The Week That Was (Oct 18, 2008) brought to you by SEPP


No TWTW on Oct 25.    lecturing in Spain


Quote of the Week:

THIS WEEK   George Bush vindicated?                           


The Daily Telegraph, 16 October 2008.

The European Union is facing a revolt from poorer members over tough climate change targets at a time when the global economy is heading for recession. 

Italy has teamed up with seven east and central European countries - Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia - to threaten a veto over Brussels legislation that implements an EU target to cut Europe's CO2 emissions 20 per cent by 2020.  Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, attacked the target as an unnecessary burden on European businesses at a time when recession was intensifying international economic competition.  "I have announced my intention to exercise my veto," he said. "We do not think that now is the time to be playing the role of Don Quixote, when the big producers of CO2, such as the United States or China, are totally against adherence to our targets."

Poland fears that its reliance on coal-fired power stations will see it unfairly squeezed and pushed to invest in expensive wind turbines, unlike France, which is dependent on nuclear energy.  "We do not say to the French that they have to close down their nuclear power industry and build windmills, and nobody can tell us the equivalent," said Donald Tusk, Poland's Prime Minister.  "We have a veto right in order to use it if there is no other possibility."

An EU text, agreed at a summit in Brussels today, has dropped all reference to four pieces of European Commission legislation required to implement the targets and has introduced a new requirement that they be "cost effective".


“In times of economic downturns, members [of Congress] are extremely reluctant to add burdens to the economy, and we're going to confront that problem.”     --John Dingell, Chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, 16 October 2008




SEPP Science Editorial #9 (10/18/08)


Why we don’t need fusion power:


Nuclear fusion of light nuclei (not fission of Uranium) is the energy source of the Sun.  Large amounts of energy are produced when hydrogen isotope (deuterium and tritium) nuclei fuse into helium.  In the Sun these reactions take place because temperatures and pressures are high.  The same process occurs in hydrogen bombs during the short periods when suitable high temperatures and pressures are created by a fission bomb. Fusion research tries to create these conditions in the laboratory to produce continuous amounts of energy.


There are at least three problems.  It has proven extremely difficult to confine unstable hydrogen plasmas through magnetic fields or other means. Secondly, the engineering problems of turning a success in the laboratory into a commercial energy-producing reactor are daunting.  And finally, we don’t really need fusion power; we have easier and probably cheaper alternatives.


The laboratory problem has engaged some of the most brilliant experimental and theoretical physicists.  I have known many of them, having worked in plasma physics at one time.  Fifty years ago, Princeton University started the Stellarator Experiment in the hope of creating a commercial fusion reactor.  Later, fusion physicists went to a different system called the Tokamak, based on a Russian design.  More recently, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, they tried to achieve the required high compression and temperature by using lasers to implode a tiny pellet containing hydrogen isotopes.  None of these schemes have worked so far in achieving a continuous reaction in which the energy output would exceed the energies used to achieve fusion reactions.  The goal of a commercial reactor always seemed 50 years away – and I expect it to continue that way for some time to come.


But do we really need fusion?  Granted that fossil fuels are being depleted and are becoming more costly and will someday become impractically expensive, we have many good alternatives.  Even before we go to massive installations of wind or solar energy, we have the standard nuclear fission reactor based on uranium.  It is relatively cheap, it is safe, and it works.  The cost of raw uranium will undoubtedly increase as high-grade deposits are depleted.  But as we use up the fissionable U-235 isotope there’s more than 100 times as much non-fissionable U-238 available in convenient form, which can be turned into fissionable plutonium by neutron bombardment in a “breeder” reactor and used as a reactor fuel.




