Friday, May 22, 2009

Climate Science Is Not Settled

This post is a place where I write about things that show the "science" is not "settled," a reference to global warming and the controversy that continues to rage in that arena.

For today's installment, some background. One of the dire predictions from the AGW crowd (anthropogenic Global Warming) is that CO2 in the atmosphere (mostly from coal-fired power plants) will cause the oceans to warm, so much so that coral reefs around the world will die. The reefs-are-going-to-die folks do not explain how coral reefs survived during periods when the oceans were much hotter than today, but I will leave that to the side for the moment. Meanwhile, get a load of this!

"The most exciting thing was discovering live, healthy corals on reefs already as hot as the ocean is likely to get 100 years from now," said [Stephen] Palumbi, director of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. "How do they do that?" -- from Heat Tolerant Coral Reefs Discovered. May 22, 2009, Science Daily.

Another is the amazing number, and variety, of temperature measurements, or proxies, developed by climate scientists to show temperatures from the past. One would expect that there is no disagreement, if the science were settled. Apparently not.

Yet another is the number of climate models, or GCMs, that are used by climate scientists to make their predictions for the inevitable warming that is to come. Some sources indicate as many as 20 different, reputable, models exist, yet all yield different results. This is a far cry from the single mathematical model that accurately predicts the velocity of a falling object, by modeling gravity's pull. That science (gravity at non-quantum levels) is settled. Climate models, not so much.

Still another is the IPCC's finding that atmospheric CO2 is the cause of recent warming of the earth's atmosphere. Yet, a renowned process control engineer shows that, from fundamental control theory, it is impossible to make a change in the earth's atmospheric temperature by adjusting the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. If the science were settled, why would there be disagreement between the control engineers, and the climate scientists?

And one of my favorites is the strange behavior of the sea level measured at Hilo, Hawaii, during the past 80 years. The so-called "settled science" maintains that sea level increases as the ocean temperature rises, thus we will all be inundated by rising seas sometime late next week. Or maybe the week after. The Pacific Ocean periodically experiences warm phases, then cooler phases; these are known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. When the ocean is warm, the sea levels should increase a bit based on the thermal expansion coefficient of water. When the ocean cools down, the sea levels should decrease a bit. How then, did the sea level at Hilo remain constant for 24 years, from 1978 through 2002, while in a warming phase of the PDO? Another curious thing happened with the sea level at Hilo during the years 1945 through 1961, which coincided with a cooling phase of the PDO. The sea level increased at a rate of just over 4 mm per year. How could that happen, if the science is settled? I put my trust in the people who measured the sea level at Hilo over the past 80 years. Islanders are very in tune with the ocean, and know how to measure sea level. The sea level data were taken from the website of the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center.

UPDATE 1: (May 24, 2009) Apparently the entire global warming scenario of gloom and doom is not settled, either. A new study from MIT (why are new studies being conducted, if the "Science" is "settled"?), (smart guys up there at MIT, no doubt) shows 5.2 degrees C warming by 2100, compared to their earlier projection of 2.4 degrees C. The reasons cited for the new and improved forecast are, first, the influence of volcanoes on the cooling in the latter half of the 20th century, second, improved accounting for GDP growth, and third, "carbon-nitrogen interaction in the terrestrial ecosystem." Next, and this makes the fourth adjustment, the MIT studiers introduce a caveat, a wiggler, if you will. Apparently, the ocean surface temperature is not cooperating, so its influence is now accounted for. This is an indication that the science is settled? I am not so impressed, if the "settled science" now requires adjustment for four additional aspects.

This is fascinating, because it indicates that MIT either (A) did not account at all for volcanoes in the 20th century, or (B) did not properly account for the impact of those volcanoes. One can only wonder if they are accounting for volcanic eruptions in the next 91 years, and if so, how many, how violent or large, and how often?

