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Category — Baker Institute (Rice University)

Rice’s Baker Institute Climate Embarrassment (Sass’s ad hominem response to Rep. Smith)

“The Baker Institute has some truing up to do in the multi-disciplinary field of climate change. Playing to its strengths, Rice University and Baker should host its third climate conference, titled something like ‘New Developments in the Physical Science of Climate Change.’

[Professor] Ronald Sass in his recent op-ed called for an ‘open, national debate on climate change.’ May Rice University and the Baker Institute lead the way.”

The Houston Chronicle this week ran opposing opinion-page editorials on the climate-change issue, one by Lamar Smith of the U.S. House of Representatives and the other by Ronald Sass, Fellow in Global Climate Change at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

Politician Smith politely makes multi-disciplinary arguments assuming the best intentions of his opponents. Academic Sass goes ad hominem on the Keystone XL pipeline issue and refers vaguely to a scientific consensus for his position.

This, unfortunately, is not atypical. Under gatekeeper Neal Lane, the Baker Institute has refused to allow fair, open debate about natural versus anthropogenic climate forces and has championed sky-is-falling government activism. For example, Lane/Baker:

  1. Killed publication of the proceedings of a fair climate-change conference held in 2000 with, for example, Patrick Michaels and James Hansen participating;
  2. Held a high-priced, widely publicized, assume-alarmist-science conference in 2008, Beyond Science: The Economics and Politics of Responding to Climate Change, featuring John Kerry and John Holdren.
  3. Refused to host a climate forum/debate in 2010 between Gerald North (Texas A&M) and Richard Lindzen (MIT), which ended up being co-sponsored by Rice’s Shell Center for Sustainability and the Center for the Study of Environment and Society.

Given Rice University’s prominence in the physical science fields, it is time to update developments in climate science to build upon their 2000 conference and correct their 2008 conference. But will Neal Lane admit to the current “stand-still” (Hansen) and “pause” in warming? Will he acknowledge what Georgia Tech’s Judith Curry calls “new perspectives on climate sensitivity“?  One hopes so for every good reason. [Read more →]

May 31, 2013   8 Comments

Biofuels as America’s Biggest Loser (with apologies to NBC)

Biofuel mandates in the U.S. suffer from a high-octane blend of politics and special interest agendas that have corrupted physical science, economic analysis, and the policy prescriptions alike. This is the predictable outcome when process and policy are de-linked from basic economics and marketplace realities. Unintended consequences and distortions always result.

Historian, professor and author Burton Folsom in his book, The Myth of the Robber Barons, makes an important distinction between “market entrepreneurs” and “political entrepreneurs.” Market entrepreneurs compete by utilizing their own funds, resources and private investment in an effort to create and market a superior product. Political entrepreneurs, on the other hand, fund their business models off of government subsidies, federal protections and vote buying.

This is a useful distinction to keep in mind when evaluating the perverse outcomes of the subsidized U.S. ethanol industry where the participants consist mainly of political entrepreneurs.

Baker Institute (Rice University) Study

Corn-based ethanol and other U.S. feedstock biofuels programs are not supportable on economic, environmental nor logistical grounds. That is the conclusion of a recent comprehensive study by Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Fundamentals of a Sustainable Biofuels Policy. This report was previously cited by Ms. Caroline Boin in her recent post, in which she correctly labels the U.S. biofuels program a “scam” and little more than a sop to farm lobbies and corporate agri-business interests. In short, the Baker Institute study represents a clear indictment of the nonsense that passes for federal energy policy.

One key recommendation from the study is that Congress reconsider its biofuels volume mandates outlined in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

EISA called for production targets of 9 billion gal/year of biofuels in 2008 increasing to 36 billion gal/year by 2022. Corn ethanol is capped at 15 billion gal/year of this total but even that will be nearly impossible to reach due to significant logistical and commercial barriers that exist (aside from the fact that virtually no environmental benefits are derived from ethanol).

