Sunday, February 28, 2010

Abilene Effect and Anomalies

This post is a continuation, in some respects, of the temperature investigations I've made over the past few weeks for the U.S. land surface records, using the data placed on-line in late 2009 by the Hadley Research Center (England) and their Climatic Research Unit (CRU). The data consists of just over 1000 records, one each for a city around the world, giving monthly average temperatures from roughly October 2009 back to, in some cases, the early 1800s. Hadley states they released this data voluntarily, after the Climate Gate scandal happened in November 2009, with the purpose to show there was nothing to hide in their data.

I posted earlier on the Abilene Effect (my phrase), showing that the small town of Abilene, Texas, has had no significant warming for the past 120 years. The Abilene Effect shows that a warming could be found if one carefully selects the last 25 years of the 20th century, from 1975 to 2000, because a series of cold winters from 1975 to 1980 skewed the results. In effect, the Abilene Effect shows that global warming (or the appearance thereof) was caused by a few cold winters. (see this link, where I wrote a bit about anomalies)

This post carries the subject just a bit further, and delves into the anomalies for Abilene using the hadCRUT3 dataset. As a caveat, I have no idea what massaging went into the numbers posted by Hadley; these may or may not be the actual monthly average temperatures measured in Abilene over all those years. I suspect, though, that the monthly averages are pretty good. As I wrote earlier, it would not be very clever (or smart) for scientists (even agenda-driven ones) to tamper with the data that is rather easily verified - or refuted. Abilene has newspaper records for daily temperatures going back many decades. If it was a cold winter, one can be sure the newspaper reported on it. Similarly for a hot summer. There also is a US Air Force Base just outside of town, Dyess AFB. One can be sure that the Air Force measured the temperature every day and got it right, plus kept the records. There are also other temperature records for that city in various other databases. So, I'm guessing that the basic data shown in my charts for Abilene are not too far from reality. (as a note, computing a monthly average from daily temperatures is at least one step in the data massaging. There is very likely an earlier step, that is, computing the daily average temperature from the high and low temperature measured for that day. The number of steps in the calculations becomes important, as shown in a moment).

Where the shenanigans begin, more than likely, is in the calculations applied to the basic data - in effect, starting with the anomalies. The anomalies, to start off with the basics, are simply the differences between one day's temperature and a long-term average of the temperature for that date. Anomalies can also be made for monthly averages, annual averages, or any other time frame. The hadCRUT3 data is given as monthly averages for each city, so the anomalies shown below are for monthly, and later for annual time frames.

One key to calculating anomalies is deciding what is to be the base period, or the long-term average for that date. HadCRUT3 uses 1961 to and including 1990, a 30-year period. This is a very interesting choice, actually. The late '60s and '70's were rather cold, as will be shown in a moment, relative to the entire 120 - year record for Abilene. I am not quite sure why that 30-year period was chosen, perhaps a reader can explain this in a comment. The choice of a cold base period makes anomalies higher when the temperatures revert back to the long-term normal, and much higher when temperatures periodically exceed the long-term normal. Conversely, it is more difficult (or more rare) to find a negative anomaly when a cold base period is used.

The Hadley data includes a value for the average monthly temperature for each month, calculated as the arithmetic average for the 30 values of that month from 1961 to 1990, inclusive. I calculated these separately to verify if Hadley can do a simple average. They were actually pretty close on this, having rounded the results to one decimal place. This is good, as a mistake here would sound several alarms.

For the charts below, I computed the anomalies as (current temperature minus average base temperature); thus a positive anomaly shows hotter than the base period, and a negative anomaly shows colder than the base period. (warm is up, cold is down; this makes sense to me). For those keeping score, this is step 2 (or maybe 3) in the process.

Once the monthly anomalies are computed, then an annual anomaly can be found by simply averaging the twelve monthly anomalies for each year. (this is at least step 3 in the process, or 4 if we count averaging the daily high and low to create the average daily temperature). The chart of annual anomalies for Abilene is shown below as Figure 1:

Figure 1
Abilene TX Monthly Temperature Anomalies
(click for larger view in new window)

Next, I calculated the simple arithmetic average of all the annual temperature anomalies, which gave a value of +0.36 deg C. Inspection of Figure 1 shows that most of the data lie above the zero line, confirming that 0.36 is a reasonable value. This also shows that the base period chosen by Hadley is indeed colder than the long-term average.

Several interesting observations can be made from Figure 1. The blue connected dots are the annual anomaly data, the black line through the center is a 10-year moving average to show trends, and the red line shows the linear trend from start to finish. The linear trend has a slope of negative 0.27 degrees C per century (-0.0027 deg C per year). The linear trend for anomalies is negative, but is at a steeper slope than that shown from my earlier chart for Abilene that uses each monthly average temperature (-.0027 compared to -.0019). This is something that happens with anomalies.

More interesting, though, is the 10-year moving average line. This shows a slightly more pronounced increase from 1890 to 1940 than the increase from 1975 to 2000, both at roughly 2.4 degrees C per century. This initial period of increasing temperature anomalies would have created havoc for the world, had scientists known about it and politicians acted on it, as some propose they do now.

The moving average also shows a decline from 1940 to 1975 of 1.6 degrees C in only 35 years - a rate of cooling of almost 5 degrees C per century. No wonder the scientists in the late 1970s were all in a panic over an impending ice age. Again, compared to the monthly average data trend for the same period, the anomalies show much more change (anomaly slope negative 4.6 degrees C per century, monthly average slope negative 2.2 degrees C per century).

The 10-year moving average also shows that CO2 cannot be the cause of any temperature changes, as the AGW proponents insist that temperatures go up as CO2 increases. Clearly, in Abilene, temperatures decreased from 1940 to 1975, yet CO2 increased as world population increased and fossil fuel consumption increased. From fundamentals of process control, one cannot control any system unless changes in the manipulated variable (CO2) have a measurable and consistent effect on the system; stated another way, if CO2 makes things warmer, then it must make things warmer at all times. CO2 does not do this.

A final point or two about Figure 1. What the AGW proponents continually harp on about is that the 2000s and the 1990s were the hottest decades on record. One would have a hard time proving that from examining the Abilene data, especially the anomalies. The black moving average trend line shows that Abilene's decades were hotter than the 1990s in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Also, the 2000s were exceeded by the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Finally, hottest years did not occur in the 1990s and 2000s. These temperatures were exceeded nine times, in 1910, 1921, 1927, 1933, 1934, 1938, 1939, 1946, and 1954.

To summarize the overall anomalies chart of Figure 1, the temperature trends are consistent in direction with the monthly averages, but much greater in the rate of change (slope).

The next chart, Figure 2, shows the annual anomalies for the period 1975 to 2000, that period heralded by the AGW proponents as proof that CO2 is warming the earth and that the rate of heating is unprecedented. They claim that the entire world must curb fossil fuel consumption to stop the runaway warming that is certain to result. And if all I had to look at was Figure 2, I would be alarmed, also. That is one scary chart. The black linear trend line shows a rate of increase of 2.9 degrees C per century. If that rate were to continue, the world would indeed be in trouble. But let's examine this chart.

Figure 2
Abilene TX Monthly Temperature Anomalies 1975-2000
(click for larger view in new window)

As I mentioned earlier, in the discussion on statistics in the Abilene post, one can achieve an upward slope in a line by having lower values at the beginning of the data, and higher values at the end. This is the see-saw analogy. Referring again to Figure 2, there are very low values at the beginning (lower left portion of the data), plus higher values at the end (upper right portion of the chart). Yet, the data in the middle, between those extremes, shows a downward trend! This is a prime example of the Abilene Effect, where careful selection of start and end dates show a warming. In this case, not only cold winters in the late 1970s but anomalies that show a warm trio of years for 1998, 1999, and 2000 contribute to the warming trend.

If all this is revealed in a simple analysis of one little town in the USA, one can only wonder how much additional BS (bad science) is there to be uncovered from full analysis of all the temperature records. Unfortunately (for me, at least), I do not have time to do a similar analysis on all the 86 or 87 cities in the USA's lower 48 states (see this link for charts of all 86 hadCRUT3 USA cities showing monthly average temperatures).