1.  Michigan sacrifices Prosperity for the sake of Planet 


2.  Dingell-Boucher global warming bill: Where the money will go


3.  Consensus Watch  (a satire)


4.  Europe follows laser fusion track


5.  Renault bets on Electric Vehicles


6.  Environmental guilt and carbon offsets


7.  The Sceptics Handbook


8.  And finally, Obama, CO2 controls, and IPCC





The rush towards biofuels is threatening world food production and the lives of billions of people, the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser said yesterday. Professor John Beddington put himself at odds with ministers who have committed Britain to large increases in the use of biofuels over the coming decades. In his first important public speech since he was appointed, he described the potential impacts of food shortages as the "elephant in the room" and a problem which rivaled that of climate change.
     --The Times, 7 March 2008

In the pantheon of well-intentioned governmental policies gone awry, massive ethanol biofuel production may go down as one of the biggest blunders in history. An unholy alliance of environmentalists, agribusiness, biofuel corporations and politicians has been touting ethanol as the cure to all our environmental ills, when in fact it may be doing more harm than good. An array of unintended consequences is wreaking havoc on the economy, food production and, perhaps most ironically, the environment.
     --Cinnamon Stillwell, San Francisco Chronicle, 2 April 2008

Book review:  Just about the most sensible statement about the whole gamut of global warming issues, summarizing the science, economics, and even some of the psychology that's driving the current madness. The best antidote to Al Gore's nonsense. It should be required reading for politicians  everywhere before they ruin their national economies by hasty actions and perversely irrational energy policies. I look forward to reading   An Appeal To Reason: A Cool Look At Global Warming by Nigel Lawson   






by Henry Payne, Oct 9, 2008]

Detroit — Top climatologist James Hansen endorses anti-industry vandalism to fight global warming and, as noted below, Reuters reports that atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen sees a global financial meltdown as environmentally beneficial.  “If we are looking at a slowdown in the economy,” says the Nobel Prize winner, “there will be less fossil fuels burning, so for the climate it could be an advantage.” 

A round-trip ticket from Planet Gore to a little place called Michigan, Planet Earth, might be sobering for these “scientific experts.”  Crutzen would find that Michigan has been way out front — if that’s the right term — of the rest of the U.S. in slowing its economy and healing the Earth by reducing greenhouse gases. Since 2000, the state has hemorrhaged 460,000 jobs while its unemployment rate has ballooned from 3.2 percent to 8.9 percent. Last year, the city of Detroit recorded the highest rate of home foreclosures in the nation. How advantageous to the climate!

The result of all this slowing down has been a nation-leading reduction in carbon emissions as a direct result of lost jobs and population.

But Michigan citizens are hardly cheering the “advantages” this has brought to Mother Earth. Rather than vandalizing CO2-producing industries as Professor Hansen might preach, the state (led by a green Democratic governor, in fact) has showered over $100 million in tax breaks on carbon-producing manufacturers in a desperate attempt to keep jobs in state.

Crutzen concedes that sacrificing economic prosperity on the green altar might sound “cruel.” Yes, and the idea that two leading scientists seriously discuss things like vandalism and the benefits of financial meltdown only shows how silly the global warming movement really is.



By Chris Horner

Here's where all of that purchasing power you are now acknowledged as about to lose under the Dingell-Boucher global warming bill is set to go.  Although it goes to pretty extreme lengths in the form of obtuse legislative language to hide what’s actually going on in their allocation of where the ration coupons will — that is, how many under each of four options are reserved for purposes of effective taxation — they do make clear that the money raised will be a lot.

After all, how else could you fill all of these coffers:

‘‘(a) FUNDS ESTABLISHED.—There are established in the Treasury of the United States the following funds:
‘‘(1) The Climate Change Management Fund.
‘‘(2) The National Energy Efficiency Fund.
‘‘(3) The Low Income Consumer Climate Change Rebate Fund.
‘‘(4) The Consumer Climate Change Rebate Fund.
‘‘(5) The Supplemental Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
‘‘(6) The Low-Carbon Technology Fund.
‘‘(7) The Green Jobs Fund.
‘‘(8) The National Climate Change Adaptation Fund.
‘‘(9) The Natural Resource Climate Change Adaptation Fund.

‘‘(10) The International Clean Technology and Adaptation Fund.
‘‘(11) The Strategic Reserve Fund.

