October 2011

Post image for Is Flood Magnitude in the USA Correlated with Global CO2 Levels?

No — or, more precisely, not  yet — conclude R.M. Hirsch and K.R. Ryberg of the U.S. Geological Survey in a recent study published in Hydrological Sciences Journal.

“One of the anticipated hydrological impacts of increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is an increase in the magnitude of floods,” note Hirsch and Ryberg. Righto! Google “global warming” and “flood predictions,” and you’ll find more than 2.7 million sites where this hypothesis is affirmed or at least discussed. The researchers explain:

Greenhouse gases change the energy balance of the atmosphere and lead to atmospheric warming, which increases the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere, which in turn, potentially changes the amount of precipitable water.

Sounds plausible, but all weather is local or regional, and a lot more goes into making weather than average global temperature.  In addition, all flooding is local or regional, and a lot more goes into determining flood risk than local or regional weather patterns.

As Hirsch and Ryberg point out, “human influences associated with large numbers of very small impoundments and changes in land use also could play a role in changing flood magnitude,” and “at time scales on the order of a century it is difficult to make a quantitative assessment of the changes in these factors over time.”

That, however, did not stop good ol’ Al Gore from claiming that global warming is responsible for a decade-by-decade increase in the number of large floods around the world (An Inconvenient Truth, p. 106). Gore’s source was a chart from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Figure 16.5, p. 448): [click to continue…]

Post image for The Consequences of our Biofuel Policy

Dave Juday, a commodity analyst writing in The Weekly Standard, has a long essay covering the largely negative consequences of our nation’s ethanol policy. He covers many of the familiar arguments, such as rising food costs and the ongoing nonexistence of cellulosic ethanol, but also many topics less often covered by the media, such as the clever ability of corporations to take advantage of these subsidies in ways that were not intended:

For a time, the $1 tax credit provided a huge incentive to import soy oil from South America, blend it with a small amount of petroleum diesel to claim the U.S. tax credit​—​the blending often occurred while the tanker ship was still in port​—​and then re-export the blended fuel to Europe to further capture EU subsidies. That little scheme was known as “splash and dash,” and it was a $300 million subsidy to promote domestic biofuel use that did not in fact subsidize biodiesel use in the United States.

Consider the absurdity of splash and dash at its height: According to the Department of Energy, in 2008 the United States produced 678 million gallons of biodiesel and exported 677 million gallons. We imported 315 million gallons, and domestic U.S. consumption was 316 million gallons. That particular stratagem ended in 2009, but exports haven’t. Despite not meeting the mandated minimum for domestic biodiesel use last year, more than a third of the biodiesel produced in this country was exported in 2010. [click to continue…]

Post image for Farmers & Ranchers to EPA: Eat My Dust

The environmentalist movement continually touts itself as the well-meaning shepherd of America’s public health.  It seems to me, however, that their cause consistently runs counter to our country’s economic health, which is deserving of some much-needed TLC.  This week the Energy and Commerce Committee surveyed Rep. Kristi Noem’s (R-SD) Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011 (H.R. 1633), which aims to provide farmers and ranchers some protection from economic uncertainty due to overregulation by the US EPA.

In short, this bill bans EPA from revising the current National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for large particulate matter (PM) for one year, and prevents the agency from regulating rural nuisance dust (“farm dust”) unless it proves to have significantly adverse health effects, of which there is currently no evidence.  When Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) asked EPA Assistant Administrator for Air Quality Regina McCarthy why the EPA has not changed the coarse PM standard if they feel it has adverse effects, she answered that there is scientific uncertainty.

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Post image for New York Times Tries To Catch up with the Energy News of the Last Decade

The New York Times has a special section on energy in its 26th October edition that suggests that the paper is trying to catch up with the big news of the last decade in the energy sector.  The front page story by Clifford Krauss is headlined, “The Energy Picture, Redrawn.”  Inset photos are headlined DEEP WATER, HIGH ARCTIC, OIL SANDS, and SHALE, and the caption reads: “A CHANGED GAME  New oil and gas fields are expected to yield a vast supply of fuels that should help relieve the United States of dependence on the Mideast and help drive booming economies in India and China.”

Here’s the conclusion of Krauss’s long summary of recent history: “‘The fossil fuel age will be extended for decades,’ said Ivan Sandrea, president of the Energy Intelligence Group, a research publisher.  ‘Unconventional oil and gas are at the beginning of a technological cycle that can last 60 years.  They are really in their infancy.'”

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Post image for Caution: Fighting Global Warming May Cause Global Warming

File under: “D’oh!”  From Discover Magazine’s 80 Beats blog:

“A new study published in the Journal of Climate claims that painting rooftops white—a method championed by energy secretary Steven Chu and others to combat climate change — only minimally reduces local cooling, and actually causes a slight increase in overall global warming.”

Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but a harebrained, government-promoted scheme to alter the climate of the Earth with paint brushes may be backfiring.  Why?  Apparently, the global climate model used in the study (adorably named GATOR-GCMOM) found that;

“[W]hite roofs means less surface heat in cities (which is obvious enough to anyone who’s sat in a car with a black interior in the sun). Lower local temperature means less water evaporates and rises up to eventually form clouds, says lead author and Stanford University researcher Mark Jacobson. The decrease in clouds allows more sunlight to reach the Earth’s surface, leading to higher temperatures overall.”
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Post image for Why Resort to Shenanigans to Make Green Energy a Reality?

