Sunday, December 27, 2009

Climate Questions for Teens and 20s

There are claims that children are being taught in the schools that CO2 is evil, and that man's activities are causing catastrophic changes in the climate. Even if the children are being brainwashed about AGW (and I don’t know either way on that), children have a way of growing up. And finding their own truth. Testing authority – or rejecting it. But this pre-supposes that children actually learn in school, a result that is not borne out by some competency testing. However, I digress.

Enough of them (the children) will soon find that they have been lied to, much as my generation was lied to by our US government in the 1960’s. The results then were (almost) revolutionary. It should be fun to watch what the current group of teens and 20-somethings do as they find they’ve been lied to. They have the internet with which to communicate. All we had was tv, our songs, and “happenings.”

Below are some questions (a Baker's dozen) that teens and 20-somethings should be asked to get them thinking:

– When CO2 was much higher in the past compared to today, why did ice ages occur? Why didn’t the earth have runaway warming with hotter summers and melting polar ice caps with much higher CO2?

– What caused the ice ages to end, was it CO2? There have been dozens of ice ages with warm periods in between.

– How did the recently-discovered ancient hunter get beneath a glacier in the Alps, especially since he was mortally wounded with an arrow? Did he dig a hole through the glacier to die under there? Or was it so warm in those days (roughly 6,000 years ago) that the Alpine pass was free of ice, so that later snows covered the body and became a glacier? How could our time be the warmest on record, then?

– Since any gas (like CO2) absorbs radiation energy (like heat from the earth) such that each doubling of the gas absorbs less and less than the previous amount, why should anyone be concerned about an increase from 380 ppm to 760 ppm (a doubling)?

– The Roman warm period, and the Medieval warm period were both much warmer than today, so how did Polar bears survive those warm periods? PETA and WWF were not around back then.

– Why is the sea level decreasing off the coast of California? see this link

– Why are sunspots so very critical to earth’s average climate? Why were there so few sunspots during both the recent cold events (Maunder and Dalton)? Why were there so many sunspots during the 1980’s and 1990’s?

– Why do climate scientists (Mann, Hansen, and others) hide their data for years, and never reveal their calculation methods? What are they hiding?

– Why is the Main Stream Media so silent on Chiefio’s blog results, the March of the Thermometers? see

– Why do thousands of scientists say (signed their names) that man-made global warming is junk science?

– Why do process control engineers know that increasing CO2 above 350 ppm cannot possibly have any role in changing earth’s climate? see this link.

– If the science is settled, why are governments funding additional research in the billions of dollars per year? see this link

– And this one just to get them thinking about the entire concept of Environmental Doom: if the oceans are so fragile and vulnerable to oil spills, how did the oceans manage after all the millions of barrels of oil were spilled in World War II attacks on oil tankers? Hundreds of oil tankers were torpedoed and sunk, and many hundreds more of other oil-fueled ships went to the bottom, leaking oil from their fuel tanks. (reference: The Prize by Daniel Yergin, pp 350 - 370)

Hansen Climate Work Deserves Strictest Scrutiny

This was originally posted as a comment on at the link below, on December 22, 2009.

To Dr. James Hansen, NASA GISS,

I read your article The Temperature of Science, and note that you complain of numerous FOIA requests to reveal your correspondence, and requests for the base climate data and methodologies. You also complain that others have reviewed your published work and made things inconvenient for you when errors were found.

Sir, you need to understand a few things.

When anyone, in this case yourself, makes such extraordinary claims of imminent catastrophe that not only is severe in calamity, but world-wide in scope, that person must expect the highest level of scrutiny. Nothing less is permissible.

You have not merely predicted a large tropical cyclone, as devastating as those can be. Nor have you merely predicted a famine, or a drought, as equally devastating as those can be. You, sir, have predicted nothing less than immense and unfavorable changes to the entire world’s population, including hotter temperatures, melting polar ice caps, massive sea level rise with vast low-lying areas inundated, population transfers, acidified oceans, immense and intense storms, and many others. These predictions of yours are supposed to affect the entire globe, not just one area.

In addition, you have postulated an imminent threat in the form of CO2 and other greenhouse gases placed into the atmosphere by man’s activities, and given a very short time-frame for massive action to reduce those. Else, the doom you have predicted. The reduction of CO2 will radically change the economic course of many, perhaps all, nations.

Seldom, perhaps never, has anyone made such wide-ranging, all-encompassing, draconian predictions of the future of life on earth as have you. Not even the Black Death, in which one-third of the population of an entire continent died, can compare to your predictions.

Now, let me explain how the legal system in the United States views various levels of scrutiny for matters that come before the courts. There are three levels of scrutiny, from lowest to highest, with names of rational basis scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and strict scrutiny. For matters of ordinary concern, rational basis is used, as this is the lowest level. For matters that involve more important concerns, intermediate scrutiny is used, and this places a higher burden on the defendant (in this case the government) to defend its actions. Finally, where very grave and important matters are at issue, strict scrutiny is used. Strict scrutiny places a very high burden on the defendant to justify his actions. These may be verified in any number of websites on constitutional law and scrutiny.

Given the extremely high importance of your predictions, and the remedy you prescribe in curtailing fossil fuel consumption or other means to reduce CO2 emissions, it is only proper that the entire group of those who review your work should apply the highest level of scrutiny. We are not talking about whether or not the orange crop will fail in Florida next year, as important as that is to those affected by growing oranges. As I wrote above, you have predicted massive and world-wide calamity. Therefore, you should expect that every piece of the raw data you used must be made public, every FOIA request must be complied with in infinite detail, and quickly, and every step of the data manipulation must be made clear, transparent, and readily available to all.

This is the only reasonable, rational approach to examine extraordinary claims, such as you have made.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

California Must Repeal AB 32 after Copenhagen

The much-heralded Copenhagen climate change summit meeting is now over, having accomplished nothing except to highlight the lack of agreement, the presence of mistrust, and the greed of impoverished countries. The utter failure at Copenhagen should provide the impetus for California to repeal the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, AB 32.

