Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Thoughts at 30,000 Hits
Again, I am amazed that SLB has today hit another milestone, 30,000 pageviews. The pace of hits has slowed a bit, as 8 months elapsed since 20,000 hits in February. That is most likely due to fewer posts. The old adage is true: post or perish. The number of countries has also increased, now up to 115.
It has been an interesting 8 months. As I wrote at 20,000 hits, I hoped the world will regain some much-needed sanity and stop the nonsense about global warming from carbon, the US federal laws on cap and trade will die and go away, and the chemical engineers' message that science must obey the fundamentals of process control will gain a wider audience. The nonsense continues but the battle is not over. Noted physicist Hal Lewis, professor emeritus at University of California at Santa Barbara, declared that CO2-induced global warming is a scam, when he wrote his letter resigning from the American Physical Society. Yet, the few official investigations of wrong-doing by climate scientists have concluded nothing was amiss - yet many feel the investigations were not sincere, nor properly conducted, and failed to ask the right questions. Of course there is no wrong-doing if no one asks the right questions.
We still have no federal law on cap and trade, and the upcoming elections in November will likely see a rout of the Democrats in Congress such that a law in that area will not be coming. However, the Democrat-majority Congress could pass some sort of bill before the new Congress is seated in January. The California ballot in November will have Proposition 23, which if it passes will suspend the state's wrongly-guided climate change law, AB 32.
The fundamentals of process control still do not have a wide appreciation among the climate scientists, but that will likely change as the climate world-wide continues to cool. Just in the past few months the sea surface temperatures (SST) have declined dramatically. Hurricanes world-wide (or tropical cyclones to use the proper terminology) are also at a historic low. Heat waves are not happening, and the polar ice is not melting at either pole. In fact, the Arctic ice growth is at a record pace since hitting the minimum in September. This is based on the satellite record, which is only a few years. Sea levels are not rising as predicted by the alarmists. In short, there is no cause for alarm. On the other hand, there is good reason to prepare for very cold winters. There was almost zero warmth this summer along the California coast where I live near Los Angeles, in fact I had no reason to turn on the air conditioner. Instead, I was tempted to turn on the heater quite a few times. I did not, though, and simply put on sweatpants and a sweater.
To switch subjects, I had the pleasure of giving more speeches since February, one to the North County Economic Development Council of San Diego, California, in which AB 32 was the topic. One speaker took the pro-AB 32 position, and I took the anti-AB 32 position. The vote by the committee following the speeches and question/answer session was strongly anti-AB 32. I also spoke in Anaheim, California, to the Orange County Chapter of the Construction Specification Institute, also in a pro and con format related to AB 32. The pro-AB 32 speaker was Dr. Elaine Chang of South Coast Air Quality Management District, the local air pollution control district for the area including and surrounding Los Angeles. My message was clear: AB 32 will spell the end of California's economy.
I have another speech upcoming, this time to the Southern California Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) at the monthly dinner meeting October 19th in Long Beach, California. With the economy in such bad shape, and employment prospects for so many people so dismal - including chemical engineers - the engineering society leadership asked me to speak about my engineering career, and how I weathered the several ups and downs since 1975. I am very much looking forward to that evening! In that speech, I will trace my career from 1975 as an engineering trainee, through plant process engineer, to owning and running my own consulting company providing chemical engineering services to a world-wide clientele. I will also describe the various events that shaped the decisions I made to change companies and change industries, and what led me to attend law school at the age of 47.
On yet another subject, the Grand Game, the quest for energy to supply the world, not much has changed. OPEC and oil still rule, and nuclear power in the USA is still on hold. As I wrote on SLB, the Saudis are no dummies, and they will never allow the price of oil to escalate so that renewable energy plants can be competitive without government subsidies. There is a reason oil is priced at $75 per barrel, and not $750. That reason is that alternatives do become preferable to OPEC oil at the $80 to $90 range. The General Motors car, the Chevrolet Volt, was announced and will likely be a quick loser as it is priced far too high to ever be competitive. Adding to GM's woes, electric power prices in California are escalating, most likely due to more and more renewable power plants such as solar. Natural gas continues at a very low price and over-supply. With oil cheap, gasoline is cheap therefore expensive hybrid cars and electric cars have little to recommend them. With natural gas cheap, wind-turbines and solar power plants also have little to recommend them.
A notable event occurred late this summer in Los Angeles, when the city's Department of Water and Power concluded their long-awaited study on the cost to replace cheap coal-based power with expensive renewable power based on wind-turbines and solar power plants. The DWP concluded that base rates must increase 25 percent. This is bad news for the AB 32 supporters because the Air Resources Board assures everyone that renewable power will only increase costs 13 percent. A 25 percent increase will hurt the poor and those on fixed incomes, forcing many to make hard choices between food, rent, medical care, and paying for the electric bill.
On the legal front, Texas has filed yet another action against the US EPA, challenging the EPA's threat to force Texas to consider CO2 a pollutant in issuing its air quality permits. Apparently, the US EPA is about to learn a lesson. The state of Texas has plenty of resources to battle this to the finish, and certainly has the will to do so.
The next few months will be interesting, indeed, as the Northern Hemisphere goes through the winter. It will likely be one of the coldest and longest winters in recorded history. The national elections for Congress and Senate will give some indication of the direction the nation will take. The California election will give some idea of the direction this state will take, as a new Governor will be elected, also Proposition 23 will be decided. Lawsuits don't progress that fast, but eventually we will know if Texas is correct, or the US EPA can just ignore the law clearly written in the Clean Air Act.
Once again, thank you to all who visit and read SLB.
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California