A Bite of Reality for Climate Science

Roger Pielke Sr. wrote on June 4th 2009 a short piece on how “climate science” papers, if there is such a reputable thing, are short circuiting the scientific method so causing falsehoods and a dangerous trend in science that deserves attention from taxpayers, grantors and others interested in good science, properly done, factually accurate and useful for humankind.

Pielke points out, as others and I have in the past that much if not all the “climate science” is based in assumptions and built out using computer modeling.  No experimentation is done.  No testing, no verifiable conclusions, no facts.

But Pielke goes a little further, he’s calling to account the publishers of the “climate science” to adhere to the minimum standards of the scientific method.  With peer review responsibilities on his resume’ Pielke has good reason to see the problems of credibility when peer review journals and the following media rush to print sensationalism rather than science.

I repeat here again, a computer model is not a fact.  The reliance on computers, programs and the assumptions or data input is only, at best, a speculation.  Pielke offers the six steps common to describing the scientific method condensed by sciencebuddies.org as:

  1. Ask a question
  2. Do background research
  3. Construct a hypothesis
  4. Test the hypothesis with experimentation
  5. Analyze the data for conclusions
  6. Communicate the results

But today, the peer review publishers are short-circuiting the scientific method.  Having read a few it’s much more like: pose a conclusion, construct a hypothesis, prove it with your computer and press release your results.  Its insulting, to the informed readers, the scientific institutions providing the resources and others researching properly.

What’s lost is accurate descriptions of how the real world functions.  When one has a hypothesis that can withstand testing one has a fact, until a test comes along that unravels the theory.  That’s how humanity got out of the wild into civilization.

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The Oil Spill Disaster That Isn’t

The BP well blowout, fire, explosion and platform collapse, and the ensuing crude oil leak are without doubt the result of human failings.  Underestimating the quality of the reservoir is one reason, perhaps some engineering choices and safety oversights, inadequate equipment, testing that didn’t work out in the real world and all the rest only show that human planning can come up short.

Now that its over this writer can recoil from the anger felt as the catastrophe unfolded.  Yes, the well getting away is cause No. 1 – something that has happened before and will happen again – hopefully with more and more infrequency.  The lessons keep coming – from drilling into the earth since Drake’s day; the pressures down there can surprise you.

But the sorrow of the lives lost was quickly overcome by the shear idiocy of the media and political response.  There has been essentially no worthy information making the mainstream press or incorporated into political activity.  The reverse is the fact – misinformation is rampant and the consequences, not counting the loss of life itself is simply incredible.

The President’s behavior has been an utter failure – doing far more damage than the oil itself.  The offshore drilling ban is keeping 50,000 jobs without paychecks topping $2 billion in payroll losses alone, not counting the effect throughout the local economy in the situation where the major economic engine, tourism, disappeared.  The President’s action wasn’t just foolish, but cruelly focused on a few innocents, thoughtless and without any kind of leadership or sense of responsibility to the local area or the nation as a whole.  The reaction actually fed the media hysteria – a fault beyond forgiving in a leader.  No gulf beach trips and minigolf photoshoots will take away the realization the President is out of his league.

In the meantime property values are gong to be hit with incomes going down.  From Texas to Florida the tourism business is in shambles and may take years to recover.

There are many reports that no one is buying Gulf seafood, even in areas unaffected by the spill. Gulf Coast shrimpers and fishermen are in a tough spot: On the one hand, as more areas of the Gulf are declared safe, they presumably won’t be able to collect compensation from BP or the government and will have to get back to work; on the other hand, no one’s buying their catch. Given the public fear of toxins in food, this problem could last a long time.  But this writer is buying – Gulf seafood – if you can find it, hasn’t been so reasonably priced in decades.

For the future perhaps the most important lesson is the current administration can’t be trusted to act in the national interest.  Bans, moratoriums and other fear based knee-jerk reactions have spoiled regulatory certainty, which will exact a huge cost from oil firms, their shareholders, management and employees and in particular we consumers. Some insider reports suggest that oil assets in the Gulf are already being disposed of at fire-sale prices.  Fear leading fear, just what an economic recovery can not stand.

