Wednesday, August 22, 2018

CBS Scares Viewers With Predictions of Climate Change Causing West Coast Hurricanes

Even as NBC’s Today show recently reported that climate change would actually cause fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic during the 2018 season, on Saturday, CBS This Morning warned viewers that warming ocean temperatures could potentially lead to hurricanes in the Pacific hitting the coast of California.

“Hurricanes are well known in the Atlantic and in the Caribbean, but scientists in California are concerned that changing climate conditions could soon bring hurricanes to the west coast,” proclaimed fill-in co-host Elaine Quijano as she introduced the segment.

The headline on-screen blared: “Gathering Storms? Warmer Oceans Increase Risk of West Coast Hurricanes.”

Correspondent Jamie Yuccas began her report by invoking images of deadly east coast storms: “Irma, Harvey, and Katrina are among the hurricanes that have ravaged the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico. But here in California, hurricanes are virtually unheard of.”

She acknowledged hurricanes that regularly form in the Pacific, but pointed out that such storms “usually don’t make it past Baja California,” in Mexico, and that “only one managed to reach as far as San Diego in 1858.”

Sounding the alarm, Yuccas continued: “However, there’s now the potential this rare event could strike the San Diego area again.”

Scientist Art Miller, a researcher for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, fretted: “It could happen, especially if the ocean temperatures continue to stay in this anomalously warm state.”

Yuccas noted: “Scientists at the Scripps Pier have been recording historic temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, as high as 79.5 degrees. That’s about ten degrees above normal.”

Miller argued: “That potentially increases the likelihood that a hurricane might track just a little bit further north than it would have.”

After Yuccas concluded her report, co-host Anthony Mason worried: “Those rising ocean temperatures are startling.”

Quijano agreed: “Startling. And when you think about ten degrees difference, as she pointed out, you think about it’s been a year since Hurricane Harvey. It was this time last year, right? And it was warm ocean waters fueling that as well.”

In August of 2017, CBS repeatedly blamed climate change for causing Hurricane Harvey and intensifying its devastation in Texas.

In November of that year, Mason, while serving as a temporary anchor for CBS Evening News, bemoaned that a lack of environmental activism from the Trump administration meant “saving the world has been harder.”

It’s one thing to claim climate change as the cause when a severe weather event actually occurs, it’s quite another to preemptively argue that any potential future storms would be the result of global warming.


New York Times hysterical over global greening

by William Happer

When the history of global warming hysteria is written in the future, one of the bizarre examples of that delusion will be the New York Times essay of July 31, 2018, "Global Greening Sounds Good, In The Long Run It's Terrible."

The article begins with a photograph of a vigorous patch of kudzu, presumably stimulated to threatening, unnatural growth by increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), and about to strangle a pine forest. The good news is that the New York Times has finally permitted its readers to hear that the whole world is greening from more atmospheric CO2.

The bad news is that the rest of the article is devoted to demonizing this essential gas, despite the fact that H2O (water) and CO2 are the main building blocks of living things.

As is usual with such "science," the article begins by vilifying any who mistakenly welcomes a greener Earth. They are labeled as "climate change denialists," whatever that is supposed to mean. Who denies that climate is changing now, has changed in the past and will continue to change in the future?

The article then launches into a limp attempt to turn good news into bad by claiming that plants growing with CO2 enrichment will lead to widespread malnutrition because crops will have deficiencies of "nutrients such as nitrogen, copper and potassium." In fact, crops already have these deficiencies, and that is why farmers buy fertilizer, containing nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and if needed, copper, iron, zinc and other trace nutrients. More CO2 will indeed increase the need for fertilizer, but less land will be needed because of higher productivity.

Plants benefit from more CO2 for two main reasons. First, more CO2 allows land plants to use water more efficiently and tolerate greater aridity. This is why global greening is most pronounced in arid areas. Secondly, more CO2 mitigates "photorespiration," that limits photosynthetic efficiency for most (C3) plants at today's low CO2 and high oxygen levels.

Continuing the demonization of CO2, the article refers to China as "the biggest global polluter." Let's be clear, CO2 is not a "pollutant." The average human breathes out about 2 pounds of CO2 per day. Over most of geological history, CO2 levels have been much higher than today's approximately 400 CO2 molecules per million air molecules (ppm). Operators of commercial greenhouses routinely increase CO2 levels to 1000 ppm or more, if they can afford to pay for the CO2.

We should welcome the fact that CO2 has risen to "levels not seen on Earth for millions of years," even if the "fact" is less certain than you might believe. Plants have been trying to cope with a CO2 famine for millions of years, a famine that is finally ending. With self-assurance worthy of Dr. Pangloss, the article implies that pre-industrial CO2 levels, around 280 ppm, were the "best of all possible worlds." But 280 ppm is much closer to (sea-level) starvation levels of about 150 ppm, when many plants die, than to the optimum levels for plant growth, which greenhouse operators already know are greater than 1000 ppm.

