An MIT professor of meteorology is dismissing global-warming alarmists as a discredited “cult” whose members are becoming more hysterical as emerging evidence continues to contradict their beliefs.
During an appearance on this writer’s radio show Monday, MIT Professor emeritus Richard Lindzen discussed the religious nature of the movement.
“As with any cult, once the mythology of the cult begins falling apart, instead of saying, oh, we were wrong, they get more and more fanatical. I think that’s what’s happening here. Think about it,” he said. “You’ve led an unpleasant life, you haven’t led a very virtuous life, but now you’re told, you get absolution if you watch your carbon footprint. It’s salvation!”
Lindzen, 74, has issued calm dismissals of warmist apocalypse, reducing his critics to sputtering rage.
Last week, government agencies including NASA announced that 2014 was the “hottest year” in “recorded history,” as The New York Times put it in an early edition. Last year has since been demoted by the Times to the hottest “since record-keeping began in 1880.”
But that may not be true. Now the same agencies have acknowledged that there’s only a 38 percent chance that 2014 was the hottest year on record. And even if it was, it was only by two-100ths of a degree.
Lindzen scoffs at the public-sector-generated hysteria, which included one warmist blogger breathlessly writing that the heat record had been “shattered.”
“Seventy percent of the earth is oceans, we can’t measure those temperatures very well. They can be off a half a degree, a quarter of a degree. Even two-10ths of a degree of change would be tiny but two-100ths is ludicrous. Anyone who starts crowing about those numbers shows that they’re putting spin on nothing.”
Last week, after scoffing at Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for a Senate vote on global warming, Lindzen was subjected to another barrage of diatribes. At his listed MIT phone number, Prof. Lindzen received a typical anonymous call:
“I think people like you should actually be in jail,” the male caller told him, “because you must know where this is all leading now...the people you support and take your money from to make these outrageously anti-human comments (also ‘know’… In other words, you’re a sociopath!”
Lindzen chuckled when the voicemail was replayed.
This writer asked him if, as has been alleged in some of the warmist blogs, he is taking money from the energy industry.
“Oh, it would be great!” he said with a laugh. “You have all these people, the Gores and so on, making hundreds of millions of dollars on this, Exxon Mobil giving $100 million to Stanford for people who are working on promoting this hysteria. The notion that the fossil-fuel industry cares - they don’t. As long as they can pass the costs on to you, it’s a new profit center.”
Lindzen said he was fortunate to have gained tenure just as the “climate change” movement was beginning, because now non-believers are often ostracized in academia. In his career he has watched the hysteria of the 1970’s over “global cooling” morph into “global warming.”
“They use climate to push an agenda. But what do you have left when global warming falls apart? Global normalcy? We have to do something about ‘normalcy?’”
As for CO2, Lindzen said that until recently, periods of greater warmth were referred to as “climate optimum.” Optimum is derived from a Latin word meaning “best.”
“Nobody ever questioned that those were the good periods. All of a sudden you were able to inculcate people with the notion that you have to be afraid of warmth.”
The warmists’ ultimate solution is to reduce the standard of living for most of mankind. That proposition is being resisted most vigorously by nations with developing economies such as China and India, both of which have refused to sign on to any restrictive, Obama-backed climate treaties. Lindzen understands their reluctance.
“Anything you do to impoverish people, and certainly all the planned policies will impoverish people, is actually costing lives. But the environmental movement has never cared about that.”
There is no doubt that winters have been getting colder in most parts of the world. According to NOAA, CLIMATE AT A GLANCE data, the trend of GLOBAL LAND and OCEAN WINTER TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES has been declining for 17 years or since 1998 at (0.06 C /decade).
The trend of GLOBAL WINTER LAND ONLY TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES declined at (-0.22C/decade.) So have the NORTHERN HEMISPHERE WINTER LAND ONLY TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES declined at (- 0.35C /decade) since 1998.
