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Category — Romm, Joseph (Climate Progress)

Joe (Romm), Where Art Thou? (my peak oil bet deserves an up or down)

In a post on his blog and then again on the Huffington Post, Joe Romm challenged me to a wager on oil prices, claiming prescience concerning the price rise in the past decade compared to my 1996 forecast of low prices for two decades.  He seems to be implying that that I have refused to wager him, having closed the webpage to any further comments.

I find myself taken aback, as my experience with the blogosphere is somewhat limited.  My experience is primarily as an academic, writing articles for refereed journals and books, as well as working papers, with an intention to make them carefully sourced and referenced.  A blog can consist of nothing more than a rant, and the comments appended to them often worse (and usually anonymous).  I will not however yield to the temptation to follow suit (even if our illustrious moderator would permit it, which he won’t).

Having put up approximately 20 posts on the subject of peak oil, it might be thought that Romm is an expert on the subject. But so far as I know, he has a grand total of one article on oil, his famed, “Mideast Oil Forever” Atlantic Monthly piece (co-authored with Charles Curtis), which is the source of his pride on the subject.

A careful reading of “Mideast Oil Forever” shows that his argument was not so much that prices would soar, but that global dependence on Middle East oil would soar, which has not happened.  My argument was that the forecast of rising Middle East market share was likely to be incorrect, and it was (see Figure), so that economic fundamentals would not imply ever rising prices.

Forecasts of OPEC Market Share from 1996/97

Which is a far cry from saying my forecast was wrong and Joe’s correct.  In my testimony, I specifically stated,

“The reality is that prices may go up in the future.  And Persian Gulf oil production and exports will rise.  However, the most likely scenario, given what we know about oil supply and demand and what we have learned about forecasting in the last 10 to 15 years, is that OPEC is going to be under continued pressure for at least the next 10 years, possibly for much longer, that they will be fighting with each other for market share.  And, it’s going to require some very substantial changes in the world to see prices rising.” (See my opening statement on pp. 127-128.)

Arguably, the price collapse leading to the rise of Hugo Chavez, the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq, are those ‘substantial changes’.  Certainly, not the soaring Middle East market share predicted by Romm.  (Since he downloaded the transcript of the hearing, it’s not clear how he missed this.) [Read more →]

March 5, 2010   1 Comment

“Cap-and-Divide”: More Civil War on the Left Over Capping Carbon

George Carlin once asked, “Is it really possible to have a civil war?” Readers of Joe Romm’s pronouncements on greenhouse gas legislation would answer in the negative. Romm has always been a caustic critic of the “anti-science disinformers” who do not toe the line on the alleged scientific consensus, but lately he has turned his fire on former allies who dare to question the legislative developments in Washington.

An illustration of this internal squabbling is Romm’s recent post on the “cap and dividend” proposal put forth by Senators Cantwell and Collins. Here’s Romm’s take (emphasis added):

Climate politics can be very strange indeed.  Because cap-and-trade bills like Waxman-Markey are seen as having no chance of passing the Senate, some enviros appear to be shifting their support to bills that are politically even less attractive and environmentally even less adequate.

The latest misguided missile is the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act put forward by Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — full text and info hereSupporters call it “Cap-and-Dividend,” but right now I think the best term for it is, “Cap-and-Divide,” since it has no chance whatsoever of becoming law but is serving to undercut the tripartisan effort by Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman to develop a bill that might get 60 votes….

Cap-and-Divide…doesn’t even pass the environmental viability test, as the first-rate researchers at World Resources Institute have shown…. And while W-M is far from perfect environmentally, as I’ve said many times,  it would enable a global deal.  W-M’s biggest problem is that it can’t get 60 votes in the Senate or even close.   But “cap-and-divide” is certainly less politically viable than Waxman-Markey or Kerry-Boxer. [Read more →]

February 10, 2010   1 Comment

The Left Confronts the Eco-Police State (yet another PR problem for climate alarmism?)

An odd thing happened during Sunday night’s Superbowl game: Joe Romm at Climate Progress and I came to the same conclusion regarding an environmentally controversial Superbowl commercial. We both thought the advertisement portraying Audi’s ability to thrive in an environmental police state with its ‘clean diesel’ technology missed its mark here in the U.S., at least among left-of-center environmentalists.

Sure, Romm wanted the Saints and I the Colts in the big game … and Joe would probably like the environmentalist police portrayed in the commercial, while I’d hate it. But still, there were areas of agreement between us, including on the practice of so-called greenwashing.

As Romm puts it, casting a scurrilous aspersion on the appropriateness of Germanic humor:

I’m not sure the German car company understands that the idea of “Green Police” they are spoofing is, in fact, precisely what many conservatives in this country actually think is the primary reason people who care about the environment—the apparent target audience of this ad—are trying to get the nation to take action on global warming.

