Monday, February 28, 2022

Fracking was ended on a ‘false pretext’ and should be resumed with ‘vigour’, MPs say

Fracking was ended in Britain on a "false pretext" and should be resumed with "the vigour of a national war effort", Conservative MPs said last night, as an official report cast doubt on evidence cited by ministers to justify the ban.

Days after Boris Johnson warned that Europe was "addicted" to Russian oil and gas, it has emerged that a report commissioned by a UK regulator described some of the tremors used to justify the moratorium on shale gas exploration in Britain as "almost imperceptible".

The larger tremors cited by ministers when they announced the ban in 2019 affected just tens of buildings with, at the most, "slight non-structural damage", according to a report commissioned by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) and finalised after the moratorium was put in place.

The disclosure comes after the Prime Minister acknowledged that there was "merit" in the idea of the temporary "use of hydrocarbons in this country" after MPs pressed him to "look again at fracking". Sources insisted that he had not changed his mind on the issue, having pushed back against a suggestion by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit opportunities minister, that the ban should be reversed.

The 2019 moratorium was announced by Andrea Leadsom, then business secretary, in November of that year "on the basis of the disturbance caused to residents living near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire" and the "latest scientific analysis" for the OGA.

But several other reports, published months later without fanfare on the OGA's website, prompted calls last night for the decision to be reversed.

'Hang their heads in shame'

On Saturday night, Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister, said: "There's a war on which appears to be possible only because Europe is, as the PM said, addicted to Russian gas. While Putin bears responsibility for the ultimate war crime of initiating a war of aggression, everyone who allowed our shale gas to remain in the ground on a false pretence should hang their heads in shame as the Ukrainian people fight and die for their country.

"Boris should immediately stop the concreting in of current shale wells and go for gas with all the vigour of a national war effort, which this very nearly is.

"Our civilisation may depend upon it."

The "disturbance" cited by ministers in Nov 2019 appeared to refer to a magnitude 2.9 tremor which led to the suspension of operations at the Preston New Road site in Aug 2019.

But one of the reports published by the OGA states that the effect equated to some 50 buildings experiencing "damage state one" (DS1) , the lowest of five damage states, which involves either "no structural damage" or "slight non-structural damage which is manifested through hairline cracks in walls and damage to plaster".

The report, a final version of which was submitted to the OGA in July 2020, adds that the British Geological Survey "assigned the event as intensity VI ["slightly damaging"] due, in part at least, to some reports of minor cosmetic damage (DS1)".

It adds: "This intensity is unusual for an event of this magnitude." An average "of 52 buildings at DS1 was calculated. This is consistent with reports made to the BGS.

"It is noted, however, that these 'did-you-feel-it?' reports are self-submitted online and therefore unverified."

The report also addresses earlier magnitude 1.1 and 1.5 tremors at the Preston New Road site, stating: "Generally, the motions can be considered as almost imperceptible and well below the level of vibration that people experience going about everyday activities."


Italy may reopen coal plants amid concerns about energy supply, PM says

After Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine on Thursday, the EU announced an initial raft of sanctions against Russia with more expected to follow.

The instability and sanctions are expected to have a wide-ranging impact on gas supplies and prices in Europe, particularly in Germany and Italy, the two European countries most reliant on gas exports from Russia.

Addressing Italy’s parliament on Friday, Draghi laid out plans to offset price increases and turn to alternative sources of energy.

“The sanctions require us to carefully consider the impact on our economy,” he said. “The biggest concern is in the energy sector, which has already been hit by price rises in recent months: around 45 percent of the gas we import comes from Russia, up from 27 percent ten years ago.”

Draghi suggested Italy needs to increase its domestic production of gas, which has fallen in recent years, and source more power from existing coal plants.

“The reopening of coal-fired power stations could be used to make up any shortfall in the immediate future,” he said, adding that “the government is ready to intervene to further lower the price of energy, should this be necessary. It is necessary.”

Italy is already in the middle of an energy price crisis, with the authorities last week announcing another €6 billion in aid to offset price hikes following record bill rises last month.

These funds are on top of some €10 billion already budgeted since last summer to help customers and businesses.


Graveyard of the green giants: It's the hidden cost of our dash for windpower - thousands of decommissioned blades that are so difficult to recycle, they are just dumped as landfill

Right across the road from the town cemetery in Sweetwater, Texas, sits another graveyard where the dead are never buried. Some 4,000 worn-out giant wind turbine blades are piled as far as the eye can see, taking up most of a 25-acre field.

Windmill blades can be longer than a Boeing 747 wing — more than 300ft — and weigh up to eight tons, so these have been sawn into three pieces with a diamond-encrusted industrial saw. They’re still imposingly big, although now increasingly covered in weeds.

They’ve been here for five years and, given a recycling company’s failure so far to deal with them, are almost certain to remain for many more — an unsightly monument to ‘clean’ energy’s dirty little secret.

Hailed by the green lobby as one of the most under-used renewable energy sources, carbon-free wind power is on the rise.

The enormous white windmills are sprouting on land and off coastlines in ever-greater numbers, including in Britain, which is building the world’s biggest offshore wind farm in the North Sea.

But they come with a hidden environmental cost that is rarely mentioned: they don’t last for ever: only 20 to 25 years, in fact. And the blades, built from a ‘composite’ of fibreglass and resin that can withstand hurricane-force winds but be light enough to turn, cannot easily be crushed, let alone recycled.

Scientists are looking for ways to separate the resins from the fibres or grind chunks of blade into small pellets that can be used in other products, but they’re struggling to find any process that works on a large scale.

Amid the zeal to recycle, there’s no small irony in the fact the main sources of renewable energy cannot themselves be renewed when they reach the end of their life.

By 2050, it’s predicted that the world will need to dispose of two million tons of wind turbine blade waste every year. In the UK, the volume already exceeds 100,000 tons per year.

Currently, the world’s decommissioned blades are mostly buried in landfill sites, where they will take centuries to degrade.

While there’s growing pressure for this practice to end, in the absence of an effective way of recycling them, the alternative could be something like the hideous sight at Sweetwater.

‘It’s amazing what we waste,’ sighs Christina Speck, a local teacher and mother, as she drives past the blade dump, one of two on the outskirts of Sweetwater.

She mentions that the town’s main social event is coming up, an annual ‘rattlesnake round-up’ billed as the largest rattlesnake cull in the world. And she adds proudly that, unlike wind turbines, everything in the thousands of snakes that will be killed — from the meat to the venom to the skin — is recycled.

Of course, green energy exponents will point to the carbon savings turbines make in their 20 to 25-year lifetime by making electricity from wind rather than oil or coal. They also note that the steel towers which support the blades, as well as smaller parts such as wiring, can be recycled.

However, the problem of what to do with used turbine blades will only get more pressing. The number of those reaching the end of their life is set to rocket as those built in the wind energy boom of the 1990s and 2000s wear out. Meanwhile, the blades are getting ever longer to improve efficiency so there’s more and more waste.

Scientists at America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory have warned that in the next few decades, the world faces a ‘tidal wave’ of redundant blades that will number ‘hundreds of thousands, if not more’.

Used wind turbine blades don’t leech toxins into the soil, as some have alleged, but they do take up vast areas of already overloaded landfill sites.

The U.S. government’s Environmental Protection Agency has described the sheer size of the windmills, along with the difficulty of disposing of them, as a ‘towering promise of future wreckage’.

And there is no sign of the problem coming to an end, as more and bigger turbines are erected across the globe.

The International Energy Agency has predicted that if we built offshore wind farms on every feasible site around the world, they could generate more electricity on their own than the world needs.

The huge Dogger Bank wind farm under construction in the North Sea will be the largest offshore farm on the planet, capable — says its developer — of powering six million UK homes.

Nolan County, of which Sweetwater is the capital, is home to the biggest concentration of wind turbines in the U.S., which, in turn, is the world’s second biggest wind energy generator after China. Of the 180,000 wind turbines churning away in the U.S., a quarter are in Texas, where the west of the state is generally flat and windy: perfect for windmills.

In the days of 1980s TV series Dallas, the booming oil industry in Texas was something to boast about, but global warming ended that. The remote town of Sweet-water, with its 9,500-strong population 220 miles west of Dallas, has hitched its cart to wind power, proclaiming itself the ‘wind capital of the U.S.’ and using a turbine blade as a welcome sign on the main road.

But now, its love affair with wind energy appears to have cooled, thanks to the ugly turbine graveyards. They are owned by Global Fibreglass Solutions, a U.S. recycling company that arrived here back in 2017. It bought an old aluminium plant to recycle the turbine blades and turn them into products ranging from wall panels and railway sleepers to concrete almost as strong as steel.

The company subsequently announced it had become the first in the world to develop a method of breaking down the blades and turning them into pellets and fibreboards. It established more offices, including one in the UK —in Corby, Northants.

But the work has yet even to start at the main plant in Sweetwater and the UK branch has closed. Locals suspect that GFS — which was paid by wind companies to take their used blades off their hands — has no intention of ever reprocessing them. It certainly wouldn’t be the first ‘green’ recycling company to fail to live up to its ambitious promises.