There is some evidence that the trend of NORTHERN HEMISPHERE LAND ONLY WINTER TEMPERATUREANOMALIES have actually been declining at (-0.18C/decade) since 1995 or 20 years. So winters have been cooling for 2 decades already, but not word about this from IPCC or NOAA.
Why are winter temperatures so important? Because very cold winters lead to cold spring and fall and if sustained over several years, to cold summers and lower annual temperatures as we have seen during 2014.
This pattern of declining temperature anomalies in every season of the year has been quite evident over the last several decades in the Northern Hemisphere. We mentioned previously that the trend of NH Land winter temperature anomalies showed a decline of (-0.18 C /decade) since 1995. By 1998, the trend of NH Land winter temperature anomaly was declining at (-0.35 C/decade). Since 2002 it is (-0.54C/decade) and since 2007 it is (-0.81C/decade). The decline is steadily increasing.
Since 2000, the NH spring land temperature anomaly also stopped rising and went flat between 2000 and 2007 after which it also started to decline at (-0.08 C/decade) Since 2005, the trend of the NH fall land temperature anomaly stopped rising and has been declining at (-0.05C/decade). Finally the trend of the NH summer land temperature anomaly stopped rising in 1998, was flat from 1998 to 2010 and has been declining since 2010 at (-0.7C/decade).
This pattern has led to a 17 year pause in the rise of global temperatures and could lead to 2-3 decades more of colder global temperatures. Rutgers University record of Northern Hemisphere snow extend since 1967, clearly shows and an increasing snow extent, especially since 1998.
Snow extent during the fall of 2014
Hemisphere fall snow extent was the highest in 47 years during the fall of 2014 at just over 22 million sq. km.
The trend of WINTER TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES for CONTIGUOUS US declined at (-1.79 F/decade) since 1998. There is some evidence that the trend of CONTIGUOUS US WINTER TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES have actually been declining since 1995 at (-1.13F/decade). The WINTER TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES for CANADA declined from an average of + 2.6 C during 1998-2000 to (-0.4C) by 2014 winter, or a cooling of some 3 degrees C.
A winter cooling trend is also apparent in EUROPE, and NORTHERN ASIA. I see this cooling pattern continuing until 2035/2045 when the oceans enter their cool phase as they did 1880-1910 and again 1945-1975.
Annual Contiguous US temperatures have been declining at (-0.36 F/decade) since 1998.
Global Annual temperatures have been flat since 1998 whether measured by land instruments or satellite data and the current climate models are falsely predicting warming 3 to 5 times higher than the current observable trend of temperature change. See the graph below showing the trend of CMIPS model mean (+0.21C/decade) and the observable actual global temperature trends (0.042C to 0.072 C/decade) from 1998 to October 2014.
It is clear that there is little global warming in United States or the globe. Why are we even talking about CO2 levels and global warming in such an alarming way? If anything we should be concerned about the impact of falling temperatures. This cooler weather means a potential for more winter crop damage, winter snow and ice storms, more snow, major floods from spring snow melt, wind storms, and power outages as the cold and warm fronts meet more often and at bigger amplitudes. The net result is many areas may be unprepared for the current and more importantly the upcoming colder weather in terms of emergency planning, snow clearing infrastructure, heating fuel stocks( propane and natural gas) , local winter budgets , transportation needs , need to switch to more winter hardy crops , power outage repair capability and impact on local economy. It is time to get off this climate change due to global warming focus and concentrate on other more pressing and immediate problems that confront us today. US spent $55 billion dollars to cope with global cooling this past winter alone. The media recently reported that the US overall economy shrank 1% in the 2014 January to March quarter. The contraction in growth was blamed on a number of factors including an unusually harsh winter. These serious issues will be with us for the next 2-3 decades and may dwarf any global warming issues.