And by pointing out Audi’s incongruous focus on powerful cars, Romm sees a bit of greenwashing at work: “Audi isn’t perceived as a green car company, so they aren’t poking fun at themselves, a typically much safer strategy.”

Romm is right on this point. On their website, Audi’s vehicle descriptions focus on driving performance far more than environmental performance. Audi, we’re told, features “legendary,” “nimble,” and “supreme” performance (all euphemisms for high horsepower). The focus is clearly on “Legendary Audi Power,” rather than “Legendary Audi Environmentalism,” as the ad would suggest.

But I wouldn’t call that modest greenwashing, I’d call it blatant and shameless greenwashing–in a league with that of Al Gore, the head of the IPCC, most Hollywood green-advocates, the Obama Administration, and the Democrats in Congress, all of whom encourage others to live green lifestyles while consuming more energy per capita than some of the small countries they claim will be drowned by global-warming-induced sea level rise. And did I mention Nancy Pelosi’s entourage going to climate negotiations in Copenhagen? They put out enough carbon dioxide to fill 10,000 Olympic sized swimming pools! Now that’s a bodyprint, not a footprint, by green standards!

But Romm’s big concern probably isn’t about the state of Germanic humor, nor is it really about greenwashing (he’s all for that when various companies flog his favorite carbon-rationing schemes). It is that humor might inadvertently lead people to actually think about what a future of bag police, lightbulb police, foam-cup police, recycling police, plastic bottle police, and hot-tub-temperature police might be like, and view such a development with less than a humorous attitude. [Read more →]

February 9, 2010   10 Comments

A Misstep and Signs of Despair at Climate Progress (climate optimism, anyone?)

Joseph Romm heavily edits the comments at his top-rated energy/environmental blog, Climate Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress. (The more academic, one-post-per-day MasterResource is #14 of 2,800 “green blogs” as of 1/31/10 per Technorati, not too bad for being 13 months old.)

Dr. Romm will not publicly debate his distinguished opponents either, just as Paul Ehrlich refused to debate the late Julian Simon. Though thin-skinned and trigger happy, Romm has not attempted to rebut a four-part post at the Breakthrough Institute by Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus, et al., Joe Romm and Climate McCarthyism, a widely disseminated and discussed event on the Left. (Updates on the Romm series are available at the Breakthrough Institute blog.)

Nor will Romm show the courage of his convictions by betting on his predicted global warming trend, which has led some to speculate that Romm deep down is really a global lukewarmer. In a similar vein, a reasonable oil production bet offered by Michael Lynch to put Romm’s peak-oil belief to the test has also been ignored by the uber-confident senior fellow at CAP.

Critics may ask: Is the MIT doctorate who commands a top bully pulpit for the Party in Power an intellectual scarecrow?

Yet sometimes loyal readers at Climate Progress reveal much in their (permitted) comments. And they are fighting the blues as the key issue to which they are emotionally chained continues to fray, politically and intellectually.

Retreating Romm

Romm himself has waxed and waned in the great climate tumult of the last year, often retreating to an I’ll-take-anything position in the service of the Obama agenda. Once a flaming radical, Romm as a Democratic Party operative is now an incrementalist. And his  incrementalism has shrunk with new developments. It must be sad for climate Left veterans to read such Romm statements as the outcome of Copenhagen being a glass two-thirds full. [Read more →]

February 1, 2010   10 Comments

The Climate Torquemada – Joe Romm at the Climate Inquisition

Two years ago, in Scenes from the Climate Inquisition, my colleague Steve Hayward and I observed that climate alarmists were growing ever more incendiary in their criticism of people who disagree with them. And these disagreements were not simply about the science, but about the favored policy choices of leftist environmentalists, many of whom had no training in public policy or economics.  As we wrote:

Anyone who does not sign up 100 percent behind the catastrophic scenario is deemed a “climate change denier.” Distinguished climatologist Ellen Goodman spelled out the implication in her widely syndicated newspaper column last week: “Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.” One environmental writer suggested last fall that there should someday be Nuremberg Trials–or at the very least a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission–for climate skeptics who have blocked the planet’s salvation.

Former Vice President Al Gore has proposed that the media stop covering climate skeptics, and Britain’s environment minister said that, just as the media should give no platform to terrorists, so they should exclude climate change skeptics from the airwaves and the news pages. Heidi Cullen, star of the Weather Channel, made headlines with a recent call for weather-broadcasters with impure climate opinions to be “decertified” by the American Meteorological Society. Just this week politicians in Oregon and Delaware stepped up calls for the dismissal of their state’s official climatologists, George Taylor and David Legates, solely on the grounds of their public dissent from climate orthodoxy. And as we were completing this article, a letter arrived from senators Bernard Sanders, Pat Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, and John Kerry expressing “very serious concerns” about our alleged “attempt to undermine science.” Show-trial hearing to follow? Stay tuned.