Don Lilly, GFS’s chief executive, told the Mail his firm has discovered a way of recycling the blades. The hold-up, he says, is largely due to the financial challenge of getting enough advance orders to pay for the equipment required for production.

However, he added, they have secured new investors and new funding, and ‘all will be apparent in the next 40 days’.

Officials in Sweetwater are not holding their breath. ‘It’s kind of fizzled out,’ says Karen Hunt, director of the local Chamber of Commerce, of the recycling project.

She sees little sign of that changing, adding mournfully of the blade dumps: ‘They’re part of our landscape. And not an attractive one.’

At least the residents of Sweet-water can console themselves that they accepted only a couple of years’ supply of decommissioned blades — although even that looks a huge amount. And, with endless acres of unused land around town and few people to complain about the eyesore, there are plenty of places to dump them.

In densely populated Britain, discarding thousands of old turbine blades so casually in plain sight would hardly be tolerated — the 100,000 tonnes of them each year are instead largely buried in landfill.

In the EU, which strictly limits what can be buried on such sites, some blades are burned in power plants or special ‘pyrolysis’ ovens to create products such as glue and paints. However, the process requires a lot of energy, and burning fibreglass emits pollutants — so it’s not exactly very ‘green’.

How long Britain and the rest of the world can keep burying turbine blades is open to question. Last month, a European Parliament report called for an EU-wide landfill ban on used turbine blades by 2025. Wind industry insiders expect the UK to follow suit.

In November, a £2 million Whitehall-funded, three-year project was announced to develop research by Strathclyde University into recycling wind turbine blades so that components can be used in the car and construction industries.

In Denmark and Ireland, blades have been turned into bridges and bicycle shelters; and in the Netherlands into children’s slides and ramps — but they’ll deal with only a small fraction of the decommissioned blades heading our way.

Solar panels — which contain photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight to electricity and typically boast a 25-year life span — are another green recycling nightmare waiting to happen.

The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that by 2050, up to 78 million tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life and the world will create another six million tons of photovoltaic waste every year. Where to put all of that is potentially an even bigger headache than the turbine blades. It’s very complicated to recover the more valuable materials, such as silver and silicon, used in solar panels.

Research suggests the cost of recovering the materials outweighs the cost of extracting what can be reused by a ratio of ten to one. In other words, if the cost of recycling is $10 you get only $1 back.

And unlike wind turbine blades, solar panels contain toxic materials such as lead that can contaminate the ground as they break down, so dumping them in landfill sites poses serious issues.

And what about the lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars? Here, too, there’s a money issue. Japanese researchers say the value of the materials that can be recycled from them is about a third of the cost of the recycling operation, while it’s five times cheaper to mine new lithium than extract the old lithium from batteries.

Did you know that when you virtuously shelled out £45,000 on a Tesla Model 3?

Apostles of green energy undoubtedly glossed over all this — if indeed they even knew about it — when they first brandished wind and solar power as the perfect alternatives to help wean us off planet-killing oil, coal and gas.

It’s more realistic, say experts, to accept that we will never have a source of energy that is 100 per cent green.

That may be true — but it’s small consolation to the people of Sweetwater as their town is choked by the bones of dead wind turbines


The state of the polar bear, 2021

Susan J. Crockford

Executive summary

* Recent survey results suggest the global polar bear population is at least 32,000, although the estimate has a wide range of potential error.

* Results from the 2017–2018 survey of the Davis Strait subpopulation indicated numbers stable at about 2,015 (range 1,603–2,588), but bears were fatter than in 2005–2007, with good cub survival.

* An aerial survey of the Chukchi Sea in 2016 generated a population estimate of 5,444 (range 3,636–8,152), about 2,500 greater than a previous survey, plausibly reflecting the excellent conditions for polar bears in this area.

* Reports that polar bears seem to be moving from Alaska to Russia in a ‘mass exodus’ may describe a real phenomenon that reflects the excellent feeding conditions for bears in the Chukchi Sea compared to Alaska, fueled by continued increases in primary productivity across the Arctic.

* Spring research in Svalbard, Norway in 2021 showed the body condition of male polar bears was stable, and that litter size of family groups was the same as it had been in 1994, but lower than 2019.

* A new paper reported that more polar bears in Svalbard seem to be killing and eating reindeer during the summer than they did during the 1970s, but the phenomenon was not exclusively tied to reduced sea ice.




Sunday, February 27, 2022

2021: Warming as usual?

The global temperature has been plateaued since 2015. NOAA figures below:


No trend

It has been a long time since anyone was able to say that the past year was the warmest ever solely due to global warming.

Dr David Whitehouse, Science editor

Last week the UK Met Office released its measurement of the global temperature of 2021, a year described by the Guardian as one of climate crisis.

The continent of Africa had its warmest January on record. There was torrential rains in Malaysia and Turkey was in the tenth year of drought. In February vicious winter weather hit Texas resulting in ten million people being without power. In March Australia was hit by severe flooding forcing thousands to flee in New South Wales. Come April there were huge sandstorms in China and a hurricane brought record rainfall to some parts of Western Australia. In May the governor of California declared a drought.

June saw a remarkable heatwave in North America, Europe and Asia had their second warmest Junes on record. New Zealand temperatures broke records. The next month Death Valley in California recorded 54.4 C. Torrential rain in India killed over a hundred. In August wildfires broke out in the Mediterranean as well as swathes of Siberia. Floods hit Japan, Turkey and South America. In December floods hit Australia again. Kentucky experienced a devastating tornado.

Despite all this the data for 2021 showed it to be the seventh warmest year on record. Announcing the global temperature the Met Office emphasised that global temperatures were temporarily cooled by successive La Niña events at either end of the year.

There was a little reticence in proclaiming the news that 2021 was far from being a record breaking year. The explanation is that 2021 was very warm but it came after a few years whose temperatures were boosted by a super El Nino event. 2021, it is claimed, continues a long-term trend, super El Nino notwithstanding.

Dr Colin Morice, of the Met Office, said: “2021 is one of the warmest years on record, continuing a series of measurements of a world that is warming under the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. This extends a streak of notably warm years from 2015 to 2021 – the warmest seven years in over 170 years of measurements.”

Emphasising the long-term trend Prof Tim Osborn, of the University of East Anglia, added: “Each year tends to be a little below or a little above the underlying long-term global warming. Global temperature data analysed by the Met Office and UEA’s Climatic Research Unit show 2021 was a little below, while 2020 had been a little above, the underlying warming trend. All years, including 2021, are consistent with long-standing predictions of warming due to human activities.”

“WMO Secretary-General, Prof. Petteri Taalas commented, “Back-to-back La Niña events mean that 2021 warming was relatively less pronounced compared to recent years. Even so, it was still warmer than previous years influenced by La Niña. The overall long-term warming as a result of greenhouse gases is now far larger than the year-to-year variability caused by naturally occurring climate drivers.”

Consider though that in these climate conscious times it has been a long time since anyone was able to say that the past year was the warmest ever solely due to global warming. What’s more, new research by a group of Chinese scientists from the Ministry of Natural Resources to be published in the Journal of Climate suggest that the above or below the long-term trend line argument might be too simplistic.

By looking at all available global temperature datasets and a comprehensive span of durations and start and end times they find that the so-called global warming hiatus of the 2000s and beyond was real. Moreover, they find that the rapid warming of the late 1900s and the hiatus of the 2000s are statistically incompatible.

The ending of the hiatus is also interesting. It ended with a (record) El Nino since which global temperatures have not increased. Some see this as significant, others as we have seen there has been a resumption of the long-term linear increase despite, as the Chinese scientists point out there has been 30 years of non-linear increases in global temperature. Bear in mind that 30 years is frequently used as the definition of climate.

What I take from this is that sometimes it is very useful to draw a straight line through noisy data as it often shows the fundamental factors of a data set. Sometimes though it might not be what it seems.


How a court case over pollution could be used to unravel federal regulatory power

On Monday the US supreme court will hear arguments in a group of cases that could have an immediate impact on the American government’s ability to respond to the climate emergency.

The consequences could be even more substantial, however, reaching deep into the Biden administration’s authority to govern.

The court will be considering the 2015 Clean Power Plan, a signature Obama program requiring states to lower greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. It was touted as critical to the achievement of the landmark Paris climate agreement, but its existence was short-lived: a coalition of states and energy groups sued to stop it, the supreme court blocked it and Donald Trump, self-professed lover of coal, repealed it when he took office.

The Biden administration said it would not reinstate the Clean Power Plan, even after a federal court invalidated Trump’s repeal, because the goals of the plan had already been met through market forces, and because it was considering a new rule to replace it. So it came as a surprise when the supreme court announced it would review the lower court’s decision.

Why is the court hearing a challenge to a plan that has never really been in effect, and never will be?

Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University, thinks the court may be interested in a preemptive strike against ambitious environmental regulation. “This is a shot across the bow,” he says. “We’re going to tell you what you can’t do in case you’re even thinking about it.”

