Thursday, December 27, 2007

Global Nonsense

As we huddled in the Kansas City airport, the sleeting rain turned to blowing snow and flights were being cancelled left and right. Many travelers had waited all day in the airport only to learn at 6PM that they needed to find a place to stay the night. Linda and I were lucky that our Midwest Air jet was on a round trip to Los Angeles and we were able to leave for home before KCI was socked in. We would have welcomed some global warming as we waited on the runway for our plane to be de-iced.

Do you know that 2007 has been a year of global cooling. The Southern Hemisphere experienced one of its coldest winters in decades. In Brazil and Peru hundreds of people died from exposure to the record cold. Extreme cold weather is occurring worldwide. Yet global warming hysteria prevails. From a Washington Times article by David Deming (Dec. 19): “If you think any of the preceding facts can falsify global warming, you're hopelessly naive. Nothing creates cognitive dissonance in the mind of a true believer. In 2005, a Canadian Greenpeace representative explained ‘global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter.’ In other words, all weather variations are evidence for global warming. I can't make this stuff up.”

In a Real Clear Politics article (12/18/07) former Democratic NYC mayor Ed Koch asks “Does Gore Know What He's Talking About?” Among the relevant points in Koch’s piece is the fact that "China will surpass the United States in 2009, nearly a decade ahead of previous predictions, as the biggest emitter of the main gas linked to global warming." Said Lu Xuedu, the deputy director general of the Chinese Office of Global Environmental Affairs, "You cannot tell people who are struggling to earn enough to eat that they need to reduce their emissions." Then from the Wall Street Journal: "Under the vaunted Kyoto, from 2000 to 2004, Europe managed to increase its emissions by 2.3% over 1995 to 2000. Meanwhile in the U.S., under the president's oh-so-unserious plan, U.S. emissions from 2000 to 2004 were 8% lower than in the prior period."

While the “advanced” nations (primarily Euroland) fret about the threat of environmental disaster and the undeveloped nations dream of wealth transfers from the wealthy ones (especially the U.S.) Andrew Lilico (Conservative Home, 12/18/07) notes that even if humans are causing the planet to heat up, it is a classic error in policy formulation to assume we should stop doing so. “When formulating policy, we should always bear in mind a number of principles:”

1. It does not follow, from the mere fact that we can tell a story that something is wrong that anything needs to be done about it. It is only once we have a compelling account of why the market cannot solve these problems that our analysis even gets going.

2. It does not follow from the mere fact that there is a problem that the Market cannot address, that intervention by the government can address the problem any better.

3. It does not follow from the fact that the government could, in principle, intervene to make things better, that any particular intervention is actually one that makes this problem better.

4. And finally, even if a specific intervention would, indeed, make things better, it does not follow either that it is the best intervention available or that it will not have other impacts (costs and risks) that are worse than the problem it is trying to solve.

Lilico notes that climate models and associated economic analyses suggest that without mitigation the costs of climate change might be perhaps 5% of GDP in 2100. To place this in context, people in 2100 are expected to be five times as wealthy as today. So the effect of unmitigated global warming is that they will only be 4.75 times as rich as us. Horrors!

He concludes: “Mainstream climate models do not predict that the world will end. Consequently we are not faced with a desperate race against time in which we aim just to do as much as we possibly can, hoping that tomorrow we will be able to do more. Rather, we are in the situation of normal policymaking, in which it may well be that there is a policy intervention that makes the world a better place by reducing the impact of climate change at fairly low cost, but each intervention needs to be judged on its own merits.”

But the politicians and the global warming industrialists do not see it that way. They prefer to impose government sanctions and to hell with the economic consequences.

A favorite of the European community and now the U.S. Congress is the “Cap and Trade” scheme. Yet Neil O’Brien of Open Europe calls the scheme a failure (OnPoint with Monica Trauzzi, 12/5/07).

Monica Trauzzi: So what's the core issue with the E.U. emission trading scheme?

Neil O'Brien: Well, I suppose the core issue really is that it hasn't reduced emissions. So, in the first year of it working, for example in the UK, emissions have actually gone up by 3.6 percent.

Monica Trauzzi: Hasn't this trading system provided clarity for businesses though?