The conclusions are clear. Temperature anomalies create alarm where none exists; they exaggerate trends; and they are used by the alarmists to show a global warming where none exists.

UPDATE: March 2, 2010 A point about manipulating the data. Note that the hadCRU data that was released has only the monthly averages. These can easily be manipulated by not including selected months temperature, for example if one wanted to show a slight warming in recent years (say since 1975), one could leave out the data for a cold month. The resulting average of 11 months will be slightly higher than if all 12 months were included. Similarly, one could make the earlier years data a bit colder, by leaving off a hot month here and there. This is not an accusation that this type of thing was done, but it could have been done. That is but one reason that the full data set must be released for all to see, if climate scientists hope to regain their lost credibility. [end update]

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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

20000 Hits and Counting

It seems like only last week I wrote that SLB passed the 10,000 hits mark, and here it is at 20,000 hits. A big Thank You to all those who take time to have a look, and leave a comment. Actually, 10,000 hits was 4 months ago in October of 2009.

Since then, quite a number of events have happened that are of great interest to me. The US EPA has been challenged in the courts (US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit) concerning its Determination that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant. Several lawsuits were filed, some by individual states including Texas. The primary charge is that US EPA did not follow the law and use the best science available, but instead followed the IPCC's flawed conclusions, many of which are based on opinion magazines.

California was also sued in the US District Court in Fresno, California, seeking to declare their Low Carbon Fuel Standard un-constitutional and a prohibitory injunction preventing its implementation. Similarly, a bill in the California Assembly was defeated in committee, which would have stopped implementation of the entire AB 32 until unemployment drops to healthy levels of 5.5 percent. But, a ballot initiative to accomplish the same thing is underway. Also of importance to California's AB 32, the State of Arizona withdrew from a key multi-state pact (Western Climate Initiative), declaring that Arizona will not enforce the cap-and-trade provisions because of the adverse economic effect it will impose on Arizona businesses. This is a key event in the idiocy of AB 32, as businesses that can relocate away from California now find a very attractive and nearby location in Arizona.

The Copenhagen climate summit was a bust, which is a very good thing. No treaty, no agreement, and no disaster for the world. Thank you, China and India, for having the good sense to not hamstring your economies.

Perhaps the biggest news is the ongoing, and ever-deepening, scandal of Climate Gate, the revelation that key scientists in the global warming field falsified, altered, manipulated data, used non-peer-reviewed reports in their findings, and indeed perverted the peer-review process to stifle dissenting views. Meanwhile, global warming appears to have run away and is hiding in shame, as it is very cold and snow is at record levels in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet, CO2 continues to increase. Perhaps CO2 does not read the IPCC reports? It seems pretty clear, now, why climate scientists do not publish their raw data nor their data manipulation methodologies. Independent reviews revealed that there is no warming, but there was massive manipulation of the data to show a warming.

My own research into the published Hadley research center's HADCRU data (see this link) shows not only essentially zero warming for the entire USA, but several cities with pronounced temperature declines recently. If these declining temperatures do not reverse soon, it will be very, very cold in Eureka, California; Los Angeles, California; Washington, D.C.; and Marquette, Michigan.

The Grand Game, energy supplies for the world, has made some interesting turns as the US refining industry is reeling from lack of demand for their products. The Saudis announced they anticipate Peak Oil Demand to occur within the next decade. Peak Oil Demand already occurred in the USA, in 2005. I posted on this.

Also, new nuclear power plants in the USA continue to have serious problems with financing and regulatory approval. South Texas Nuclear Project's expansion is on the ropes as the parties involved battled it out in court. Also, the Japanese reactor vendor for STNP cannot seem to reveal the final price, which has escalated to $17 billion - but will likely be far, far more. This is quite puzzling, since the nuclear proponents' mantra has always been that these plants are mature technology in Japan, with great certainty on construction costs and elapsed time to completion. Apparently not.

Meanwhile, the US government issued a loan guarantee to Georgia's Southern Company for two new nuclear reactors - but notably, not to South Texas Nuclear Project expansion. The loan guarantee amount, $8.3 billion, is far too small to provide much comfort for lenders, so that project, too, is dead. A project of that size will cost approximately $25 billion or more, thus the loan guarantees represent only approximately one-third the investment. Typically, utilities borrow around half the total amount. That leaves several billion dollars without guarantees.

I tried something new a few days ago, with the first guest post on SLB. My cousin Charley Sowell has some interesting things to say about global warming, from the perspective of a Texas rancher near San Angelo, Texas. Charley is highly educated and knows his stuff.

It has been a fascinating four months, with SLB now at 20,000 hits and visitors from 97 countries, an increase from 76 countries in October.

Thank you, everyone. I cannot imagine what events will occur between now and 30,000 hits. Hopefully, 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.

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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Record Snowfall in New York City

Nothing new here, really, as many news media and blogs have mentioned the very cold and great quantities of snow in the USA this winter of 2009-2010. The article states that the snow thus far in Central Park has broken the record of the previous 114 years, with another storm likely next week so the record will grow. Still, it seems appropriate to mention that all three U.S. coasts are getting more snow than the usual for the past few years. California is, once again, getting late winter snow in the Sierras, even as I write this. Snow just covered Houston, Texas, which is (by last count) the third time it has snowed there in the same winter. Three snow events in one winter is completely un-precedented in modern times. Who knows how often this occurred before 1700.

I was at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) this afternoon, and a colleague mentioned that there were not many flights landing or taking off, for a Friday afternoon. It looked a bit odd, actually, as LAX is usually a booming place on Fridays. But not this Friday. I observed to my friend that it was likely due to all the grounded flights on the East Coast, due to their massive snowstorm.

The interesting thing, to me, from massive snowstorms in areas that usually do not receive them is their effect on the Earth's albedo - the reflection of sunlight (and heat) away from the Earth. For all the attention lavished on CO2 and the so-called greenhouse effect, a far greater effect is the reflectivity of snow, particularly when the snowfields do not melt as early as normal but keep on reflecting later and later into Spring. The phrase "white as snow" comes to mind. White is a high-albedo color. The chief concern for many, including me, is the effect on farmers as they plant their Spring crops. Late planting due to cold winters and excess snow makes it difficult for the harvest in the Fall.

A friend recently had a novel idea to deal with the huge amounts of snow in the cities, and minimize the albedo from all the snow. His idea is to use construction haul trucks to create mountains of snow, similar to what construction sites do with excess dirt and rock. The mounds of snow would be packed down so that the haul trucks could drive up a gentle grade, dump their load of snow, then shuttle back around for another load. The idea is that, for a one-foot snow event, the amount of land covered by the snow would be reduced by having that snow removed and stored on the snow mountain. Who knows, it just might work.

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

Earth Hour 2010 Busted Again

It's almost time for the annual lunacy known as "Earth Hour." Last year's was a complete bust, as I wrote on here. Briefly, eco-nuts around the world thought it would be great fun to turn out the lights for an hour, and then tell themselves how cool they are and how they are saving the planet by not using electricity and not burning that horrid fossil fuel that everyone knows is making the global warming...err, climate change....nope, this week the correct term is climate weirding, or is it climate strangeness, or perhaps climate chaos? Nobody seems sure anymore, as they keep seeking a catchy phrase. Whatever the catch-phrase, the appointed Earth Hour time is 8:30 p.m. local time, on March 27, 2010.

Briefly, last year I managed to catch a screen-shot of California's power grid for the day on which Earth Hour occurred, and the graph showed absolutely zero blip in the smooth curve before, during, and after the so-called event. Then, I caught the same grid results for the following week, which had no power shenanigans and also showed no blip in the curve.

This year, on this blog post, I plan to capture the Saturday grid charts for California and post them here for the two weeks before, the actual Earth Day, and the week after. It should make for an interesting comparison. (UPDATE March 13, 2010: see below for Figure 1 and this Saturday's power consumption in California. No blips or dips between 8 and 10 p.m., just a smooth decline in power consumption.)