But some court observers believe the case, West Virginia v EPA, may be an opportunity for the court’s conservative supermajority to take an even bigger hammer to the government’s regulatory power, helping to see through a Trump administration objective: the “deconstruction of the administrative state”.

A muscular decision could help upend the power of the government to regulate a range of issues, from air quality to workplace protections to drug safety, and mean an effective supreme court veto over Joe Biden’s agenda.

There are a number of ways the justices could rule in the EPA case.

They could restrict the EPA’s powers under the Clean Air Act, the legal foundation for the Obama plan. They could more broadly target its power to address environmental concerns. They could also dismiss the case outright since the Clean Power Plan doesn’t actually exist.

Or they could rule in a manner with implications beyond the EPA, as a who’s who of rightwing groups, many linked by funding from billionaire Charles Koch, have urged them to do in briefs filed in the case.

By some counts, at least five justices have expressed interest in reviving a legal doctrine dormant since the 1930s, until recently considered fringe, which views much of the authority of the executive branch as illegitimate. Under an expansive version of that view, “most of government is unconstitutional”, Justice Elena Kagan has warned.

The case “could be extraordinarily important, it could be moderately important, or it could be a case the court just dismisses on a belated realization that there’s no live controversy at all,” says Kate Shaw, professor at the Cardozo School of Law and co-host of the Strict Scrutiny podcast, which covers the supreme court.

“The fact that the court took the case at all is concerning to me and suggests the court may want to use this case as a vehicle to really change the law,” she says.

Some believe the case could undo the US government as we know it.

In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal created dozens of government programs and agencies to improve the US economy and create a social safety net. But the supreme court, in those years famously pro-business and prone to strike down social welfare legislation, thwarted him at every turn. In two decisions, it invoked a principle of “nondelegation” – a doctrine that says the constitution forbids Congress from transferring power to federal agencies to make rules.

In 1937, faced with FDR’s threats to expand the court in order to push his legislation through, the court did an about-face and began upholding New Deal laws. The nondelegation doctrine faded into obscurity and the administrative state flourished.

Ever since, the delegation of authority from Congress to agencies has been core to the functioning of government.

Congress passes broad legislation enshrining certain principles and instructs agencies to fill in and update the details. The Clean Air Act, for example, instructs the EPA to regulate harmful emissions, but leaves it up to the agency to determine how to do so. The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the authority – recently restricted by the court – to issue standards regulating workplace safety.

Particularly central in an age of congressional gridlock, this model of government allows experts in federal agencies to issue rules without Congress needing to regularly pass detailed laws.

“Whether we’re talking about energy regulation, environmental regulation, workplace health and safety regulation, labor regulation – in each of those areas, Congress has passed broad statutes and given agencies a lot of discretion to implement those statutory directives,” says Shaw. “Depending on what the court says if it does reach the merits in this case, that could throw into question the permissibility of all of those delegations, which are in many ways the foundation of modern governance.”

In the last two decades, and with particular fervor since the Obama presidency, the nondelegation doctrine has gained traction among originalists – jurists who claim to adhere to a meaning of the constitution fixed at the time of its drafting – who insist America’s founders were opposed to Congress delegating regulatory power to agencies. (Scholars respond that the doctrine has no basis in history or in the constitution).

“Congress cannot duck its responsibility for making hard choices requiring compromise … by passing the buck to unelected, politically unaccountable administrative agents. The Constitution flatly prohibits Congress from delegating any of its legislative power to other entities,” according to a brief filed by the Koch-backed political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.

“As Justice Thomas has observed: ‘The end result may be trains that run on time (although I doubt it), but the cost is to our Constitution and the individual liberty it protects,’” the brief continues. Americans for Prosperity campaigned aggressively for the confirmation of Trump’s three supreme court nominees.

Conservatives on the supreme court have expressed varying degrees of sympathy for this view, most recently when they blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers.

In that case, three justices – Neil Gorsuch, Thomas and Samuel Alito – signed a concurring opinion, invoking both the nondelegation doctrine and the major questions doctrine, a related theory that says matters of major economic or political importance must be mandated by Congress. In a different case, Chief Justice John Roberts joined a dissent asserting the doctrine. Add to that signals from Brett Kavanaugh, and there are five justices who have voiced at least some support for using this arcane theory to undo the post-New Deal arrangement undergirding American government.

Lazarus, the environmental law professor, has some sympathy for a principled view that major agency action should have backing from Congress.

“The problem is, what do you do with that if you know Congress isn’t going to pass anything? We have a climate problem that if we don’t address [it] in the near term, it’s just an irreversible disaster at some point,” he says. “One is hard pressed to contend that the constitution requires such a catastrophic result.


Why aren’t there more hurricanes?

Why haven’t hurricanes increased in frequency or intensity? We live in a warming world, so why haven’t they?

When it comes to hurricanes so many perform what I term the climate two-step. It’s a not an uncommon series of moves when it comes to the climate debate, but the particular dance over the increasing incidence of hurricanes due to global warming has become a rather farcical pirouette. Part of the problem is that many expect the incidence of hurricanes to have increased already and are clearly annoyed with the lack of cooperation they get from the available data.The confusion is between what has, or has not happened, and what is expected to happen. In the real world everyone knows they are not the same thing.

Last year in his book “Unsettled: What Climate Science tells us, what it doesn’t and why it matters,” and in his lecture to the GWPF, Steven Koonin said that hurricanes were not increasing in frequency. It was not a new statement. Ryan Maue has some very good data showing that over the past 40 years hurricanes have not increased in frequency or intensity. The argument looks good, so why the controversy?

The response to Koonin’s book was instructive. The counterarguments, stated forcefully, fall apart when looked at closely. Take Scientific American’s response to Koonin. They, and I mean 12 authors, pointed to this research, to knock down Koonin’s conclusion. But their research actually says; “Detection and attribution of past changes in tropical cyclone (TC) behavior remain a challenge due to the nature of the historical data, which are highly heterogeneous in both time and among the various regions that collect and analyze the data.While there are ongoing efforts to reanalyze and homogenize the data there is still low confidence that any reported long-term (multidecadal to centennial) increases in TC activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities [which is unchanged from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5) assessment statement ].”

Game set and match then to Koonin and Maue one would have thought. But no, there is a two-step introduced into the logic, an injection of doublespeak into the reposte. It says, unscientifically, that just because we haven’t seen an increase in hurricane frequency doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened! It’s the two-step. It continues;

“This is not meant to imply that no such increases have occurred, but rather that the data are not of a high enough quality to determine this with much confidence. Furthermore, it has been argued that within the period of highest data quality (since around 1980), the globally observed changes in the environment would not necessarily support a detectable trend in tropical cyclone intensity. That is, the trend signal has not yet had time to rise above the background variability of natural processes.”

I repeat. Game set and match to Koonin and Maue.

So why haven’t hurricanes increased in frequency? Climate attribution studies have become more common in recent years consigning this or that extreme event into a statistical regime that could not exist on a world without climate change. Koonin has described such studies as being the scientific equivalent of being told you have won the lottery, after you have won the lottery!

But where are the attribution studies that explain why in a world that has warmed, warmth with so many predict will increase the incidence and severity of hurricanes in the future, there has been no increase in hurricanes? Surely this lack of an increase is an extreme event in itself? Why have hurricanes not increased as the global temperature has?

Let’s take another step in this climate dance.

Many people cite research that indicates that the incidence of hurricanes has in fact increased in line with global warming computer model predictions. The paper often referred to is by Kossin at al. which really is an exemplar when it comes to the study of the changing incidence of hurricanes. It starts off by saying that “theoretical understanding of the thermodynamic controls on tropical cyclone (TC) wind intensity, as well as numerical simulations, implies a positive trend in TC intensity in a warming world.” In other words, hurricanes should increase as the world warms.

So much for the theory but as is often the case in science the data is a little bit more messy, which the researchers admit is “generally unsuitable for global trend analysis.” One could say that they looked for a trend, but couldn’t find one.

To solve the problem Kossin et al reframe the data applying filters to it producing what they describe as a “homogenized data record based on satellite data” for the period 1982–2009. The analysis of those 28-years – the period of rapid increases in global temperature – “exhibited increasing global TC intensity trends.” Seems straightforward enough. Hurricanes have increased. One would have thought that it was a good result but it was actually scientific nonsense as they then say the trend was “not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. In other words there never was a trend.

A logical next step would be to extend the data and see if it makes any difference, and they found an extra 8 years. It did! Well, barely, and of course it’s all “consistent with expectations based on theoretical understanding and trends identified in numerical simulations in warming scenarios.”

The paper didn’t find much of an increase in hurricane frequency, if any at all, and is clearly not robust. Look carefully at the bottom line of this paper and you will see that it finds increases in the incidence of hurricanes of between 2 to 15% per decade. This is a rather shaky conclusion. Yet this shaky conclusion has entered the debate as solid evidence. Look at how Carbon Brief reported it. Their headline was (parenthesis notwithstanding) that an increase in 15% had been found! It would not have been as good, or rather an acceptable story, if they had reported just a 2% increase with associated errors.?