We all know about Solyndra. We are learning about Fisker, the start-up electric car company, which received a $529 million loan from the Department of Energy. Touted by Vice President Biden as “a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs,” the cars are being manufactured in Finland. These are big stories being covered by the major media outlets. And these are only two such stories out there.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about two smaller stories from little states where shenanigans, at the least, and possible outright corruption, at the worst, were engaged in attempting to push through supposed green-energy projects. While researching those, another shady story surfaced: Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm Project.

Back in 2004, in a different political and economic world, the RI General Assembly passed a Renewable Energy Standard that states: “fossil fuel prices are extremely variable and created economic hardships for employers and families, and increased use of renewable energy can both lower and stabilize energy cost.” The ratepayers of RI were sold a bill of goods that renewable energy can lower energy costs.

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Post image for Did Obama EPA/DOT Officials Lie to Congress?

Earlier this week, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent letters to three Obama administration officials regarding the veracity of their testimonies at an October 12 subcommittee hearing on the administration’s fuel economy policies.*

Issa’s letters — to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland, EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy, and EPA Director of Transportation and Air Quality Margo Oge — are identical in content.

The gist of the letters is that each administration witness denied under oath that EPA and California’s greenhouse gas emission standards are “related to” fuel economy standards, whereas in fact, according to Issa, “regulating greenhouse gases and regulating fuel economy is a distinction without a difference.”

This matters for three inter-related reasons: (1) EPA is currently regulating fuel economy by setting motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards even though the Clean Air Act provides no authority for fuel economy regulation; (2) EPA in June 2009 granted California a waiver to establish motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards despite the Energy Policy Conservation Act’s (EPCA’s) express prohibition (U.S.C. 49 § 32919) of state laws or regulations “related to” fuel economy; and (3) the California waiver, by threatening to create a market-balkanizing “regulatory patchwork,” enabled the Obama administration to extort the auto industry’s support for EPA’s new career as greenhouse gas/fuel economy regulator in return for California and other states’ agreement to deem compliance with EPA’s greenhouse gas/fuel economy standards as compliance with their own.

As I will demonstrate below, greenhouse gas emission standards are highly “related to” fuel economy standards, and the administration witnesses cannot possibly be ignorant of the relationship. Do their denials of plain fact rise to the level of perjury? [click to continue…]

Post image for Green: The Color of Narcissism

The most consistent and nauseating feature of the environmental movement is its profound narcissism, which manifests primarily in two ways:

1)  The belief that the mean global temperature of the current (or last) century is “the” correct state of affairs, any deviation from which is abhorrent and unnatural, and which must be maintained in perpetuity.

2)  The belief that they, the environmentally anointed, can understand – and effect – something as intricately complex as the climate of the entire planet.

Imagine some beings living some 635 million years ago when the entire planet was covered in ice, a recurring condition in Earth’s history known as “Snowball Earth.”  Imagine these beings saying, “This planetary ice cube is the natural state of the Earth, we must make sure it stays this temperature forever!”
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Post image for Energy and Environment News

Gov. Perry’s Energy Speech
Vance Ginn, Master Resource, 18 October 2011

“Absurd” Green Targets Driving Business Abroad
James Chapman, Ruth Sunderland, & Sean Poulter, Daily Mail, 18 October 2011

Electric Car Chargers Idling
Drew Thornley, Planet Gore, 17 October 2011

Green Policies Are Regressive
Lisa Margonelli, Slate, 17 October 2011

Government Support for Solar Remains an Economic Drag
Lachlan Markay, Scribe, 17 October 2011

Post image for Support for Ethanol is Still Unfortunately Bipartisan

The Washington Times today has an editorial chiding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its decision to proceed with approval and support for higher blends of ethanol (E15) to be sold nationally. There are still a number of complications that seem likely to get in the way of (i.e., the lack of price competitiveness) of widespread use of E15, but recent decisions by the EPA are unfortunately steering the country down that path. However, the editorial makes one comment that doesn’t seem quite right:

This issue highlights the danger of allowing liberal zealots to set public policy. They are so obsessed with micromanaging the lives of others and fulfilling their environmental fantasies that they give no thought whatsoever to the real-world consequences of their schemes.

As a fuel, ethanol is highly corrosive. The E15 gasoline blend reduces gas mileage by 6 percent compared to real gasoline. That adds up to about $150 a year for the average vehicle owner. This expense and the mechanical danger serve absolutely no purpose beyond filling the pockets of wealthy farming giants. Congress needs to repeal the ethanol mandate to protect American pocketbooks – and the car warranties of millions of motorists.

Assuming they are using ‘liberal’ in the liberal versus conservative sense,  ethanol has (both historically and to this day) been supported by both liberals and conservatives alike. Indeed, true market-oriented politicians oppose interventions in our energy markets. However, those politicians are few and far between as politicians from both sides rarely have issue with sacrificing their alleged principles in order to support local constituencies or interest groups. [click to continue…]