After all, California is the leader (or so they continually remind anyone who will listen) in going green, with a state law known as AB 32 that will vault California to the fore-front of economic prosperity, low unemployment, and almost zero carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. Or so they say. I, however, have serious doubts and have expressed them on this blog, and a few other places. The realities of physics and engineering win out every time, a lesson that California's government has not learned, apparently. Which is strange, because they have a large contingent of Civil Engineers - men and women who should certainly know better.

Stay tuned, and we can see how 4 eco-nuts turning out 2 light bulbs has absolutely zero impact on the vast power grid that powers California. By way of explanation, California's power grid usually peaks at around 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night at the end of March, with approximately 26 Giga-Watts of power consumed. So, when the eco-nuts turn off their 2 light bulbs, each consuming 50 watts, is anyone really expecting the grid to notice?

In fairness, judging from the hilarious comments on Anthony Watts' blog last year, a fair number of people around the world compensated by turning on every light and appliance they had. Ah well. Earth Hour, theatre of the absurd.

UPDATE 2 March 13, 2010: We can see the impact on the state's power grid from millions of lights being turned off as the sun rises, at around 6:00 a.m. in Figure 1. No similar dip occurs around 8:30 p.m. (20:30 on Figure 1). [end update 2]

Figure 1 - power curve for March 13, 2010 in California

Figure 2 - power curve for March 20, 2010 in California

UPDATE 3 - March 28, 2010: Figure 3 below shows the California power consumption on March 27, 2010, which includes "Earth Hour" from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (see graph for 20 to 22 hrs, and the half-way positions). Pretty smooth, as usual, from what I can see. There may have been a very small dip right at 8:30 p.m. (20:30 hours), and another dip at 10:00 p.m. (22:00 hours). Still it was nothing like the dip at around 6:30 a.m. when the street lights and security lights are turned out.

Figure 3 - power curve for March 27, 2010 in California

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

HydroElectric Power - The Greenest of All

This article caught my eye (actually, my web watchdog's electronic eyes) and has some interesting aspects for the green movement. Hydro-Quebec (pronounced hee-drow) is a major producer of hydroelectric power in Quebec, Canada. HQ exports some of this power into the U.S., and is looking to expand those exports. However, they are running into opposition because the U.S. does not classify large hydro-electric power as renewable.

It is indeed strange, but sometimes laws are written with very strange twists. Hydro-electric power is the ultimate in low-cost power, because there is zero fuel consumed. The energy is provided by rain - and rain is free. Thus, there are zero emissions to the atmosphere, and no toxic radioactive spent fuel as is the case with all nuclear power plants. The big plus with large hydro-electric power is that the power is reliable and available on demand, when needed, as needed. Storms don't affect the hydro-electric plants, neither does cold weather. Solar and wind power plants are of course greatly affected by by storms and cold weather. And there are very few droughts in Quebec - it has very reliable and very much rain.

From the article, the average export price recently was approximately 6 cents per kWh, much lower than a new nuclear plant could ever hope to match (by a factor of at least 4!)

It makes too much sense for the U.S. not to import as much power from Quebec as they are willing to sell. Not for environmental reasons - CO2 does nothing to impact the climate or global temperature either up or down - but for economic reasons.

There is a reason that large consumers of electric power, such as aluminum plants, were built by hydro-electric sources of power. The low-cost and very reliable electric power helps the aluminum producers to keep their costs down, which is a win-win for everyone.

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When Engineers are Wrong People Die

Below is a comment I left on Anthony Watts' blog, the most popular blog in the world on climate issues. The blog post was by a guest, Dr. Jerome Ravetz, who has an interesting point. He posits, among other things, that science has made a journey over the decades, and now is in what he calls Post-Normal Science, or PNS. By PNS, he means (among other things) that the peer-review system of years gone by is also gone. The advent of the internet with various blogs where anyone, anywhere, anytime, can join the discussion has forever changed the way science is done. Freedom of Information laws (which Dr. Ravetz mentioned) also play a role, as some, perhaps most, science is now done via government funding - thus the information obtained is subject to disclosure in most cases. There are some instances in which government-funded research is not to be disclosed, one such instance is national security. But climate science has little to do with national security, and thus is subject to FOI.

The enhanced scrutiny of PNS has obvious difficulties that weigh against, or balance the benefits. One difficulty is what Dr. James Hansen of NASA termed "jousting with jesters." This is, to put it simply, a waste of a talented scientist's time to respond to questions or criticism posed by those who are unqualified to discuss the issues. And that is a valid point, to a certain extent. There are, and will likely always be, a few jesters around to slow things down. Some jesters deliberately strive to slow things down by disrupting - they have an agenda. Greenpeace is a good example, when they try to prevent law-abiding ships from accomplishing their goals.

But then there are the knights noble (to continue the medieval royal court analogy). One wants to be careful about jousting with a knight, especially an experienced, knowledgeable one with a superb horse and superior equipment. One can get seriously injured jousting with such a knight.

And there are, indeed, such knights around the world with internet access. I have run into quite a few, myself. People who know what questions to ask, and how to evaluate the responses they receive to those questions. People who, like me, seldom read the conclusions of a report, or if I do read it, discount it with a mental note of "well, let's just see if his data supports such a claim, and see what analysis was made and if it was done properly." This attitude is due to my background in engineering, specifically chemical engineering in oil refineries, where things explode when things go wrong. When one works in a place that could instantly turn into a raging inferno, one's wits get sharpened and the tolerance for BS (in this case, "Bad Science") disappears. I realize that few people in the world understand or even care what happens in an oil refinery, and what it takes to make them run safely and smoothly day after day for decades. And yes, sometimes mistakes are made. I know this probably better than most, as a good part of my law practice comes from such matters. My clients love the fact that their attorney, me, understands what they are saying without a lot of background explanations.

My response on WUWT was to a statement Dr. Ravetz made, from the Quaker principle: ‘never forget that you might be wrong.’

My comment begins: The engineer in me shudders when I read that. Engineers (I am a chemical engineer – and a lawyer) had better not be wrong. We don’t have that luxury; for when engineers get it wrong, people die. The news outlets – and the court cases – are replete with examples.

Engineers never, ever, forget that we might be wrong, so a good engineer falls back on the fundamentals – that which is never wrong. The legal term for one aspect of this, in the U.S., is RAGAGEP. This acronym stands for Recognized And Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practice. Other disciplines have similar standards, one such is GAAP for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

Many of my contacts are puzzled at some of my writings and statements, as they see the world in far more shades of gray than do I. They wonder just how I can be so adamant that I am right. The answer is simple: fundamentals of engineering are right. As just one example, a given grade of steel has a certain strength at a given temperature. Engineers use this fact to design and build all sorts of structures, from bridges to boilers to boxcars; and oil refineries.

The fundamentals are also very useful in a law practice, where defendants did not adhere to RAGAGEP but instead cut corners or did a sloppy job or substituted a cheaper material or fabrication technique.

In engineering, there is much parallel to science, in that there are experiments designed and conducted, data acquired and analyzed, theories formulated and tested against the data, and better experiments or larger systems built and tested. It angers me to observe how pathetic the science has been with respect to climate change. I cheer inwardly when I read comments on various blogs where quality of measuring instruments is described as paramount. If the raw data is suspect, then one might as well stop right there – any further use of the data is useless, and likely dangerous if one is an engineer. It can also lead to massive economic losses to the defendant in a lawsuit brought by an injured plaintiff, who is represented by a knowledgeable and skillful attorney.

It is encouraging to me to see that, in the extended peer community described by Dr. Ravetz, some are engineers. I don’t disparage non-engineers by this, as there are many good, skeptical, knowledgeable people without engineering degrees. And it is true that some engineers do a bad job, or more likely, are not permitted to do a good job because their bosses (usually non-engineers) prevent them. The Toyota car problems of the moment come to mind; it is very likely that the engineers at Toyota knew exactly what to do and how to do it to send out cars without the problems, but layers of management prevented them from doing so.