The increase in hurricane frequency is now widely sloppily thrown in amongst other extreme events. In his book Hot Air(The Inside Story of the Battle Against Climate Change Denial) Peter Stott says that in 2013, “the increasing toll of death and destruction from heatwaves, floods, droughts and storms was progressing at a startling and terrifying scale.”

Hine’s Hole

Perhaps data obtained from a region called Hine’s Hole will give some pause for thought. It’s a blue hole on Cay Sal Bank – one of the largest submerged platforms in the Bahamas. Islands across the Bahamian Archipelago have been devastated by five major hurricanes from 2010 to 2020, including Category 5 Hurricane Dorian in 2019 that inundated parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama with up to 4 m of surge, killing 84 people and leaving more than 250 others missing.

Bahamian hurricane frequency is poorly understood. Writing in the journal Marine Geology Journal a team of researchers present a 530-year record of hurricane passage from Hine’s Blue Hole which it archives hurricanes in its disturbed sediments.

Hine’s Hole records 16 intense storms per century from 1850 to 2016, but there are three periods from 1505 to 1530, 1570 to 1620, and 1710 to 1875 with over twice as many intense storms per century.

These active periods are also found in other reconstructions from the Bahamian Archipelago and Florida Keys, where the effect seems more pronounced. Hine’s Hole provides data on weaker and more distal storms and provides unprecedented insight into changes in hurricane activity within the pre-industrial climate system. Its 170-year record shows many more hurricanes than seen in recent decades.

Hurricanes, like other extreme events, vary on timescales longer than the recent spell of global warming. While some contemplate the implications some are waiting for the increase in hurricane frequency. Others are sure it’s already happened. The debate can be described as unsettled.


The stampede of green lemmings

No country on Earth relies entirely on wind and solar energy, but Australian politicians aim to achieve this miracle.

They are leaders in the ‘Stampede of the Green Lemmings’.

Solar energy has a huge problem. Even on sunny days almost nothing is generated to meet the demand peaks around breakfast time and dinner time – the solar energy union only works a six-hour day, goes on strike with little warning, and takes quite a few sickies.

So, for at least 18 hours of every day, electricity must come from somewhere else. Then at around noon millions of solar panels pour out far more electricity than is needed, causing electrical and financial chaos in the electrical grid.

Naturally, our green ‘engineers’ see wind power as filling the solar energy gaps. But wind power has a union too and they take lots of sickies when there is no wind over large areas of the continent. And they down tools in storms, gales, or cyclones in case their whirling toys are damaged.

So the green planners claim that batteries can solve these intermittent problems of the green energy twins.

They will need to be humungous batteries.

Batteries are just a crutch for a crippled generation system. And with fierce lithium battery fires reported regularly, who wants a humungous fire-prone battery over the back fence or in the basement?

A battery is not a generator of electricity – every battery (including Snowy 2.0) is a net consumer of electricity. Batteries are very expensive, most lose capacity as they age, and every conversion between DC storage and AC transmission triggers energy losses. To collect, back up, and re-distribute green electricity will require a continent-spanning spider-web of transmission lines with all the costs and energy losses that network entails.

Still nights and calm cloudy days are what really expose the problems of wind-solar-plus-batteries.

Suppose electricity consumers require 100 units of electricity every day. A well-designed coal, nuclear, or gas power station can do that, 24/7, day after day, whatever the weather.

But to insure a wind or solar system against, say, 7 days of calm or cloudy weather would require a battery capable of storing 700 units of electricity. To re-charge this huge battery while still supplying consumers will require much larger wind or solar generating capacity. However, if several weeks of windy or sunny weather then occur, this big battery will sit idle, connected to a bloated expensive generation system that is capable of delivering far more power than is needed.

Sunny or windy weather brings a deluge of green energy, causing power prices to plunge at irregular intervals, and forcing reliable generators to stop producing and lose money. Eventually they will close. Once all coal-gas generators are all gone, every (inevitable) green energy drought will awaken the spectre of extensive blackouts.

On top of all these practical problems of green energy, we have the massive carbon credits scam, where speculators sell green fairy stories to greedy bankers, and real producers are forced to buy these fictitious ‘products’, passing the costs onto real industry and consumers.

Australia is following the green energy lemmings of Europe.

Germany once produced abundant reliable electricity from coal and nuclear power – the backbone for German industry. Then green ants started nibbling at this backbone, replacing it with wind-solar toys. Now, Germany has expensive electricity – a grid in danger of collapse and must rely on imported gas from Russia, nuclear power from France or hydro-power from Scandinavia.

UK is also following similar foolish energy policies, even banning exploration of their own oil and gas resources.

Australia is almost alone in the Southern oceans, with no near neighbours to buy, beg or borrow electricity from. We cannot afford to follow the green energy lemmings or their billionaire pied pipers.




Friday, February 25, 2022

Changes in Global Vegetation Distribution and Carbon Fluxes in Response to Global Warming

If CO2-induced warming ever happens, both the the increased CO2 supply and the raised temperatures will promote plant growth -- including food crops


Terrestrial ecosystems are an important part of Earth systems, and they are undergoing remarkable changes in response to global warming. This study investigates the response of the terrestrial vegetation distribution and carbon fluxes to global warming by using the new dynamic global vegetation model in the second version of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Earth System Model (CAS-ESM2). We conducted two sets of simulations, a present-day simulation and a future simulation, which were forced by the present-day climate during 1981–2000 and the future climate during 2081–2100, respectively, as derived from RCP8.5 outputs in CMIP5. CO2 concentration is kept constant in all simulations to isolate CO2-fertilization effects. The results show an overall increase in vegetation coverage in response to global warming, which is the net result of the greening in the mid-high latitudes and the browning in the tropics. The results also show an enhancement in carbon fluxes in response to global warming, including gross primary productivity, net primary productivity, and autotrophic respiration. We found that the changes in vegetation coverage were significantly correlated with changes in surface air temperature, reflecting the dominant role of temperature, while the changes in carbon fluxes were caused by the combined effects of leaf area index, temperature, and precipitation. This study applies the CAS-ESM2 to investigate the response of terrestrial ecosystems to climate warming. Even though the interpretation of the results is limited by isolating CO2-fertilization effects, this application is still beneficial for adding to our understanding of vegetation processes and to further improve upon model parameterizations.


Tesla gets wrist slap from EPA for violating Clean Air Act

Tesla has agreed to pay a $275,000 fine in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating the federal Clean Air Act at its electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Fremont, California.

The penalty is next to nothing for a company that generated a net income of $2.32 billion in the fourth quarter of last year alone.

The EPA found Tesla to be in violation of specific regulations known as National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Surface Coating of Automobiles and Light-Duty Trucks from October 2016 through September 2019, which could put people living in communities nearby at a health and environmental risk. Tesla’s facility applied coating materials containing such hazardous air pollutants as formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, naphthalene and xylene.

Based on several requests for information from Tesla, the EPA determined that Tesla either didn’t develop or implement a work practice plan to minimize hazardous air pollutant emissions from the storage and mixing of materials used to coat Tesla’s vehicles. The EPA also found that Tesla didn’t perform the required monthly emissions calculations to demonstrate compliance with federal standards, and it failed to collect and keep all required records associated with the calculation of pollutant emission rate for coating operations.

This isn’t the first time Tesla or its Fremont facility, also the site of alleged rampant sexual and racial discrimination, has been called out by the EPA. In 2019, Tesla agreed to pay a $31,000 penalty for failing to comply with air emissions standards for equipment leaks, failing to comply with management requirements for generators of hazardous wastes and failing to make an adequate hazardous waste determination for certain solid waste generated at the facility, according to the EPA. At the time, Tesla also had to purchase $55,000 in emergency response equipment for the City of Fremont Fire Department.

Tesla has had multiple fires in the paint shop of its Fremont factory, in large part because filters meant to clean and carry air into and out of the building were visibly coated in paint and clearcoat, Tesla employees told CNBC in 2018.

“Compliance monitoring is one of the key components EPA uses to ensure that the regulated community follows environmental laws and regulations,” wrote the EPA in a statement. “Today’s case is another example of the Agency’s years-long compliance oversight of this facility. Tesla has corrected the violations noted in both settlements and returned to compliance.”


UN-backed green investment fund on brink of failure months after UN summit launch

A UN-backed green investment fund is on the brink of failure three months after its launch during the Glasgow climate summit because institutions including big banks never delivered expected seed funding.

The MSCI Global Climate Select exchange traded fund was unveiled in early November. Trading under the ticker NTZO, it excludes fossil fuel companies and boosts holdings of companies with lower carbon emissions.

The fund has amassed less than $2mn and is likely to be wound down as soon as the end of March without further investment, said Ethan Powell, founder of Dallas-based Impact Shares, the fund manager. He said Impact Shares has been spending about $25,000 a month to manage the ETF.