This is good. Now, as we keep running the heaters in our homes here in Southern California, and the snows keep falling earlier than any records show in New Zealand, it will become more and more difficult for the AGW crowd to meet their gloom and doom projections. Quite a shift, this is. Usually, the AGW crowd moves the goalposts, as it were, in their favor when yet another prediction falls flat on its face. This time, however, the goalposts are moved boldly, and way out there. Five point two degrees, is more than double the earlier estimate of 2.4 (wait, can an estimate be from "settled science"?). I love settled science. Perhaps we should re-visit the law of gravity, too. Maybe 32.2 feet per second per second really, upon further modeling by MIT and deep reflection, will turn out to be 64, or maybe 65. Hey, it could happen.

UPDATE 2 (May 27, 2009): MIT may have been very busy this week, as it appears a second study on Climate Change was performed and published; but then, maybe it is the same study as just mentioned above. At any rate, the study projected the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 to the year 2100, citing that as the ultimate culprit in causing the (projected) calamitous warming. A curious thing, though, came across my desk (screen) just today, from the EIA, related to CO2 and power generation from wind:

From the U.S. Energy Information Agency, EIA,

“. . . the electric power sector, which generates 41% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, decreased its power generation by 1% in 2008, but decreased its carbon dioxide emissions by 2.1%. In other words, the power sector decreased its emissions intensity by 1.1% in 2008. The EIA attributes that accomplishment to a decrease in the use of all fossil fuels at power plants, a “feat credited in part to an increase in electricity generated from wind power.” [bold emphasis added -- RES]

One can only wonder if the MIT study-group(s) has included the impacts on atmospheric CO2 from all the wind-power plants that are to be built over the next 90 years? The wind-power plants that eliminate evil CO2 from evil coal-burning power plants? Or will this require yet another iteration of model-tuning and running? Is this science settled yet?

UPDATE 3: June 3, 2009.

Two items in this update, both in the category of refuting the IPCC reports 1 - 4. The first is from Dr. Richard Lindzen, professor at MIT. He concludes that the entire concept of global warming due to atmospheric CO2 and feedback mechanisms is completely false. A copy of hispowerpoint slides is here. One must wonder how something in science is "settled" when such a study is produced from such a respected, competent scientist at such a distinguished university.

The second item is the just-announced publication of the 800-plus page report from NIPCC, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change. From their website:

"In “Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC),” coauthors Dr. S. Fred Singer and Dr. Craig Idso and 35 contributors and reviewers present an authoritative and detailed rebuttal of the findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on which the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress rely for their regulatory proposals.

The scholarship in this bookdemonstrates overwhelming scientific support for the position that the warming of the twentieth century was moderate and not unprecedented, that its impact on human health and wildlife was positive, and that carbon dioxide probably is not the driving factor behind climate change.

The authors cite thousands of peer-reviewed research papers and books that were ignored by the IPCC, plus additional scientific research that became available after the IPCC’s self-imposed deadline of May 2006."

If the science were settled, how is it that such reports could be published, and from such reputable people? As I wrote above in the original post, the science of gravity is settled (in non-quantum domains). -- Roger

UPDATE 4 (June 25, 2009):

Just when we thought that the "science" was "settled," along comes another report that just perhaps the effect of aerosols has not been properly assessed up to now. Aerosols are those small droplets of, well, stuff such as acid rain that is formed from sulfur-oxides that combine with water vapor in the atmosphere. Volcanoes belch these forth in staggering amounts. Why, oh why are the scientists still investigating these issues? Settled science surely does not require any further investigation, does it?

UPDATE 5 (July 14, 2009) :

And now, a word from some really smart of whom is from Rice University in Houston, Texas. They found that, 55 million years ago, the earth's atmospheric CO2 increased by 70 percent, and over the next 10,000 years the earth's temperature warmed by 7 degrees C. The current round of IPCC computer, excuse me, climate models, do not predict nearly that much warming. Apparently, something else is going on and CO2 has nothing to do with atmospheric temperatures. Now really, if the science were settled, why would smart guys like this even bother to perform such research?