There is fossil evidence of CO2 starvation at the end of the last ice age, when CO2 levels dropped to below 200 ppm. Even today's 400 ppm is far too low for optimum plant growth.

The article ends with the silly claim that the "six warmest years on record occurred after 2010." The alleged record warmings are tenths of a degree or less, comparable to the statistical error. Thermometers have only existed for a few centuries and there are still no reliable networks of thermometers to measure global surface temperatures, although satellite measurements do provide a pretty good global average for the lower atmosphere since the year 1979. There is excellent proxy evidence that Earth's temperature was warmer than today on several occasions since the end of the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago.

The real news is that more CO2 is already benefiting the world and even more would be better.


Trump says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the United States, the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs.

The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration’s proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare.

Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which ‘‘in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,’’ the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution, which has unlocked US shale oil reserves, giving ‘‘the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.’’

With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation — even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards.

The memo made no mention of climate change. Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions.

President Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of ‘‘energy dominance’’ as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.

Despite the increased oil supplies, the administration continues to believe in the need to ‘‘use energy wisely,’’ the Energy Department said, without elaboration. Department spokesmen did not respond Friday to questions about that statement.

Reaction was quick.

‘‘It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped — it’s time to start eating again,’’’ said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.

‘‘If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere . . . you come up with a different viewpoint,’’ Kloza said. ‘‘There’s a downside to living large.’’

Climate change is a ‘‘clear and present and increasing danger,’’ said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.

In a big way, the Energy Department statement just acknowledges the world’s vastly changed reality when it comes to oil.

Just 10 years ago, in summer 2008, oil prices were peaking at $147 a barrel and pummeling the global economy. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries was enjoying a massive transfer of wealth, from countries dependent on imported oil. Prices now are about $65.

Today, the United States is vying with Russia for the title of top world oil producer. US oil production hit an all-time high this summer, aided by the technological leaps of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

How much the US economy is hooked up to the gas pump, and vice versa, plays into any number of policy considerations, not just economic or environmental ones, but military and geopolitical ones, said John Graham, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, now dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

‘‘Our ability to play that role as a leader in the world is stronger when we are the strongest producer of oil and gas,’’ Graham said. ‘‘But there are still reasons to want to reduce the amount we consume.’’

Current administration proposals include one that would freeze mileage standards for cars and light trucks after 2020, instead of continuing to make them tougher.

The proposal eventually would increase US oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day, the administration says. While Trump officials say the freeze would improve highway safety, documents released this month showed senior Environmental Protection Agency staffers calculate the administration’s move would actually increase highway deaths.

‘‘American businesses, consumers and our environment are all the losers under his plan,’’ said Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. ‘‘The only clear winner is the oil industry. It’s not hard to see whose side President Trump is on.’’

Administration support has been tepid to null on some other long-running government programs for alternatives to gas-powered cars.

Bill Wehrum, assistant administration of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, spoke dismissively of electric cars — a young industry supported financially by the federal government and many states — this month in a call with reporters announcing the mileage freeze proposal.

‘‘People just don’t want to buy them,’’ the EPA official said.

Oil and gas interests are campaigning for changes in government conservation efforts on mileage standards, biofuels and electric cars.

In June, for instance, the American Petroleum Institute and other industries wrote eight governors, promoting the dominance of the internal-combustion engine and questioning their states’ incentives to consumers for electric cars.

Surging US and gas production has brought on ‘‘energy security and abundance,’’ Frank Macchiarola, a group director of the American Petroleum Institute trade association, told reporters this week, in a telephone call dedicated to urging scrapping or overhauling of one US program for biofuels.

Fears of oil scarcity used to be a driver of US energy policy, Macchiarola said.

Thanks partly to increased production, ‘‘that pillar has really been rendered essentially moot,’’ he said.


Solar Power Harms Taxpayers and Consumers and Endangers the Reliability of the Grid

The appeal of solar energy is understandable. Who would not want clean, domestic electricity provided for free by the sun? Who would not want high-paying, high-tech jobs producing, installing, and maintaining solar panels?

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that solar energy is harming taxpayers and utility customers and soaking up funds that would be better spent on maintaining and upgrading the grid. This report explains why politicians, regulators, and the utility industry should halt the rush toward more solar energy production.

America’s Advantage

America’s relatively cheap and reliable electricity gives it a competitive advantage over many other countries where electricity is unreliable or more expensive. To keep this advantage, we must choose dependable, cost-effective sources of electricity to supply the grid and expand capacity as necessary. The alternative of rushing government-favored technology into production before it is ready and before the costs and ramifications of the new technology have been thoroughly examined is a recipe for disaster.