In a civilized society, the state should make laws based on sound science, not falsified, twisted, unverified, manipulated or made-up data. What makes California's lawmakers believe the discredited IPCC reports, which are now known to have been part of a polluted peer-review process in which any dissenting view was quashed? The Climategate scandal, in which thousands of emails and other documents pertaining to climate changes over the past hundreds and thousands of years were obtained and released onto the Internet, clearly shows that the entire concept of imminent catastrophe due to greenhouse gases is not true.

When proving his client's case in a court of law, the attorney takes the witness, sometimes an expert witness, through point after point. The wise attorney establishes the broader, fundamental, indisputable points first, then moves on to the more detailed points. Then, in the cross-examination, the opposing attorney has the opportunity to tear down the witness' testimony. Where the detailed points do not conform to the indisputable broader points, the cross-examination can get ugly. The witness loses all credibility and his/her testimony is generally not believed by the jury.

What the climate science has shown is that the detailed points do not coincide with the broader, fundamental points. As examples, a fine point is that, according to the warmists and the IPCC, a modest increase in CO2 in the atmosphere will cause runaway global warming via polar ice caps melting, sea level rise, more numerous and more ferocious tropical cyclones (hurricanes), searing droughts, devastating heat waves, greater geographic range for deadly tropical disease, more acidic oceans, and many others. Yet the fundamental, indisputable point is that CO2 has been much higher in the past than today, and not one of those dire consequences occurred. As has been pointed out before, even when CO2 reached several thousand ppm, the earth did not experience the out-of-control warming that is predicted by the IPCC. Instead, ice ages occurred afterward.

We can also examine the recent record before us, in the case of California and AB 32. The dire predictions were for greater incidence of heat waves, rising sea levels, shrinking snow pack, and some others. All these were blamed squarely on the increase of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. As I make clear in my speech on AB 32, none of the predicted catastrophes is occurring, yet CO2 continues to increase. The past few years shows very few heat waves across the state, defined as several days where air conditioning is so great that the power companies struggle to meet the demand. One can examine the state's power demand at this site. Another site that displays graphs for temperature in Los Angeles shows only one short period in 2007 (September 2 and 3) where temperature reached 100 degrees F. One other hot event occurred in 2008, September 30 and October 1. In 2009, the temperature reached 100 degrees on four days, twice in late August and twice in late September. In contrast, October 2009 for the entire state was one of the coldest for that month in the entire temperature record. November 2009 was only barely above the long-term average (approximately 0.3 deg F above average). December of 2009 is, thus far, much colder than average across the entire state.

Sea levels offshore California are dropping, not increasing as predicted by the global warming alarmists.

The snowpack in the Sierras has alternated between periods of plenty and shortages, with the recent storms packing the snow throughout the Sierras. If rising CO2 was actually the cause of reduced snowpack, how does one explain the recent heavy snows?

Finally, it has been proven that changing CO2 levels will not have any effect on the earth's average temperature, because that would violate the fundamentals of process control.

Had the IPCC reports been based on physics, with due accounting for known events in the past, and with due care to ensure there is a measurable, consistent response of the earth's atmospheric temperature to a change in CO2, then AB 32 could be considered a good law. But the opposite is true. AB 32 was based on bad science, manipulated data, a perverted peer-review process, and therefore cannot be allowed to stand. It must be repealed.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Year In Review 2009

It has been an interesting year, 2009. On several fronts, the legal and technical world made advances and a few retreats. My observations follow.

First, climate change in California, the United States, and the world. In California, several pieces of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, were codified. Tire Pressure regulation, Landfill Gas regulation, Cap and Trade, Computer Chip Manufacturing, and others are either now on the books or have the rough draft completed and seeking comments. The California government continues the fiction that AB 32 will create jobs, and already has created jobs, although the plain fact is that unemployment in California is at 12.5 percent and climbing. As I wrote earlier, if green policies created jobs, California should have very low unemployment - yet the reverse is the case.

In the U.S., the House passed a weak version of a global warming bill (Waxman-Markey), and only just barely obtaining sufficient votes. The Senate made a few false starts on a similar bill but postponed it until 2010 and after the disastrous Copenhagen climate summit meeting in December (the meeting is ongoing as I write this, with great acrimony, mistrust, and violence). As more and more evidence accumulates showing the entire foundation for man-made (i.e. CO2-induced) global warming is false, legislators must be fearing for their re-election chances if they vote for such a law.

The Obama EPA finalized their finding that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant. While this move may be but a pawn in a game to goad the US Senate into action to pass a Cap and Trade bill, it will be challenged in court. The EPA must use sound science in its determinations, and that is woefully absent in this case.

Worldwide, the Copenhagen climate summit, mentioned above, is in hopeless disarray. One sticking point is that poor countries view this event as an opportunity to redistribute the wealth of rich nations, which wealth was produced by (oddly enough) burning fossil fuels that produce CO2. The rich nations are refusing to pay what is demanded by the poor nations.

In addition, the Climategate scandal erupted in November, with literally thousands of emails and other documents (including computer code) released into the internet. These documents show that leading scientists manipulated the data to show a warming where there is none, conspired to control the peer-review process, and stifled dissenting views. The excellent work by bloggers at climateaudit, wattsupwiththat, and especially E.M. Smith at exposed the wrongdoing. It is more and more clear that there is no global warming, but there was clever selection of thermometers (or digital temperature measurements) to yield a perceived warming. Chiefio's blog entries are must reading.

The climate catastrophe is not cooperating with the warmists' agenda and schedule; in fact, most of the US is much colder than average (see California for December), the 2009 hurricane season is now over and had very few and very weak hurricanes, the prolonged drought in the US Southwest is ending with wave after wave of storms bringing both rain and snow, sea levels are not rising, heat waves are no greater than in the recent past, and many indications point to the lack of sunspots rather than any CO2 emissions.

A noted PhD chemical engineer, Dr. Pierre R. Latour, with PE in both chemical engineering and in process control, wrote and had published in Hydrocarbon Processing magazine two excellent letters to editor that show beyond any doubt that CO2 is not and cannot be the cause of any changes in the earth's average temperature. I expanded on this theme on this blog. Climate scientists may be educated, and may indeed understand a few things about the climate, but they must reconcile their findings and projections with the realities of engineering. The principles of process control are well-known, not new, and are completely inviolable. CO2 fails these principles, and therefore it is a complete waste of time and money to pursue global warming schemes based on reducing CO2.