UPDATE 6 (July 26, 2009): Regarding sea levels, an interesting article on unusually high tides along the U.S. Atlantic coast recently. One would think that NOAA, given its motto (see below), would have settled the science of changing tides long ago. After all, tides are due merely to the rotation of the Earth, the gravitational pull of the moon, and gravitational pull of the Sun. Big tides occur when all three bodies line up. But apparently not.

Quote from the article: “Since June, tides have been running from 6 inches to 2 feet above what would normally be expected, even considering seasonal and lunar fluctuations. While local tidal changes are not uncommon, researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aren’t sure they have ever recorded an event like this one, which is showing up all the way from Maine to Florida.” [bold emphasis added - RES]

The article goes on to state that they are sure it is not due to global warming. That article about NOAA and unusual high tides (that NOAA failed to predict because they do not understand what is going on) is especially good, considering NOAA’s rather “modest” self-proclamation:

“NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the oceans to surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.”

UPDATE 7 (Sept 29, 2009): So much going on! The crop growing season in the USA is struggling to a photo-finish with early frost and freeze happening each day, and the harvest not yet in at least for corn. Yet the Carbon is Killing Us crowd is demanding more and more ethanol, which is mostly made from corn in the USA. Great call, legislators. The global temperature "hockey stick" from Mann and his cohorts has once again been shown to be due to highly selective data choices, and not at all from actual science. The modern century is not the warmest in the past 1000 years, far from it, it is very close to the coldest. The sun refuses to show its spots, and measurements of galactic cosmic rays are increasing. The Arctic icecap extent showed a minimum just about a week ago, right on schedule, and the amount of ice coverage is increasing year-over-year, much the opposite of what the Carbon is Killing Us crowd's computer models all predicted. Meanwhile, CO2 in the atmosphere continues its slow but steady rise, an incredible 385 ppm now. This is some type of settled science! It is a very good thing that the science of bridge-building is somewhat better than the climate alarmists have for their side -- otherwise the first hummingbird that landed on a bridge would cause a massive collapse.

More to come. As my old buddy Todd Wehner said, "Stay tuned, sports fans."

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Politicians Beware of Backlash from CO2 Regulations

Consequences of EPA declaring CO2 a pollutant, and subsequent cap-and-trade regulations from Congress, include reduced competitiveness by U.S. companies leading to reduced profits and more business failures.  Despite rosy projections by some, including California's Air Resources Board, that jobs will be created by panic-motivated CO2 and other greenhouse gas regulations, the reality is that jobs will be lost, not created.  The economic models that were used to evaluate California's AB 32 were seriously flawed, as several independent expert reviewers found and reported to ARB.   

Such business failures will greatly reduce stock prices, and the savings plans of millions of Americans either in retirement, or about to retire.

The result will be many millions of very angry retirees, or wanna-be-retirees, who are forced to keep working into their golden years when they would prefer to be retired. The politicians will feel their wrath at the polls.  This cuts across all political boundaries, from Democrat to Republican to Independent, and all others.   Younger voters, also out of work thanks to CO2 reduction legislation, will also vote to turn out the rascals who pushed through this horribly mis-guided legislation. 

When the stock market's Dow Jones index is at 2000 because of idiotic regulations to "protect" us from a "dangerous pollutant" known as CO2, workers who have pension plans, 401k plans, and other life savings plans with investments in the stock market will be plenty unhappy.  Bonds will fare no better, as a bankrupt company cannot pay its bonds.  Those bonds will be worthless. 

Furthermore, as the unemployment increases, tax revenues decrease into both the state and federal treasuries.  Even more massive budget deficits will result, such that California's $42 billion last year, and this year's $23 billion will look like pocket change.  