3.  CONSENSUS WATCH  (a satire)

October 09, 2008

An ongoing series dedicated to vigorously monitoring emerging threats to The Consensus that global warming is real, caused by humans, and must be addressed immediately if we are to forestall cataclysm. After all, without consensus, scientific conclusions would remain vulnerable to new data and alternative hypotheses that better fit recorded observations!

The Consensus has come under assault from a familiar foe.  At a recent presentation before the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Roy W. Spencer, Principal Research Scientist at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, demonstrated how testing current climate models against actual satellite data reveals fatal flaws underlying the assumptions regarding the feedback mechanisms related to heat capture, CO2 and cloud formation.

This is a standard smear tactic used by global warming deniers, in which they take observed data and apply it in a straightforward manner to reach verifiable conclusions.

Okay, that doesn’t sound as bad when you say it out loud.  However, we’ve already established that The Consensus is true, so the real question is not so much how do we subject it to critical examination that may yield superior climate models and in so doing generate information that could be better acted upon by policy makers, it’s how do we defend it from any and all criticism.

Fortunately, Al Gore has two suggestions on how to better shore up the science underlying The Consensus:

·  Vandalism: Al Gore has called for civil disobedience to stop the construction of new coal plants that do not incorporate carbon sequestration, a process by which coal plants are made too expensive to build. (So it’s sort of a win-win.) This kind of direct action skips the laborious, time-consuming process of building political support among the citizenry, who, let’s face it, clearly do not recognize the size and magnitude of the problem Al Gore is still having getting over the 2000 election.

·  Suppression: Al Gore has also called on attorneys-general across the country to prosecute public companies for committing stock fraud if they challenge The Consensus. People who might object to using state law enforcement to suppress dissenting views clearly lack an understanding of the history of scientific inquiry:

If someone as revered as Galileo can face criminal prosecution for challenging the prevailing consensus, then who are we too argue?

Of course, Galileo lived in what we now refer to as the Golden Age of Consensus Enforcement. It makes our attempts at intimidation look feeble in comparison.  Sure, you can threaten to strip someone of their scientific certification.  But you know what would be better? Threatening to imprison them for life.  Sometimes it’s that little extra bit that helps to get you over the top.

Now, yes, you could argue that Galileo happened to be, in the strictest technical sense of the word, correct, regarding the motions of the planets, but that’s not really the point.  The point is that we need a similar enforcement mechanism to get Richard Lindzen to sign something like this:

I, Richard Lindzen, having before my eyes and touching with my hands, the Fourth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2007, swear that I have always believed, do believe, and by Al Gore's help will in the future believe, all that is held, preached, and taught by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But whereas -- after an injunction had been judicially intimated to me by the United Nations, to the effect that I must altogether abandon the false opinion that the sun is possibly a greater contributor to climate change than anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and that I must not hold, defend, or teach in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing, the said false doctrine.

Therefore, I, the said Richard Lindzen, have abjured, sworn, promised, and bound myself as above; and in witness of the truth thereof I have with my own hand subscribed the present document of my abjuration, and recited it word for word at Al Gore’s mansion, in the state of Tennessee, this ninth day of October, 2008.

Now that’s how you set someone straight, old-school.


By Jonathan Amos, Science reporter, BBC News


An experimental facility could be built towards the end of the next decade.  An alternative fusion project has been kicked off in Europe that would seek abundant clean energy using a colossal laser the size of a football stadium.  The laser would tap the energy by squeezing together atoms of hydrogen - a process very similar to the one that powers the Sun.


Europe is already engaged in the ITER fusion venture that aims for the same outcome but via magnetic compression.  The Hiper programme is seen as a necessary complementary route.  The technical challenge of making fusion happen, however, is huge; and a viable solution has eluded scientists for 50 years.

The Hiper (High Power Laser Energy Research) study has been instigated by the European Commission and involves the participation of 26 institutions from 10 countries. Keys players are the UK, the Czech Republic and France.  The intention is to establish the practicalities of building an experimental facility to demonstrate so-called Inertially Confined Fusion Energy.