Second, manufacturing and process plant safety. 2009 was not a good year for process plant safety. Space does not permit a list and discussion of all the plants that exploded or caught fire or had another type of chemical release. Refineries in Utah, Texas, plants in North Carolina, Wisconsin, California, and others all experienced such events. One of the most troubling is the refinery in Utah that had a false sense of security related to process plant piping wall thickness. A contracted inspection company wrongly reported adequate thicknesses, when the pipes were actually very thin. An explosion due to pipe failure resulted, and the entire refinery is now shut down while an investigation is undertaken. Litigation from this event will be ongoing for years.

The number of serious events was so great that the Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency, had too few resources to investigate them all. see

Third, The Grand Game where renewables, nuclear, oil, coal, and natural gas all compete for shares of the world's energy. California has a goal, or requirement, that 20 percent of electric power be produced by renewables by December 31, 2010. This is most unlikely to occur based on plant construction. Some plants are planned, but not progressing rapidly.

More about the Grand Game may be found here.

Advances and flops in fuel-efficient cars and trucks were seen in 2009. California obtained their long-sought waiver from the EPA to require very fuel-efficient cars be sold in California, with a requirement for 42 miles per gallon on average by 2016. The US increased the national mileage requirement, to just over 35 miles per gallon by 2016. The automobile companies nearly collapsed in 2009, and the added strain of producing such vehicles certainly is not helping them. Ford Motor Company is currently leading in profitability, but has no cars that meet the California standard. GM apparently is counting heavily on the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid that will use only battery power for short runs. Yet the Volt may be priced so high that only the rich can afford to buy one.

Refineries saw at least five shut down, while construction was completed on a major refinery expansion. Demand for petroleum products is down and will likely continue very low as the Obama administration demonstrates its incompetence in stimulating job growth and economic activity. Blaming the previous administration for all problems is not becoming. Tax cuts are proven to stimulate the economy, but such are rare for Democrat administrations.

Oil was discovered in places where oil is not supposed to exist, deep below the ocean below the salt layer. Natural gas is literally everywhere, from shale gas, coal-bed methane, and LNG plants that came online in 2009. OPEC is understandably nervous that their long-held control of oil markets is disintegrating.

The proposed nuclear power project in South Texas created an uproar over falsified cost figures, with projected costs revised upward again and again. This is exactly what I predicted, because the final cost will be approximately $25 billion - and no one will invest at that cost. Nuclear proponents insist that project costs will decline after a few plants are built, yet the proven experience is that nuclear power plants have no learning curve. With more than 400 plants built and operating world-wide, cost over-runs of 100 percent to 200 percent are the rule and not the exception. Startup dates are years behind the initial baseline schedule. A new project in Finland is a case in point, many billions of Euros over budget, and years behind schedule, with no final date established for startup. By comparison, the recently-completed major refinery expansion had a modest cost over-run of approximately 30 percent due to price of materials increases. The startup date was right on schedule. (see link just above).

Fourth, and personally, I was privileged to make four speeches this year. The importance of the climate change laws in place (e.g. California AB 32) or proposed is not fully appreciated by many people. I spoke to engineering groups in Los Angeles, Walnut Creek (California), Nashville (Tennessee), and Ventura (California) this year, all on the requirements of AB 32. Sound public policy must be based on proven, sound science, and nothing less. Engineers have answers that must be provided as input to the public policy decision-making process, to act as a senior, sober, and sound counter to the alarmist scientists with their apocalyptic scenarios of doom based on falsified data.

Finally, predictions for 2010. More refineries will shut down in the US, with approximately 1 million barrels per day shut down. These will be small and inefficient refineries, causing thousands of workers to lose their jobs. More explosions and fires will occur in refineries and other plants. The climate change bill in the Senate will fizzle, as a grass-roots movement swells and Senators are hit with thousands of requests to vote against the bill. AB 32 will be more and more in the spotlight, with unemployment in California reaching 15 percent. Efforts to repeal AB 32 will escalate, although success is elusive in the heavily Democrat state.

Hybrid cars will increase in sales, although the Chevy Volt will not sell well with a price tag of $40,000.

With a fading El Nino in the Pacific, temperatures will decline substantially in the northern hemisphere, bringing many more people to the awareness that the climate warmists claims are false.

The South Texas nuclear project expansion will collapse due to insufficient investors.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Los Angeles is Cold and Dropping Fast

As many of my readers will know, I presently live in a suburb of Los Angeles and therefore am interested in the local weather. I have also been watching the cooling degree days and heating degree days not only in Los Angeles, but also in California and the U.S.A.

Today is an interesting day in light of all that.

As of December 10, 2009, Los Angeles has had more heating degree days than the long-term average for the year. This means that it is getting colder. The cooling degree days are also slightly below average, again indicating it is getting colder. Below is the quote from the local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, for December 11, 2009 (showing data through December 10, 2009):

Since July 1 Heating Degree Days 164 (yesterday) 160 (normal)
Year to date Cooling Degree Days 1,384 (yesterday) 1,503 (normal)

In addition, the colored map below shows, for the first time in a long time, no yellow, orange, or red areas across the state. For the first 10 days of December, the entire state is colder than the long-term average, and some of the state is much colder than average. The purple areas near Lake Tahoe are between 12 and 14 degrees F colder than average. (Note, this map is updated daily, and the map shown below is a screen shot taken and posted on December 11, 2009 at 10 p.m. PST. click on the graph for a larger image).

Meanwhile, CO2 concentrations around the world continue their steady rise. It is quite apparent that there is a serious disconnect between what the man-made global warming alarmists are saying, and what the actual data is showing.

Who are we to believe, the lying scientists with their manipulated data and their proven wrong climate models, or our own experience and observations?

California's global warming law (AB 32) was based on this bad science.

Monday, December 7, 2009

EPA Declares GHGs a Danger

Today the U.S. EPA "finalized its endangerment finding on greenhouse gas pollution." (Note, this link is to a pdf document of 284 pages). The EPA thus sets the stage for massive regulation of CO2 emitting facilities, along with other gases that are declared to be greenhouse gases (but note that water vapor, by far the most significant greenhouse gas, is not on the EPA's list of components to be regulated). The EPA's seven listed reasons for making this endangerment finding ring rather hollow, as shown below:

1. Greenhouse gases are increasing and changing the earth's climate.
2. Polar ice caps crumbling into the oceans.
3. Changing migratory patterns of animals.
4. Broader ranges for deadly diseases.
5. Historic droughts.
6. More powerful storms.
7. Disappearing coastlines (presumably due to sea level rise).