The Baker study identifies multiple reasons to question achievability of mandated volumes, claims of energy independence and alleged environmental benefits cited by ethanol advocates. A few are outlined below. [Read more →]

March 25, 2010   10 Comments

“The Great Climate Debate” at Rice University: The Science is NOT Settled (Richard Lindzen and Gerald North to Revisit the IPCC ‘Consensus’)

On Wednesday evening January 27th a discussion of the latest developments in climate change science will be held on the campus of Rice University (directions below for those nearby). This discussion/debate is cosponsored by the Shell Center for Sustainability and the Center for the Study of Environment and Society at Rice. Here is the flyer:

Public debate invitation Jan 27

Defending the IPCC consensus regarding natural-versus-anthropogenic climate change is Gerald R. North, Distinguished Professor of the Physical Section, Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University.

Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts of Technology, will challenge the IPCC consensus, arguing that real-world climate sensitivity lies below the iconic range of 2c–4.5C. Questions about ‘Climategate’ and the newly emerged  ‘Himalayangate’ (the latter exposed by Dr. North’s Texas A&M colleague, John Nielsen-Gammon) are expected to be covered in the question/answer period after the scientists’ formal 30-minute presentations.

[DIRECTIONS McMurtry Auditorium is located in Duncan Hall. Visitor parking is available to anyone with a credit card.  Visitor Parking “L” and Founder’s Court Visitor are the closest to Duncan Hall, in particular using the Rice main entrance on South Main Street at Sunset Blvd. Another parking lot is the North Lot, 5-8 min walk to Duncan Hall, on Rice blvd using entrance # 21 or 20.

Rice campus map: http://www.rice.edu/maps/maps.html]

Having this climate debate is very good news. The last climate science debate at Rice University was in the summer of 2000 at the James A. Baker Institute. Therein lies a story…. [Read more →]

January 25, 2010   5 Comments

Climategate: Here Comes Courage! (Is climate catastrophism losing its ‘politically correct’ grip?)

The times are changing in the wake of Climategate. And more is to come as the polluted science embedded in the email exchanges gets reviewed by talented amateurs and pros alike on the blogosphere (see Climate Audit,  Roger Pielke Jr., and WattsUpWithThat, in particular).

Given time, the rethink will go mainstream. Scientists are truth seekers at heart, but an entrenched mainstream of climate scientists–so many of them friends and political allies–will need to be nudged out of their denialism.

Old voices are challenging their ‘mainstream’ colleagues, and new voices are coming forth. I have seen this clearly here in Houston (examples below), and I expect it is happening elsewhere.

Consider what Andy Revkin, the recently retired climate-change science writer at the New York Times, told the public editor at the Times regarding Climategate: “Our coverage, looked at in toto, has never bought the catastrophe conclusion and always aimed to examine the potential for both overstatement and understatement.”

Sounds like the Times will report both sides of the issue now, rather than just trumpet alarmism as it was prone to do in the past (remember William K. Stevens?). Joe Romm at Climate Progress (Center for American Progress) is furious at this development, but just maybe over-the-top Joe has himself to blame for getting Revkin and the like to want to report on both sides more than ever before. And Romm himself is now considered damaged goods by the Left, thanks to the four-part expose by the Breakthrough Institute.

Climategate, in short, is making quite a difference. But much more courage is needed.

Dr. Michelle Foss (University of Texas at Austin)

Consider Michelle Michot Foss, an internationally respected energy economist with the University of Texas at Austin who is past president of both the U.S. Association for Energy Economics (2001) and the International Association for Energy Economics (2003). Her December 8th letter to the New York Times read: [Read more →]

January 4, 2010   28 Comments

Hard Questions for T. Boone Pickens

T. Boone Pickens is holding a town hall meeting on the Pickens Plan tomorrow at Rice University. His presentation, hosted by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, deserves some hard questions and frank answers. Here are some suggested questions. [Read more →]

January 5, 2009   9 Comments