Count on it.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

White House Backs Off On CO2

The U.S. EPA has a proposed finding that CO2, along with five other gases, are greenhouse gases that cause harm to people by changing the climate.  This proposed finding is open for comment until June 23 of this year.  Today, however, Obama's White House issued a memo that appears to contradict what EPA did on this matter.  As reported today in the Wall Street Journal

"When the EPA ruled that greenhouse-gas emissions presented an "overwhelming case" for government regulation because of the threat of climate change, it may have gone too far, the White House said:

“The amount of acknowledged lack of understanding about the basic facts surrounding [greenhouse gases] seem to stretch the precautionary principle to providing regulation in the face of unprecedented uncertainty,” the memo reads."     

This is something to note, as it was the Obama White House that pushed the EPA to move on the CO2 issue, rather than let it languish as the Bush White House had following the Supreme Court's ruling in Massachusetts v EPA. 

So, is Obama reading the winds, here?  Are the voices of the climate realists finally being heard?  Or, is Obama waiting for a more favorable moment, when summer temperatures have erased the public memory of all the snow, ice, and truly cold weather of 2008-2009.   But then, if this wet Spring portends a shortened growing season, as some predict, there may not be a good time this year to resurrect this.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Errors in The Atmospheric Temperature Record

One of the critical questions facing all of us in this time is whether or not global warming is real, and if it is, how much, if any, is man-made.   One of the foundations of the debate is the ambient air temperature measurements that are taken in various places around the world.  A number of those temperature sites are in the United States.   One man, Mr. Anthony Watts, from Northern  California, has undertaken a massive effort to examine the sites in the U.S. and categorize them as to suitability and compliance with official standards for temperature measurement.  His work is nearing completion, with approximately 70 percent of the stations evaluated.  

For background, some scientists show temperature trends, purportedly based on actual measurements, and those trends show the air temperature increasing since about 1850.  Mr. Watts' work, however, shows that many of the measuring stations are providing, and have in the past provided, questionable data.   The screw-ups include siting the air measurement stations on areas that provide false heat, such as on or near masonry buildings, on or near paved parking areas, and near backyard barbecue pits.   This is horrible data on which to base such important decisions as carbon cap and trade, with all its ramifications.    Every elected official should see this, and understand that this is not science.  This is having the wool pulled over your eyes.  

The image below (taken from shows the extent of error in the measuring stations. 

For a complete reference on how the surveys were done and how the site rating system was arrived at, based on original work at the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) new Climate Reference Network, click on the PDF link here. (size:  4 MB) 

For more on Mr. Watts' work in this area, click here

Mr. Watts can use some help in assessing the remaining 30 percent of the sites.   The weblink above provides information for those who wish to render assistance.  This is a worthy cause.   Please, help if you are able. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Milestone is Reached

This little blog continues to amaze me.   Today, the hit-counter registered 3,000 site visits, from 44 countries.   Those numbers just astound me.   

This of course does not place SLB near the top 10, not even near the top 1 million in website popularity worldwide, but then that never was and never will be my goal.   However, an internet traffic-monitoring site shows that SLB is in the top 5 percent of all websites worldwide.  

The hit-counter is a recent installation, from February 2009, so this blog ran without a counter for about a year.  Thus, SLB averages around 1,000 hits per month.  I am honored that so many people in so many countries take an interest in what I write here.   And, thank you to those who take the time to leave a comment.  I cannot always check the comments daily, with my schedule being what it is, but I do read them eventually and moderate them.   Most comments meet my approval for content, and I post them.   

I want to give a special thank you to one person, Mr. Anthony Watts, who runs the blog  Mr. Watts has linked to my SLB on two occasions, each time greatly driving up the traffic here.  Once was on the Earth Hour posting, and the other was on my comments on writing to the EPA regarding their proposed finding to make CO2 a pollutant.  The Earth Hour posting on WUWT was also picked up by Mr. Rush Limbaugh both on his radio program, and in writing on his website.  