I would hold all scientists to the same standards to which engineers are held: get it right, or people die. My own background is in oil refineries, natural gas plants, petrochemical plants, basic chemical plants, and power plants. In those industries, one does not take chances, use bad data, use questionable measuring instruments, falsify data, manipulate data to obtain a pre-determined outcome, or any of the other myriad things revealed in the post-Climategate mess. Things blow up and people die.

Therefore, I am a skeptic about climate science. At every turn, there is sloppy work, conclusions not supported by the data, very poor quality data, and agenda-driven work. My research and investigations show me that essentially none of the AGW claims are true, and will never be true. I am also very encouraged to see that many other engineers are speaking up and speaking out, using the internet.

As Dr. Ravetz said, Post-Normal Science is here, and it is not going away.

As I see it, the knights are suited up, and astride their horses. Climate scientists are now required to joust with the knights. May the best man win.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Marina del Rey, California

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Snow Equals Drought in AB 32 Speak

California's AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, was passed to prevent several dire consequences of global warming due to greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere. The legislature delegated authority to the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to write specific regulations to curb greenhouse gases - especially CO2 - by 2020. It is interesting, though, how the dire consequences are not working out.

To wit: "The potential adverse impacts of global warming include. . . a reduction in the quality and supply of water to the state from the Sierra snowpack. . ."
(California Health and Safety Code Section 38501(a); where AB 32 is codified in the state laws)

Yet, there is this pronouncement dated January 29, 2010, from the State Department of Water Resources: "water content in California’s mountain snowpack is 115 percent of normal for the date statewide. This time last year, snow water content was 61 percent of normal statewide."

Since January 29, the snows have been falling heavily and regularly in the Sierras, and are falling again as I write this, as shown in the chart below (see Figure 1):

UPDATE 1: February 24, 2010 - [still more snow storms are on the way to the Sierras, with 1 to 3 feet expected to fall this weekend. - RES]

Figure 1
Weather Conditions in USA for Feb 23, 2010
(click image for larger view)

I'm terribly confused...the California government told us all that more CO2 in the atmosphere will create a shortage of snow and therefore less water available for the state. That was one of the key reasons AB 32 was passed. Well, we know the CO2 has continued to increase.

Somehow, though, the snow-making mechanism in Nature did not get the memo. Snow continues to fall, over and over again, and heavily, in the Sierras. Meanwhile, even the rain is getting into the lakes, as Lake Shasta, the largest reservoir in the state, is now at 97 percent of its average capacity for today's date. When the snow begins to melt, that water will also flow into Lake Shasta, and other lakes in the state. Lake Shasta will soon be far above 100 percent of its average capacity. How can this be, during a drought? Isn't the definition of a drought a shortage of water? Where is all this snow and rain coming from? (Answer: it is a natural phenomenon, likely due to the El Nino sitting just offshore in the Pacific Ocean. California tends to get more rain and snow during El Nino years, and less during La Nina years). These have absolutely nothing to do with the level of CO2 or any other greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

California's water-keepers are about to be faced with a big decision: when to start letting the water out of the reservoirs, to run down the rivers into the ocean - unused by the farmers or cities - just to make room for all the snowmelt they are about to receive. (see this link for current status of California's lakes - organized by river system).

Another point about the Department of Water's announcement: how can there be almost double the amount of snow this year compared to last year (115 percent of normal, compared to 61 percent of normal last year)? Their answer, of course, is that one wet year does not break a drought. Doesn't it? How else does a drought break? By having dust fall out of the sky, perhaps? I was led to believe that more rain and snow equals no drought.

Another claim by the legislature that passed AB 32 is that the Sierra snowpack is melting earlier and earlier each Spring. That is something we will have to wait on and see. For those who want to follow along on such things, the state's temperatures and rainfall may be seen here.

In conclusion, yet another bust for the AB 32 dire predictions. The snow pack is above normal, and getting deeper and deeper with each additional snowstorm. Temperatures are not running away, either. Sea levels are not rising up and inundating the shores, either. Massive, record-breaking heat waves are not occurring, either. Is there anything at all that AB 32's proponents have correct? Answer: nope. Correction: yes, one thing. Utility prices are indeed rising, but by more than was predicted.

Vote to suspend AB 32 in the November election. This is a law that California never needed, and certainly does not need now. We need jobs, not business-closing regulation.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More Musings on the Grand Game

This post is a little different from what I usually write. Different, in that this touches a bit on politics. I have read many things from many places over the years, as have we all, I suspect. Sometimes things fall into place, and a pattern emerges, then a clear conclusion. This is one of those times, for me.

The core issue is "going green," and whether that is a good thing. As some of you will note, having read my other blog EnergyGuysMusings, I am all for renewable energy (a form of green energy), but only when that renewable energy can be made as cost-effective, and as reliable, as that provided by natural gas. So far, nothing comes even close.

Let us dial back the clock about a decade or so, and remember the world situation from this perspective: is the world about to run out of oil? Is peak oil real, and if it is real, is it about to happen soon? In the 1990s, the United Nations passed some sanctions on the rogue nation of Iraq, one of which led to curtailing the oil flow from Iraq. A little oil was allowed, but only enough to buy humanitarian needs such as food and medical supplies. In a world with a growing appetite for oil, and economies growing, especially emerging economies of India and China, taking Iraqi oil off the world market meant other exporting countries increased production. So they did, and Saudi Arabia opened up the spigot, so to speak.

It became very clear, very soon, though, that without Iraqi oil, demand would equal supply, and the price of oil would rise. And it did. The higher oil prices gave a boost to renewable technologies, especially hybrid cars with their much lower fuel consumed per mile. We heard and read much about wind-power and solar power, with idiots stating (in public, over the airwaves) that renewable energy equates to importing less oil. That, of course, would only be true if we did one, or both, of two things: 1) burn oil to make electricity, and 2) drive electric cars that are recharged from electricity. As it turns out, we do neither in the U.S. First, a quick look at the Energy Information Administration (EIA) website shows just how little of our electricity is produced from burning oil: almost zero. It is an emergency fuel, not the mainstay. Second, electric cars are a very, very small fraction of the total cars on the road. Such cars are being developed by various manufacturers, with a very few available for sale. Hence, it requires an idiot to state that renewable energy equates to importing less oil. It does not.

As I have written, because this IS true, when vehicles burn natural gas instead of petroleum, THEN renewable energy will help reduce imported oil. But the U.S.A., in its vast wisdom handed down from the various federal and state legislatures, does not view natural gas as a true alternative to petroleum fuels. To illustrate this, just try to convert an engine from gasoline to natural gas in California.

Fast-forward a few years, and thanks to a multi-national coalition, now the Iraqi government is different, without a dictator, but with a representative democracy. Western oil companies now work in Iraq to bring the oil fields back into production, and very soon the oil will flow again into the world market. That oil will flow in sufficient volumes to cause great concern in OPEC, as the price of oil will drop if the supply exceeds the demand by very much. To maintain a supply and demand balance, and thus prop up the oil price, some existing oil producing nations must reduce their production by the amount of the new Iraqi oil flow. This will not be an easy task, nor will it be done willingly. It could very well be the case that the oil price will drop yet again to the $20 per barrel level. Or, it could be that the emerging economies of India and China will take up all the oil the Iraqis can supply, and the price of oil will remain in the $70 to $80 range.

Which brings me to the green aspect. There are at least three groups of geeks at work, by which I refer to engineers and technicians who find ways to advance their particular product. One group is those who work in the oil and gas industry, finding oil and gas, producing oil and gas, refining the oil, liquefying and shipping the natural gas, and making these products available as needed and at very low prices. A second group of geeks works in the automotive industry, making cars that use less gasoline and trucks that use less diesel fuel. The third group of geeks works in the renewable energy field, finding ways to provide electric power from wind, solar, waves, geothermal, bio-mass, and in the bio-fuels field making ethanol and bio-diesel. By the way, when I use the word "geeks" it is not a disparaging term. As an engineer, I am a geek. I have great admiration for what geeks can do, and have done.

