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Posts from — February 2010

Global Warming is Responsible for … Everything Bad! (climate alarmism’s PR problem in one list)

[Editor note: Hat tip to Michael Fumento at globalwarming.org for his recommendation of Number Watch's listing below. This site advertises itself as a depot for "all about the scares, scams, junk, panics, and flummery cooked up by the media, politicians, bureaucrats, so-called scientists and others who try to confuse you with wrong numbers."]

Of course U.S. EPA is correct in their finding that the human influence on climate (aka anthropogenic global warming) poses a threat to human welfare. And no wonder why Obama science advisor John Holdren has not disowned his prediction that as many as one billion people could perish by 2020 from climate change.

We surrender. We apologize. We bucked the science as long as we could and just have nowhere to hide. And Dr. Romm over at Climate Progress is right. I personally am a denier, an anti-science disinformer, and (as he said in a personal email) a sociopath.

The evidence is in this complete list of things caused by global warming (reproduced verbatim from the linked website):

————————————————————————————————-

Acne, agricultural land increase, Afghan poppies destroyed, poppies more potent, Africa devastated, Africa in conflict, African aid threatened, African summer frost, aggressive weeds, Air France crash, air pressure changesairport malaria, Agulhas current, Al Qaeda and Taliban Being Helped, allergy season longer, alligators in the Thames, Alps melting, Amazon a desert, American dream endamphibians breeding earlier (or not)anaphylactic reactions to bee stingsancient forests dramatically changed, animals head for the hills, animals shrink, Antarctic grass flourishes, Antarctic ice grows, Antarctic ice shrinks, Antarctic sea life at risk,   anxiety treatment, algal blooms, archaeological sites threatened, Arctic bogs melt, Arctic in bloom, Arctic ice free, Arctic ice melt faster, Arctic lakes disappearArctic tundra lost, Arctic warming (not), asthma, Atlantic less salty, Atlantic more salty,   atmospheric circulation modified, attack of the killer jellyfish, avalanches reduced, avalanches increasedBaghdad snow,Bahrain under waterbananas grow, barbarisation, beer and bread prices to soar, beer betterbeer worse, beetle infestation, [Read more →]

February 27, 2010   4 Comments

Easy, Cheap ‘Green’ Energy? Just the Reverse!

[Editor note: This post by Kenneth P. Green and Aparna Mathur of the American Enterprise Institute, is a slightly revised version that originally appeared at The American, AEI's flagship monthly publication.]

In December 2009, economists Hector Pollitt and Chris Thoung of Cambridge Econometrics published a self-described “short” modeling exercise on an 80 percent greenhouse-gas emissions reduction by 2050 in the United Kingdom.[1] Pollitt and Thoung used the Energy-Environment-Economy Model of Europe (E3ME), which they observe has been “used for a variety of analyses including greenhouse-gas mitigation policies, incentives for industrial energy efficiency, and sustainable household consumption.”[2] The E3ME model covers 29 European countries and uses detailed data on 42 economic sectors, 41 categories of consumer goods, 12 types of fuel, and 14 emissions, including the six major greenhouse gases.

Surprisingly, the study estimates that prices for most goods would rise by less than 1 percent. The highest price increases would be found for carbon-intensive fuels, such as natural gas, gasoline, and electricity. But it would be affordable overall.

Proponents of (forced) energy transformation trumpeted the findings. In a news piece “Low-carbon future: we can afford to go green,” Jim Giles of New Scientist quoted a climate policy expert at the London School of Economics: “These results show that the global project to fight climate change is doable” and “it’s not such a big ask as people are making out.”[3]

The New Scientist piece adds that these results correspond well to studies in the United States, quoting Manik Roy of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change as predicting that “even cutting emissions by 80 per cent over four decades has a very small effect on consumers in most areas.” The Pew Center would no doubt like to see a lot of rationing of CO2 here in the U.S.