The most damning realization is the most liberal administration in American history is composed of people who lack the reflexive skepticism that intelligence and science apply to the mainstream media and those left-wing blogs. Spend some time following the reporting and blogging on Deepwater Horizon, and you come to realize that the administration’s behavior in the crisis likely wasn’t based on a cynical progressive master plan.  The administration was overwhelmed by sheer emotional panic about the magnitude of the potential disaster it faced as outlined by its most loyal supporters.  Embarrassing to thoughtful knowledgeable citizens.

Here is why.  What President Obama called the “worst environmental disaster America has ever faced” – the oil has pretty much already disappeared into the environment.  The disaster was a man made broad-based failure on the part of the media, the science establishment, and the federal bureaucracy. With the nation and its leaders looking for facts, information was replaced with a massive plume of apocalyptic disinformation and threats of losing a significant part of the coastline to the goo.

While the leaking oil was terrible in many resects the magnitude was vastly over wrought.  In June a slick computer-modeled animated video showed a gigantic part of the spill making its way around the southern tip of Florida and up the East Coast. Oil covered everything from the Gulf to the Grand Banks.  The New York Daily News said, “BP Oil Slick Could Hit East Coast In Weeks: Government Scientists.”  CBS, MSNBC and many others followed on.  The video was a huge YouTube hit.  It was one of history’s most successful news frauds from the National Center for Atmospheric Research – paid for by taxpayers.  Then the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) disavowed the scenario.  Too late, who ever hears about the recantations when the media screws up?

Watson Technical Consulting of Savannah, Ga. a firm specializing in computer modeling of the effects of hurricanes, seismic events, geophysical hazards, and weapons of mass destruction asserts the simulation was bogus from the very beginning, because it ignored important conditions in the Gulf. Furthermore, says Chuck Watson, the media never took account of how diluted the oil would be once it got around Florida, through the Gulf Stream and finally got to the Atlantic: The bulk of the theoretically massive spill the video shows amounts to roughly a quart of oil per square mile. Watson claims flat-out that NOAA was “gold digging” for grants as there’s probably more federal research money floating around the Gulf than there is oil. “There is a feeding frenzy with people trying to get funding for their specialty,” he said.  Never let a disaster go wasted or some such cleverness from the administration – does that sound like people that can be trusted?

The coffin for this writer was the “Giant Plumes” of oil.  Here the lying got very creative and flunked high school general science class.  Halfway into May coming up with oil on the surface was getting problematic so some marine researchers were drafted to provide the answer.  Water tests were showing oil in small quantities under the water’s surface from wave action, but how much no one could say nor, obviously, was there any peer reviewed literature to check on the known facts.

Media reports implied and even tried to assert that “enormous oil plumes” were waiting, like nuclear submarines, to rise and attack unsuspecting beaches and wetlands. The New York Times summed up the media consensus on May 15: “Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.” The article quoted Samantha Joye, a marine-sciences professor at the University of Georgia, as saying that this oil was mixed with water in the consistency of “thin salad dressing.”  Except there weren’t any plumes at all, let alone any ‘salad dressing’ type stuff.

By the end of May NOAA, where some grownups still have responsibility, released a study finding weak concentrations of oil in the area surrounding the Deepwater Horizon site at only 0.5 parts per million, maximum. The median was a little over 0.2 parts per million.

Again as the “giant” spill that threatened the East Coast, that’s barely above the threshold of detection.  By late July and early August, BP, the Federal Government, and some independent researchers were saying they couldn’t find any plumes at all. “We’re finding hydrocarbons around the well, but as we move away from the well, they move to almost background traces in the water column,” said Admiral Thad Allen, the administration’s point man on the spill. By then some 75 percent of the oil released is gone – and that’s based on new estimates that put the spill rate at the high end of earlier projections.

The giant-plume threat was greatly overstated by scientists and further blown out of proportion by the media. This writer believes those ‘scientists’ are not scientists at all.  As everyone who passed high school general science knows, oil is lighter than water and rises above it in all known situations on this planet. The idea of underwater plumes defies everything that we know about the physical laws on earth.  It’s been a great source of irritation and anger for weeks.  It’s a very good thing the notion is so incredibly dumb that its funny – but watching people report it is to see a stunning display of ignorance.  Are there no fact checkers left in the mass media?