Desperation is the chief cause for this campaign of intimidation. The Kyoto accords are failing to curtail greenhouse gas emissions in a serious way, and although it is convenient to blame Bush, anyone who follows the Kyoto evasions of the Europeans knows better. The Chinese will soon eclipse the United States as world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, depriving the gas-rationers of one of their favorite sticks for beating up Americans.”

At the time, we naively hoped that there would be a moderation of such language, as some saner voices were beginning to push back against the whole slander-denier complex.

Alas, the venom-spitting of the the climatistas is increasing in direct proportion to the probability of failure in enacting their world-girdling eco-theocracy. And the leader of the pack, Joseph Romm of Climate Progress (Center for American Progress), turns out to be one of the least civil human beings to tread the planet. [Read more →]

November 9, 2009   11 Comments

Okay, Joe Romm: How about a Wager on $65 Oil? (‘peak-oil’ bull or closet bear?)

[After publication of my New York Times Op-ed on peak oil, Joseph Romm posted a response—and a challenge—on his website, and later expanded it on The Huffington Post. Below is Michael Lynch's response.]

Thank you very much for your invitation to a wager on the price of oil, Joe, which I take to be serious, even though you made no effort to convey the wager to me personally. (If you were simply making a “‘pr” effort, feel free to withdraw it.) I would warn you that for most of my career I have been referred to as a ‘heretic’ or ‘contrarian’ and have repeatedly outperformed other forecasters by explaining (in a number of academic publications) why the forecasting of oil price and supply has been so deficient. That you appear to have been more prescient than me no doubt gives you confidence. But success can be misleading: in the long run, it’s better to be smart than lucky.

Parenthetically, bear in mind that I regard myself as a technocrat, not an ideologue, and my denigration of ‘peak oil’ theory comes from a careful reading of the ‘research’ as well as decades of research on the subject of oil and gas supply. I do not regard oil, gas, solar, nuclear or dung as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ except as the situation dictates.

In fact, for some years, I lived car-free, working and residing in the Boston area, dependent on the subway. Owing to an unfortunate editing error, my op-ed implied that I disapproved of conservation, which is most certainly not the case. Conservation can be one of the cheapest energy ‘sources’ around, depending on the circumstances. (Conservationism is another story.)

Back to 1996

Regarding our appearance at the Congressional hearing in 1996 (for which your post criticizes me): [Read more →]

October 21, 2009   9 Comments

Is Joe Romm a 'Global Lukewarmer'?

“On our current emissions path, we’re going to … warm more than 4°C by century’s end.”

- Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, August 11, 2009

I will be happy to bet anyone that the 2010s will be the hottest decade in the temperature record, more than 0.15°C hotter than the hottest decade so far using the NASA GISS dataset.  Any takers? Andy [Revkin]?”

Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, September 22, 2009

In a fit of rage, uber-alarmist Joe Romm of ClimateProgress has recently offered a temperature warming bet that he can win even if more than 85% of all climate models are shown to overpredict future warming.

Has Joe seen the light and become a “lukewarmer”—that is, someone who thinks that the human CO2 emissions will result in only a modest rise in global temperature, somewhere at or below the bottom end of the IPCC range of projections? Might he even be a closet ‘skeptic’–not a skeptic of climate change or anthropogenic climate change, but a doubter of climate alarmism?

For someone so strident on this issue, I would have thought that Joe Romm, would bet on climate catastrophe, not climate-model catastrophe.

Romm issued his bet after hyperventilating about Andy Revkin’s recent article in the New York Times, which suggested that the lack of change in the world’s average surface temperature since the turn of the century (or in some instances, a few years prior) has the potential to make it difficult to get CO2 emissions regulated in the name of “global warming.”

For what it is worth, I agree with Revkin on this (tune in next week to see why), as do an increasing number of science writers who are hedging their bets in line with recent data and what new peer reviewed articles are suggesting. And Romm is furious that Revkin has ‘mainstreamed’ lukewarming in the pages of the newspaper of record, the New York Times.

States Romm: “I will be happy to bet anyone that the 2010s will be the hottest decade in the temperature record, more than 0.15°C hotter than the hottest decade so far using the NASA GISS dataset.”

Well, many climate realists the world over would feel vindicated if the average temperature of the 2010s was only 0.15°C hotter than the decade of the 2000s (the current warmest decade). For that would provide more strong evidence that the earth’s climate was responding to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in a far more benign manner than the ensemble projection of climate models.