No Inexpensive ‘Green’ Lunch

We disagree. Our prior research into the costs of indirect energy—that is, the energy used to produce, package, and distribute consumer goods and services—suggests that the Cambridge Econometrics numbers are unrealistically low. In a series of papers and studies conducted by us and coauthored with colleagues, we show that even a $15 permit price (one-fortieth of what Pollitt and Thoung model) would cause prices of most goods to rise by 1 percent or higher.[4] So hold on to your wallets. [Read more →]

February 26, 2010   4 Comments

New Oil and Gas Study: Robust Oil and Gas Resources Could Be Developed for Consumers and Taxpayers (big opportunity for decision makers!)

At the NARUC Winter Meeting in Washington D.C. last week, a Study Group composed of regulatory commissioners, consultants, government and university economists, and non-profit association sponsors released their energy research report: ANALYSIS OF THE SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF MAINTAINING OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION MORATORIA ON AND BENEATH FEDERAL LANDS
(Assessment of the Combined Relative Impacts of Maintaining Moratoria and Increased Domestic Onshore and Offshore Oil and Gas Resource Estimates).

The just released study, prepared by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and subcontractor Gas Technology Institute (GTI), makes a resounding case for the federal government to consider exploration and production on land and offshore for the common good.  And far from being an ‘industry group’, the ‘Moratoria Study Group’ represented a formidable national body of public and private energy experts whose study found that consumers, the national economy, vast new employment potential  and national defense could benefit from plentiful, affordable and reliable domestic energy resources.

The study makes several important findings and public-policy points.

1. Increased Estimates of Domestic Oil and Gas Resources

The report increased government estimates of the U.S. domestic natural gas resource base from 1,748 Trillion Cubic Feet (Tcf) to 2,034 Tcf, and increased the estimate of crude oil resources from 186 billion barrels of oil (Bbo) to 229 Bbo.   It also revealed that a multi-trillion dollar impact on American citizens of not developing resources could result in increased energy imports; increased gasoline, natural gas and electricity prices; along with decreased jobs, gross domestic product and family disposable income.

2. Congress and President Removed Moratoria, but Resources Still Unavailable

“The previous Administration and Congress removed oil and gas moratoria on public lands over one year ago,” Study Group chair O’Neal Hamilton said, “but required actions to access the energy resources thought to exist there have not been taken.” (Hamilton is past Chairman of the South Carolina Public Service Commission and Chairman of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ NARUC Committee on Gas, which initiated the study in 2007.)

“Whether additional Federal lands should be leased for energy development–and under what conditions leasing should occur–is a matter for national energy policy decision makers,” Hamilton said.  “Our research allows policy makers to know the extent of the resource base and the effects that maintaining the restrictions would have on the country. Our public interest work is dedicated to giving decision makers information upon which they can rely in developing America’s national energy policy.”

3. Dramatic Negative Effects from Not Developing U.S. Resources [Read more →]

February 25, 2010   1 Comment

Obama’s Proposed Oil and Gas Tax Hike: What Has the Industry Done for Us Lately?

So let me see if I have this right – President Obama’s budget proposes to increase taxes on oil and gas by $36.5 billion over the next ten years, while laying out even larger sums for more politically favored energy sources – especially wind and solar.  And the reason advanced for this is that these “subsidies [sic] are costly to the American taxpayer and do little to incentivize production or reduce energy prices.”

Neither of the claims in this statement is true.  In fact, they are the opposite of truth.  The oil and gas industries are major sources of revenues for governments at all levels in the US, and production incentives have contributed to a stunning turnaround in the country’s natural gas supplies – with higher production and lower costs a major feature.

Let’s take a look at these two myths individually.

Myth 1: The oil and gas business receives significant subsidies from the federal government.

Fact:  Oil and gas production are major contributors of tax and royalty payments to all levels of government. Fortunately, for those interested in facts, the federal government publishes a lot of them, and they tell a stubborn truth.  The oil and gas production business pays about $140 billion annually in royalties and corporate income taxes to the US government.