The case illustrates how corporate organising to combat climate change can fall short when capital is needed. The ETF was created by Impact Shares and Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD), a group of 30 global companies that launched in October 2019 to help fund the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Bank of America, Citigroup and Santander, all GISD members, pledged to provide seed money to NTZO but have refused until other investors step up, said Jim Healy and Sudip Thakor, former Credit Suisse bankers who are involved with the fund.

“It is a classic case of everyone just going through the motions,” Thakor said. He said he invested $500,000 in the ETF, while Healy and his wife invested $1mn.

Bank of America and Citigroup pledged up to $50mn and $12.5mn for the ETF, respectively, but with the proviso that their investments could not account for more than 25 per cent of the fund, Healy and Thakor said. They said Santander, the Spanish bank, pledged $50mn but would not have more than 5 per cent.

Because of the ETF’s small size, the banks could not provide their maximum dollar commitments without exceeding the pledged percentages.

Bank of America said it “stood by ready to provide seed capital on the basis that the ETF would be able to gather sufficient volume from long-term institutional investors”.

Citigroup said it is willing “to provide seed capital for the NTZO ETF contingent on preset criteria and regulatory requirements”, adding that “any claim to the contrary is false”.

Santander said it “remains committed” to investing in the ETF “once the fund has been seeded and the information required to complete due diligence has been provided”.

The UN said it “continues to support innovative finance solutions” and will “support those efforts when called upon”. ....


Australia: BlueScope’s $1 billion blast furnace rebuild indicates ‘green steel’ isn’t coming anytime soon

BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL), the steel business carved out of BHP (ASX:BHP) two decades ago will press ahead with a study on a $1 billion furnace reline at the Port Kembla steelworks.

It is a surefire indication those in the know do not view the transition to so-called ‘green steel’ as a near-term shift.

The reline of the mothballed number 6 blast furnace will have a 20 year life and cost up to $300 million more than BlueScope initially planned, setting the firm up to maintain its domestic supply of steel from 2026, helping BlueScope through the energy transition ahead of its 2050 net zero target.

BlueScope’s position is the furnace reline will provide a “challenging but credible timeline” for the development of low emissions steelmaking technologies.

“The reline does not lock BlueScope in to blast furnace steelmaking for the full 20 years if technology is ready earlier,” the company said.

“However, achieving this will be dependent on several enablers including access to low cost green hydrogen, firmed and affordable renewable energy, the development of suitable raw material supply chains and appropriate policy settings.”

It follows comments last week from South32 (ASX:S32) CEO Graham Kerr, a supplier of metallurgical coal to BlueScope, that coal would have a use in the steelmaking process for at least 20 years given the infancy of low emissions technologies like green hydrogen.

BlueScope is well stocked to deploy capital at the moment after reporting record first half underlying profit of $1.57 billion, up 373% on the same period in 2021.




Thursday, February 24, 2022

Aluminium shortages to deter blanket sanctions on Rusal - analysts

Mainly because of its lightness, aluminium is a crucial metal in meeting Greenie objectives

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States and European Union countries are unlikely to impose blanket sanctions on Rusal if Russia invades Ukraine as that would exacerbate aluminium shortages, propel prices to new records and damage manufacturing, analysts say.

Russia has repeatedly denied it is preparing to invade Ukraine.

Rusal, which accounts for about 6% of global aluminium supplies estimated by analysts at around 70 million tonnes this year, is the world's largest producer outside China.

U.S. sanctions on Rusal imposed in April 2018 - and lifted in early 2019 - created major disruption for firms in the transport, construction and packaging industries. The resulting scramble for aluminium saw prices jump 30% in just a few days.

"It is important to note that lawmakers initially underestimated the impact of the Rusal sanctions," said CRU analyst Eoin Brophy. "Aluminium inventories are so low today that a replay of that error would be explosive for prices."

"To limit disruptions to manufacturing, it is highly likely that any existing contracts would sit outside of sanctions."

In response to requests for comment, EU spokesperson Peter Stano said it was premature to speculate about specific measures, since "no decisions have been made about any new sanctions against Russia".

Oil market could plunge into crisis as spare capacity remains tight and Russia-Ukraine tensions linger
"Our sanctions will be suggested, discussed and adopted only in reaction to further violation or aggression against Ukraine," he said.


Greenland’s Melting Ice Is No Cause for Climate-Change Panic

One of the most sacred tenets of climate alarmism is that Greenland’s vast ice sheet is shrinking ever more rapidly because of human-induced climate change. The media and politicians warn constantly of rising sea levels that would swamp coastlines from Florida to Bangladesh. A typical headline: “Greenland ice sheet on course to lose ice at fastest rate in 12,000 years.”

With an area of 660,000 square miles and a thickness up to 1.9 miles, Greenland’s ice sheet certainly deserves attention. Its shrinking has been a major cause of recent sea-level rise, but as is often the case in climate science, the data tell quite a different story from the media coverage and the political laments.

The chart nearby paints a bigger picture that is well known to experts but largely absent from the media and even from the most recent United Nations climate report. It shows the amount of ice that Greenland has lost every year since 1900, averaged over 10-year intervals; the annual loss averages about 110 gigatons. (A gigaton is one billion metric tons, or slightly over 2.2 trillion pounds.) That is a lot, but that water has caused the planet’s oceans to rise each year by only 0.01 inch, about one-fifth the thickness of a dime.

In contrast, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that for the most likely course of greenhouse-gas emissions in the 21st century, the average annual ice loss would be somewhat larger than the peak values shown in the graph. That would cause sea level to rise by 3 inches by the end of this century, and if losses were to continue at that rate, it would take about 10,000 years for all the ice to disappear, causing sea level to rise more than 20 feet.

To assess the importance of human influences, we can look at how the rate of ice loss has changed over time.

In that regard, the graph belies the simplistic notion that humans are melting Greenland. Since human warming influences on the climate have grown steadily—they are now 10 times what they were in 1900— you might expect Greenland to lose more ice each year. Instead there are large swings in the annual ice loss and it is no larger today than it was in the 1930s, when human influences were much smaller. Moreover, the annual loss of ice has been decreasing in the past decade even as the globe continues to warm.

While a warming globe might eventually be the dominant cause of Greenland’s shrinking ice, natural cycles in temperatures and currents in the North Atlantic that extend for decades have been a much more important influence since 1900. Those cycles, together with the recent slowdown, make it plausible that the next few decades will see a further, perhaps dramatic slowing of ice loss. That would be inconsistent with the IPCC’s projection and wouldn’t at all support the media’s exaggerations.

Much climate reporting today highlights short-term changes when they fit the narrative of a broken climate but then ignores or plays down changes when they don’t, often dismissing them as “just weather.”

Climate unfolds over decades. Although short-term changes might be deemed news, they need to be considered in a many-decade context. Media coverage omitting that context misleadingly raises alarm. Greenland’s shrinking ice is a prime example of that practice.

If Greenland’s ice loss continues to slow, headline writers will have to find some other aspect of Greenland’s changes to grab our attention, and politicians will surely find some other reason to justify their favorite climate policies.


A "preference cascade" for global warming

Writing in the Daily Telegraph James Morrow referred to something called a preference cascade which he said was a term used by political scientists.

This term (new to me) set my wordsmith’s whiskers tingling so I did a bit of digging. It appears that preference cascade was coined by Turkish economist Timur Kuran, It means that average people behave the way they think they ought to, even though that behaviour might not reflect their own personal feelings. Given a sufficient ‘A-ha!’ moment when they discover that their personal feelings are overshadowed by a large portion of the population their behaviour may change dramatically—as they feel compelled to fall in line with others.

I wonder if this is what has happened to the climate debate? From the 1980s (when climate hysteria began) most ordinary Australians applied their common sense to the issue. They thought that ‘global warming’ sounded a lot better than ‘global freezing’. On top of which, there’s no point is worrying about it because governments can’t control the climate any more than they can control next Wednesday’s weather.

But as the years have gone on, school children have been brainwashed, the hysteria has become more and more alarmist and I now wonder if many are not thinking, ‘Well, it makes no sense to me, but if that’s what most people think…’. At which point the dominoes start to tumble and a preference cascade happens? If that really is what has occurred, then the irresponsible, alarmist media has a lot to answer for.


Yamaha Gets Busy Crafting A 5-Liter V8 Hydrogen Engine For Toyota

Is internal combustion dead? Not if some companies have anything to say about it

In November, 2021, five major automotive and motorcycle companies announced their plans to collaborate on carbon neutrality. Kawasaki, Yamaha, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota all pledged to work together on projects they didn’t spell out in detail just then. Their joint press release also voiced the eventual expectation that Honda and Suzuki would join at some yet-to-be-determined point in the future.

Now it’s February, 2022, and Yamaha and Toyota announced plans to jointly develop a 5.0-liter V8 engine powered entirely by hydrogen. The goal, the two companies say, is to not give up entirely on the internal combustion engine while still pursuing all the companies’ stated carbon neutrality goals. It’s the next phase in that previously-announced multi-company collaboration, and it certainly won’t be the last.