This would see a high-powered laser-pulse compress a ball-bearing-sized pellet of "heavy" hydrogen - the atomic forms, or isotopes, known as deuterium and tritium - to achieve a density 30 times that of lead. A second pulse of light would then raise the temperature in the compressed pellet to more than 100 million Celsius.  In these conditions, the hydrogen nuclei would fuse to form helium. According to theory, a small amount of mass would be lost and a colossal amount of energy would be released.

The "proof of principle" of laser fusion is anticipated in the next few years based on two very large-scale lasers currently nearing completion - at the National Ignition Facility in California, US, and at Laser Megajoule in Bordeaux, France.  It is hoped these facilities will show in single experimental events that more energy can be got out of the process than is required to initiate it.

Hiper's role will be to demonstrate the technical practicalities of exploiting the principle, of turning those single events into a continuous cycle that will make commercial power plants are reality.  Last week, the legal documentation was signed to start the current phase of Hiper. It is being funded with 13m euros of hard cash and approximately 50m euros of what is termed in-kind assistance - the provision of hardware and expertise from member parties.

Assuming all goes well, the feasibility study will be followed by a period of prototyping, leading to the building of a demonstration unit towards the end of the next decade.  The timescales involved are not dissimilar to the other type of fusion now being pursued by the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, under construction at Cadarache in France.  It will try to initiate fusion in a super-heated volume of gas constrained by magnetic fields in a doughnut-shaped vessel.



The French carmaker doubts that hybrids can reduce emissions sufficiently.

By Peter Fairley, October 09, 2008


Might the most fuel-efficient vehicles in mass production--powerful hybrids, such as Toyota's Prius, which can run on either gasoline or electricity--already be destined for the science museum? That's the argument that French carmaker Renault is making at the Mondial de l'Automobile, the giant auto show running in Paris this week. Renault says that it is engineering a pair of battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs), to be produced starting in 2011, that it claims will be cheaper to build, cost markedly less to power, and produce far less carbon dioxide.

Renault's vision for electric cars is small vehicles principally designed for commuting. At the Paris show, Renault unveiled a concept car showing the design of a compact EV commuter car: an EV version of its Kangoo utility van, with startling acid-green windows to minimize air conditioning and a lithium-ion battery that carries the van 160 to 200 kilometers on an average charge. That range "really covers the usage by our customers, who are using their cars only for commuting and maybe short trips during the weekend," says Renault EV project director Serge Yoccoz. As a result, he predicts that such EVs could capture from 10 to 15 percent of the European car market as early as 2015. (Hybrids currently command just 2 percent of auto sales worldwide.)

Renault won't be the first to test the commuter market with battery EVs. Mitsubishi Motors announced in Paris last week that it will begin testing its i-MiEV minicar in Europe next month with a view to commercial sales by 2010. Daimler, meanwhile, said that a battery version of its popular Smart Fortwo, in testing in London since last year, will be sold starting at the end of 2009.

Renault says that EVs are a necessity because hybrids cannot deliver the level of gasoline use and emissions reductions that governments and customers are demanding of automakers. The EV is the breakthrough required because, according to Renault, driving the EV Kangoo displayed in Paris generates zero carbon dioxide when charged with renewable energy, and no more than 60 grams per kilometer when charged on today's coal-heavy power grids; when charging in France, carbon-dioxide emissions would be somewhere in between because nuclear power provides 80 percent of France's electricity. Any of those scenarios compares well with the more than 130 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer coming out the tailpipe of Renault's diesel-fueled Kangoos, which are relatively efficient vehicles for their class.

Lithium batteries for Renault's first round of products, at least, will come from a joint venture of Japan's Nissan, with which Renault is partnering on EV technology development, and NEC. Newer lithium technologies have eclipsed the performance of the joint venture's manganese-based lithium-ion chemistry, but Yoccoz says that the Nissan-NEC process is one of the cheapest.