Hidden Costs of Green Energy

While many people applaud green energy construction projects, they may not be aware of all the costs associated with green energy.

“In 2016, an analysis by Strata Policy found subsidies for intermittent energy sources create unseen costs for electricity consumers. First, Americans subsidize the building and operation of wind and solar projects through their taxes. Second, they pay for the electricity these projects produce. Finally, consumers pay the extra costs associated with ensuring reliability as more intermittent sources are deployed.”[1]

Solar power is often generated 100-200 miles from cities.[2] To transmit the electricity from these plants to far-off customers, costly new high-voltage transmission lines must often be built.

Due to its variability, adding more solar energy to the grid necessitates an increase in reserve electric generating capacity. And this reserve capacity must be able to be quickly brought online or ramped up to make up for any lull in solar energy production.

“VG [variable generation] also is not always completely predictable, even on short timescales. This can increase the potential for mismatches between generation and load and, hence, the need for increased regulating reserves.”[3]

Typically, this need for reserve capacity is met by natural gas-fired power plants, which can ramp up much more quickly than coal.

Wasting Needed Funds

The money spent on additional backup power plants and miles of high-voltage transmission lines would be better spent on trimming trees near power lines, replacing aging equipment, securing the grid from hackers, and shielding the grid against solar storms. For 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. energy infrastructure a grade of D+ and wrote,

“Most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy, and the more than 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the lower 48 states’ power grids are at full capacity.”[4]

Government Support for Green Energy

Government subsidies and mandates have fostered investment in green energy.

“There are a number of drivers for sustained high investment in renewables. A primary driver is RPS [renewable portfolio standard] goals and mandates. Currently 37 states, four US territories, and the District of Columbia have RPS or voluntary goals that require a certain percentage of electricity sold by utilities be from renewable sources by a target date. The target years range from 2015 to 2045 and renewable percentage goals vary widely. Some of the most ambitious are California’s mandate to reach 50 percent by 2030, Vermont’s goal to reach 75 percent by 2032, and Hawaii’s target of 100 percent by 2045.” .....

“Companies that build renewable generation know they can often sell the power to other utilities at higher prices than fossil fuel-generated power, since many utilities have requirements to purchase electricity from renewable sources to meet state RPS.”[5]

Without incentives, relatively few consumers would be interested in investing tens of thousands of dollars in solar panels when it is unclear if the panels will ever save them much money.[6] For example, in Nevada when incentives were dialed back, the solar panel industry imploded.[7] After the Nevada Public Utility Commission voted to end a generous subsidy program, three companies stopped selling solar systems in the state,[8] and over 2,600 solar industry jobs were lost.[9]

Solar Energy Is Heavily Subsidized

While boosters of green energy will often tout the fact that the cost of solar energy has been declining, it is important to keep in mind that it still benefits from very generous subsidies. According to a study by the University of Texas at Austin, the coal industry received federal subsidies of $1.06 per megawatt hour in 2016; the oil and natural gas industry received federal subsidies of $0.91 per megawatt hour; the nuclear industry received federal subsidies of $1.30 per megawatt hour; and the wind industry received federal subsidies of $12.74 per megawatt hour while the solar industry received federal subsidies of $61.31 per megawatt hour.[10] Heavy subsidies for solar energy are also projected for next year. “A study by the University of Texas projected that U.S. energy subsidies per megawatt hour in 2019 would be $0.5 for coal, $1- $2 for oil and natural gas, $15- $57 for wind and $43- $320 for solar.”[11] So while some green energy advocates will complain about subsidies for coal and natural gas, it is clear that those subsidies are miniscule when compared to the subsidies for solar.

Utilities Pushed to Overpay Solar Customers

One of the most common solar incentives offered by utility companies is net metering, which is funded by utility customers. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) describes net metering as, “allowing residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid.”[12]

According to SEIA, 38 states[13] have adopted state-mandated net metering systems putting the government’s thumb on the scale toward mandatory payment rates benefitting solar users. In some states, power companies pay customers the wholesale rate for the power they supply to the grid; but in the majority of states, power companies are compelled by state governments to pay customers the full retail rate.

Utility companies purchase electricity from a number of competing sources at wholesale rates with those rates fluctuating throughout the day based upon demand. The wholesale cost does not include purchasing or electricity delivery costs. The retail cost is what the residential or business consumer pays for electricity that is purchased and then delivered using the electrical grid.[14] Yet with retail net metering requirements, solar households use the grid to transmit electricity to and from their home, but do not pay their fair share for it.

