, schedule depositions and failed to respond to interrogatories and requests for production. All of this has made it impossible to for Murray to conduct discovery.

District Judge John Preston Bailey agreed with Murray and ordered the EPA to respond to the discovery requests. The EPA asked the Fourth Circuit to reverse the order to comply, but the Fourth Circuit refused.

The EPA, like many executive branch agencies, feel they are above the law. Whether it is not taking costs into consideration when rulemaking, looking to implement rules clearly not allowed by the Clean Air Act, or disregarding a section of the Clean Air Act, Obama’s EPA is a rogue agency. Courts are getting wise and showing the EPA that they are not above the law.


Climate Scientists Rip Apart EPA’s Global Warming Rule

The Obama administration recently unveiled regulations further limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and some climate scientists are criticizing the rules for doing virtually nothing to reduce global temperature rises — the whole point of reducing CO2.

“Well the one thing you don’t hear President [Barack] Obama mention is how much his proposed emissions reductions will reduce global warming,” wrote Dr. Judith Curry, a climatologist at Georgia Tech. “It has been estimated that the U.S. [climate plan] of 28% emissions reduction by 2025 will prevent 0.03 [degrees Celsius] in warming by 2100.”

“And these estimates assume that climate model projections are correct,” Curry wrote, “if the climate models are over-sensitive to CO2, the amount of warming prevented will be even smaller.”

The EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan aims to reduce emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA has touted billions of dollars in public health and nebulous “climate benefits,” but avoids mention of the rule’s impact on global temperatures.

Curry wasn’t alone in her criticism of the Obama administration’s global warming agenda, scientists with the libertarian Cato Institute criticized the plan for doing little for global temperature while increasing energy prices.

The EPA, however, argues the Clean Power Plan alone is not meant to address global warming, but instead they say rule will galvanize global support for an international agreement to cut CO2 emissions. The Obama administration has gotten tentative agreements from China and Brazil to curb their greenhouse gas emissions, but they won’t make any immediate cuts.

The agency also justified the Clean Power Plan by claiming it would reduce asthma rates, which they say will be exacerbated by global warming. A White House fact sheet claims the rule will “avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.”

But claims linking global warming and asthma rates are dicey. So far, there’s no strong link between increasing temperatures and asthma attacks. Cato scientists slammed EPA for making such claims.

“The public health arguments are even weaker,” Curry wrote. “CO2 has absolutely nothing to do with asthma. Extreme weather events are not increasing with increased CO2; extreme weather events are dominated by natural climate variability. Particularly in the U.S., extreme weather was substantially worse in the 1930’s and 1950’s.”

“Trying to sell this plan as economic and public health issue is a ploy to develop political will for President Obama’s preferred energy policies,” Curry wrote.


Obama’s Climate Hubris Scales New Heights

But it will be for nothing

This week President Obama is hailing his Clean Power Plan as "the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change."

Obama is posing as the environment's savior, just as he did in 2008, when he promised his presidency would mark "the moment when . . . the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Seven years later, that messianic legacy is in doubt.

Obama's Clean Power Plan has never had legislative support, even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress. Now he's trying to impose it without Congress, an audacious ploy his old Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe condemns as "burning the Constitution."

As his presidency wanes, Obama is desperately burnishing his eco-credentials with environmental zealots like Pope Francis and the leftists at the U.N. and in the European Union. But here at home, his plan would be a disaster economically, which explains its failure in Congress.

Hillary Clinton is pledging to support the plan, while Republicans vying for their party's presidential nomination are vowing to oppose it. The Clean Power Plan will be a fiercely debated issue in coal-consuming swing states like Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania - where the race for the White House is usually decided.

Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is imposing the Clean Power Plan on all 50 states, requiring each state to close down coal-burning electric plants, and shift to other sources of electricity - natural gas burning plants, nuclear plants, solar and wind power generators - in order to reduce carbon emissions by one-third.

Nationwide, about 40 percent of electric power is produced by coal plants. Forcing these utilities to close will burn consumers with higher electric bills. It will also send hundreds of thousands of jobs a year up in smoke, as employers pay more to operate their businesses, according to Heritage Foundation economists.

And for what? The purported benefit is to avoid an imperceptible 0.02 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures by the year 2100. That's the official EPA estimate of the benefits of this Clean Air Plan. You must be kidding.

That's what as many as 25 governors are saying, and they are expected to file a lawsuit challenging the plan. They've got a strong case. Although the EPA bases its authority on the Clean Air Act of 1970, nothing in that law authorizes the agency to do more than require plants to use the best available technology - like scrubbers - to reduce emissions.

Congress never authorized the EPA to force states to close coal plants and move on to nuclear, or wind and solar. "The brute fact is that the Obama administration failed to get climate legislation through Congress. Yet the EPA is acting as though it has the legislative authority anyway to re-engineer the nation's electric generating system," says Tribe. "It does not."

Defenders of the president's environmental agenda say he has to act alone because the Congress is gridlocked. That's untrue. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are against the plan, and for good reasons.

Obama's EPA has tried several end-runs around Congress, creatively interpreting the 45-year-old Clean Air Act to suit its agenda.

But it hasn't always gotten away with it. In a stinging U.S. Supreme Court rebuke against the administration's restrictions on mercury emissions, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that "it is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate' to impose billions of dollars in economic costs" when the benefits are so uncertain.

The same could be said for the plan announced on Monday. Defenders of the new regulation predict falling energy costs from renewable sources, but so far that is pie in the sky speculation. Like the president's prediction that the average family would save $2,500 because of Obamacare.

But long before the Supreme Court weighs in on this new plan, presidential politics is likely to determine its fate. Another example of how high the stakes are in 2016.

That's what as many as 25 governors are saying, and they are expected to file a lawsuit challenging the plan. They've got a strong case. Although the EPA bases its authority on the Clean Air Act of 1970, nothing in that law authorizes the agency to do more than require plants to use the best available technology - like scrubbers - to reduce emissions.



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1 comment:

Slywolfe said...

Re: War on CO2

I don't understand why the EPA's carbon dioxide "Endangerment Finding" has not been forcefully challenged. There is no evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide has ever harmed or endangered any life form on Earth.