As somebody who has championed science all his career, carrying a lot of water for the profession against its critics on many issues, I am losing faith. Recent examples of bias and corruption in science are bad enough. What’s worse is the reluctance of scientific leaders to criticise the bad apples. Science as a philosophy is in good health; science as an institution increasingly stinks.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics published a report last week that found evidence of scientists increasingly “employing less rigorous research methods” in response to funding pressures. A 2009 survey found that almost 2 per cent of scientists admitting that they have fabricated results; 14 per cent say that their colleagues have done so.
This month has seen three egregious examples of poor scientific practice. The most recent was the revelation in The Times last week that scientists appeared to scheme to get neonicotinoid pesticides banned, rather than open-mindedly assessing all the evidence. These were supposedly “independent” scientists, yet they were hand in glove with environmental activists who were receiving huge grants from the European Union to lobby it via supposedly independent reports, and they apparently had their conclusions in mind before they gathered the evidence. Documents that have recently come to light show them blatantly setting out to make policy-based evidence, rather than evidence-based policy.
Second example: last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a supposedly scientific body, issued a press release stating that this is likely to be the warmest year in a century or more, based on surface temperatures. Yet this predicted record would be only one hundredth of a degree above 2010 and two hundredths of a degree above 2005 with an error range of one tenth of a degree. True scientists would have said: this year is unlikely to be significantly warmer than 2010 or 2005 and left it at that.
In any case, the year is not over, so why the announcement now? Oh yes, there’s a political climate summit in Lima this week. The scientists of WMO allowed themselves to be used politically. Not that they were reluctant. To squeeze and cajole the data until they just crossed the line, the WMO “reanalysed” a merger of five data sets. Maybe that was legitimate but, given how the institutions that gather temperature data have twice this year been caught red-handed making poorly justified adjustments to “homogenise” and “in-fill” thermometer records in such a way as to cool down old records and warm up new ones, I have my doubts.
In one case, in Rutherglen, a town in Victoria, a recorded cooling trend of minus 0.35C became a reported warming trend of plus 1.73C after “homogenisation” by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. It claimed the adjustment was necessary because the thermometer had moved between two fields, but could provide no evidence for this, or for why it necessitated such a drastic adjustment.
Most of the people in charge of collating temperature data are vocal in their views on climate policy, which hardly reassures the rest of us that they leave those prejudices at the laboratory door. Imagine if bankers were in charge of measuring inflation.
Third example: the Royal Society used to be the gold standard of scientific objectivity. Yet this month it issued a report on resilience to extreme weather that, in its 100-plus pages, could find room for not a single graph to show recent trends in extreme weather. That is because no such graph shows an upward trend in global frequency of droughts, storms or floods. The report did find room for a graph showing the rising cost of damage by extreme weather, which is a function of the increased value of insured property, not a measure of weather.
The Royal Society report also carefully omitted what is perhaps the most telling of all statistics about extreme weather: the plummeting death toll. The global probability of being killed by a drought, flood or storm is down by 98 per cent since the 1920s and has never been lower - not because weather is less dangerous but because of improvements in transport, trade, infrastructure, aid and communication.
The Royal Society’s decision to cherry-pick its way past such data would be less worrying if its president, Sir Paul Nurse, had not gone on the record as highly partisan on the subject of climate science. He called for those who disagree with him to be “crushed and buried”, hardly the language of Galileo.
Three months ago Sir Paul said: “We need to be aware of those who mix up science, based on evidence and rationality, with politics and ideology, where opinion, rhetoric and tradition hold more sway. We need to be aware of political or ideological lobbyists who do not respect science, cherry-picking data or argument, to support their predetermined positions.”
If he wishes to be consistent, he will therefore condemn the behaviour of the scientists over neonicotinoids and the WMO over temperature records, and chastise his colleagues’ report, for these are prime examples of his point.
I am not hopeful. When a similar scandal blew up in 2009 over the hiding of inconvenient data that appeared to discredit the validity of proxies for past global temperatures based on tree rings (part of “Climategate"), the scientific establishment closed ranks and tried to pretend it did not matter. Last week a further instalment of that story came to light, showing that yet more inconvenient data (which discredit bristlecone pine tree rings as temperature proxies) had emerged.