Having been in the law practice now for a couple of years, a few things are more clear to me, and  some have become obvious.  In no particular order, then, the world of law is much larger than I had suspected while a law student.  The depth of each area is also much greater.   There is room for a lawyer such as myself, who spent half a career as an engineer.  With no disrespect to my fellow attorneys, most attorneys simply studied other fields and do not have that intuitive grasp of technical fields such as chemistry, engineering, physics, and industrial aspects such as construction, maintenance, and plant operations.  That is where I make the bulk of my legal  contributions, such as they are, because my pre-lawyer experience was directly in those areas.     It is a gratifying thing to meet with my clients, both existing and new, who appreciate right away that here is an attorney that speaks their language, that of industry and engineering. 

It is also gratifying to see the refining industry in the U.S. keep their operations running without major explosions and loss of life.  There have been a few tragedies, to be sure, and those who are injured, and the survivors of those who lost their lives, have my deepest sympathies.  Yet, it is interesting to me that no major blasts have occurred since I gave my speeches to audiences of chemical engineers, one in Los Angeles, and one in Houston.    After some discussion of Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, I appealed to those engineers to use their educations, their knowledge, and their experience to make the refineries and chemical plants safer, as they are the only ones who can do it.   Kudos, y'all.  Please, keep it up!  

More recently, the legal world of Climate Change has opened up for me.  This is a very interesting, challenging, and exciting field.  The breadth and scope of Climate Change Law is enormous, from transportation fuels specifications to renewable energy generation to process plant modifications to environmental emissions reductions.   Those who read my posts on SLB will know that my reading of the underlying science shows that there is no man-made global warming.   Even if the world is warming over the past few decades, there is no sense in trying to reduce the warming by cutting greenhouse gases, as that is doomed to failure due to control theory.   Control theory is one of those immutable sciences, and no amount of legislation or hand-waving or bad data will change that.  

Again, I am greatly pleased and deeply honored that so many of you show an interest in SLB.    Thank you. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Energy Storage: Key to Renewables

What are the legal aspects and implications of grid-scale energy storage systems (ESS)? And, are there other legal issues for smaller-scale systems? This post will address those points.

The key legal issues involve pricing power from a renewable power plant such as wind, or solar, although there are many other types of systems. Without grid-scale energy storage, intermittent renewable power plants receive very low prices for their power, whereas with an effective ESS, the renewable plant’s power can receive a much higher price. Hence, there is much interest, activity, research, and investment in ESS.

With a smaller-scale ESS, legal issues include, but are not limited to, warranties for the equipment, liquidated damages for equipment failure, contract and tort damages for any harm caused by the equipment or failure to perform, and contractual issues with the utility for time-of-service power and reduction in demand charges.  

These are some of the legal issues presented by ESS. Next, a brief introduction to ESS and their interface with renewable power plants is presented.

Background on Energy Storage Systems

An upcoming 4-day symposium in San Diego will focus on Energy Storage; both on systems for storing electric power, and on the issues surrounding effective deployment of such systems.
The systems are generally divided into two categories: large and small, although that size division usually places the devices into two other categories, upstream or downstream of the customer’s electricity meter. Large devices are upstream, and small ones are downstream.
Within each category, there are a number of technologies offered for sale or currently in development. These technologies include advanced batteries, ultra-capacitors, superconducting systems, high-speed flywheels, compressed air energy storage, pumped hydroelectric, pressurized hydraulic storage, among others.

Large energy storage is the Holy Grail of renewable energy. Without energy storage, some renewable power systems are not economic, or barely economic, due to the lack of reliability. In a power grid sense, reliability signifies the power is available when needed, within the range of power production for that generating plant. There are many different technologies for generating power, and each has a different reliability factor. Those systems with high reliability include large hydroelectric, nuclear, coal, natural gas, geothermal, bio-gas, bio-mass, and landfill gas. Some include solar thermal with storage in the high reliability category, although that depends on the amount of storage and the usual days of sunshine.