1. The earth's climate has been warming at least since the end of the Little Ice Age, around 1850. Yet, man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily CO2 and methane, have not been significant until 1975. EPA's greenhouse gas theory fails to explain how the earth warmed from 1850 to 1975, when greenhouse gases were very low and stable. Also, the earth warmed significantly during the Medieval Warm Period, a world-wide warm period that is beyond dispute. Yet it is certain that CO2 and methane emissions were very low in those days. A coincidental correlation of increasing temperatures and increasing CO2 over a mere two decades (1975 to 1995, or 1998) is not causal proof that CO2 causes global warming. EPA surely knows this, but it is not politically correct to state the obvious.

2. Polar ice caps are not crumbling into the oceans at any greater rate than in the past, in fact, polar ice is increasing in extent and depth. Satellite observations confirm this fact.

3. Animal migratory patterns have changed for millenia. The fact that some are changing now is not news, nor is it important.

4. The increased incidence of diseases is a function of increased prosperity world-wide, and the attendant increased mobility of humans. The inability of some countries to keep out illegal aliens is largely responsible for such diseases.

5. Historic droughts are not occurring in modern times, yet did occur thousands of years ago. Desertification is a natural process as is well-known and well-documented. As just one example, there are petrified forests in the U.S. desert Southwest.

6. More powerful storms are not occurring, indeed, hurricanes in the Atlantic are waning both in number and intensity. Measurements of storms are increasing due to satellites, and labeling of minor storms is increasing.

7. Coastlines are not disappearing as the EPA claims, because sea levels are not rising. Satellite data clearly shows a slowing of sea level rise worldwide. In many areas, the sea level is dropping, for example, off the west coast of the United States. This is especially troubling because California enacted a state law to combat global warming, AB 32, with a specific purpose of halting rising sea levels. The data shows the seas are declining. If increased CO2 did in fact cause sea levels to increase, how then does EPA explain the dramatic leveling off of sea level rise in recent years? EPA cannot explain this.

The EPA's finding is non-sensical, and will be challenged in court.

Where sound science can be obtained, making sensible regulations that properly consider economic harms is acceptable. But, as in this case, where clear evidence and sound science shows that CO2 cannot be responsible for any warming or cooling of the earth, the EPA has stepped far beyond the limits of its regulatory authority.

Based on sound principles of process control, CO2 has been shown to be immaterial to the earth's average temperature. (see this link). Briefly, the earth's average temperature cycles from warm periods to cold periods, with mild periods in between. Yet, CO2 levels remained relatively constant. A valid control system requires a consistent response between the target variable (earth's temperature) and the manipulated variable (what we can change, in this case, CO2). Furthermore, it is well-known that ice ages occurred several times after CO2 levels in the atmosphere were many times higher than those of today.

The EPA is charged with promulgating regulations to prevent harm to U.S. citizens from various pollutants, and should stick to that task. Among the most important of these, with actual harm to people, is the steady increase of pharmaceuticals (including endocrine disruptors, psychotropic drugs, and other very powerful sedatives) in recycled water from waste treatment plants across the country. This highly polluted water replenishes aquifers and re-enters the potable water system, which people drink and use for other domestic purposes.

It is time for engineers and technically-trained attorneys to step forward, and put an end to this nonsense of greenhouse gases and their supposed causing of global warming.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

US Oil Demand Is Falling

In the Grand Game, which I define as meeting the world's energy requirements, oil plays a key role. Oil is not the only source of energy, of course, as natural gas, coal, nuclear power, and renewables of various kinds also play a part. Oil consumption, as measured by the amount of gross inputs into refineries, peaked in the U.S. in summer 2005 at just over 16 million barrels per day. Since then, gross inputs into refineries has steadily declined, to approximately 15 million barrels per day, for a reduction of approximately 6 percent over 4 years. Imported finished petroleum products such as gasoline also peaked around 2006 at approximately 4 million barrels per day, and have fallen to approximately 2.5 million barrels per day recently. These results show that the U.S. oil demand is falling, this has continued for 4 years, and cannot be fully explained by the economic crisis and recession because those began just after Obama was elected President in late 2008. A possible explanation is the increased cost of gasoline and diesel fuel, causing motorists to slow down and thus save some fuel. Another possibility is the gradual impact of hybrid vehicles with their greater fuel economy, along with retirement of older vehicles with very poor fuel economy.

A very interesting article came to my attention, in which Deutsche Bank analysts are quoted as writing that U.S. energy intensity has been declining at an annual rate of 2 percent for several years, and this decline is expected to accelerate to 3 percent. Energy intensity, in this context, means oil consumed per unit of economic output. Energy intensity can be reduced by several means, such as replacing oil with another fuel e.g. natural gas in a flexible-fuel power plant or industrial furnace, converting transportation fleets to an alternate fuel such as natural gas, ethanol, or bio-diesel, mandating improved fuel efficiency for motor vehicles, reducing highway speed limits, and a few others.

In the early 1980's, the U.S. (and many other countries) embarked on a federally-mandated energy conservation program, because OPEC production cuts and misguided regulations caused an apparent shortage of oil worldwide. Hindsight proved that there was no shortage of oil or any other energy source, and in fact, more proven reserves of oil and natural gas exist today than then. The conservation program was quite effective, and reduced industrial energy consumption by approximately 30 percent.

The technologists, or geeks, are beginning to make an impact on the Grand Game. As just one example, GM's Chevrolet Volt car is now to be delivered by the hundreds in late 2010 for sale in California. The Volt is a plug-in hybrid, which under short commuting driving can use zero gasoline and run entirely off of electricity drawn from the grid. While the price tag for a Volt is expected to be rather high (some estimates are around $40,000), this price will likely decrease. Also, other manufacturers will likely beat that price and offer similar performance. The impact on the Grand Game will be huge.