Then, which group of geeks is winning? Right now, the automotive geeks are doing pretty well, with cars that achieve miles per gallon in the low to mid 30's. Some hybrids do even better, with mpg in the high 40s and low 50s. Plug-in hybrids are expected to do much better, as the vehicles use only electricity until the battery is depleted and the gasoline engine is started up. However, the renewable energy geeks are also doing pretty well, with large windmills having economies of scale to provide electric power. Solar cells are also doing much better, with greater efficiencies than ever. Yet, there remain huge problems with electricity storage, the true weakness of wind and solar power systems. It appears to me that the oil and gas geeks are the true winners, as shale gas is being developed all around the world. Oil is now found in places where oil is not supposed to exist, deep beneath the salt layer and in very deep offshore waters. The situation is interesting, as governments intervene to assist the automotive and renewable geeks, but hinder the oil and gas geeks. Assistance comes in the form of mpg mandates (35 mpg in the US, with 42 mpg in California), plus minimum renewable energy quotas in many states (see, e.g. AB 32 in California that mandates 20 percent renewables by 2010, then 33 percent by 2020), plus government subsidies for renewable energy projects. Those are huge assists to the automotive and renewable geeks.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas geeks are hindered by governments. Many oil fields are not available to market-based oil companies to drill and produce them, as state-run oil companies own and control those fields, or they are off-limits by government decree (see Alaska North Slope, and offshore California, offshore the U.S. East Coast, and parts of the Gulf of Mexico). Also, the U.S. government is threatening to remove tax incentives for oil companies, which have long existed and have not given oil companies a huge return on investment. Indeed, if their tax status is changed, oil companies will slip further down the list of profitable industries (see profitability of cosmetics companies (40 % return on equity), and liquor companies for high-profitability (29 % return on equity), much more than the oil industry (20 % return on equity). Yet nobody complains about the exorbitant profits of cosmetics companies). Capital will not flow into oil and gas companies, and we will see a shortage of oil and gas. But, not because of Peak Oil or running out of oil, but simply because of government-imposed dis-incentives to produce oil and gas.

And then there is the legal side of the green energy. As I wrote elsewhere on SLB, there are legal challenges to several laws, both at the federal and state level. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard (California state law that mandates ethanol in gasoline, among other things) is the subject of a lawsuit in US District Court in Fresno, California. The US EPA has been challenged by more than a dozen lawsuits, each seeking to have the Determination that CO2 is a hazardous and dangerous pollutant reconsidered based on the Bad Science (BS) that was used in the Determination. There are also the traditional legal challenges to the environmental impact of renewable energy projects, and the long transmission lines that are required to bring the power to the consumers.

The question resolves to a political one. The choice is this: is it better to penalize oil and natural gas by restricting production, increasing the oil and gas price as a consequence, thus giving incentives to renewable energy? The higher price of energy hinders economic growth, and hurts consumers by taking more of their hard-earned paychecks. Or, is it better to topple a brutal dictator of an oil-rich nation, whose policies resulted in economic sanctions such that very little oil was produced? The new regime allows the oil to flow again into the world market, bringing down the price of energy world-wide, and encouraging economic growth and prosperity for billions of people world-wide.

The question remains, even though the Iraqi situation has been resolved, at least for now. Their neighboring country, Iran, is now likely to have oil-export sanctions applied by the United Nations due to Iran's increasingly belligerent attitude and nuclear arms prospects. Perhaps the Iranian government does not see this clearly, but removal of Iranian oil from the world market will only accelerate the automotive and renewable energy geeks as the price of oil increases.

It is inevitable that the technology for cars and renewable energy will be discovered and developed. The only question is one of economics: will the oil price be so high that the higher-priced cars and higher-priced electricity are justified in the eyes of the consumer? Or, will the oil price drop so that only government mandates force the expensive cars and high-priced electricity on the consumer?

And thus ends this installment of musings on the Grand Game, the battle for energy markets around the world.

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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

80 By 50 under California AB 32

It has become increasingly clear to me that some (perhaps many) proponents of AB 32, and therefore opponents of Assemblyman Dan Logue's measure to stop AB 32 until unemployment in California decreases to a healthy level, do not fully realize what AB 32 does. And therefore, the harm they are trying to bring about. Hence this post.

Below is a simple chart, see Figure 1, prepared from data presented in the AB 32 Scoping Plan. It is a simple chart, yet has profound implications. What this shows is how dramatically AB 32 will affect everyone's lives who either live in California, work in California, or depend in some way on goods and services in California.

Figure 1.
(click on chart for a larger view in a new window)

What the chart shows is the quantity of CO2-equivalent (all greenhouse gases), in Millions of Metric Tonnes per year (the left-hand axis), at three different points in time under AB 32. First, is the 1990 point, the single reddish-colored bar just above "1990." This value is just over 400 MMTCO2e, as carefully calculated by California's Air Resources Board (ARB) as the amount emitted in California in the base year, 1990.

Next, for the middle pair of bars above "2020," is the requirement under AB 32 that all such emissions be reduced at that time back to the level emitted in 1990. If nothing were done, that is, the "Business as Usual" case, the emissions in 2020 are expected to be just at 600. A reduction from 600 to 400 is about one-third, or 33 percent. Californians, and others who keep up with this, may have heard this reduction mentioned. A one-third reduction in CO2 emissions will not be had uniformly, indeed, ARB expects that some sectors of the state's economy will have lesser reductions, while others have far more. With AB 32 already in effect as to some of the 73 separate line items, and most of the others due to go into effect in 2012, that leaves 8 years (2020 - 2012 is 8) for the regulations to dig in. Perhaps the economy can withstand the price shocks that will occur (ARB admits that prices will increase). Prices for such universal and fundamental items as electric power (utility bills are going up, perhaps they will double), natural gas, diesel fuel, gasoline, and water.

This is a problem for at least two reasons: for businesses, and for consumers. For businesses, they can expect their power bills to increase as the power price increases. ARB bleats on about energy conservation offsetting the price increase, but that is a nebulous concept for most businesses. As an example, how is a welding company supposed to cut their electrical usage by 33 percent, and continue with the same amount of welding? It cannot be done. How is a machine parts company to do this, when all their machines operate on electric motors? What about a trans-shipment and warehousing company, such as those associated with the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach? The warehousing and trans-shipment company uses diesel-powered trucks to move containers from the ports to their warehouses further inland, and those trucks are not going to see a 33 percent reduction in diesel consumed, even if each has the latest streamlining features. They may see a 10 percent reduction in fuel. Not nearly good enough. Then, in the warehouses, there are forklifts to move pallets of goods around, very likely burning CNG or compressed natural gas. Again, no reduction of 33 percent in fuel used.

Now for the grim part. The last pair of bars, above "2050," shows what California must do to meet the "80 by 50" portion of the regulations. "80 by 50" means that by 2050, emissions must be reduced to 80 percent below the 1990 level. The Business as Usual case (the dark red bar) for 2050 is just over 1200, yet the regulations require emissions of only 87, as shown by the pale bar. That is a 93 percent reduction. Californians will be allowed only 7 percent of the emissions compared to what would ordinarily occur without such regulations. And that, my friends and readers, is a problem. It is a problem because no society, ever, not in all of history, has accomplished such a thing. Not even California with all its Silicon Valley innovators and green startup companies knows how to do this. How can I say this with confidence? Because I am an engineer, and not only studied physics and engineering, but practiced in the field for decades before learning the law and becoming an attorney. As I wrote here, there are certain physical limits to the amount of energy that must be applied and supplied to accomplish any given task. To believe that today's techniques waste 93 percent of that energy is naive. Our capitalistic society, with competition for customers, has long ago eliminated such wasteful techniques. As just one example, using cars running on gasoline, cars in 2050 must use only 7 percent of the gasoline as modern cars do. Modern cars achieve about 25 miles per gallon, and 7 percent of that means that number must be multiplied by 14. Cars, then, must achieve 14 times 25 miles per gallon, or 350 miles per gallon. Not very likely.