Those systems with low reliability, and thus in great need of effective, economic storage, include wind, solar photo-voltaic, solar thermal, and wave. Each of these energy sources is very intermittent, with sudden shifts in energy production. Tidal energy is a slightly different case, as the tides at any location are predictable both in height and timing. However, energy storage is required because the energy demand on the grid seldom coincides with the generation provided by tidal systems.

The disparity between energy demand and energy supply from renewables creates the need for ESS. As an example, solar power plants typically are most effective from approximately 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., yet peak power demand may occur later than 4:00 p.m. Using California as an example, the projected peak demand for Sunday, May 3, 2009, is at 9:00 p.m., 5 hours after the 4:00 p.m. solar production cutoff time. For another example, wind power in California typically peaks at night due to the winds that blow from the ocean onto the land. There is little demand for power at night, however, as the minimum demand for the same date occurred at 3:00 a.m. From this, it may be seen that great advantages exist for an ESS that can store power when it is generated, and released to the grid when needed.

Legal Issues

Product pricing is a key issue for power plant owners, and the issue is more acute for renewable power plant owners. Utilities that purchase power from renewable power plants pay a low price for intermittent, unreliable power, and a higher price for stable, reliable power. Thus, a large hydroelectric plant with ample water in the reservoir will receive a higher price for its power because it is available when needed by the utility. A wind power plant will receive a low price for its power due to the inability of the wind plant owner to provide power when and as needed by the utility.

Another legal issue is receiving a permit to construct a renewable power plant. State-wide power generation planning and permitting also depends to some extent on the availability of power from the various plants. As an example, a Public Utility Commission may find that 2,000 MW of new power is required to meet the state’s growing demand. Most states have a renewable energy goal or law, such as California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard that requires 20 percent renewables by 12/31/2010, and 33 percent by 2020. If a wind power plant is to supply 50 MW of that total new power, the state agencies must apply some factor to wind to account for the intermittent character. If wind power is assigned a factor of 25 percent, then 200 MW of wind power plants will be allowed and permitted. When and if an ESS is available for wind power, that factor would be reassessed.

Small-scale ESS have legal issues also. Back-up power supplies have been used for many years, especially for computer installations and emergency lighting. An economic incentive also exists for some consumers to reduce their peak usage, and thereby reduce their utility bills. An ESS may only be required for a few minutes of no power, until a backup generator is started and online. Yet, that few minutes may be critical to the consumer. Legal issues include contractual issues between the consumer and ESS provider, and between the consumer and the utility.

Still another legal issue arises with ESS that applies to permit issues with the local air quality district. If a sufficiently long-lasting ESS is available, running a diesel-powered backup generator during a power interruption is not required, thus providing additional benefits to the consumer. As an example, the consumer may create air pollution credits by not running the diesel engine, which can be banked for later internal use, or sold into the emission credit market. Negotiating with the air pollution district for proper emission credits requires legal expertise.

Also, in some utility markets such as Southern California, an incentive is offered to power consumers to allow the utility to curtail or shut off power during crisis peak demand periods. These usually occur on very hot days in Southern California. The incentive to the consumer is a lower power price in return for the utility shutting off power when needed to preserve the grid. An ESS can allow a consumer to take advantage of the incentive program, without losing productivity. An ESS will increase the number of consumers who are willing and able to take advantage of the incentive program.

Finally, under state global warming laws, such as California’s AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, ESS play a key role. As one example, the Renewable Portfolio Standard for California will be much easier to achieve when a renewable power plant owner can achieve higher power prices with an ESS. Higher power prices will attract more parties to invest in the renewable power plants.


Energy storage is a very timely topic, with many important ramifications for electric power consumers, power producers, utilities, state regulatory agencies, ESS manufacturers, and others. Each of the affected entities should obtain legal advice to assess their needs and opportunities in this growing, exciting, and important field.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Contact Mr. Sowell at his legal website