As always, it will be quite interesting to watch OPEC's moves in the next few months. Maintaining their oil revenues is of paramount importance to them, so we may see increased oil flow and reduced oil prices as a move to check the popularity of plug-in hybrid cars. The higher cost for the plug-in hybrid cars only makes sense when gasoline prices are high. Otherwise, the consumer will buy a conventional car without the hybrid and plug-in machinery. However, the U.S. under Obama now has very ambitious fuel efficiency rules in place, such that the average city/highway miles per gallon for new cars sold in 2016 must be 35.5 miles per gallon. This target is a dramatic increase over current standards of approximately 25 miles per gallon. Either way, the U.S. demand for oil is likely to decrease for the next few years.

As I have already written, Peak Oil is a myth and will not occur, but peak demand has very likely already happened. In the U.S., peak demand has certainly already occurred.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

California Draft Cap and Trade Rules

SOLICITATION per California rules governing attorneys.

California's Air Resources Board, ARB, is mandated under AB 32 to prepare a regulation that allows cap and trade for CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Accordingly, ARB published on November 24, 2009, a Draft Proposed Regulation for Cap and Trade. Public comments are requested, with a due date for comments of January 11, 2010.

For entities that emit at least 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent per year, cap and trade rules will apply starting on January 1, 2012. Also, electric power generators (including imports) will be subject to the cap and trade rules starting on January 1, 2012. Three years later, January 1, 2015, cap and trade will apply to all facilities with industrial fuel combustion that produce emissions below 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent per year, and all commercial and residential fuel combustion of natural gas and propane.

CO2-equivalent is defined as CO2 plus emissions of methane, SF6, Nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and nitrogen trifluoride. Each gas is assigned a weighting value based upon its relative greenhouse effect compared to CO2, (the equivalent amount of CO2).

Businesses that require assistance in understanding the cap and trade proposed rules, or assistance in drafting comments to ARB may contact Mr. Sowell for assistance.

Also, facilities that require assistance in determining whether they emit 25,000 metric tons per year may contact Mr. Sowell for assistance.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

No Warming in California in November

Following a very cool October, the month of November was only slightly warmer (0.3 deg F) than the long-term average for the state of California.

If the Carbon is Killing Us crowd were correct in their insistence that CO2 is already causing global warming, we should not see charts like the one below. The fact that October was cooler than average, and now November is right at average, while CO2 has continued to rise and rise, shows that draconian state laws such as AB 32 will do nothing to change global temperatures. If high concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere had the impact the alarmists claim it has, then the world would long ago have fried when CO2 concentration was much higher than the feeble 388 ppm we see today. It didn't then, and it certainly will not now or in the future.

This chart is from NOAA's website. (click on image for larger image).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Silver Eagle Refinery Explosion in Utah

There are many lessons to be learned from the catastrophic explosion at the Silver Eagle oil refinery in Salt Lake City. From a legal standpoint, it appears from published news accounts that the refinery violated several OSHA regulations.

OSHA's Process Safety Management Standard, or PSM (1), requires that a process that involves hazardous chemicals shall have inspection and tests performed (2), and such inspection and testing procedures shall follow "recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices" (RAGAGEP) (3). The owner shall also document the equipment design codes and standards employed for that equipment (4).

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is investigating the explosion, and has stated that the refinery's mechanical integrity program was inadequate (my paraphrase). It appears that the refinery contracted some aspects of the inspection and testing to others, who performed (among other things) wall thickness testing on pipes and vessels. However, the thickness testing yielded inaccurate results, as the cause of the explosion was a burst pipe with a wall thickness that was far below acceptable values. The pipe was too thin to hold the pressure, and burst. The subsequent release of hot hydrogen and hydrocarbons ignited and exploded.

The legal issues that could arise from this incident include (but are not limited to):

  • Breach of contract action by Silver Eagle against their mechanical integrity contractor
  • Suit for damages brought by injured homeowners against Silver Eagle
  • OSHA imposed fines against Silver Eagle for violation of 1910.119
  • Criminal actions against Silver Eagle, if the requisite degree of willfulness and culpability is established

(1) PSM is found at 29 CFR 1910.119 et seq.
(2) 1910.119(j)(4)(i)
(3) 1910.119(j)(4)(ii)
(4) 1910.119(d)(3)(i)(F)

More Refineries Closing in USA

Update 1: January 9, 2010. Shell announced they are closing their refinery at Montreal East, Quebec, Canada. Not technically in the USA, but part of the North American oil market. [end update]

The announcements of U.S. refinery closures is increasing lately, as I predicted earlier. Thus far, four have either closed or announced they will close for economic reasons, and one for safety reasons. One refinery is an interesting case, where a capital expansion project is in startup mode presently, but the existing older refinery with equivalent capacity will be shut down for an extended period.

Refining capacity is in over-supply in the U.S., with operating rates presently below 80 percent. Each refinery closure brings layoffs of hundreds of employees, with the ripple effect of additional jobs lost throughout the community. However, the green advocates insist that there are plenty of green jobs available, so it will be interesting to see if and when these green jobs materialize and put the refinery workers back to work.

Valero at Aruba - shut down (not in the USA, but exports products into the USA)
Valero at Delaware City - shut down announced.
Silver Eagle at Salt Lake City - shut down for safety following massive explosion.
Marathon at Garyville (Louisiana) - starting up new capacity and shutting down older capacity.
Western Refining at Bloomfield (New Mexico) - shut down announced.
Sunoco at Westfield (New Jersey) - shut down announced.
Shell at Montreal East (Canada) - shut down announced.

AB 32 Speech to ACEC Channel Coast

I had the pleasure of giving my AB 32 speech and presentation to the Channel Coast chapter of American Council of Engineering Companies in Ventura this past Wednesday evening, November 18, 2009. The presentation was almost identical to the one I gave a week earlier in Nashville, which can be seen here.

The group in attendance was wonderful, and as always I had a great time. The questions during and after my presentation were excellent, and showed the engineers understood that AB 32 requires the impossible in some areas, and the economically disastrous in others.

My theme was, as usual, that AB 32 has good news and bad news. The good news is that there will be plenty of work for engineers. The bad news is that there will be few, if any, clients to hire the engineers after AB 32 drives them out of business.