So, if we cannot reduce the energy applied by 93 percent, what are the options? Actually, there are two, perhaps the readers can provide others. First, California can reduce its population dramatically and all economic and social activity by 75 percent. Then the population will not grow, houses will not require heating and cooling, cars will not need to be driven, and CO2 will not be emitted. This is a very real possibility. Not very likely, but possible.

Second, California can use other means of energy, instead of fossil-fuels one can substitute renewables or nuclear. This means geothermal, solar, wind, hydroelectric, wave power, ocean current power, and bio-mass for electricity, and bio-fuels such as ethanol for gasoline and soy oil for diesel. The question is, can California do that? Is there enough renewable energy available in California and surrounding states? The answer, of course, is no. California has some wind generation, but not much room for growth there. This is not Kansas, or Oklahoma, or West Texas, where there are literally millions of acres with good wind. Even if California was covered in solar panels, there is no viable electricity storage system for times when the sun does not shine. We can do such storage, using batteries, but the cost would be very, very high. Power prices to each home and businesses would skyrocket, making California products and services completely un-competitive anywhere. Similarly for geothermal, there is not enough. As to ethanol and soy oil, there is not nearly enough water in California to grow the crops.

So that leaves nuclear power. That is a dead issue in California, as no new nuclear plants may be built per state law. Even if there were no such laws, nuclear power has the big four reasons for not being built: too expensive, too dangerous (especially in earthquake zones), produces plutonium, and produces toxic spent fuel.

In summary, this is what AB 32 requires of Californians. As far as I know, the chart above has never been presented by an official California agency or group. And for good reason; that chart shows the reality of what a few mis-guided, green-at-any-cost, carbon-is-killing-us-all people did to California when they passed AB 32.

Vote for the California Jobs Initiative, as passing that initiative in November will put a stop to AB 32, at least for some years.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey

Friday, February 19, 2010

Energy Conservation is Not Sustainable

I have never, as far as I know, referenced (or very often read) an article from Huffington Post. Their ideas seem very strange to my engineer-and-legal-trained eyes. In short, they don't live in the real world, where engineers must. But I saw a laughable article on HP today, and it calls for a response. Here is the link.

What the article claims is that energy efficiency is a sustainable, growing industry that creates jobs. It makes other ludicrous claims as well, but I'll leave those to another day. I have some experience in energy efficiency, quite a bit actually, having been in the industrial side of the world during the energy price shocks of 1973, 1979 and their aftermath.

And what I found, as did many others who actually lived through this period, is that energy conservation is a one-time problem. We evaluated the various processes, including homes, apartments, skyscrapers, industrial buildings, shopping malls, and of course industry, and made the appropriate energy-conserving investments. By doing so, over approximately five years, the refining and chemical industries reduced energy consumption per unit of production by more than 30 percent. That was a laudable achievement, and I am proud to have been a part of that.

But what we also found was that, even if more money were spent, there would not be another 30 percent reduction over the next five year period, then another 30 percent in the following five years, and so on. Energy consumption, and energy efficiency, does not work that way. It seems obvious to me, as an engineer, but this seems to escape the notice of the many misguided folks who see sustainability and conservation as a jobs-creating industry that we should have been doing all along.

The reason that energy conservation does not work "that way" is that there are certain fundamental, physical realities in the real world. As an example from everyday experience, consider two kids, with a wagon that has four wheels. One kid sits in the wagon, and the other kid pulls the wagon with the kid up a hill. That takes work. Let us assign the amount of work, or energy expended by the kid doing the pulling, a value of 100. Then, let us see what can be done to reduce the energy expended, or "conservation."

For this example, we can assume the kid in the wagon was wearing very heavy boots, and had rocks in his pockets, and was wearing a weight belt. Why, we don't need to ask. The point is that less energy will be expended if there is less weight in the wagon, so we can remove all the unnecessary weight: boots, rocks, and weight belt. Now the next trip up the hill, the kid pulling will expend only 90 units of energy. Good, we have conserved 10 units of energy. What else can be done?

Perhaps the wheels do not roll smoothly because the axles are rusty. This takes more energy to pull the wagon. We can install new axles, and lubricate them with grease, or even install roller bearings in the wheels to reduce the friction. This costs money, but it can be done. Perhaps the wagon now requires only 85 units of energy to make it up the hill.

Next, perhaps the tires are not perfectly round, or do not have the proper synthetic rubber to roll more easily, so we replace the tires with low rolling-resistant tires that are more nearly round. Again, this costs money but it can be done. Perhaps now the wagon requires only 80 units of energy to make it up the hill.

And we are done. There are few, if any things that can be done to reduce energy consumption beyond this point. We reduced energy 20 percent, which is good. But to expect that an additional 20 percent reduction will be done in the next round of effort is expecting too much of physics. This is because, even if we had a perfectly friction-less method of transportation, a certain amount of work must be done to move a mass over a distance, and up an incline. No amount of energy conservation techniques will reduce that, no matter what well-meaning people who fervently believe in conservation may say. Physics does not care what people babble on about, or what laws are passed, or which trees are hugged and which are removed for highways.

Similarly for houses, which can have energy reduced by improved insulation, plugging air leaks, and installing better windows, once the house has had that first round of energy conservation applied, that is it. No more improvements, unless a new house is built with radical new design. One might install solar panels, or a ground heat pump, but this is not possible or practical in many areas of the world. It is certainly not economically attractive in many areas, even if it is possible. And, even if all that is done with a new house, solar panels, and the like, one is still done at that point. No more energy efficiency will occur.

For transportation systems, such as cars, trains, trucks, ships, and airplanes, there are a few more things one can do, but not many. One can, for example, design and install more aerodynamic devices on vehicles to reduce wind resistance ("drag" in aerodynamics terms). This might achieve 5 or 6 percent less fuel used. One might also install improved engines, hybrid systems to recover the energy lost as heat while braking, low-friction oils, low-weight alloy wheels, low rolling-resistance tires, variable transmissions, and reduce average speed, but once those things are done, you are done. There will be no additional "conservation" to reduce energy consumption any further.

To get a bit technical, in the refineries and chemical plants in which I worked for so many years, there is a theoretical amount of energy that must be expended to accomplish the task at hand. At the most fundamental level, chemists and chemical engineers speak of the "heat of formation." This is the amount of energy, or heat, that must be expended to convert one substance, a chemical, to another. In addition to that basic minimum energy requirement, there are energy requirements for bringing the raw materials to the plant, pumping, heating, separating the desired materials from the dregs, cooling the material, packaging when appropriate, then transporting and distributing the products. Each of these steps (and there are many, many other steps not included here) requires energy, and is subject to the laws of physics. No amount of effort by any person, no matter their IQ, will result in energy efficiency gains of 30 percent every 5 years or so.

So, I laugh when I read drivel such as that on the HP column mentioned above. On the one hand, it might be fun to watch as nation after nation, and state after state, passes laws such as AB 32 in California, that requires energy use to be reduced by government fiat. Physics, however, is not impressed by any king, president, prime minister, governor, EPA Administrator, or chair of an Air Resources Board. Physics is certainly not impressed by judges who uphold such laws.

Engineers have limits on what we can do. We achieved 30 percent energy reduction 30 years ago. To accomplish what California says must be done, 80 percent below 1990 CO2 emissions by 2050 (the "80 by 50" rule), requires that only 7 percent of the greenhouse gases can be emitted compared to the business as usual case for 2050. That means a 93 percent reduction (see Figure 1). The two bars above "2050" on Figure 1 show the Business as Usual case, of a bit more than 1,200 MMTCO2/yr in the dark red, and the California-mandated requirement in the lighter color, of about 87 MMTCO2/yr. This chart is not presented by ARB or any other official presentation, to my knowledge, and with good reason. That 93 percent reduction is daunting, to say the least, and impossible, considering physics.