“We are working toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050,” Yamaha Motor president Yoshihiro Hidaka said in a statement. “At the same time, ‘Motor’ is in our company name and we accordingly have a strong passion for and level of commitment to the internal combustion engine.”

Also Betting Big On Hydrogen:

Why France May Be Pushing Hard For Hydrogen-Powered Scooters
Segway Introduces Apex H2 Electric-Hydrogen Hybrid Prototype
“Hydrogen engines house the potential to be carbon-neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive at the same time. Teaming up with companies with different corporate cultures and areas of expertise as well as growing the number of partners we have is how we want to lead the way into the future,” Hidaka concluded.

The carbon neutrality of hydrogen as a fuel is a possibility—but as we’ve mentioned previously, a whole lot of things have to happen end-to-end for it to be more than a pipe dream. That’s the goal of so-called green hydrogen, but the complexity and expense are two reasons why so-called blue hydrogen is presently the more popular option. (Well, that and the fact that blue hydrogen production still utilizes natural gas, and gas companies don’t exactly want to get left out in the cold.)

Anyway, Yamaha's V8 hydrogen engine is intended for use in automobiles. It makes a claimed 450 horsepower at 6,800 rpm, as well as peak torque of 540 newton-meters (or 398 pound-feet) at 3,600 rpm. We’re all for combining performance, usability, fun, and environmental sustainability whenever possible—but can manufacturers really have it all? That remains to be seen.




Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Greenland hokum

The finding that the Greenland ice sheet is melting from the bottom up is totally unsurprising given what we know about subsurface vulcanisn in Greenland Having a volcano underneath you can give you a pretty warm bottom. But it totally undermines the Warmist gospel that atmospheric warming is at work. Warmists frequently point to global warming as the cause of melting in the Arctic.

Widespread awareness of subsurface vulcanism would however take away from Warmists one of their favorite claims. It would confiscate one of their toys. So they had to come up with an explanstion for the anomalous warming that did not refer to vulcanism.

And what they have come up with is a lulu. They say that meltwater from the top of the glacier has trickled down through cracks in the glacier and delivered its higher temperature to the bottom of the glacier

But that is pretty mad. Surely water trickling down through cracks would rapidly refreeze long before it got to the botton of the glacier. Do they think that the meltwater wears little furry coats as it trickled down?

Greenland's Ice Sheet is melting from the bottom up and is now the largest single contributor to global sea level rise, a new study has warned.

Researchers have observed 'unprecedented' rates of melting at the bottom of the ice sheet, caused by huge quantities of meltwater falling from the surface to the base.

As the meltwater falls, energy is converted into heat in a similar way to how hydroelectric power is generated by large dams.

This effect is by far the largest heat source beneath the world's second-largest ice sheet, an international team of scientists led by the University of Cambridge found, leading to phenomenally high rates of melting at its base.

The lubricating effect of meltwater has a strong effect on the movement of glaciers and the quantity of ice discharged into the ocean, but directly measuring conditions beneath more than half a mile (1 km) of ice to the bottom is a challenge, especially in Greenland where glaciers are among the world's fastest moving.

Experts say this makes it difficult to understand the dynamic behaviour of the Greenland Ice Sheet and predict future changes

Each summer, thousands of meltwater lakes and streams form on the surface of the ice sheet as temperatures rise and daily sunlight increases.

But many of these lakes quickly drain to the bottom, falling through cracks and large fractures which form in the ice.

With a continued supply of water from streams and rivers, connections between surface and bed often remain open.

Professor Poul Christoffersen from Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute has been studying these meltwater lakes, how and why they drain so quickly, and the effect that they have on the overall behaviour of the ice sheet as global temperatures continue to rise.

The current work, which includes researchers from Aberystwyth University, is the culmination of a seven-year study focused on Store Glacier, one of the largest outlets from the Greenland Ice Sheet.

'When studying basal melting of ice sheets and glaciers, we look at sources of heat like friction, geothermal energy, latent heat released where water freezes and heat losses into the ice above,' said Christoffersen.

'But what we hadn't really looked at was the heat generated by the draining meltwater itself.

'There's a lot of gravitational energy stored in the water that forms on the surface and when it falls, the energy has to go somewhere.'

To measure melt rates at the base of the ice sheet, the researchers used radio-echo sounding, a technique developed at the British Antarctic Survey and used previously on floating ice sheets in Antarctica.

'We weren't sure that the technique would also work on a fast-flowing glacier in Greenland,' said fellow author Dr Tun Jan Young, who installed the radar system on Store Glacier as part of his PhD at Cambridge.

'Compared to Antarctica, the ice deforms really fast and there is a lot of meltwater in summer, which complicates the work.'

The melt rates at the base were found to be as high as those measured on the surface with a weather station.

This is despite the fact that the surface receives heat from the sun while the base does not.

To explain the results, the Cambridge researchers teamed up with scientists at the University of California Santa Cruz and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.

The researchers calculated that as much as 82 million cubic metres of meltwater was transferred to the bed of Store Glacier every day during the summer of 2014.

They estimated that the power produced by the falling water during peak melt periods was comparable to the power produced by the Three Gorges Dam in China, the world's largest hydroelectric power station.

With a melt area that expands to nearly a million square kilometres at the height of summer, the Greenland Ice Sheet produces more hydropower than the world's ten largest hydroelectric power stations combined, the researchers found.

'Given what we are witnessing at the high latitudes in terms of climate change, this form of hydropower could easily double or triple, and we're still not even including these numbers when we estimate the ice sheet's contribution to sea level rise,' said Christoffersen.

The researchers compared temperature measurements from sensors installed in a nearby borehole to verify the melt rates recorded by the radar.

At the base, they found the temperature of water to be as high as 33°F (0.88°C), which is unexpectedly warm for an ice sheet base with a melting point of 31°F (-0.40°C).

'The borehole observations confirmed that the meltwater heats up when it hits the bed,' said Christoffersen.

'The reason is that the basal drainage system is a lot less efficient than the fractures and conduits that bring the water through the ice. The reduced drainage efficiency causes frictional heating within the water itself.

'When we took this heat source out of our calculations, the theoretical melt rate estimates were a full two orders of magnitude out.

'The heat generated by the falling water is melting the ice from the bottom up, and the melt rate we are reporting is completely unprecedented.'

Researchers said their study provides the first concrete evidence of an ice-sheet mass-loss mechanism, which is not yet included in projections of global sea level rise.

While the high melt rates are specific to heat produced in subglacial drainage paths carrying surface water, the volume of surface water produced in Greenland is huge and growing, and nearly all of it drains to the bed.

The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Frackers push into once-dead shale patches as oil nears $US100 a barrel

Spurred by the highest oil prices in years, shale companies are moving drilling rigs back into oil fields that were all but abandoned a few years ago.

Private oil producers are leading an industry return to places like the Anadarko Basin of Oklahoma and the DJ Basin in Colorado, where drilling had almost completely stopped in mid-2020 when those areas became unprofitable because of lower oil prices.

Oil production in these marginal regions isn’t expected to move the needle in the global market, which is facing tight supplies, but it could help some oil producers who have lost money in past years. Output in the contiguous US by year-end is expected to increase almost solely from the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, offset by declines elsewhere, according to energy consultant Wood Mackenzie.

Some of the largest shale companies told investors this past week they plan to remain disciplined on capital spending and limit production growth. But with oil climbing above $US90 a barrel, near the highest levels in more than seven years, some peripheral drilling, particularly by smaller companies, is now becoming more feasible even in places like Kansas and Utah, where wells produce far less oil than prolific fields in Texas and New Mexico. The regional revivals show the economic ripple effects when prices surge and mark a turnaround for companies hard-hit by the pandemic.

Brent, the global oil benchmark, rose to $US95.39 a barrel monday, up almost 2 per cent. Charter Oak Production is planning to bring one drilling rig back to the Anadarko Basin this month and contract a larger rig to work there until late 2022, in hopes of doubling or tripling its output from about 1,000 barrels a day. Though oil-field costs have climbed sharply amid new activity and inflation, Charter founder Joe Brevetti said the clock is ticking for his drilling plans because, at some point, high commodity prices will dent demand and lead to lower prices.

“We have a limited window of opportunity,” Mr Brevetti said. “Our costs are obviously up right now, but I’d rather have the higher costs and sell the product at $US90.” Mr Brevetti’s company waited out the oil-demand destruction wrought by the pandemic, slashing drilling activity and storing as many as 60,000 barrels of oil in empty tanks that typically hold other materials used in fracking, instead of selling the oil at low prices. Those moves were key to helping the company survive the downturn, he said.

Putting drilling rigs back to work in the Anadarko Basin wouldn’t have made sense when oil prices were around $US45 a barrel or lower in 2020, with some companies needing at least $US60-per-barrel oil, or even $US80 a barrel, to increase investments, executives said.

The average number of active drilling rigs in the Anadarko Basin has surged from the pandemic low of seven to 46, according to energy data analytics firm Enverus. The latest number is several more than the region had before oil prices collapsed because of economic shutdowns in the spring of 2020, and almost double the average of mid-2021.