Bad Science and AB 32

There was quite a news story yesterday in the climate change arena, that is, a large number of computer files were copied from a British university (University of East Anglia) and published on the internet. These files contain emails, pdfs, and some computer code that, by this time, are distributed widely across the internet. The content is damaging, to say the least, and possibly incriminating as it appears several statutes may have been violated. The files are now on a website with an easy-to-use search engine here.

There are profound implications for climate change prevention laws. If, as it appears, the science has been adjusted by a few people with complete control of the data to show a warming where there either is none, or a very slight increase in temperatures, then those states and countries with laws to reduce CO2 must seriously re-think their position. There are many reasons to doubt the veracity of the CO2-is-causing-warming position, as I have written on. Not the least of these is that the fundamentals of process control require that CO2 is not causing any climate change, warmer or colder. Another is that the temperature record was manipulated to show warming, by selective additions and deletions of temperature measuring stations.

In the case of California's law, AB 32, or Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, several observations can be made. First, the rationale for passing AB 32 has been suspect all along, but now is confirmed that there was no cause for alarm and no reason to have such a law. The seas are not rising any faster than in the past, indeed, they have stopped their rise and are falling offshore California (note the decline since 2003 to date; this is for offshore San Francisco). Heat waves are not occurring with greater intensity and frequency, in fact, there have been fewer and fewer. Polar ice caps are not disappearing, but are within the normal range and in fact are increasing for the past few years. Jobs created by green industries in California are not appearing, in fact, many industries and companies either have already shut their doors, or stated they will shut them rather than comply with the onerous burdens imposed by AB 32.

The unemployment rate in California is 12.5 percent, the highest since the 1940s, which should be much lower if green policies created jobs. California is already one of the greenest states in the USA, with high-efficiency appliances required for many decades, low electricity consumption per capita, high percentage of non-CO2 emitting electric power generation (13 percent of total power sold in the state as of January 2009 was from solar, wind, geothermal, etc), and others. Given all the green-ness in California, where are the jobs?

If the science behind reducing CO2 as a means of slowing or reversing global warming were sound, rather than made up, it would be plausible to have a law such as AB 32. But the science is unmasked, is now exposed, and is shown to be Bad Science. Accordingly, AB 32 must be repealed. A law based on bad science is a bad law. California has enough troubles without AB 32 (huge and chronic budget deficits measured in the tens of billions, exorbitant taxes, onerous environmental laws, high minimum wage law and living wage law, very high workers' compensation taxes, broken education system, inadequate water supplies, gross contamination of existing water supplies, polluted bays and beaches, overflowing jails and prisons, to name just a few).

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Global Warming Laws at AIChE Meeting in Nashville

I just returned from thechemical engineers’ conference(annual meeting) in Nashville TN, where I gave a condensed version of my speech on California’s climate change law – AB 32. I finally encountered quite a number of chemical engineers who are devout believers that Carbon Is Gonna Kill Us All. Their questions after my speech were quite “vigorous.” There were, though, quite a number of people who were very complimentary after my speech. One key point is that the attendees at this meeting were primarily academics and government, who generally have the view that CO2 is a deadly greenhouse gas and must be reduced. As always I very much enjoyed making the speech and the interaction with the audience. A vigorous exchange of viewpoints is quite healthy. As it turns out, I had heard all the objections before, but it appears that they had not heard my points.
After my speech, I related to a few people the fact that attempting to regulate the globe’s average temperature by adjusting the CO2 content of the atmosphere violates the fundamentals of process control, and that started quite a discussion. Many of those in attendance are in government positions, and had never heard the process control argument before. It is likely (at least this is my hope) that the seeds of doubt were planted.
For more on this process control issue, see:
I also am delighted that I received additional invitations to speak on these matters.

I did not record my speech, but have displayed below the prepared text. When I discover how to insert the charts and graphs, I will do so.

Challenges for Chemical Engineers Under California's Global Warming Solutions Act
Author: Roger E. Sowell, Esq.*
Law Office of Roger E. Sowell, Marina del Rey, California
*Mr. Sowell is an attorney in Marina del Rey, California, who holds a B.S. in chemical engineering. He practices in the areas of climate change, energy, and engineering law.He worked for 25 years as a chemical process engineer before becoming an attorney.
California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32, requires large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Plants and facilities that consume fossil fuels or produce power will be required to meet the regulations established under AB 32.Achieving the reductions will present many opportunities and challenges for chemical engineers, especially in the areas of oil refining, general industry, cement plants, hydrogen plants, bio-fuels, and many others.Cap and trade issues will present chemical engineers with challenges.More jobs for chemical engineers likely will result, however some plants likely will shut down rather than comply with the burdens imposed by AB 32.
History of AB 32
California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB 32, was adopted as law in California in 2006, (1) after first being proposed as a bill in California’s Assembly in 2005.The Democrat-controlled state legislature had little hope of seeing a global warming law at the national level after Republican President George W. Bush was re-elected in November 2004. President Bush had made it clear that he would not ratify the Kyoto Accord that purportedly limits emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by signatory countries, nor would he sign any federal bill into law that limited Carbon Dioxide (CO2) or other GHG emissions. In that legislative environment, California’s Assembly Speaker Nunez championed AB 32 into becoming the law in California.The text of AB 32 may be found in California’s Health and Safety Code §38500 et. seq. (2)
Purpose of AB 32
AB 32 was intended to serve as a blueprint for others to follow in reducing GHGs and increasing economic activity. ARB states that, on average, for each dollar spent on AB 32 requirements, two dollars will be returned. Yet, ARB does not state when those two dollars will be returned, whether in 2 years or 40 years or more. However, many independent economic analyses concluded that the economics of AB 32’s Scoping Plan are seriously flawed. ARB states that AB 32 will increase electric power prices. The price of transportation fuels will also increase due to bio-fuels additions.For those segments of the population who are poor or on fixed incomes, who have few or no alternatives to reduce their consumption of electric power and transportation fuel, AB 32 will impose a harsh economic burden. (3)
In addition, the very concept of controlling the earth’s temperature by reducing CO2 and other GHGs is fundamentally flawed. The primary goal of AB 32, reducing global warming by reducing GHGs, is very likely unattainable because of the almost non-existent correlation between CO2 and other GHGs and global temperature. A comparison of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, either from direct measurements from 1959 or by very good estimates from 1900 (see Figure 1), with global temperature anomalies (see Figure 2), shows that CO2 rises continually while global temperature sometimes decreases, sometimes remains constant, and sometimes increases, all for decades at a time. Fundamental process control principles show that, whatever causes global warming and cooling, manipulating CO2 is not an effective means of controlling the earth’s average temperature. Dr. Pierre Latour, Ph.D. and P.E. in chemical engineering and expert in process control, also made a compelling argument in the February, 2009, Letter to Editor section of Hydrocarbon Processing on why adjusting CO2 cannot control the earth’s temperature. (4) Dr. Latour stated that measuring the earth’s temperature is very difficult if not impossible, and under control principles, if you cannot measure it, you cannot control it. Also, Dr. Latour pointed out that there is almost no response, dT/dCO2, also indicating that CO2 is not a candidate manipulated variable.