The overwhelming majority of scientists do excellent, objective work, following the evidence wherever it leads. Science remains (in my view) our most treasured cultural achievement, bar none. Most of its astonishing insights into life, the universe and everything are beyond reproach and beyond compare. All the more reason to be less tolerant of those who let their motivated reasoning distort data or the presentation of data. It’s hard for champions of science like me to make our case against creationists, homeopaths and other merchants of mysticism if some of those within science also practise pseudo-science.
In all the millions of scientific careers in Britain over the past few decades, outside medical science there has never been a case of a scientist convicted of malpractice. Not one. Maybe that is because - unlike the police, the church and politics - scientists are all pure as the driven snow. Or maybe it is because science as an institution, like so many other institutions, does not police itself properly.
As many prominent scientists predict a prolonged period of global cooling, new EPA regulations are likely to cause critical power shortages and consumer cost hikes.
Bloomberg reports that the Brattle Group, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based consulting company, estimates that forced coal plant closures may boost utility prices for grids serving one-third of the U.S. population by as much as 25 percent. Hardest hit by this blizzard of bureaucratic bungling will be economically-disadvantaged residents in the Midwest and Northeast during cold winter months.
About half of the plant shutdowns are expected to take effect next year. Teri Viswanath, director of commodities strategy at BNP in New York projects that this will cut approximately 20,000 megawatts of current coal plant power by the end of 2015. That capability will be replaced by only about 4,000 megawatts of natural gas along with some renewables.
Standard & Poor’s is even more pessimistic. They project that 40 to 75 gigawatts - 75,000 megawatts - of coal units may be shut down by 2020. Among these, plant owners within America’s largest grid - the mid-Atlantic - plan to eliminate 11,578 megawatts of available output through 2015. That’s enough to supply more than 9 million homes.
Those shuttered coal plants which are eventually replaced with natural gas won’t nearly make up the difference. Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. which manages a Manitoba to Louisiana network expects to see a power shortage of about 2,000 megawatts by 2016, with increasing deficits mounting after that.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA) 75 percent of the 35,374 megawatts in gas plant projects planned from 2014 through 2020 haven’t yet started construction. While many still await regulatory approval, BNP’s Viswanath said, “We are going through the lightest development cycle we’ve ever witnessed over the next decade and it’s in response to a period of very, very low power prices ... What we’re seeing is a net subtraction of supply.”
Despite the shale boom which has reduced natural gas operations costs to between $30-$35 per megawatt-hour, the transition from coal at about $25 will still run up expenses. Philip Moeller of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told Bloomberg, “We are really in for a wild ride for five to six years because of the amount of coal shutting down in such a short amount of time and the transformation toward more gas being used to generate electricity.” He concluded, “Prices will definitely rise. The question is how much.”
That rise in electricity prices won’t likely create adequate investment incentive to replace EPA casualties. NRG Energy, Inc. CEO David Crane told Bloomberg, “When natural gas sets the marginal price of electricity, it not only makes it impossible to build any other type of power plant unless there is a market mandate but it also makes it impossible to build natural gas plants.”
All of this self-inflicted regulatory recklessness puts populations in northern regions at special risk. As David Crane lamented regarding last winter’s experience when power and gas prices surged: “The polar vortex scared us to death at NRG. If the polar vortex were to happen two years from now, I don’t know what would have happened in the Northeast.”
Such fear is well warranted. Even as atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise, many scientists predict that the past 18 years of flat mean global temperatures is a prelude to a long period of deep cooling. One of them is a top scientist with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) an organization made famous by alarmist theoretical model-based global warming predictions eagerly trumpeted in the mainstream media.
Commenting on the present temperature pause which he believes can extend for another decade, IPCC’s Dr. Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences recently told Bavarian Radio, “That does not surprise climate scientists like me at all, as for us this is completely normal.”