In comparison, far from being a beneficiary of government subsidies, oil and gas producers receive little–about $2.2 billion in 2008. [Read more →]

February 24, 2010   13 Comments

The Rapidly Melting Case For Carbon Legislation

What a difference 12 months makes. Almost exactly one year ago, the popular, newly minted president, Barack Obama, was telling Congress that he wanted “legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.”

The Democrats, fully confident of their new president and their grip on both houses of Congress, were certain that they could pass yet another big energy bill that would finally push hydrocarbons off their pedestal and replace them with wind turbines, solar panels, and every other type of alternative energy.

An Unstimulated Economy

But a lot has happened since Obama delivered his first State of the Union address. The global economy has continued to show lackluster growth. And perhaps most important: unemployment rates in the U.S. remain stubbornly high and are expected to stay high for at least the next two years. The massive stimulus, in short, has been expensive and unstimulating.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that “roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments.” The same story, written by Peter S. Goodman, also contained this astonishing fact: Some 6.3 million Americans have “been unemployed for six months or longer, the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948. That is more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s.”

Real estate foreclosures in the U.S. are soaring, with up to 3.5 million homeowners facing the threat of foreclosure this year. And of course, there’s the changing balance of power in Congress. The Democrats’ brief stint with a super majority has ended in the Senate, where a Republican, Scott Brown, now sits in the chair held by the late Ted Kennedy.

Other Problems for Climate Alarmism

Meanwhile, sloppy work has tarnished the reputation of the UN-sanctioned Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), perhaps irretrievably so. [Read more →]

February 23, 2010   6 Comments

More on EPA’s Climate Science Problem: The Peabody Petition

In my last post, I pointed out a problem with the EPA’s major finding that:

Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations.

I showed that it could be reasonably and straightforwardly argued that less than half of the warming since 1950 contained in the “observed” global temperature history can be attributed to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This is bad for the EPA, as this finding was simply parroted by the EPA from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)—a report relied on heavily by the EPA in underpinning its Endangerment Finding (that greenhouse gases released by human activities “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”). When the IPCC is wrong, so is the EPA.

Another new problem with the IPCC’s AR4 was reported earlier this week. This one involved the IPCC’s reliance on a book chapter instead of the peer-reviewed literature to conclude that sea ice extent around Antarctica had changed little since the late 1970s. In fact, it is well-established in the scientific literature, dating both prior to and subsequent from the production of the AR4, that there has been a statistically significant increase in the extent of sea ice in the Antarctic. That the IPCC AR4 projects Antarctic sea ice declines to accompany global warming, it is little wonder why the IPCC AR4 Chapter 4 authors wanted to downplay the actual behavior of Antarctic sea ice.

The Antarctic sea ice problem adds to an ever growing list of problems uncovered recently (since the EPA’s Endangerment Finding) that exist within the IPCC AR4 reports. Other errors involve IPCC findings on Himalayan glaciers, Amazon rainforests, African agriculture, Dutch geography, attribution of extreme weather damages, and several others.

And none of these problems have been exposed as a result of the Climategate email release. Well, maybe as a general result of the heightened nature of inquisitiveness that the Climategate emails evidenced as being warranted, but not as a direct result of the content of the any particular email.

But, don’t let this leave you thinking that the Climategate emails are just much ado about nothing, as many IPCC apologists would like you to believe. Far from it. [Read more →]

February 22, 2010   11 Comments

Is DOE/Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s Windpower Impacts Study ‘Junk Science’? (Albert R. Wilson challenges the ‘experts’)

[Editor’s note: With the author's permission, MasterResource reprints a probing analysis of a recent study by the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States. Albert Wilson critically examines a genre of analysis used by wind proponents, including government bodies and environmentalists, that produces a desired result. Comments are invited on this paper as well as on other examples of where methodological tricks are used to justify wind power and other politically dependent energy technologies. (Mr. Wilson's Bio is at the end of the article.)]