The Gulf of Mexico and some of the coast of California are warm ecological systems where oil seeps are part of the food chain.  The leak was a bonanza for oil eating bacteria and the bacteria bonanza will work its way up the food chain with its abundance.  While the leak was perhaps a four-fold increase in the annual oil supply to the Gulf, the natural ecosystem adjusted quite well and as seen decades ago in the Mexican leak – it’s a very short-term matter. Truly it’s a disaster not to be left unused – by bacteria.

Dispersants turn thick, ugly slicks into widely distributed droplets, minimizing damage to beaches and sensitive wetlands.  When slicks are broken up the light oil parts evaporate, and the bacteria more easily eat the heavier parts.  Corexit is thought to be the major dispersant used in the treatment – something you shouldn’t spray directly on coral, marshlands or other living things as it’s a detergent like chemical.  Corexit has made lots of disinformation news too, even being a subject for a Congressional hearing.  But the EPA who recently started proceedings to make milk spills hazardous material type events has approved Corexit in supervised use.  In a reality check using dispersants is to break up oil before it gets to shore, piles up and gets out of the water – where the oil breakdown slows down and gets quite messy for wildlife and the flora.  It’s a very good thing the EPA kept its act together and the disbursements flowing – an issue of debate that did have some suspense.

Finally, this writer has a question for everyone – where is the link to the reputable gulf shrimp supplier – I’d like a five gallon bucket full, packed in dry ice for a 3 day UPS ground trip. A shrimp feast might make the anger recede a little more.

In closing, people lost their lives and condolences are due their families and herewith are heartfelt given.  Jobs are lost, suffering and troubles are mounting, so this writer is speaking out for you and will be your customer again.

The disaster isn’t about oil anymore, it’s the impact of media and politics – something that should and could be fixed in just a few words by just one man.  Do you think it will happen?

Here is the original: New Energy and Fuel

Laugh Until It Sinks In

Occidental Petroleum is running a very clever and funny ad supporting and informing about what petroleum is used for as well as natural gas, gasoline and diesel.

As you’ve seen in the video lots of things will disappear.  They even missed important stuff like the concrete foundation of the house, the asphalt roadway and the elastic holding up the boxer shorts.  It could have been funnier if you tolerate crudeness with a smile.

But seriously, life as its known in the developed world would stop.  No gas for the car, no diesel to bring food into the city, no jet fuel for travel and mail, no natural gas or heating oil for warm homes and California will be dark.  300 million people won’t be supportable.

275 million will be left out of the food chain.  Do you think they won’t be looking for answers?  Would a gulf oil drilling moratorium get food close enough for meal?  The idiocy at high levels of government is astonishing.  Foolishness knows no limit in today’s media saturated silly society.

That said, oil coming up way short would have tens of millions looking for how the political elites blew the modern world apart.  It might be a very good idea to be, well armed, really.  Folks are going to be hungry and angry. At desperate – lives will be lost. Those with – will be attacked by those without.

It might be very self interested (self preserving) to be “pro oil”.   For many reasons beyond just jobs, profits, taxes and cheap energy, petroleum is crucial.  Start taking it away such that it become too dear the danger would be intense for everyone.

Reading, watching or listening to news or pundits that don’t concern themselves with adequate affordable supplies for everyone is setting up ignorance pointing to risk.

For this writer adequate petroleum supplies is crucial – it will take decades for the alternatives to supplant and replace fossil oil and gas.  Moreover, the economy has to be robust enough for the consumers and producers to buy conservation, efficiency and alternative work devices.  This is going to take a long time.

Screwing it up along the way is senseless and essentially a betrayal.

Thanks to Occidental.  The lighthearted ad just touches, but leaves no scars, suggesting a warning.  A real petroleum shortage will leave scars – from the bloody wounds, too.


Author: New Energy and Fuel

The Media and Leadership Failure

Any amount, no matter how little of watching, reading or listening to popular or mass media, politicians and pundits would have regular folks wondering when we’re ever going to start on alternative energy and fuel sources.  This in the face of more ethanol than the 10% already in the system forming an oversupply problem compared to the current price for farmer’s corn, now less than the revenues farmers received when they got the cash price plus the government’s subsidy payments.  The users of corn groan that corn is too expensive when the subsidized price they used to pay is coming back.  This is the first example of alternative fuels getting way too successful – the ethanol slow motion bust is the first example.