Figure 1

Figure 2
Requirements of AB 32
               AB 32 is an enabling act, providing a few specific targets but delegating the creation 
of the detailed regulations to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) (5) .   ARB is directed to 
coordinate with and consult with appropriate agencies and stakeholders, including the Public 
Utilities Commission. (6)   The specific regulations are to “minimize costs and maximize benefits 
for California's economy, improve and modernize California's energy infrastructure and maintain 
electric system reliability, maximize additional environmental and economic co-benefits for 
California, and complement the state's efforts to improve air quality.” (7)
           Two dates are critical in AB 32: 1990 and 2020.  The total quantity of GHGs emitted in 
1990 was to be determined by ARB, and the state’s emissions are required to be reduced to 
the 1990 level by 2020. (8)  Another date and requirement is critical, although not part of AB 32, 
which is 80 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.  The “80 by 50” requirement is imposed 
by the Governor’s Executive Order S-21-09 of September 15, 2009.   ARB determined that the 
1990 emissions were 427 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MMTCO2e).   The expected 
emissions of GHGs in 2020, absent the requirements of AB 32 (the business as usual case), 
are approximately 600 MMTCO2e.  The GHGs reduction required by 2020 is 173 MMTCO2e, 
which represents a 28.8 percent reduction from the business as usual case.  This reduction by 
2020 may be achievable, although at a high economic cost.  However, the reduction by 2050 
represents a 93 percent reduction over the business as usual case, which is much more 
problematic (see Figure 3).

Figure 3
       Even if California achieves its goals of GHG reductions, there will be very little impact on 
the world’s energy consumption and GHGs.  California consumes approximately 2 percent of 
the  world’s total energy (see Figure 4).  With a 28 percent reduction by 2020, there will be 
no noticeable change, and any change will be overwhelmed by increases in growing 
economies around the world. 

Figure 4
The plan to reduce GHGs to 427 million tonnes per year by 2020 was described by 
ARB in the Scoping Plan document in late 2008, which divided the California economy 
into a number of sectors.  Each sector has its own requirements for reducing GHGs.   
The Scoping Plan identified 73 separate reduction items.  Opportunities for chemical 
engineers exist in almost every sector identified in the Scoping Plan.   These 
opportunities are described in the following section. 
        The Scoping Plan has three basic reduction mechanisms: specific targets or emissions 
limits, cap and trade, and a fee for emissions.  Each economic sector has one or more of the
three mechanisms.   Some of the 73 items with the largest reductions listed in the Scoping 
Plan are shown in Table 1 below, along with the anticipated reductions in GHGs.  Table 1 also 
has Scoping Plan items with low emissions reductions that will affect chemical engineers.
Scoping Plan Item
MMTonnes CO2e/Yr
Cap and Trade
Renewable Portfolio Standard
Low Carbon Fuel Standard
Energy Efficiency (Electricity)
Combined Heat and Power
Regional Transportation Plan
Refinery Flare Gas Recovery Systems
Energy Efficiency and Co-Benefit Audits
Table 1
               The timeline for ARB to write the regulations is 2009 through 2011, with full 
implementation beginning in 2012.  A few regulations have earlier implementation dates.   
The cap and trade regulation will be finalized in 2011 with implementation starting in 2012.   
           Reporting of GHGs emissions are required for some facilities, starting with 2009.  
GHG emission reports will be verified by independent, state-approved, entities beginning 
in April 2010 for the 2009 reporting year.  Chemical engineers will make good candidates 
for the verification jobs.  Mandated reporters include all cement plants, refineries with 
emissions of at least 25,000 MMTCO2e per year (50 MMBtu/h), power plants of at least 1 MW  
plus 2500 MMTCO2e per year (5 MMBtu/h), and any other facility with the same emissions 
criteria as refineries.  Those entities that are exempt from reporting include hospitals, electric 
power plants with renewable energy sources, primary and secondary schools, portable equipment, 
and backup emergency generators.   For a comparison of some common fuels and their emission 
of CO2 compared to MMBtu, see Figure 5.