U.S. and Russian solar physicists predict that Planet Earth may be heading into a very long cooling period correlated with periodically low sunspot activity. Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov who heads Russia’s prestigious Pulkovo Observatory in St. Petersburg believes that solar activity is waning to such an extent that that a deep freeze will last until the end of this century.
Observing that such events have occurred five times over the past 1,000 years, Dr. Abdussamatov points out, “A global freeze will come about regardless of whether or not industrialized countries put a cap on their greenhouse gas emissions.”
While eternal and dramatic climate changes have nothing to do human influences, a clear present crisis truly does. Real blame for this man-made calamity must be attributed to activist EPA anti-fossil fuel agendas premised entirely upon political science.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax,” and his professional aerospace work has been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel-Canada.
At Google, we’re striving to power our company with 100% renewable energy. In addition to the environmental benefits, we see renewable energy as a business opportunity and continue to invest in accelerating its development. We believe that by helping power more of the world with renewable energy, we’re creating a better future for everyone. A research effort by Google corporation to make renewable energy viable has been a complete failure, according to the scientists who led the programme. After 4 years of effort, their conclusion is that renewable energy “simply won’t work”.
According to an interview with the engineers, published in IEEE;
“At the start of REC, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope… Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.”
There is simply no getout clause for renewables supporters. The people who ran the study are very much committed to the belief that CO2 is dangerous - they are supporters of James Hansen. Their sincere goal was not to simply install a few solar cells, but to find a way to fundamentally transform the economics of energy production - to make renewable energy cheaper than coal. To this end, the study considered exotic innovations barely on the drawing board, such as self erecting wind turbines, using robotic technology to create new wind farms without human intervention. The result however was total failure - even these exotic possibilities couldn’t deliver the necessary economic model.
The key problem appears to be that the cost of manufacturing the components of the renewable power facilities is far too close to the total recoverable energy - the facilities never, or just barely, produce enough energy to balance the budget of what was consumed in their construction. This leads to a runaway cycle of constructing more and more renewable plants simply to produce the energy required to manufacture and maintain renewable energy plants - an obvious practical absurdity.
According to the IEEE article;
“Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.”
I must say I’m personally surprised at the conclusion of this study. I genuinely thought that we were maybe a few solar innovations and battery technology breakthroughs away from truly viable solar power. But if this study is to be believed, solar and other renewables will never in the foreseeable future deliver meaningful amounts of energy.
The cold waters of Earth’s deep ocean have not warmed measurably since 2005, according to a new NASA study, leaving unsolved the mystery of why global warming appears to have slowed in recent years.
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, analyzed satellite and direct ocean temperature data from 2005 to 2013 and found the ocean abyss below 1.24 miles (1,995 meters) has not warmed measurably. Study coauthor Josh Willis of JPL said these findings do not throw suspicion on climate change itself.
“The sea level is still rising,” Willis noted. “We’re just trying to understand the nitty-gritty details.”
Deep sea creatures, like these anemones at a hydrothermal vent, are not yet feeling the heat from global climate change. Although the top half of the ocean continues to warm, the bottom half has not increased measurably in temperature in the last decade. Image credit: NERC
In the 21st century, greenhouse gases have continued to accumulate in the atmosphere, just as they did in the 20th century, but global average surface air temperatures have stopped rising in tandem with the gases. The temperature of the top half of the world’s oceans above the 1.24-mile mark is still climbing, but not fast enough to account for the stalled air temperatures.
Many processes on land, air and sea have been invoked to explain what is happening to the “missing” heat. One of the most prominent ideas is that the bottom half of the ocean is taking up the slack, but supporting evidence is slim. This latest study is the first to test the idea using satellite observations, as well as direct temperature measurements of the upper ocean. Scientists have been taking the temperature of the top half of the ocean directly since 2005, using a network of 3,000 floating temperature probes called the Argo array.