Renault bets that ultimately, the relative simplicity of battery EVs should make them cheaper than plug-in hybrids such as General Motors' Chevy Volt, a vehicle that GM plans to launch in 2010 that will couple a commuter-range battery that can be charged overnight with a gasoline engine-generator to sustain the vehicle on longer trips. "Putting two engines in a car is . . . more complicated, and it's more expensive," says Yoccoz. "Even including infrastructure costs, the electric vehicle is still a better proposition from an economical point of view."

But the downside to Renault's plan is, of course, vehicle range. "We're not talking about holidays," acknowledges Yoccoz. Frank Weber, GM's global vehicle line executive for the Chevy Volt--one of the few full hybrids on display in Paris--calls that a trap: "You don't want to be in exactly this corner where you say, 'Here's this purpose-built little car.'"

Weber predicts that while most drivers don't go very far on a typical day, they will still expect more from a car. He says that EV commuter cars with limited range will remain a niche market, and therefore will never reach the scale needed to bring down costs--especially important when it comes to still-pricey lithium-ion batteries. "Electric vehicles are not a good choice," says Weber.

Yoccoz says that's precisely why automakers that are talking up EVs, such as Renault, Mitsubishi, and Mercedes, are also working to catalyze the installation of charging stations. Renault is working with Project Better Place, based in Palo Alto, CA, to install charging stations in Denmark and Israel, where the company will market its first EVs, starting with the Kangoo and an EV version of an as yet unreleased sedan called the Fluence, targeted at the Israeli market. Daimler, meanwhile, established a partnership with German utility RWE last month to install 500 EV charging points in Berlin, where the carmaker will deploy more than 100 of its EV Smart Fortwos. And this week, Paris said that it would make 4,000 EVs available on its streets in 2010 through an automobile version of Velib, its popular bike-rental program.

Helping to accelerate the development of that charging infrastructure and pushing governments to reward development of ultra-clean vehicles is what Yoccoz calls his second and third jobs. "With our usual products, the main job is to find the customers, define what their needs are, and then find a product for their needs," he says. "What we have to do on top of that for the electric vehicle is really redefine a business model."


By David A. Farendtholt, The Washington Post, 6 October 2008

This is strange territory. The Dow is down. Wall Street needs a bailout. But in the Washington area and across the country, there is still a bull market in environmental guilt.

Sales of carbon offsets -- whose buyers pay hard cash to make amends for their sins against the climate -- are up. Still. In some cases, the prices have actually been climbing.  In other words, when nearly everything seems to be selling for less, thousands of individuals and businesses are paying more for nothing, or at least nothing tangible.

Experts say this is possible, in part, for economic reasons: The financial crisis has not yet reached those upper-middle-class consumers who are willing to pay $12 to offset a cross-country flight, $80 for a wedding or $400-plus for a year of life.

But there is also a cultural factor, the legacy of a complicated decade defined by a "green" awakening and a national splurge in consumer spending. Many people have learned to pay to lessen their climate shame -- and, at least for now, they don't think of it as a luxury purchase.

"I was feeling really guilty because I was basically traveling to three continents in the last month: 'I've spent basically six days on an airplane. I've got to fix this,' " said Michael Sheets, 27, who lives in the District's Logan Circle neighborhood.  So a few days ago, Sheets paid $240 to a Silver Spring-based vendor,, choosing its offsets because they were more than $100 cheaper than a comparable package from another offset seller. He got back an e-mail saying that the 52,920 pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions attributable to him for the entire year, including his trips to Trinidad, Thailand and Argentina, had been canceled out.  "I feel much better about it," said Sheets, human resources director for an online-education company in Northern Virginia. "I don't feel as guilty about flying to Vegas tomorrow for the weekend."

On the surface, offsets sound like a simple transaction. Generally, the buyer uses an online tool to calculate the carbon footprint -- the amount of harmful emissions -- of a car, a flight or a year's activities. Then the buyer pays an offset vendor to cancel out that footprint. This is done through projects that stop emissions from occurring or remove pollutants from the air.

Some offsets are sold like stocks on the Chicago Climate Exchange. Other groups sell them directly to consumers. One study last year found that offset prices ranged from $1.80 per ton of emissions to $300, with most about $6.10.