WIND FARMS, RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY VALUES, AND RUBBER RULERS©

by Albert R. Wilson

I recently examined a document published by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory titled “The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States: A Multi- Site Hedonic Analysis” (hereafter “Report”). I express no opinion concerning the impact of wind power projects on residential property values and instead focus on the underlying methods used in the development of the Report, and the resulting serious questions concerning the credibility of the results.

As stated in the title, the primary bases for the conclusions drawn in the Report are hedonic analyses of residential real estate sales data. A hedonic analysis in turn is based on the assumption that the coefficients of certain explanatory variables in a regression represent accurately the marginal contribution of those variables to the sale price of a property.

While I have other issues with the Report (and again reiterate that I have no opinion on the influence of wind farms on residential sales prices), the concerns I have addressed here lead to the conclusion that the Report should not be given serious consideration for any policy purpose. The underlying analytical methods cannot be shown to be reliable or accurate.

The reasons for the conclusion may be summarized as:

1) Lack of access to the underlying data prevents the independent validation of the data, replication of the analysis, testing of alternative analyses, or testing of the conclusions against the real market.

2) The peer review process used for both the literature and the Report can only determine the acceptability of the papers for publication. It cannot reveal the validity, accuracy or reliability of the work behind the papers.

3) Given the peer review actually conducted, the fact that no published and recognized standards for the development of an accurate and reliable regression on sales price were used render the Report of highly uncertain value for any purpose.

4) The exclusive use of a test of statistical significance only indicates that the coefficients for Distance and View variables are not conclusive. What we do not know is what those coefficients actually represent. Only tests of economic significance would provide an answer, and none has been conducted.

5) Low explanatory power: 13% less than an acceptable minimum for an accurate regression on sales price.

The technical analysis underlying this conclusion follows: [Read more →]

February 20, 2010   4 Comments

Green Jobs: The Last Redoubt (invoking military images of us-versus-them)

Over the past few weeks, with more dents accumulating in the armor of warmism, a new battle line is taking shape: ” The U.S. economy is ill, energy is important, green jobs will save us, promote green jobs, give us your money.”  Or something like that.

In fact, the shock troops of the green job army are now promoting the phrase “global weirding” to replacing global warming.  There is also terminological retreat on the green jobs side. You see green tech is not actually going to do much positive for the economy, you should think of it rather as a form of “insurance,” against global weirding, I suppose.

As we limp into our second year of crony capitalism under Barack Obama, with small businesses loath to risk their funds in what is increasingly a rigged crapshoot, and the importance of having friends in Washington all the more vital, government-backed green jobs appear to many as the only way out.

Indeed, as the skirmish lines have formed up the green jobs proponents have tried to imbue the subject with the same kind of political insulation that AGW theory previously enjoyed.  Criticizing money spent on green jobs is tantamount to rooting for America to fail.  Don’t believe me, here’s Tom Friedman of the New York Times, chief cheerleader for government-backed (coerced?) green technology promotion quoting Joe Romm approvingly: “China is going to eat our lunch and take our jobs on clean energy — an industry that we largely invented — and they are going to do it with a managed economy we don’t have and don’t want,” And then there’s Tom Friedman’s approach to international economic competition: “Mr. Wen, I just have one thing to say to you: We are going all in on clean tech. I’m going home and I’m going to get through the U.S. Senate a cap-and-trade bill, a carbon price, a carbon tax, whatever it is that will trigger massive scale investment in clean tech in America. And please take this message back to China: We will bury you. We are going to bury you in clean tech.”

This will be the first trade war in history over insurance. [Read more →]

February 19, 2010   6 Comments

Radioactive Corporate Welfare

A good default proposition regarding the government’s role in the economy would state that the government should not loan money to an enterprise if the enterprise in question cannot find one single market actor anywhere in the universe to loan said enterprise a single red cent.  It might suggest – I don’t know – that the investment is rather … dubious.