“The deep parts of the ocean are harder to measure,” said JPL’s William Llovel, lead author of the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change. “The combination of satellite and direct temperature data gives us a glimpse of how much sea level rise is due to deep warming. The answer is—not much.”
The study took advantage of the fact that water expands as it gets warmer. The sea level is rising because of this expansion and the water added by glacier and ice sheet melt.
While the upper part of the world’s oceans continue to absorb heat from global warming, ocean depths have not warmed measurably in the last decade. This image shows heat radiating from the Pacific Ocean as imaged by the NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System instrument on the Terra satellite.
(Blue regions indicate thick cloud cover.) Image credit: NASA
To arrive at their conclusion, the JPL scientists did a straightforward subtraction calculation, using data for 2005-2013 from the Argo buoys, NASA’s Jason-1 and Jason-2 satellites, and the agency’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. From the total amount of sea level rise, they subtracted the amount of rise from the expansion in the upper ocean, and the amount of rise that came from added meltwater. The remainder represented the amount of sea level rise caused by warming in the deep ocean.
The remainder was essentially zero. Deep ocean warming contributed virtually nothing to sea level rise during this period.
Dr. Roy Spencer
With the hopes of an El Nino fading (now reduced to a 58% probability), and what could be another early start to an unusually cold and snowy winter, it is useful to take a step back and examine why some of us have been harping for years on what really controls North American climate variations on the timescale of your lifetime: natural climate cycles.
The most prominent of these are the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).
Not only do these cycles profoundly influence North American climate, there is considerable evidence that they are partly responsible for that popular hobgoblin, “global warming”.
As the following graphic shows, the PDO - which was originally discovered as the main control over fisheries productivity off the west coast of North America - is also related to periods when global temperatures were rising or falling, which tend to occur over ~30 year periods:
Yearly Pacific Decadal Oscillation values, and the corresponding periods of popular climate change awareness (light gray is yearly values, dark line is 4-yr trailing averages).
We aren’t sure how this happens, but small natural variations in global average cloud cover changing how much sunlight is let into the climate system are a strong possibility.
The issue is important because, to the extent that natural climate cycles are partly responsible for recent global warming, the less reason there is to be concerned about energy policies which reduce the use of fossil fuels, currently necessary for human prosperity. With today’s news that President Obama will continue to pursue executive action on climate change, while not requiring equal commitments from the largest greenhouse gas emitter China, it is important that people understand that most of what we experience in terms of weather and climate change is largely out of our control.
The trouble with including natural climate cycles in the national discussion of global warming is both political and scientific: (1) it doesn’t fit the global warming narrative driven by policy goals, and (2) we don’t understand what causes natural climate cycles, and so they cannot be included in computer climate models.
Government research funding for at least 25 years has hinged on the assumption of human causation, and as I have always said, if you fund scientists to find a connection, they will indeed find it. That’s why the resulting research that is published also is dominated by explanations involving human causation.
Nevertheless, it is fairly easy to show that natural cycles are indeed involved in not only regional changes, but “global warming” as well.
For example, the accompanying spreadsheet shows that over the most recent warming period (since the late 1970s), the PDO, AMO, and El Nino/La Nina activity can statistically account for most of the recent warming of global average sea surface temperatures.
But statistics aren’t enough. Since we understand that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and should cause some warming, but we don’t understand natural climate cycles, scientists only look where the streetlight of government funding illuminates the problem: CO2.
What complicates policymaking even further is that what motivates public perceptions and thus decision makers the most are weather events. Hurricane Sandy. A snowy winter. We end up blaming these on the only thing we thing we think we understand - increasing CO2 should cause some change, so it must be responsible for all of the change we see.
Those natural cycles - well documented in the scientific literature for at least their regional effects - are forgotten. Except by some of us who have been working in the climate field for at least a few decades. Ask Weatherbell’s Joe Bastardi, who has been talking about these natural cycles for years - and using them to make good long-range forecasts.
The recent admission that natural changes are responsible for the California drought was not news to some of us. What is news is that some pretty big research names that would be assumed to be part of the global warming bureaucracy are the ones now saying it.