When this writer hears the cry calling for American to “begin” the transition to cleaner energy, even from the president’s office – an inward groan forms.  Actually with the ethanol example much credit is due to the Bush and Clinton administrations.  Ethanol when limited to 10% of the gasoline market is mature – no thanks to the current leadership.  Even more can be said for polices, research and development, investment and in some places long strings of red aircraft warning lights atop great fields of wind turbines. If anything – Congress has failed to keep the tax matters and accounting stabilized when the incentives come and go.

That points to the Bio Diesel industry which can’t get seem to get stability from Congress. Plants are closing up, vegetable oil prices are in free fall, and new ways of ‘disposal’ are being examined for the oils.  No one with any sense will trust the tax, accounting and finance area for Bio Diesel.  Its no wonder bio diesel things are floundering.

Incentives are critical.  Here is why.  Energy and fuel markets are entrenched, fundamental for the modern economy and essential for standards of living.  The current markets have decades of incentives, investments and dividends of their own in place, often forgotten and overlooked.  An example can be seen in the fission nuclear energy market where the regulatory field is built up to give the best (really only) consideration to existing technology that just gets bigger when the reality is the market needs designs to get smaller, use other fuels, and be much less expensive for both the certifying a reactor design, but the costs of running a reactor as well.  Government regulation has the entirety of nuclear potential fully barriered from use in the U.S.

All is not lost.  Biofuels have uncounted possibilities from research to development and pilot plants busily getting closer to displacing more petroleum.   Wind is getting more mature, wind turbines are getting better and just how to use combined wind resources is getting more attention and testing might be coming soon.  Solar thermal and photovoltaic are gaining ground with solar thermal getting stronger and photovoltaic technology getting better and cheaper.  Solar is coming.

Geothermal at the small level is doing OK and could use better incentives.  Large geothermal numbers look better with each passing year. Technology is closing the gaps for deep heat extraction.  Deep hot geothermal is looking very good, still a way out there, but very good.

On the consumption side a weak economy is having its way keeping energy and fuel use in low demand – the situation won’t last – but most new equipment buyers with a bit of clean green in mind are choosing more responsible cars, furnaces and other tools.

With the biggest and most widespread market of decision makers, the light transport market looks to be the place for the most improvement.  The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf cars should sell late this year.  These are truly worthwhile choices for leading adopter buyers.  The Tesla stock sale went very well indeed.

But ‘fuel economy’ as expressed in miles per gallon can be tricky.  Going from 20 mpg to 27 as the old mandate forced brought a 35% improvement.  The new 34 mpg mandate from 27 is only 21%.  The suggestion of 44 mpg – so far unobtainable for designs most people would want to buy – would net 22% from 34 mpg.  The easy savings are already in the market – pushing more could seriously backfire.

Government, private investors and big companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP from big oil and GE, Panasonic, Hitachi, and venture capital are throwing plenty of R&D dollars at the bio fuels and electrical storage challenges. Within a few years we might be at the point where billions of incentives for advanced biofuels and electrical storage would result in hundreds of such facilities actually being built.  Why wait?  Why sunset the incentives on short leashes?

The utter ignorance of saying “begin” seems insulting across the whole of the energy and fuels market place.  Getting serious at the public mass media and political discourse level would be more worthy.  The target needs to be something along the lines of reaching the point at which the alternatives are unambiguously better/faster/cheaper than fossil oil and coal, or can at least match their cost and convenience in primary transportation and electrical power generation.  Only then could a phase out of incentives begin – for every source of energy and fuel.

This leads to the call for you to answer the insult by contacting your president, senator and congressperson and voting for some sensible discussion.

Begin?  Bah, we’re in the second quarter of the game.  The opposition is getting pretty clearly visible and it not the human genius, technology or risk money or capital – it’s the public policy mired in political maneuvering for the lowest common denominator.  It’s enough to drive the well informed to anger.  Speak up; let the media and politicians know there’s one less dope out there than they think.


Original post created by: New Energy and Fuel