Neil O'Brien: No. I mean that's one of the criticisms of it. It's exactly that you don't get certainty. If you have an emissions trading system there, the fundamental thing about it is you're accepting that the price of carbon is going to move around. It's going to be volatile. In Europe the price of carbon has crashed hugely from being about €33 a ton down to just a couple of euro cents a ton. So there's no real incentive to reduce pollution at all. And a lot of people got really badly burned.

Monica Trauzzi: Qualify the success of the trading system then. Is it a total failure or are there some redeeming qualities?

Neil O'Brien: This sounds like a hard thing to say, but really it is at the moment a total failure. It's not reducing emissions. It's very costly. I mean just the administrative burden of running it is about a billion euros a year, so in the U.S. it would be something roughly comparable.

Monica Trauzzi: So, domestically, do you see red flags here with the U.S. Lieberman-Warner bill? Based on what you've seen in Europe are you concerned?

Neil O'Brien: I would be concerned for your sake because what you're trying to do is even more complicated than what we've done and we've not managed to make our system work. It's just fundamentally a tricky thing to do. Lieberman-Warner is more complicated in two different ways. Firstly, you have this very overt move to import 15 percent of credits from abroad. So until the 2020s you're talking about not making any emission reductions through the scheme yourself. You're going to be paying people in China to make emissions reductions. And secondly, getting the right allocation is fundamentally tricky because it involves policymakers trying to guess the future of energy prices, the future of the growth of the economy, the future of technology change for the several years ahead. And in the proposal of Lieberman-Warner they're trying to guess all those kinds of variables over a period going to 2050. I would anticipate an even more volatile or uncertain price within the American system than the E.U. one, which is going to make it very, very hard for businesses to invest. And so you won't get the kind of technological innovation that is the whole point of this exercise.

It’s all Nonsense!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, regarding global warming, you've again concluded that it's a bunch of nonsense. No surprise there, but I'm disturbed that you're trumpeting that this has been a colder year--illustrating to all that global warming is nonsense. I can't imagine any climate scientist, including those 'villains' who participate in writing the IPCC reports, who would expect zero pertebations and who would expect world temperature graphs to be a straight set of points on an ever-rising graph. How does a one-year 2007 dip compare with what-is-it, eight of the previous ten years setting world record highs?!

But I don't wish to dwell on global warming: I want to discuss possible solutions to (1) our continuing reliance upon oil and gas from politically scary places like the Persian Gulf, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia, etc. and (2) the likelihood that though fossil fuels will surely be available for 100+ years, the price will rise substantially because of a combination of rising demand ( just look at the trends in China, India, Brazil, etc and the nine billion people expected by 2050-60) paralleled by decreasing availability of the easy-to-get cheaper stuff. I will for purposes of this article submerge (3) the likely worldwide costs of increasing carbon emissions.

I want to suggest that without waiting for China and India and other 2nd/3rd world countries to work with us, we could afford to, and should, devote increasing billions of bucks on research and demonstrations of alternate approaches. A typical recipient might be Craig Venter's efforts to massage plant genomes to create new biofuels (hopefully to reduce the catastrophe that we're engaged in with corn-based ethanol.(Incidentally, I've read that Craig Venter begged for government assistance to help finance his automation idea to take years off the world genome decoding effort. No dice; but after it became obvious that his idea was sound, only then did he receive funding and that at a level so high he couldn't use it all!)

Another direction might be the proposal by solar engineers and scientists in the feature article in the January 2008 Scientific American "A Solar Grand Plan."

Their key concepts:
1. A massive switch from coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69% of the U.S.'s electricity and 35% of its total energy by 2050.
2. A vast area of photovoltaic cells would be erected in the Southwest. The excess of daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.
3. Large solar concentrator power plants would be built as well.
4. A new direct-current power transmission backbone would deliver solar electricity across the country.
5. Subsidies from 2011 to 2050 ($10 billion per year) would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.

The solar farms would be erected upon remote property owned by the government so the problems could be avoided of "Not in my backyard" opposition to nearby nuclear plants, to LNG facilities, to offshore wind turbines spoiling views, killing birds and creating noise, etc. etc. etc. .