So, as the unseasonal cold settles in over the U.S. this week, don’t be fooled by those who claim “global warming causes cooling”. What we are seeing is natural variability, likely dominated by the oceans. The “new weather norm” might well be different from what anyone less than 30 years old has been used to.
To the extent that human-caused warming is occurring, I am increasingly convinced it is a largely benign - and possibly beneficial - needle lost in the haystack of Mother Nature’s natural climate gyrations.
President Obama’s war on coal mines, utilities, families and communities - and on reliable, affordable energy - is well known. So is his war on the Keystone XL pipeline. Far fewer Americans are aware that his administration is also waging war on other pipelines, including those that would transport clean natural gas. (Most voters probably would not be surprised by this. They’re just not aware of it.)
My article this week explains how far this President’s regulators are going to slow or stymie pipeline construction while expediting wind, solar and other projects that have far more significant impacts on birds, bats and other wildlife than drilling, fracking and pipelines ever could.
The Obama war on pipelines
Expedite wind and solar - but block coal, oil, gas, pipelines, jobs and economic recovery
“This is not the same industry we had 15 years ago,” Natural Gas Supply Association VP Jennifer Fordham said recently. That’s an understatement. The oil, petrochemical and manufacturing industries are also far different from those of 15 years ago. Together, they’ve created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and generated countless billions of dollars in economic activity. No thanks to the Obama Administration.
From EPA to Interior and even the Energy Department, the Administration continues to display a strong animosity toward fossil fuels. Its war on coal has hounded mines, power plants, jobs and communities. Its opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has thwarted the creation of tens of thousands of construction jobs. Its bans on leasing, drilling and hydraulic fracturing on federal onshore and offshore lands have caused a 6% drop in oil production from those lands and a 28% plunge in natural gas output - costing thousands of jobs and tens of billions in bonus, rent, royalty and tax revenues to the U.S. Treasury.
Nevertheless, you’d think Obama regulators and policy makers would support natural gas pipelines. Even the Sierra Club promoted this fuel as a “clean alternative to coal” just a couple years ago. But no.
The fracking revolution on America’s state and private lands has unleashed a gusher of mammoth proportions. In just six years, 2008-2014, it has generated a 58% increase in oil production (from 5 million to 8 million barrels per day) - and a 21% rise in natural gas production. By the end of this year, U.S. crude oil production is projected to reach 9 million bpd. In the Marcellus Shale region, gas production is expected to reach 16 billion cubic feet a day, twice the volume of only two years ago.
However, this miraculous cornucopia is overwhelming the nation’s existing delivery systems and, far from striving to eliminate the bottleneck, the Obama Administration is creating new ones.
Not having the Keystone pipeline to transport Upper Midwest crude to refineries has forced oil companies to move that oil by train. Rail accidents have caused spills and deaths, but the regulatory focus has been on stronger tanker cars, with insufficient attention paid to track maintenance and safety or pipelines.
Insufficient natural gas pipelines mean producers cannot deliver this vital fuel to homes, hospitals, factories and electricity generating plants, or to petrochemical plants that use it as a feed stock for literally thousands of products. Pipeline companies are clamoring for construction permits.
With supplies rising, prices for oil and natural gas are declining. Global crude oil prices have fallen more than $20 a barrel and are cheaper in the United States than in Europe. Natural gas prices in the Marcellus area have been about half the U.S. benchmark price, which is below $4 per thousand cubic feet (mcf), compared to prices as high as $9 or even $20 per mcf (or Btu) in Europe and Asia. As a result, despite a clear need for gas, some drillers are re-examining their Marcellus plans, and an estimated 1,750 Pennsylvania natural gas wells are not currently producing because pipeline connections are not available.
Natural gas pipelines also ensure energy conservation and reduce air pollution. A North Dakota pipeline would collect gas produced with crude oil, eliminating the need to “flare” the gas. But permit delays, largely by federal agencies, mean enough gas to heat 160,000 homes goes up in smoke every month.
