|The Week That Was
December 14, 2002
1. LEADING ECONOMISTS WANT A FULL REVIEW OF THE UN'S 100-YEAR ECONOMIC
MODELS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE, which they say contain "material errors"
that invalidate temperature forecasts
2. A BETTER ROUTE FOR ALASKA NATURAL GAS is through Canada
3. SOME PROBLEMS WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY (BIOMASS AND WIND)
4. GREENS WANT ACTION ON CLIMATE NOT RESEARCH: BUT THE SCIENCE DOES NOT SUPPORT KYOTO
5. AN APPEAL FOR FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF SEPP
2. The best way to bring Alaskan gas to the US is through Canada
Critics sighed with relief that the expiring Congress did not pass an energy bill. Among the items in the bill facing widespread opposition were a mandate and subsidies for an environmentally and economically challenged natural gas pipeline through Alaska.
The bill would have required that a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope of Alaska follow a route south to Fairbanks, then along the Alaska Highway into the Yukon Territory, across British Columbia and into Alberta. The Senate version of the bill included tax subsidies of between $15 billion and $45 billion -- subsidies opposed by the American Conservative Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Environmental Trust.
· However, this would require a separate pipeline for gas from the Mackenzie Delta of Canada, and neither line is considered economically viable by itself.
· Current reserves for the two fields are 35 trillion cubic feet in Alaska and 6 trillion cubic feet in Canada, with the exploration potential of another 160 trillion cubic feet.
An alternative proposal by Arctic Resources Co., according to chairman Forrest E. Hoglund, would have the pipeline run offshore from the Alaskan reserves to the Mackenzie River Delta and then through the Mackenzie River Valley to the existing natural gas pipeline interconnects near Edmonton. Among the advantages of that route, according to Hoglund:
· It is about half of the distance and roughly half the cost of Alaska's two-pipeline scheme.
· It is a better environmental route, would be faster to build and wouldn't cause conflict between Canada and the United States.
· It wouldn't require any subsidies from either country.
Source: Forrest Hoglund (Arctic Resources Co.), "High-cost gas pipeline undercuts energy project," Dallas Morning News, November 16, 2002.
3. Energy expert attacks John Holdren's unrealistic energy proposals (Letter to Editor, Issues in Science and Technology)
Much of John P. Holdren's piece on "Searching for a National Energy Policy" will not stand scrutiny. He proposes that we free up much of the natural gas from the electric grid with non-hydro renewables. The "high renewables" case from the EIA projection for 2020 is cited as "conservative".
The biomass projection calls for 107 billion kWh per year. We have had much experience with biomass conversion to electricity here in Maine. A van of chips (8 ft by 13 ft by 40 ft) will contain about 30 tons. About four pounds are required to generate one kWh. Each van will haul the biomass required to generate about 15,000 kWh. The 107 billion kWh per year will require about seven million van loads of biomass on US roads each year. One thing Dr. Holdren does not tell us: the EIA projection he uses calls for a national electric load of 4.8 trillion kWh per year (in the year 2020). Those 7,000,000 van loads of biomass will supply 22 out of every thousand kWh we will consume. Not much.
The proposal for wind generation is equally bizarre. The Boundary Mountains in western Maine form one of the best wind sites in the US. In 1994 Kenetech Wind Power Inc. proposed placing 639 machines on the mountain ridge. Each was on a 100-ft tower with a rotor 108 ft in diameter. The proposal suggested 570 million kWh per year could be generated. (In round numbers that is one million kWh from each machine each year.) Dr. Holdren suggest as "conservative" the generation of 65 billion kWh per year from wind. That is 65,000 Kenetech machines! The net effect: 14 out of each 1000 kWh needed.
So there you have it. Roll seven million van loads of biomass on our roads, put up sixty-five thousand wind machines with 108 ft diameter rotors on one hundred foot towers and what do you get: three percent of US electricity!
Dr. Holden's credentials are impressive: Professor of Environmental policy, Director of the program on Science, Harvard, Kennedy School, etc. As a commitment to such credentials I guess that one requirement is to wear politically correct dancing slippers and waltz around the nuclear issue.
Very truly yours
Richard C. Hill
4. As expected, Bush climate research plan sparks debate
The United States and international science leaders met in Washington this week [Dec 3-5] for a three-day long conference to review a draft plan for two to four years of additional U.S. research into the global warming and climate change phenomenon. Officials insist the research is necessary to make the right policy decisions administration.
But critics say the prolonged study of the issue is the administration's way of avoiding holding oil companies, refineries and utility plants accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions. They point to the multi-year window for additional research as a way of pushing the issue out of the public spotlight until after Bush's 2004 re-election bid and possibly into the following midterm congressional races.
Within his first six months in office, Bush pulled out of international
global climate change talks and reversed his campaign vow to reduce carbon
emissions. The departure from the Kyoto Protocol for Climate Change treaty
negotiations drew sharp criticism from the international community, which
ratified the pact without U.S. support or participation.
Critics call the administration's approach "paralysis by analysis" and said the summit was being touted as the next step in its plan to address climate change. "They're trying to sell the conference as some sort of action," said an official with a nonprofit climate change group who asked not to be identified.