In the DJ Basin in Colorado, the average number of active rigs has risen to 15, up from four in 2020, Enverus data show. In the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and the Uinta Basin in Utah, which both saw rigs fall to zero in mid-2020, the rig count has increased to almost a dozen. All three areas need higher oil prices to make wells profitable.

This past week, oil producer Crescent Energy said it would buy assets in the Uinta Basin for $US815m in cash and plans to operate two rigs there this year. Utah is pumping the most oil since late 2014, though it makes up less than 1 per cent of the nation’s output.

Companies have started pumping more oil from regions that yield tiny wells by industry standards. Private oil producer Palomino Petroleum is now running as many as six drilling rigs this year in western Kansas, the largest fleet it has had there in about seven years. The wells it drills there typically start producing about 50 to 100 barrels a day. That oil is moved by truck to a refinery in central Kansas.

Klee Watchous, Palomino’s president, said oil prices climbing back to $US90 a barrel has marked a sharp turnaround in the fortunes of both the company and the small towns near its operations. Mr Watchous said his company is also planning to drill wells in Illinois this year, a state where rigs have rarely ventured recently.

“After many years of fighting this low oil-price situation, it feels great,” Mr Watchous said. “The cycles of boom and bust have been part of the oil-and-gas industry for decades, and no one knows how long it will last.” Still, the renewed investment in many of the regions is nowhere near the levels they saw during shale’s peak years. Most of the largest, publicly traded companies are still focusing instead on top-tier fields like the Permian.

Activity in the Anadarko basin is well below its 2018 levels. Investor interest in the region faded around 2019 following disappointing oil-well performance. Oil companies and their service providers cut hundreds of jobs in the region as activity waned. Some industry observers are hopeful that the region could see the number of drilling rigs there climb above 100 again and bring back jobs, but said that would take years of high oil prices.

Even though the region is on the upswing, some larger private companies are taking a conservative approach. Citizen Energy, a private producer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is reinvesting around 50 per cent of the money it generates from operations back into capital expenditures on developing its assets, said finance chief Tim Helms. In shale’s heyday, companies almost always spent more money on drilling and fracking than they made selling the oil and gas.

Mr Helms said Citizen is now running four rigs in the Anadarko Basin, up from two that targeted natural gas in 2020. While the company may consider adding rigs if prices stay high for a long time, it is still focused on generating cash flow while increasing output around 10 per cent this year, he said.

“The financial model would tell you to put eight rigs at work,” Mr. Helms said. “We, like the rest of the industry, have learned our lessons about growing at all costs.”


The group that brought down Keystone XL faces agonies of its own

The group that revived a slumbering environmental movement by focusing on big targets was flying high. It was no longer just a plucky collection of friends from a Vermont college and their luminary founder, Bill McKibben. It was a global force. The $800,000 retreat at a five-star luxury resort in Killarney, Ireland in March 2019 proved it.

The rise for had been meteoric. The crash would be, too.

In the early 2010s, was the environmental movement’s driving force. Led by McKibben, a famed environmentalist and best-selling author, its spectacle-worthy, guerrilla-style protests over causes, including blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, captured the public’s imagination. It brought younger, more diverse activists into the green tent. Starting out with eight founding members in 2008, it had grown to 165 full-time employees — not including its many contractors — when staff traveled to Ireland that March.

It was at the Killarney retreat that May Boeve, the executive director and one of’s founders, announced that she’d hiked the organization’s annual budget to $25 million. She told staff to dream big. She revealed plans for nearly 130 new hires to make a splash at global climate strikes that September — part of an envisioned revamp to improve the organization’s diversity and equity. Everyone there was elated.

But had never eclipsed $20 million in revenue in a single year. When it quickly became clear it wouldn’t that year, Boeve said she initially kept the information largely to herself, according to an October 2019 internal email to the staff.

“[W]e decided to go very big this year in anticipation that there would, in fact, be a movement surge. We were right about that. My big mistake was not giving us enough time to bring in the resources prior to expanding our spending,” Boeve wrote in the all-staff memo. “Money certainly has come in, but not at the scale we needed it to. … My other regret is not to have sounded the alarm sooner.”

The fallout would lead to mass layoffs, departures, exhaustion, distrust and a protracted labor battle that exists to this day, according to internal documents, third-party audits and communications obtained by POLITICO — which made an attempt to contact all parties referenced in this story — in addition to interviews with 18 current and former staff members, most of whom were granted anonymity to speak candidly. The organization saw its U.S. program office fall from nearly 50 people in 2019 to nine entering this year.

The hiring spree intended to make look more the part of the global organization it wanted to become by adding staff from more diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Its struggles mirror those of many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, which are wrestling with internal dissension at a crucial juncture in the fight against climate change — problems shadowed by the movement’s historical lack of diversity and its urgent need to bring activists of different backgrounds into the fold.

“This exclusion has resulted in failed attempts to pass durable climate policy because policymakers have ignored the very people who have an organized community behind them,” Keya Chatterjee, executive director of the U.S. Climate Action Network, told the House Natural Resources Committee during a Feb. 8 hearing on movement diversity and justice. “My own experience working at a large, white-led NGO was that while there was a focus on diversity in the workforce, there was a lack of retention because of a lack of commitment to justice.”

In detailed responses to POLITICO,’s leaders acknowledged their financial missteps and said that, like many organizations, it must do more to create a more inclusive workplace. It described new financial processes and governance measures, efforts to eliminate pay disparities and initiatives to improve equity in hiring.

“Of course it’s impacted staff,” Boeve said in an interview, referring to the layoffs and financial crisis. “Change processes are very hard. The team leading our U.S. staff have really intentionally focused on rebuilding culture through a justice and equity lens. So that’s been a big focus.”

As a result of the restructuring, said, its finances have stabilized. Revenues for fiscal year 2020 hit $25 million against $19 million in expenses, while preliminary 2021 estimates show $23 million of revenue versus $20 million in expenses, according to Across those fiscal years it received $2.6 million from the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the coronavirus economic relief package that then-President Donald Trump signed into law.

Meanwhile, she said, the group’s strategic focus has shifted from focusing on mass demonstrations to more targeted campaigns, such as getting the Federal Reserve to take climate risks more seriously or prodding China to stop financing overseas coal projects.

“350’s original purpose as an organization was very much about building this strong, people-powered movement to fight climate change,” Boeve said. “I feel like the ways we’ve transformed the organization has made it fundamentally different from where we started, but remaining really true to our core DNA — and in fact, in some ways, making us even better suited to fulfill that original purpose.”


Concrete: The big CO2 source Greenies have forgotten

In vowing not to close coal fired power stations until equivalent replacement generation is in place, the bidders for AGL – Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and Brookfield’s Stewart Upson – have added realism to the “shut down coal frenzy” sweeping Australia.

For that, the nation can be grateful because, until now, the frenzy was not being moderated by that vital qualification. The frenzy has also obscured sources of carbon pollution which rival coal that few want to discuss, because they go to the heart of the current Australian and world economic stimulation. That is the use of concrete and steel in construction.

Twiggy Forrest’s Fortescue has highlighted the carbon content of steel production, but concrete is rarely talked about probably because, as a community, in most of our houses we are replacing stored carbon in the form of timber with concrete slabs and their associated carbon emissions.

If we are serious about carbon emissions, then we must not leave all the heavy lifting to coal – concrete must be part of the action. And just like coal, we can’t simply abandon concrete unless we develop techniques and materials to either replace it or make it differently. Late last week Frank Cerra, head of Perth based project engineers BG&E, sent me a note highlighting the size of carbon emissions from concrete.

– The global construction sector accounts for 25 per cent of the world’s emissions. And as the world increases its investment in infrastructure and new buildings, emissions are rising rapidly. It’s predicted the equivalent of one New York City will be built every month globally until 2060.

– The global cement industry produces 7 to 8 per cent of the world’s man-made carbon dioxide. Concrete is consumed at a rate of 33 billion tonnes per annum and is the most consumed material in the world after water.

– Currently, over 20 per cent of Australia’s GDP is attributed to infrastructure sectors, with 33 per cent of planned infrastructure project activity occurring in NSW and Victoria. Approximately 25 million cubic metres of concrete are used annually in construction.

Cerra says engineers understand the critical interdependence of structural efficiency and materials and are working with key players to reduce embodied carbon in their projects, but a lot more needs to be done.

Meanwhile NSW has launched a program to reduce carbon in infrastructure by developing “collaborative solutions which are practical yet ambitious while also ensuring our infrastructure is fit-for-purpose and built to last”.

Now to the “Bacchus Marsh” cement-making technology story. Soon after the turn of the century, scientist Mark Sceats concluded that for many furnace applications, including cement, it would be far better to use a cylinder heated to very high temperatures and to conduct the treatment process inside that cylinder. That method of operation would also allow electrification of the furnace.

Washington H. Soul Pattinson saw Sceats process as a potential way of making better bricks. A test plant was commissioned at Bacchus Marsh in Victoria, but Soul Pattinson pulled out with the plant not completed. The employees raised the money to complete the plant and managed to keep it operational. Sceats is now the chief scientist at Calix, the listed-Australian company that owns the technology.