Figure 1
(click on image for larger view in new window)

As I said above, a 93 percent reduction by 2050 is required by regulation. Good luck with that. Physics is not impressed with such regulations.

It is, of course, understood that not all the energy efficiency and conservation will be done for all possible targets within 5 years. But eventually, those targets will be done. And then what? This movement is supposed to be sustainable and provide jobs into the forever-future. The stark reality is that this is impossible. It would be nice, fabulous even, if legislators understood this fundamental point. Then they would be far less prone to pass such idiotic laws.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Arizona Says No Thanks to Cap and Trade

The State of Arizona, through Governor Jan Brewer's Executive Order 2010-006 (see this link), has changed its position on, and level of participation in, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a group of several western states including California, plus some Canadian provinces and the Mexican states that border the USA (see map below, reproduced from WCI website).

The cap-and-trade portion of the WCI will not be implemented by Arizona, "particularly during this economic downturn." Arizona will, however, continue to be a member of WCI. This is of particular importance since one goal of a multi-state coalition for cap-and-trade is to prevent "leakage," the moving of businesses and jobs from one state to another to avoid the cap-and-trade burden.

Also, and significantly, AB 32's cap-and-trade regulation is to create major reductions in the total GHG emissions by 2020. The exact numbers are not yet published. For Arizona to change position and not participate in the cap-and-trade system shows that California is, increasingly, going it alone.

In view of the effort to have the California Jobs Initiative passed at the ballot in November, this shows growing opposition in other states to regulations that are similar to, or a part of, AB 32. Cap-and-trade is a central part of AB 32, and a part that will bring great hardship to California businesses and citizens who are unable to find jobs.

Arizona has just signaled that they welcome businesses from California that are driven out by cap-and-trade rules, and will provide jobs in their state for those businesses.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Texas v US EPA over CO2 Endangerment

The heavyweight round has just begun in the climate-change battle. Texas, one of the biggest states in the USA , filed a Petition for Reconsideration in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This is no ordinary plaintiff; this is the State of Texas - big, with endless resources, all the time in the world, and motivated with enormous resolve to stop this CO2 Endangerment Finding. Texas is resource-rich in oil, natural gas, timber, coal, cattle, cotton, high-tech, manufacturing, refineries, chemical plants, petrochemical plants, NASA, and the men and women who design it, build it, operate, repair and maintain it, and finance it. This is no ordinary plaintiff, with limited funding and huge bills to law firms to pay. No, this is the heavyweight round. And the gloves are off.

Texas' economy stands to lose much if the EPA's Endangerment Finding is sustained. With most of the U.S. refining and petrochemical industry in Texas, and the power plants required to keep them running, Texas burns a lot of fossil fuel, producing CO2 (and water vapor) in the process. Curbing the CO2 emissions will cost huge sums, and will do absolutely nothing to change the world's climate, either warmer or cooler. It will also put Texas at a serious disadvantage to other countries, who have enough sense not to hobble their own economies with misguided laws to curb fossil fuel use.

Texas, via its Attorney General (he's already on the payroll, so no additional legal fees here), filed a 38-page Petition for Reconsideration in the proper court, see above, with a fascinating and detailed list of EPA's wrongdoing in its Endangerment Finding. I will quote from the Petition liberally, and for those who want to wade through the legalese, the document may be found here. (PDF, 1.3 MB)

Legal Basis

The legal basis for the Petition for Reconsideration is the Clean Air Act, Section 307 and following (found at 42 U.S.C. Chapter 85, Section 7607).

Texas makes two main allegations: 1) the Endangerment Finding was arrived at by a fundamentally flawed methodology, and 2) that methodology was legally unsupported.

The Petition for Reconsideration also states,

"although the [EPA] Administrator is legally required to undertake a scientific
assessment before reaching a decision that is supposed to be based on scientific
conclusions, the Administrator outsourced the actual scientific study, as well as her
required review of the scientific literature necessary to make that assessment. In doing
so, EPA relied primarily on the conclusions of outside organizations, particularly the
United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”)."

The Petition for Reconsideration then lays out a long list of the IPCC's failings including not using peer-reviewed studies, how the IPCC's top climate scientists used the peer-review process to exclude contrary findings, colluded to hide research flaws, and collaborated to obstruct Freedom of Information requests.

It is crucial that some, or all, of the information about IPCC scientists wrongdoing came to light after the close of the public comment period for the Endangerment Finding in June, 2009, but before the end of the period for judicial review. Under the EPA's procedural rules stated in the Clean Air Act, plaintiffs may bring an action in court if new information is obtained after the public comment period closes but before the judicial review period ends. In this instance, new information came to light and the Petition for Reconsideration was timely filed.

The Petition for Reconsideration states that the EPA Administrator relied "on the major
assessments of the USGCRP, IPCC, and NRC as the primary scientific and technical
bases of her endangerment decision.” Furthermore, "[t]he appropriateness of the Administrator’s misplaced reliance on those assessments is of central relevance to the Endangerment Finding. " [emphasis in original] What the EPA Administrator should have done, is legally required to do, is form an independent assessment of the available research. In this case, she did not; she relied on the fatally-flawed IPCC reports, and the other two bodies' conclusions.

Texas' Environmental Commitment

The Petition for Reconsideration then goes on to list Texas' accomplishments in providing a clean environment, with a partial listing of companies fined and details of clean up measures taken. Texas is saying here, "Look, we are not the bad guys. We are cleaning up the environment in our state."

Next, Texas may have made a crucial mistake. The Petition for Reconsideration lists Texas' steps taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The list includes reductions of CO2 emissions from power plants, and installing the nation's greatest amount of wind-generators. To admit that greenhouse gases exist may have been a mistake. On the other hand, Texas is very likely already on record in numerous documents as having reduced greenhouse gas emissions. It will be interesting to see how this admission in the Petition for Reconsideration plays with the appellate court.

The Endangerment Finding was Flawed

Next, the Petition for Reconsideration discusses the Endangerment Finding. Texas leads off with a quote from the Supreme Court case of Massachusetts v EPA, and Texas gets it right. Not all legal commentators got this right, however. The Supreme Court did not declare CO2 to be a greenhouse gas, and did not declare CO2 to be a danger to human health. As Texas correctly states,

"the United States Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA required the Administrator to:

determine whether or not emissions of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles cause
or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public
health or welfare, or whether the science is too uncertain to make a reasoned decision.” "

Texas goes on to state the legal grounds the Administrator is required to follow, and concludes with, "in reaching her Endangerment Finding, the Administrator is obligated to make her own, independent, ‘reasoned decision’ that is based exclusively on the best available science." This is the crux of Texas' argument: she did not make her own, independent decision, it was a copy of the IPCC and other reports; and it was certainly not based on the best available science. Non-peer-reviewed, agenda-driven magazine articles are not the best available science.

The Petition for Reconsideration then provides a fact-filled litany of the Climategate emails, showing scientists behaving badly. Quoting: "[t]he emails do not reflect the work of objective
scientists dispassionately conducting their work and zealously pursuing the truth. Rather
they reveal a cadre of activist scientists colluding and scheming to advance what they
want the science to be—even where the empirical data suggest a different outcome." Also, "to the extent their [these scientists'] objectivity, impartiality, truthfulness, and scientific
integrity are compromised or in doubt, so too is the objectivity, impartiality, truthfulness,
and scientific integrity of the IPCC report, the CRU temperature data, the NOAA
temperature data, and other scientific research that is shown to have relied on their
compromised research."

The EPA asserted that they used three independent sources for their scientific data, but the Petition of Reconsideration states that the IPCC report was most heavily relied on, and the other two were primarily rehashings of the IPCC's findings (my paraphrase).

Scientists Behaving Badly

In Section VII (A), the Petition for Reconsideration shows how the IPCC authors manipulated the climate temperature data, citing the by-now infamous email of using a "trick" to "hide the decline." Also, especially egregious data manipulation is discussed with Russian and New Zealand temperature data. Such manipulation showed undue warming. Also, the IPCC admitted they have lost critical climate data.