The authors suggest that the technology is available and a combination of subsidies and anticipated increases in efficiency is all it takes, as compared to other plans that depend upon huge advances in technology. The infrastructure would replace 300 large coal-fired structures and 300 more large natural gas plants and all the fuels they consume....The plan would effectively eliminate all imported oil, fundamentally cutting U.S. trade deficits and easing political tensions in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Because solar technologies are almost pollution free, the plan would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 1.7 bn tons a year, and another 1.9 bn tons from gasoline vehicles would be displaced by hybrids refuelable from the solar power grid. In 2050 U.S. carbon dioxide emissions would be 62% below 2005 levels, putting a major brake on global warming . (Something that China might also be able to semi-copy in the future in numerous remote areas that lack large populations.)
Current solar modules provide 10% efficiency; 14% efficiency would be required-- difficult but not off the charts (the efficiency has advanced from 9 to 10% just in the last 18 months). Systems would have to be installed at $1.20 per watt of capacity vs. an approximate cost (understated?) today of about $4.00 per watt---a VERY BIG decrease, but the technology is already advancing rapidly and huge production numbers would inevitably further reduce the cost. The authors add that as modules and costs improve, rooftop photovoltaics will become more competitive for homeowners, and for businesses, reducing daytime electricity demand.
I'd like to see us (US) apply an additional $10-20 bn. per year for research aimed at energy self-sufficiency (note that I'm aware that we're now funding hundreds of active energy projects). But if you think this is a lot, compare with our annual and rising Pentagon budget of over $500 bn. dollars. Plus an Iraq budget of over $200 bn. dollars per year.

I have no idea whether this is worthwhile or crazy, but I'd appreciate learning more from anyone who knows something about this area.


12:13 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

First, I'll correct a misrepresentation. My conclusion that "It's all Nonsense!" referred to the content of my blog post, not to "global warming" in general. My primary points were that the US is doing significantly better than the EU in reducing CO2 emissions; that the public policy adopted in the EU has been a failure; that the proposed US policy will be even harder to control and will likely be a worse failure; and that the issue is one of public policy and deserves serious study. I did not mean to imply that the "year of global cooling" invalidates the 100 year warming trend.

I agree that we need not debate the global warming science to have a serious discussion about policy. In fact, to further our discussion I am willing to stipulate that the Earth has warmed about 1 degree over the last century and that it is possible that human produced CO2 has been a significant contributor. (However, it should be noted that there are "serious scientists" who disagree that CO2 has been the cause. See eg Douglass et al in the December 2007 issue of the International Journal of Climatology of the Royal Meteorological Society. David Douglass was one of my physics profs at the University of Rochester. He is no "crank.")

I am happy to discuss possible solutions to (1) our continuing reliance upon oil and gas from politically scary places like the Persian Gulf, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia, etc. and (2) the likelihood that the price will rise substantially.

Being a physicist, I love the idea of solar energy. Who would not like plentiful and "free" energy? But then there are the complications of efficiency, cost, storage, transmission,.... I think the article provides a good case that should be subjected to public scrutiny, perhaps through congressional hearings. I'd like to see the idea prototyped and would fund the $40B per year (2011 to 2020) infrastructure through a decrease of farm subsidies. Carbon taxes increase the cost of goods to American consumers, proportionally more injurious to the least affluent. My doubts concern the exclusivity of the solution. A set of other issues are discussed at The Energy Blog ( ).

I'd like to see the solutions to your issues (1) and (2) separated from the global warming issue. Other solutions to both (1) and (2) include increased production of US oil and gas, in ANBAR, off the coast of Florida and CA, anywhere we can find it. No taxes are needed to fund the exploration. At the same time permits should be issued for a number of oil refineries. At the same time permits should be issued for dozens of nuclear power plants and subsidies provided. And research on all aspects of the "hydrogen economy" should be funded. With this multi-pronged attack, the solution could be in place by 2050.

Let's do it!!!


12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading what you know and think about global warming and energy sources is cool ( pun intended), however, I do not seem to understand your ideas about energy sources.

I do not know physcis ,,,,but to me solar energy never seemed to be an option at least as it is gathered now...good golly..I live in the sunshine'd think there would be solar panels on roofs of every house with a pool! Not so.

I say drill drill drill...Alaska and offshore...every shore...
And nuclear energy is by far the best energy source of all. My son told me so.

I have no idea why it is not preached over and over is a winner.

Happy New Year!

3:16 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home