Figure 5
Opportunities for Chemical Engineers
Oil Refining
The oil refining sector will have GHG reporting and verification, cap and trade, energy audits, and specific reduction requirements. The regulations are not yet final for specific reductions, but will likely include flare gas recovery systems, electric heating systems, and low-carbon-forming catalysts for Fluid Catalytic Crackers. Also, the fired boilers will likely be replaced by gas turbine generators with heat recovery steam generators to provide process steam. The cap and trade requirement will provide great challenges and opportunities for chemical engineers as they strive to reduce GHGs by 28 percent by 2020.
One such GHG-reducing project is hydrogen production by partial oxidation of petroleum coke, with CO2 capture and sequestration. A plant to accomplish this is contemplated for Dow Chemical in Freeport, Texas. (9)
It may be more attractive for oil refiners to cease the refining function, and purchase products from other countries and have the products brought in via ships. Faced with similar legislation in Australia, Caltex announced they would shut down their refineries and operate them as oil terminals. This would entail a loss of property tax, and several hundred high-paying jobs in the community. (10)
Industry and Manufacturing
The Industry and Manufacturing sector includes semiconductor plants, cement plants, hydrogen plants, and other large facilities excluding refineries and oil and gas production facilities. Semiconductor plants are required to reduce their use of perfluorocarbons by 2012 to a level not to exceed 0.2 kg CO2e/ sq cm of wafer. This reduction in perfluorocarbons will reduce GHGs by 0.18 MMTCO2e/yr.
Cement plants are subject to cap and trade, and will likely be required to increase energy efficiency, capture and sequester CO2, switch fuels from coal and petroleum coke to natural gas, and use alternative cementitious materials rather than limestone-based clinker. Also, the concrete industry will be required to reduce waste, and that in turn will reduce cement production. At least one cement plant in California has announced it cannot remain in business by making the proposed changes under AB 32, and will shut down its operations and lay off the employees.
Hydrogen plants will be required to increase energy efficiency, minimize fuel consumed, and likely will be required to capture and sequester CO2.
CO2 Capture and Sequestration
CO2 capture and sequestration likely will be required for many processes and power plants. Such processes will present many challenges to chemical engineers, in finding appropriate CO2 removal systems, materials of construction, and low-energy consumption. CO2 sequestration also may require CO2 purification, compression, liquefaction, or chemical conversion to another compound.
Low Carbon Fuel Standard
The Low Carbon Fuel Standard refers to bio-fuels, both bio-ethanol and bio-diesel, and likely eventually to bio-jet fuel. ARB in 2009 wrote the regulation for bio-ethanol based on corn fermentation. (11) ARB’s analysis shows that corn-based ethanol consumes more energy than is obtained upon combustion in a vehicle engine; this was confirmed a few weeks later by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. Despite this, corn-based ethanol is mandated not only by California law but also by federal law. Also, there is a shortage of water in California, and corn production requires massive amounts of water. Furthermore, the Governor has issued an Executive Order that requires that 40 percent of all bio-ethanol consumed in California be produced within California. ARB estimates that 25 new ethanol refineries will be required to meet the state’s needs. It remains to be seen how the state will grow corn without sufficient water supplies.
Bio-diesel is made from both plants, usually soy beans, and rendered animal fats. Chemical engineers will have opportunities in processing the oils, but also in producing appropriate additives to ensure these bio-diesels meet all the cold temperature properties such as cloud point, cold filter plugging point, and pour point. Also, other diesel properties must be met.
At least one company, Rentech, has announced a plant to manufacture bio-diesel using the Fischer-Tropsch process with municipal solid waste as the feedstock. The bio-diesel will be used as fuel for airport ground service equipment at Los Angeles International Airport, LAX. (12)
Renewables Portfolio Standard
The Renewables Portfolio Standard requires that a large portion of all power sold in California be from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and small hydroelectric plants. The AB 32 target and deadline is for 20 percent renewables by 12/31/2010, and 33 percent by 2020 by the Governor’s Executive Order. At then end of 2008, the state produced only 13 percent of the electrical power by renewables. Chemical engineers will be challenged to discover and produce high-yielding batteries at an economic price to store electric power until it is needed. Also, solar thermal power plants present challenges to chemical engineers in the heat storage medium, materials of construction, and process control. Furthermore, geothermal power plants require chemical engineers in the design of the various power systems, including binary systems.
Low-Friction Oils
Low-friction oils, or synthetic oils, are required under AB 32 to reduce diesel fuel consumption in heavy-duty trucks. These oils are made from poly-alpha olefins, or PAO. Chemical engineers will be involved in designing and operating PAO plants.
Waste Handling and Recycling
Waste Handling and Recycling activities that involve chemical engineers include capturing landfill gas for use as fuel, anaerobic digestors for organic wastes such as manure, and conversion of municipal solid waste to synthesis gas as fuel for power plants. A U.S. utility patent, 7,452,392, was issued in 2008 to Peter A. Nick and his team of Southern California chemical engineers for a process to consume municipal solid waste and convert the material into a medium-Btu syngas. (13) As this technology gains acceptance, chemical engineers will be required for process design, construction, and operation.
Opportunities for chemical engineers exist in water use, purification, and recycling. Processes that use water provide challenges to develop ways to use less, and purification to the point that water can be recycled instead of discharged. Water used as steam condensing heat sink may be replaced by air coolers or water-spray air coolers, with the corresponding reduction in power production. Municipal waste treatment plants will require upgrades to tertiary treatment so that effluent water may be recycled.
Cap and Trade
Many issues remain unresolved with California’s cap and trade regulations under AB 32. Chemical engineers will be affected by the rules no matter what form they take, as the required reductions in GHGs will shape the number and type of projects undertaken by the chemical engineers. The price for a carbon credit will greatly affect economic decisions, whether to build a process revision, or buy the carbon credits.
Federal Laws and AB 32
While there presently is no federal law on global warming, the U.S. House of Representatives early in 2009 passed the Waxman-Markey bill, and a similar bill is pending in the U.S. Senate. Both bills are loosely based on AB 32, with similar goals for GHG reductions by 2020 and 2050. A key difference is that California has no coal-fired power plants, although a small amount of coal is consumed in the state. Also, California is one of the few, if not the only, state with geothermal energy for renewable power production.
The federal law, if passed, will have precedence over the state law, as is the case with all such laws. California’s law may be more strict than the federal law, but may not be less strict. Therefore, it is possible that AB 32 will require amendment after a federal law is passed.
Even though reducing CO2 and other GHGs will be futile in attempting to reduce the earth’s temperature, many opportunities exist and will be created for chemical engineers under AB 32. The state’s numerous refineries, cement plants, hydrogen plants, power plants, semiconductor plants, and other large energy consumers will all be affected by being forced to reduce GHGs. However, AB 32’s requirements may be too burdensome for some, perhaps many, plants. It is anticipated that these plants will shut down rather than be forced to comply with AB 32. A similar closing of nearly half the nation’s oil refineries occurred during the past 25 years, largely as a result of environmental and regulatory requirements. Therefore, the good news for chemical engineers is that there will be plenty of work. The bad news is that there may be fewer customers and clients who will need that work.
(4) Latour, P. R., Hydrocarbon Processing, February, 2009, Letters to Editor
(5) California Health and Safety Code §38501(f)
(6) California Health and Safety Code §38501(g)
(8) California Health and Safety Code §38550
(13) see,452,392.PN.&OS=PN/7,452,392&RS=PN/7,452,392