Then the real fun begins, with several major discredited claims, using non-peer-reviewed sources. These include Himalayan glaciers receding faster than anyone thought (the aren't). Also, Chinese temperature data was seriously flawed, and had no source documents. They made up the data. Next, the claim that 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level, and subject to inundation from sea level rise. This is erroneous, as only 26 percent is below sea level. The fourth and final example included in the Petition for Reconsideration is the wild claim that "up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rain forest could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation." This was from the non-scientific, but wildly agenda-driven World Wildlife Federation, the WWF.

Impact on Texas

The Petition for Reconsideration then goes on to detail the hardships the Endangerment Finding will impose on the citizens of Texas, from small ranchers and farmers unable to pay for Title V Permits (they are not required to obtain these under current law), oil and gas interests, minerals and mining, and oil refining.

Conclusion and Request

"Granting this petition would be consistent with actions taken by governments
worldwide to assess problems afflicting the IPCC and it would further allow the agency
to conduct its own scientific assessment, independently consider the available scientific
information, and then, in the Administrator’s own judgment, make a determination that is
supported by the law and facts."

Texas is requesting the EPA do what it is legally required to do: conduct its own scientific assessment (not rely on the perverted IPCC results), and use the best available scientific information (not like the IPCC did with outrageous reports), then make its own determination that is consistent with and supported by the law and the facts.

This will be a very interesting court proceeding.

Court Procedures

In a Petition for Reconsideration such as this, the EPA must provide the court with a great number of documents. The law requires that "The record for judicial review shall consist exclusively of the material referred to in paragraph (3) (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking), clause (i) of paragraph (4)(B) (written comments and submitted documents, plus transcripts of public hearings), and subparagraphs (A) and (B) of paragraph (6) (this includes a response to each of the significant comments, criticisms, and new data submitted in written or oral presentations during the comment period)."

It will take some time for the court to read and analyze all the documents, consider the evidence before it, and deliver its opinion.


An agenda-driven EPA, and the presidential administration that directs it, should take a lesson from this. This is what happens, and some very concerned states (Texas is not alone in filing such a petition, by some reports, 16 other Petitions were filed) do not take these things lightly. Court resources will be tied up for weeks, if not months, and all because the EPA did not pay attention to the climate skeptics who, all along, insisted that the IPCC was full of wrong-doing and bad science.

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

Monday, February 15, 2010

Obama Finances a Nuclear Power Plant

Obama, that master-mind of all things, especially economic recoveries, will announce on Tuesday (tomorrow as I write this) that the government will help to fund two new nuclear power plants in Georgia (USA, not the country near Russia). Brilliant. Just brilliant.

The new nuclear plants are too expensive to attract private funding, as are any nuclear plants in the USA these days. The South Texas Nuclear Project's expansion plans are also on the rocks, with the expected cost to build escalating each time the players meet to talk about it. Last round, the price was up to $17 billion. One can bet that the final cost, if it ever gets built, will be far, far more.

Nothing is different, or better, in Georgia, as their twin-reactor plant will also cost around $20 to $25 billion, or more. Maybe much more. But now the U.S. government will provide loan guarantees so the plant will be built.

Will the U.S. government also provide rebates to the poor, who must purchase that outrageously priced nuclear power from the new plants? How about for the elderly, on fixed incomes? And what about the young couple with small kids, struggling from paycheck to paycheck? What will all of them do when their power bill is increased 20, 30, or 50 percent? It gets really hot in Georgia in the summer months, and the humidity is high. Not much else is going to cool off the house or apartment, except an air conditioner. And that uses electricity.

If Obama backs nuclear power plants because they emit no CO2, and he still bitterly clings to the myth that CO2 causes global warming (it doesn't because it cannot), then he should hear this: Nuclear power plants run one heck of a cooling tower, to condense the steam that exits the steam turbine. That cooling tower vaporizes huge amounts of water, and the water vapor goes off into the atmosphere. Now, water vapor IS a greenhouse gas, and DOES make the local climate warmer. No one disputes this unless they have already lost their marbles. It is a fact that a nuclear power plant sends approximately twice as much heat out the cooling tower as water vapor, compared to what is produced in the form of electricity. So, for a 2,000 MW nuclear power plant with twin reactors (1000 MW each), there will be the equivalent of 4,000 MW of heat exiting the cooling tower. All day. Every day. For 40 years or more. Warming up the globe.

(why should anyone believe me, as I write this? After all, aren't I an attorney? What do attorneys know about this stuff? Turns out, I am also an engineer, with a degree in Chemical Engineering and decades of experience in refineries and power plants and energy matters. Or you could call your local engineer and ask him or her.)

Atta boy, Mr. President. You should fire your science advisors.

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

Saudis Worry About Peak Oil Demand

Seems like I'm not the only one who watches what is going on in oil. Back in December 2009, I wrote on US Oil Demand is Falling. The statistics show this for the USA, when oil demand peaked in 2005 and has been steadily decreasing since (see Figure 1 below). Now the Saudis are on record (see this link) stating that they believe the world demand for oil will peak in the next decade. Interesting.

Figure 1 - US Gross Inputs into Refineries
(click image for larger view in new window)

One never knows with the Saudis. They are long-time masters of hiding their true intentions and playing the western media. This could be just another pronouncement with no real import. But it is interesting (to me) that their assessment mirrors my own.

In a world where oil is of paramount importance (see The Prize by Daniel Yergin), there is at least one struggle ongoing, and more likely many more. One struggle is for the oil producers to keep the price of oil low and thereby remove any incentive for oil consuming nations to reduce consumption, or to conserve. On the other hand, the oil producers want to maximize their oil revenues for as long as they are able. Opposite the oil producers in this struggle are the geeks, the engineers, the scientists, and technologists. In short, the men and women who seek to make a car that is economical, and uses much less gasoline or diesel fuel than traditional cars. There is some success in this area, as smaller cars, lighter weight cars, more aerodynamic cars, better lubrication technology for less friction, turbo-charged engines, super-charged engines, hybrid-electric cars, cars that run on propane, that run on natural gas, that run on bio-diesel, that run on bio-ethanol, all contribute to using less oil. And of course, the oil that is not used is imported, thus affecting OPEC.

Not just the United States, but all countries can and do participate in this technology revolution.

Yet another player in the game is the government, with the US having federal mandates for car mileage (the CAFE standards). Other countries have similar standards. Now, the U.S. has an ambitious CAFE standard of 35 miles per gallon in only a few years' time, by 2016. California has more ambitious standards, of 42 miles per gallon.

It would be interesting to know what trends the Saudis see that lead them to their conclusion that oil demand will peak within a decade. Is it hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius that achieves 50 mpg? Or is it the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid that (supposedly) can achieve 100 mpg or more (depending on how far it is driven on batteries each day)? Or, is it a worldwide economic decline in the next decade? Mass transit suddenly catching on? A new, colder, ice-age-like world where nobody can drive except for a few months of each year? Are we going to have transit-mobiles, with 10 passengers per vehicle, such as a super-sized Prius? Or, have the Saudis figured out that gridlock will choke the roads, forcing people out of cars and into trains or subways? (this is not too far in the future for Los Angeles, and it already happened in New York). Or, is there a technology breakthrough in the works for converting coal to gasoline, or to diesel? There certainly is technology to convert natural gas to diesel. Have the Saudis blown their one big chance at wealth, by allowing the price of oil to rise enough for the geeks to win?

Any way this plays out, one thing is certain: there is not going to be a problem with Peak Oil. With the Iraqi oil fields about to be pumping significant amounts of oil very soon, measured in the millions of barrels per day, the world is about to be glutted once again with oil. The price should drop substantially, perhaps to $20 per barrel again. At that price, the economic incentive for hybrids disappears, but the government mandates for high mpg will remain.

Remember that phrase: Peak Oil Demand. Everything will be affected by it. And it already occurred in the U.S.

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