Australian cement makers were not interested, but in Europe there was a crisis. Back in 2005, the enormous emissions from its cement makers were neutralised by huge carbon credit certificates which would have lasted many decades.

But the cement makers were greedy and didn’t take carbon seriously, so they sold their abundant carbon credits for a profit of some $8bn.

Now the European Union is being tougher on carbon but most of the credits have gone. So far the cement makers have not been able to find a satisfactory substitute for lime in cement so they are pursuing a strategy of developing technology to separate and collect the carbon emissions from the cement process. They will either use the separated carbon in industry or store it in old oil wells.

The Bacchus Marsh plant was able to separate carbon so the European cement makers trialled the Australian technology (officially called LEILAC-1) in a massive Belgium pilot plant. Other technologies were also tested before the Europeans declared last October that the Australian technology offers the cheapest way yet to decarbonise the cement industry.

Calix will receive royalties, but it is now pursuing non-cement uses for its technology.




Tuesday, February 22, 2022

California’s green-energy subsidies spur a gold rush in cow manure

Another absurdity in pursuit of the zero carbon chimera

Clean Energy Fuels, a major distributor of natural gas made from waste, found a way to boost its earnings by millions of dollars, virtually overnight.

All it had to do was switch the main biofuel it supplies to power cars and trucks in California – currently a type of natural gas produced with methane emissions from garbage – to a chemically identical gas produced from the manure of cows.

California’s clean-fuels grading system gives cow-poop gas a much better score – and much higher subsidies – than landfill gas. So that simple substitution could net Clean Energy an additional $US70m in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation by 2026, the company estimates.

Together with European energy giants BP and TotalEnergies, Clean Energy is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into gas production on dairy farms to milk that advantage. A host of developers, financiers and carbon-conscious corporations, from Chevron to, are looking to buy or produce the fuel as well.

“It is like magic,” said Andrew Littlefair, Clean Energy’s president and chief executive, of the projected earnings boost.

The surging interest in dairy renewable natural gas, as it is called, shows how incentives can spur action to address the emissions linked to climate change – and sometimes unintended consequences as well. Until a few years ago, the gas, which is interchangeable with conventional natural gas and can replace dirtier fuels like diesel, was a niche product that was too expensive to make commercially.

Now, California’s generous subsidies have prompted what some observers are dubbing a manure gold rush. One developer said he showed up at a dairy only to discover that the farmer had gotten more than 10 pitches for business tie-ups already. Others said competition for business has gotten so heated that some developers are promising to pay farmers a fixed amount per cow – a risky setup if the price of the California credits plummets.

Driving the boom is California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. The standard requires companies that sell transportation fuels in the state to lower their products’ carbon intensity – the carbon dioxide emitted during manufacture, distribution and consumption. Companies that exceed the carbon-intensity maximums have to buy offset credits, each of which represents a metric ton of emissions. Those with low-scoring fuels generate credits, whose price goes up and down depending on demand.

The lowest carbon-intensity scores go to fuels that keep warming gases out of the air – particularly methane, a greenhouse gas that can be 84 times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific group that helps the United Nations evaluate the state of research on the issue.

Other waste sources such as landfills produce methane, too. But California already requires landfills to curb methane emissions while farms don’t have to, and thus they emit more. So capturing the methane from decomposing manure at dairies to make truck fuel cuts net emissions a lot, and reaps some of the best scores of all.

US regulators haven’t generally imposed controls on methane emissions from livestock, since they are tough to implement and politically sensitive.

California Bioenergy LLC, which develops projects to make energy out of manure, in 2016 received the first provisional carbon-intensity score – around negative 270 – for a dairy-gas facility. Diesel by comparison has an average carbon-intensity score of more than 100. CalBio, as it is known, now has 41 dairy-gas projects in operation and another 60-odd projects in development.

Its latest project to go online is the 1500-cow Rib-Arrow Dairy in central California, where manure is now flushed from the floor of the stalls into a covered lagoon, called a digester, so the methane can be collected for processing rather than released into the air. That raw biogas, which is around 60% methane and the remainder mostly carbon dioxide, is piped to a central facility that collects gas from a cluster of dairies in the area and purifies it for injection into the local utility’s pipeline.

David Ribeiro, a third-generation co-owner of Rib-Arrow, said he had been approached by digester salesmen before, but that adding the gas sales to the environmental benefits finally made everything economically feasible: “We’re like, ‘Wow, this makes sense.’” There are 116 such facilities currently operating in the US – more than half of which went online last year – and another 121 planned or in construction, according to the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, a non-profit that promotes gas made from waste. Analysts say thousands more dairies could support such plants, which can reduce foul odours in addition to capturing emissions.

The market is likely to remain small compared with the US’s overall appetite for natural gas in homes, businesses and transport. Even in an optimistic scenario, biogas from manure would supply only around 3% of today’s demand by 2040, according to a 2019 study commissioned by the American Gas Foundation.

Still, money is pouring in from big companies looking to lower their carbon footprints quickly – as well as entrepreneurs smelling a business opportunity. Clean Energy said it is working on more than a billion dollars worth of deals through its dairy-gas joint ventures with BP and Total, and that it hopes to channel more than $US2bn in investment by 2026.

California-based Chevron has committed around $US500m to develop renewable natural-gas supply, starting with dairies. A Chevron investor presentation in September showed plans for a national network of as many as “190,000 milking cow equivalents” and forecast double-digit returns. Amazon has inked a deal with Clean Energy to buy biogas for its massive trucking fleet; it declined to comment.


China Signals Coal Reliance to Continue With Three New Mines

China’s top planning agency approved three different billion-dollar coal mine projects on Monday as the country continues to support the fuel that much of the rest of the world is shunning.

The National Development and Reform Commission gave the go ahead to two mines in the northwestern province of Shaanxi and another in Inner Mongolia. The three projects will require a total investment of 24.1 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) and produce 19 million tons of coal a year.

The approvals follow a massive surge in mine activity late last year as China boosted production to record levels after fears of an energy shortage sent prices skyrocketing. Each of the projects plans to rely on bank financing for about 70% of the capital involved, a sharp difference from most of the rest of the world where lenders have promised to stop funding new coal mines.

China's coal output soared to record levels to stave off an energy shortage

China has ambitious long-term climate goals and world-leading renewable energy industries, but its leaders have placed top priority on energy security and have vowed to continue supporting coal, which still generates about 60% of the country’s electricity. While benchmark coal futures in the country have fallen by more than half from an all-time peak in October, they’re still 40% higher than they were a year ago.


Virginia and Climate Change – No visible effect

Maybe Virginia is not part of the globe

A team of experts assembled by the CO2 Coalition has completed a detailed examination of effects (or non-effects) of climate change in the Commonwealth of Virginia. View the entire document here (pdf) Virginia and Climate Change.


This detailed analysis of climate change and its alleged impact on Virginia finds the following to be true and supported by voluminous governmental and peer-reviewed studies concerning the Commonwealth:

There is no unusual or unprecedented warming
Heat waves have been declining
Severe weather is not increasing
Crop and forest growth are increasing
Droughts are in decline
There is no increase in hurricanes
Complete elimination of carbon dioxide emissions within Virginia will have an impact that is so close to zero that it is meaningless

In short, there is no climate crisis and any attempts to eliminate CO2 via regulation or taxation are simply “solutions in search of a problem.”


Apartment buildings face massive bill for electric vehicle charging stations

The costs and other obstacles are such that NO charging stations are likely to be provided in most existing apartment buildings. That might effectively prohibit electric car ownership for most apartment dwellers, a very large number

Building managers are facing costs in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars to retrofit complexes to accommodate the power to supply electric vehicles, experts have warned.

There’s also likely to be confrontation between those who want to retrofit a complex and unit owners who do not drive nor live there and have no interest in the paying for an EV charging stations, says strata title specialist Chris Irons.

Unit owners may not even have the right to install an EV charger in their ‘exclusive’ car space even if they foot the bill, the former Queensland commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management said.

“If you have exclusive use of a parking space, or even it is on the title, to install a charging station may require a motion at an AGM to be passed as technically the car park is common property,” Mr Irons said.

“Even if the building owners decide to install several charging stations as a convenience, but on common property, there may be owners who do not own electric vehicles and do not want money spent on them.

“You also have the issue of where they are going to be placed and how is the vehicle owner charged for the use of the power if it is a shared meter.”

Transformers for established complexes are highly unlikely to cope with the power demand to service dozens of EV charging stations, said Master Electricians Australia CEO Malcolm Richards.

Bodies corporate can expect to pay more than $100,000 alone just to upgrade a transformer, before pricing the cost of retrofitting the wiring for their complex and individual meters, he said.

“In terms of putting car charging stations in the basement of existing premises, you have got a significant headache for the body corporate to put infrastructure in place,” Mr Richards said.

“They have to determine what type of chargers are going to be installed, how much extra power they going to draw.