Why are pipelines lagging behind production? First, pipeline companies build new capacity only when there is a demonstrated need. Second, and most important, pipeline permit approvals are being delayed.
A 2013 INGAA Foundation study found that the number of interstate natural gas pipeline authorizations issued more than 90 days after federal environmental assessments were completed climbed from 8% to 28% since Congress passed the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Rather than streamlining permits, as Congress had intended, the law had the opposite effect. It removed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s ability to keep project reviews on a strict schedule, allowed both state and federal agencies to drag their heels on pipeline permitting, and opened the door to more objections by environmental pressure groups.
Authorization delays were caused by conflicts among federal agencies, as well as inadequate or under-trained agency staff, applicant changes to projects requiring additional or revised environmental review (often in response to environmentalist or other third-party protests and demands), site-access problems, and FERC and other agency reviews of requirements for mitigating asserted environmental impacts, INGAA concluded. Increased partisanship at FERC has also increased delays.
The Obama Army Corps of Engineers slowed pipeline permits by citing the Clean Water Act. Its Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) cited the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to justify slow-walking permits. Its Environmental Protection Agency wants to control all “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), so as to exert regulatory authority over activities on federal, state and private lands - including drilling, fracking and pipelines - in the name of sustainability, climate change prevention and other eco-mantras.
The MBTA bans the “taking” (harassing, harming, killing, capturing or wounding) of migratory birds, their nests and eggs related to natural gas pipelines and other projects. Because building a pipeline requires clearing a right-of-way, excavating and other activities that could affect wildlife for a short time, a permit is required. But native grasses soon cover the route, and state-of-the-art steel, valves and safety features greatly reduce the likelihood of ruptures and spills, compared to earlier generation pipelines.
And yet the Obama FWS drags its feet on pipeline permits - while approving numerous renewable energy projects beloved by the President and his “green” base, including massive wind turbines that slaughter millions of eagles, hawks, bats and other threatened, endangered and migratory species every year.
The FWS also blessed the huge Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on the Nevada/California border. It uses 300,000 mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays onto three 40-story water-filled towers to produce steam and generate electricity. Eagles, owls, falcons and other birds that fly between the solar panels and towers become “streamers,” because the 500-degree heat turns them into smoking, disintegrating corpses as they plummet to earth. There’s little left to find or bury making it easy for Big Solar regulators, operators and promoters to claim “minimal” wildlife impacts. In fact, during the Ivanpah project’s environmental review, the FWS focused on desert tortoises and missed the bird crematorium issue.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management unveiled a sweeping plan that would revise longstanding resource management plans, to install buffer zones around “sensitive” Gunnison sage grouse habitats, impose seasonal restrictions on oil and gas drilling and livestock grazing, and close roads and trails wherever grouse are present. But in the midst of this effort, BLM and various state governments are also working to streamline “eco-friendly” solar, wind, geothermal and transmission line projects that they claim will reduce “dangerous” carbon dioxide emissions. Natural gas would do that, too, of course.
Natural gas is clean, affordable and reliable - if it can reach consumers through pipelines, which are the safest form of energy transportation. Unfortunately, the Obama principle seems to be: If it requires subsidies, raises energy prices, costs jobs, impacts thousands of acres, and butchers birds and bats - expedite approval. If it generates royalty and tax revenues, produces reliable, affordable energy, creates jobs, and has minimal impacts on endangered and migratory species delay or ban it. Talk about crazy.
The administration’s fixation on ideological environmentalism is not helping the environment, the economy, or consumers. It is a political ploy designed to garner liberal votes and rake in more money from campaign donors like Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager who got his money from coal.
America needs more pipelines. The Obama Administration needs to let industry build them. Perhaps a reconstituted Senate (with Harry Reid as Minority Leader) can lead the way. America will prosper!
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: To save the world from the save-the-Earth money machine.