Watchdog groups say offset vendors sometimes do not deliver what they promise. Some offset projects, such as mass tree plantings aimed at absorbing carbon dioxide, deliver climate benefits that are difficult to measure. In other cases, it is unclear whether offsets funnel money to existing projects or to projects that might have been done anyway.  Despite those concerns -- and despite continuing turmoil in world financial markets -- offset sales are strong. And offsets are selling for more.

Carbon offsets are all the rage for some. They’re like papal dispensation for the environmentally concerned who just have to get to Vail right away in their G5.

Here’s Bloomberg’s recent summary of a new GAO report:

The supply of offsets from projects that produce clean energy or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere reached 10.2 million tons in 2007, 65 percent more than 2004, according to a report today from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. There is no broad federal oversight of the offset market and limited protection for consumers, the report said.

Buyers of U.S. carbon offsets, credits that represent greenhouse gas reductions, need greater assurance that their purchase will lead to actual cuts in global warming gases 

Review by E. Calvin Beisner, National Spokesman, Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation


Joanne Nova, a Ph.D. in meteorology, believed in manmade warming by carbon dioxide emissions from 1990-2007.  But not any more.  She is now convinced that the evidence is conclusive: carbon dioxide, whatever its contribution to the overall greenhouse effect, is a bit player in temperature changes and responds to rather than driving them. 


That's the thrust of The Sceptics Handbook.  It might be the clearest, simplest, best-organized critique of global warming alarmism yet produced. It offers what she calls "the strategies and tools you need to cut through the red-herrings, and avoid the traps."

Don’t fall for the ‘complexity’ argument, or accept vague answers. The climate is complex, but the only thing that matters here is whether adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will make the world much warmer.


Everything hinges on this one question. If carbon dioxide is not a significant cause, then carbon sequestration, cap ‘n trade, emissions trading, and the Kyoto agreement are a waste of time and money. All of them divert resources away from things that matter -- like finding a cure for cancer, or feeding Somali babies. Having a real debate IS the best thing for the environment.

Nova recommends what she calls "the surgical strike":

1. Stick to the four points that matter. There is only one question and four points worth discussing. Every time you allow the conversation to stray, you get stuck in a dead end, and miss the chance to definitively expose the lack of evidence that carbon is ‘bad’.


2. Ask questions. Non believers don’t have to prove anything. Sceptics are not asking the world for money or power. Believers need to explain their case, so let them do the talking. As long as the question you asked doesn’t get resolved, repeat it.


3. Greenhouse and global warming are different. Don’t let people confuse global warming with greenhouse gases. Mixing these two different topics has confounded the debate. Proof of global warming is not proof that greenhouse gases caused that warming.


4. Deal with the bully-boy. It’s entirely reasonable to ask for evidence. If you are met with dismissive, intimidatory, or bullying behavior, don’t ignore it. Ask them why they’re not willing to explain their case. In scientific discussions, no theory is sacrosanct. Taboos belong in religions.

What are "the only four points that matter"? According to Nova:

1. The greenhouse signature is missing. Weather balloons have scanned the skies for years but can find no sign of the telltale ‘hot-spot’ warming pattern that greenhouse gases would leave. There’s not even a hint.... Something else caused the warming.


2. The strongest evidence was the ice cores, but newer more detailed data turned the theory inside out. Instead of carbon pushing up temperatures, for the last half a million years temperatures have gone up before carbon dioxide levels. On average 800 years before. This totally threw what we thought was cause-and-effect out the window. Something else caused the warming.


3. Temperatures are not rising. Satellites circling the planet twice a day show that the world has not warmed since 2001. How many more years of NO global warming will it take? While temperatures have been flat, CO2 has been rising, BUT something else has changed the trend. The computer models don’t know what it is.


4. Carbon dioxide is already doing almost all the warming it can do. Adding twice the CO2 doesn’t make twice the difference. The first CO2 molecules matter a lot. But extra ones have less and less effect. In fact carbon levels have been ten times as high in the past, but the world still slipped into an ice age. Carbon today is a bit-part player.