In fact, the rejoicing wouldn’t be limited to climate realists but to just about anyone overly concerned about the potential for large negative impacts from climate change given a slower-than-model-predicted evolution of global temperatures. I imagine, though, that Joe Romm would be an exception because while he would have won the bet, he would have lost his Hell-or-High-Water war. He is emotionally attached to the issue with a public record of alarmism that is beginning to put Paul Ehrlich in the shade. (John Holdren, with his billion-death climate scare still on the table, might be another story.) [Read more →]

September 24, 2009   14 Comments

More Deceit from Climate Progress, Center for American Progress (Is Joe Romm shooting himself in the foot?)

“Sorry to bother you with this. See the attached pieces. Rob [Bradley] is obviously not a fan of renewables or the global warming issue.  Unfortunately, he works for a company that is.”

- Tom White (CEO, Enron Renewables Energy Corp.) to Ken Lay (CEO, Enron Corp.), June 8, 1998

Joe Romm, for the fifth time (the previous four are here, herehere, and here) has purposely obscured the record of my association with Enron in an attempt to discredit the Institute for Energy Research. I founded IER in 1989, in fact, to give myself an independent voice in the energy policy debate. And I used IER to challenge my employer Enron on the issues of climate alarmism and government-dependent renewable-energy investments.

Here is Romm’s headline from yesterday’s Climate Progress:

The latest polluter front group trying to kill the clean energy bill is overseen by a proud former shill for a man convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges

Romm’s angst is centered on the American Energy Express bus tour sponsored by the American Energy Alliance, which is affiliated with IER. The tour is bringing the message of free-market energy abundance and affordability to the heartland of America–and thousands are listening, learning, and supporting.

The tour’s powerful message of fewer and lower energy taxes will be more widely heard thanks in part to Joe Romm himself, whose radicalism and raw animosity–and even hate (he has repeatedly called me a “sociopath” in private emails)–is turning off the great middle. Romm reversed course to support the “grotesque” Waxman–Markey, no doubt under orders from his bosses at CAP. Romm’s bully-like attacks against James Hansen, Sierra Club/Environmental Integrity Project/EarthjusticeRealClimate, Energy Action Coalition, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and more, certainly put me in broad company!

I have conscientiously rebutted Romm’s previous ad hominem attacks against me. [Read more →]

August 25, 2009   3 Comments

Roger Pielke Jr. Challenges Joe Romm: Looking for Intellectual Improvement

There is that old saying–when you dig yourself into a hole, stop digging! Joe Romm at the influential climate blog Climate Progress continues to dig deeper in his spat with Roger Pielke, Jr., who is seen by Left and Right as a straight-shooter in the polarized climate debate.

This is an instance where bad behavior by Romm is backfiring on him and his sponsor, the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Pielke’s post, “Please Read Climate Progress” (July 31) begins:

It’d sure be nice if people who disagree could debate policy questions based on the merits of the issue. Of course, this is not reality. I have been amused to see Joe Romm … find himself unable to respond to the policy arguments that I make, and thus find himself having to instead engage in ever more shrill and personal attacks on me. Most recently he has falsely accused my university of violating my academic freedom by shutting down our blog, Prometheus. They of course did no such thing, and when a reader of both of our blogs called him on it he could not provide the goods (because there aren’t any).

And the Romm problem for Pielke Jr. goes deeper: [Read more →]

August 7, 2009   5 Comments

The Left's Civil War on Cap-and-Trade: Who Likes Political Capitalism?

Some environmental leaders have said that I am naïve to think that there is an alternative to cap-and-trade, and they suggest that I should stick to climate modeling. Their contention is that it is better to pass any bill now and improve it later. Their belief that they, as opposed to the fossil interests, have more effect on the bill’s eventual shape seems to be the pinnacle of naïveté.

- James Hansen, “Strategies to Address Global Warming,” July 2009.

Welcome to the science of politics, Dr. Hansen–and welcome to a tradition in political economy that is more than a century old. “I see no force in modern society which can cope with the power of capital handled by talent,” stated William Graham Summer in 1905, “and I cannot doubt that the greatest force will control the other forces.” And said George Will in our time: “The world is divided between those who do and do not understand that activist, interventionist, regulating, subsidizing government is generally a servant of the strong and entrenched against the weak and aspiring.”

The political hijacking of climate legislation is why the Left is now embarrassingly split on the issue. And just maybe this is the opening wedge to get the Left to reconsider climate alarmism in its wider dimensions. After all, higher energy costs disproportionately affect the poor and slow the drive to mass-electrify the developing world. And the climate crusade is  resurrecting (uneconomic) nuclear power–a Left no-no. And geoengineering–that too is an unwanted stepchild of climate exaggeration.

And there is even the spectre of Big Brotherism in this energy road to serfdom. Remember Jimmy Carter’s winter/summer thermostat regulations? [Read more →]

July 22, 2009   5 Comments