It would not be the first time the Bush White House has choreographed a major conference or summit in an effort to redirect awareness on a particular issue. In the past six months, the administration has staged conferences on corporate fraud, minority homeownership, child protection -- all of which drew media attention but which resulted in little substantive action on the issues covered.
Scott McClellan, deputy White House press secretary, told United Press International that the United States has spent an unprecedented amount of money, $4 billion annually, on climate change research and activities.
"No other nation has matched that," McClellan said. Bush has called for an 18 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and has urged the development and use of clean energy technologies, McClellan said.
While the Bush administration has pumped a considerable amount of cash into the climate change debate, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that oil, gas, coal and electric utility companies contributed a more than $37 million during the 2002 election cycle. They contributed some $27.2 million to the Republican Party and $9.7 million to the Democrats.
Benjamin Prescott, senior research fellow with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, told UPI that additional research is necessary, but that the administration has taken existing programs and policies and are "dressing them up" as new initiatives.
"They've shuffled titles and initiatives and called it a new program," Prescott said.
Many of the scientists participating in the three-day effort did take the opportunity at face value, making suggestions to refocus the proposed research in a number of ways including more study of the interaction of the sort of pollution that causes the haze over cities and other emissions that are widely accepted as causing global warming. Other suggestions included a more specific look at what happens in smaller regions of the world not just grand swaths of the planet.
Even so, some scientists voiced concern at the delay in taking action. Addressing a session on emerging science issues, Warren Washington, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Chair of the National Science Board, said no level of emissions was safe.
Washington told UPI that one of the questions being discussed was whether certain levels of greenhouse gases might be safe -- with the implication that levels like 550 or 750 parts per million will be reached at some point.
It would be great if you could wait until then, said Washington, "but my point is that when you put a molecule of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it stays there for 90 years to 100 years." In his personal opinion, he said "we should start doing something now. ... I feel we should get started even though we don't have all the answers at this point."
Part of what is driving the administration approach is anxiety over the economic implications. Top administration officials told reporters at briefing last week that economic analysis would be very much a part of the research plan. Developing new technologies to solve the problem was consistently pointed to at this week's meeting as key to solving the problem.
U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told the scientists during a speech delivered late Tuesday afternoon that Bush made climate change a priority but the challenge was to develop a program that accomplished its goals.
"The best way to slow and halt greenhouse gas (emissions) is with emerging technologies," Abraham said.
Prescott called Abraham's speech "tragic."
"He was trying to convince a roomful of scientists that the administration's position was sufficient to address this problem," Prescott said. "But everyone in the room knew better. It was a much more savvy audience than he expected."
Abraham maintained that any solution should take U.S. economic growth into consideration and a "draconian" approach to the problem would have drastic economic repercussions. The White House said the Kyoto treaty would have put some 4.9 million Americans out of work.
"I roll my eyes when I hear we can't address climate change without crippling the economy," said Prescott.
Prescott said reasonable steps could be taken to regulate emissions that would become more stringent overtime. He agreed that government would have to be careful about implementing new regulations, but said it could be done without shocking the economy.
Frank Maisano, an industry consultant, said climate change continues to be a changing science and that more could be learned about its effects. He said Kyoto was not the right approach and that industry is voluntarily taking a more serious action on the problem of emissions.
"There is always going to be that group that says we need to take dramatic action right now," Maisano said. But the slower approach may be better, he said. Technology should be allowed to "make the strides it needs to make."
Maisano said environmental groups would use the climate change issue as a fundraising tool with clever catch phrases, but will never address energy technology
"Some people will look at this on a political timeline," said Maisano, who is also the former spokesman for the now defunct Global Climate Coalition, a group that represented more than 6 million businesses in agriculture and forestry and including electric utilities, railroads, transportation, manufacturing, mining, oil, and coal.
5. AN APPEAL FOR FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF SEPP
If you have enjoyed reading our TWTW during the past year, please consider sending a check to support our project:
Highlights of 2002:
During 2002, SEPP concentrated its efforts on the issue of global warming. We demonstrated the lack of any scientific basis for mandatory restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide (and energy use), as would be required by the Kyoto treaty that was actively promoted by the past administration. President Bush has labeled Kyoto as "fatally flawed" and the U.S. has refused to support it.
In addition to some two dozen seminar lectures at universities and scientific conferences during 2002, SEPP also organized a scientific briefing on global warming at the Capitol in Washington, DC and at the University of Munich. The briefing team included SEPP president Fred Singer and several European climate scientists. We also participated in a briefing to Canadian media in Ottawa.
SEPP was founded in 1992 by atmospheric physicist S.Fred Singer, professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and former chief scientist of the Department of Transportation. SEPP chairman is Dr. Frederick Seitz, president emeritus of Rockefeller University and former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The board includes distinguished scientists from many countries.
All our scientists, officers and board members work on a pro-bono basis and do not receive salaries or fees.
SEPP does not solicit support from either government or industry but relies on private donations and occasional foundation grants.
SEPP is a 501-c-3-educational/research organization, incorporated in
Virginia. All contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent of the
law. Documentation will be provided for donations of $250 and higher,
or upon request.