Alas, like all good propositions regarding the government’s role in the economy, this one is being left by the roadside by the Obama administration.  Unfortunately, the only complaint being made by a not insubstantial segment of the political Right – frequently, the political crowd that is busy decrying “Bailout Nation” – is that the loan guarantees are not fat enough.

I write, of course, about the $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee announced by President Obama this week for Southern Company to build two new nuclear power plants.  The money will be used to guarantee the loans being made by the federal government (via the Federal Financing Bank) to partially cover the cost of Southern’s projected $14 billion nuclear construction project at their Vogtle plant near Waynesboro, Georgia

The loan guarantees were authorized by Congress in the 2005 Energy Policy Act and, we are told, are the first installment on a total package of $54 billion that the President would like to hand out to facilitate the construction of 7-10 new nuclear power plants (Congress, however, has only authorized $18.5 billion to this point). 

The claim being made by some – that the loan guarantees are necessary to jump-start investor interest in new nuclear power plant construction – is not quite correct.  Even these lavish loan guarantees aren’t enough to do that.  In a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy dated July 2, 2007, six of Wall Street’s s then-largest investment banks – Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley – informed the administration that, contrary to the government’s expectations, anything short of a 100 percent unconditional guarantee would be insufficient to induce private lending. 

Why is it risky to build nuclear power plants?  [Read more →]

February 18, 2010   16 Comments

Climategate: Seven Hard Questions from the Case Study of the Fall of Enron (will the AAAS panel consider them?)

In recent years, I have been working on a book trilogy inspired by the rise and fall of Enron, easily a top-ten event in the history of commercial capitalism. I worked at Enron for 16 years and knew Ken Lay (a nice, albeit subtly flawed, man) well. No, I did not know the extent of the company’s problems (very few did), but I should have known more. Still, I was very critical of the company’s political business model and in particular, Enron’s climate alarmism and investments in (uneconomic, unreliable, unprofitable) wind power and solar power.

Book 1 in the trilogy, Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy (2009), spends several chapters on best business practices and sustainable corporate culture under capitalism proper–and the perils for the same from political capitalism. It was through the wisdom of several books, beginning with Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments and continuing with Charles Koch’s Science of Success (2007) that I found the worldview that explained the why-behind-the-why of Enron’s collapse–the philosophic failure behind the financial failure).

AAAS Panel on Climategate Tomorrow

Today, a friend alerted me about the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego and Friday’s panel on Climategate. One of the panelists is my friend Jerry North, who was part of two global warming debates we had here in Houston last month. (The Rice University debate between Richard Lindzen and North is online here.)

I was incited to write Jerry the email that is reproduced below. Perhaps this communication should have gone to the panel leader Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences. It would certainly apply to the other three panelists in addition to North given their topics:

Francisco J. Ayala, UC Irvine, “The Practice and Conduct of Scientific Research”
Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard, “Science in Society”
Gerald R. North, Texas A&M, “The Data Behind Climate Research”
Phillip A. Sharp, MIT, “Data Use and Access Across Disciplines”

At Climate Audit, Steve McIntyre is critical of both North and the chosen panel for its lack of intellectual diversity. He wrote in part:

Gerry North told the Penn State Inquiry that he hadn’t read the Climategate emails out of “professional respect”. This apparently qualified him as an “expert” on the topic.

Cicerone appears to have been quite careful not to invite any speakers that actually knew anything about the controversy. It sounds like it will be totally uninformative – an ideal Sir Humphrey outcome.

Seven Questions for Climategate Discussants

Here is my email to Dr. North which he kindly responded to by saying that his presentation was narrow and already sent in. Still, there is plenty of discussion to come where these hard questions, in part or whole, can be brought up and debated. [Read more →]

February 18, 2010   11 Comments