Net Metering Unfair to Non-Solar Customers

It is unfair for solar customers to be paid the full retail rate for their excess electricity because the retail rate covers the cost of infrastructure and overhead, not just the value of the electricity itself. When states require utilities to purchase excess electricity back from solar customers at the retail price, they create a distorted one-sided market where the utility can neither reject the product because it is unneeded, nor pay the provider the true worth of the product.

Too often, lower-income customers, who are unable to afford the installation of solar panels on their own homes, wind up subsidizing the electric bills of their wealthier neighbors. Warren Buffett, whose holding company owns NV Energy, recognizes and opposes the cost-shifting from solar customers to non-solar customers. “‘We do not want the nonsolar customers, of whom there are over a million, to be subsidizing the 17,000 solar customers,’ Buffett said, talking about NV Energy’s customers in Nevada.”[15] At a bare minimum, taxpayers and ratepayers should get to choose whether or not they subsidize their neighbors’ solar panels.

More Solar Customers, More Problems

If there are only a relatively small number of consumers supplying energy to the grid, then the cost to utility companies and their customers is minimal. But as the number of customers benefiting from net metering grows, the costs to power companies and their customers grow too. The obvious impact is to create a greater strain on non-solar residential customers whose rates would have to increase to cover the electricity grid maintenance and updating costs avoided, at least in part, by solar customers.

As intermittent solar power is added to the grid, the grid has to be upgraded to ensure its stability and reliability. It is crucial for there to be a balance on the electrical grid between energy production and energy consumption; and one of the stressors on the electrical grid is unreliable solar energy.[16] One minute, the sun is shining brightly and solar panels are churning out excess electricity that is being supplied to the grid; and the next minute, the sun is behind clouds; and the output from solar panels collapses. When solar energy production drops, either additional electricity from another source must be added to the grid or customers’ power must be cut to avoid damaging the grid.

Free-riding solar customers force utilities to pay for the maintenance and upgrading of the electrical grid while relying upon fewer ratepayers. The perverse effect is that solar customers benefit when retail electricity rates are necessarily forced higher for non-solar consumers.

This cost-shifting can be easily visualized with the following simplistic example. Suppose the cost of maintaining the grid were $100 for 100 people and each paid $1 to cover the cost. Then suppose that 10 of those customers adopted solar and stopped contributing to the maintenance costs. In that case, the remaining ninety customers would have to pay $1.11 each, rather than $1. Obviously, if 50 of these customers no longer paid for the grid, that increase in costs to the remaining 50 would jump to $2 to maintain the grid that they all use. And, of course, if everyone were a free-rider, the grid would eventually cease to exist. When the sun went down, those customers who were not able to store enough electricity for their own needs would be without power until the sun rose again.

Endangering the Reliability of the Grid

The job of grid operators is important: maintaining a balance between the supply of electricity and demand for electricity to avoid damage to the grid. Demand for electricity is stochastic, which means that it varies and that it is not possible to predict exactly how much electricity will be needed at any one time. Unfortunately, solar energy is also stochastic, which further complicates the job of grid operators.

Nor is the intermittent nature of solar energy is the only problem.

“The addition of substantial levels of wind and solar resources to an electric energy grid raises significant reliability concerns at the transmission system level because these resources operate intermittently and, unlike other generating resources, they do not spin in synchronism with the grid…  Dependable rotating generation operating in synchronism across the power system enabled the evolution of the modern grids.  Without due regard to the issues of intermittency, voltage control, frequency control, and grid inertia an electric grid cannot operate reliably and stably.  If the first world continues to expect affordable electricity, when we want it and in whatever quantity we want, these needs must be met.”[17]


So we see that solar energy is failing in multiple ways. After years of generous, tax-payer-funded subsidies, solar energy is still unable to compete on a level playing field with coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. Regrettably, solar energy’s higher costs have a human impact making it tougher for less affluent people to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. With so many affordable, reliable energy resources in this country, there is just no excuse for the government to be mandating and subsidizing green energy production. Finally, unreliable solar energy often requires expensive changes to the grid and endangers the reliability of the grid.


Australia: NSW Drought In Perspective

Just a couple more comments on the NSW drought. I have worked out the YTD rainfall in NSW, although this is a pretty artificial measure. This year is the fourth lowest on record, behind 1902, 1965 and 1940 (in that order).


If we look at the 12 month figures, this year ranks as 8th driest, behind 1901, 1902, 1919, 1927, 1929, 1940 and 1965.

It is easy to see why how farmers say this is the worst drought in memory, because it is exactly that. Whereas these sort of severe droughts used to come along every decade on average, there has been nothing like it since 1965.

This year the drought has been largely confined to parts of NSW and South Australia:

This certainly was not the case in some of those earlier droughts, which were far more extensive:




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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