Ted Cruz Misses an Opportunity to Nail Climate Alarmists

October 11, 2015

by Avi Davis

The climate debate kicked into high gear this week when on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz, clashed swords with Sierra Club president Aaron Mair at a Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee hearing on the impact of climate change on minorities.  Cruz, a seasoned prosecutor, made mincemeat out of Mair, who seemed entirely unprepared for Cruz’s questioning, falling back repeatedly on the Sierra Club’s position that 97% of climate scientists around the world support the claim of anthropogenic global warming and that the science is settled.  Time and again Cruz challenged Mair to admit that satellite data over the past 18 years shows no credible evidence of a change in global temperatures and that it has forced global warming alarmists to retreat to the claim that there has been an  unexpected “pause” in the projected rise in temperatures.

Cruz was relentless in demanding to know whether the Sierra Club would agree to retract its statements and change its policy if this satellite data were proven to be correct.  Mair, who seemed uncomfortable and not at all confident of his position, whispered constantly to an aide who furnished him with the only answer he could muster: ” The Sierra Club’s position remains that anthropogenic global warming is settled science and is validated by a majority (97%) of world scientists.”

The questioning and stonewalling from Mair grew so preposterous that it looked as though the Sierra Club was under cross examination and had reverted to its Fifth Amendment protections, so as not to incriminate itself.

This was the point at which Cruz failed to press his advantage.  The obvious next question to the floundering Mair should have been: “Well where did you get that figure of 97%?”  It is a figure, after all, relied upon, not only by the Sierra Club, but by the President of the United States, his Secretary of State, the entire Democratic Party, the media, academia and the environmental NGOs who relentlessly spew it as unassailable proof that the world is being catastrophically warmed by man-made activities.

But where does the figure actually come from?  Surely someone, at some point, must have conducted a survey or study to produce it?

Well, indeed, they had – and not just once.   One is a 2004 opinion piece by Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes, published in Science Magazine, which claimed that of the abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, 75% supported the view that man-made activities were responsible for most of the observed warming of the earth’s atmosphere over the past 50 years. But Oreskes’ essay failed to note whether any of these abstracts at all determined that the warming was “dangerous”and it did not contain any reference to world renowned climatologists such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer,  Sherwood Idso  or Fred Singer.  Forgotten also by Orekes, was that abstracts of academic articles often fail to be substantiated by the body of the article they preface. Since she didn’t apparently read the articles she could not have truly  known what they did or did not support.

Then there was a 2009 article in Eos, by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, supported by her thesis adviser Peter Doran, who reported, in her master’s thesis, the results of a two question on-line survey which found that 97% of scientists surveyed agreed that global temperatures had risen over the past 50 years and that human activity had been a contributing factor.  But the survey failed to question its respondents as to  whether the human factor was sufficient to constitute a problem for the future of the planet.  And more importantly, only 79 respondents claimed an expertise in climate science.  This was out of a total of 3,146 total respondents!

Another student, William R. Love Anderegg, this time at Stanford University, conducted a survey in 2010 through Google Scholar of 200 of the most prolific writers on climate change and found that ” 97% to 98% agreed that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for ‘most’ of the unequivocal warming.” But once again, how much of a danger this posed to the earth’s atmosphere was not determined.  And of course the fact that only 200 out of the tens of thousands of climate scientists world wide were surveyed, was not dispositive of much at all.

Then of course there is the U.N’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which issues reports every six years and claims to represent the views and opinions of 2,500 climatologists world wide.  Its reports have been the basis of the claim that world wide scientific opinion accepts that greenhouse gases have been the single greatest contributor to the rise of the Earth’s temperature over the past 50 years.  And yet, in its Fifth Assessment Report, issued in 2013, only a handful of those 2,500 had reviewed research having to do with the key question: how much of the increase in world temperatures over the past 50 years was due to man-made activities?.  Only a paltry 41 authors and editors in the crucial fifth chapter of the Report had addressed anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing.

Forgotten, neglected or discredited by the alarmists are other surveys which have come to opposing conclusions as those of the students at Stanford University and the University of Illinois.  In 2010, two German scientists, Dennis Bray and Hans van Storch found that most scientists disagree with the “consensus ” on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and the projections of computer models.  A 2012 survey by the American Meteorological Society found that only 39.5% of its 1,854 members accepted that man made global warming is even dangerous.

The Heartland Institute, based in Chicago, has now organized nine international conferences ( two of which I have attended) which have brought together a very wide selection of scientists from a  variety of backgrounds around the world to discuss and debate anthropogenic global warming.  Their consensus has been that in fact not only has global warming abated, but that man made activities contributed little to it and that the measures now being recommended by our own government, most academic institutions and other activist NGOs, (such as the Sierra Club) would do little to nothing to reverse nor forestall climate change either now or in the foreseeable future.

This, then, is the material Senator Ted Cruz had at his disposal to sweep the floor with the Sierra Club and its highly politicized agenda which aims at saddling mankind ( read- the developed nations of the world) with the responsibility for the allegedly manmade catastrophic damage to our climate.  It was an opportunity invidiously lost.

Nevertheless, those in the vanguard of the effort to expose Global Warming propaganda for what it truly is – an attempt at global wealth redistribution and an opportunity for a small cadre of opportunists to make a great deal of money – should not hesitate to press again and again on the issue of where, exactly, the alarmists come up with their 97% figure.

Curiously enough, that would make for a far more conclusive debate and authoritative finding than anything that could be finally settled about climate change.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone.  In 2010 he organized the international conference Big Footprint: Is Green the New Tyranny?which took place at UCLA in Los Angeles.


There Will Be Oil

December 7, 2014

Anyone who grew up in the Sixties knows how Jed Clampett found oil.   The southern hillbilly, out shooting rabbits on his property in East Texas, had one of his bullets glance off a rock which then released a cap on a thundering oil flue.  As the gusher shot into the atmosphere, Jed had to be informed by his family about the exact value of, well, ‘Texas Tea’

And the next thing you know ol’ Jed’s a millionaire……..

If only oil exploration was that simple.  Today we know that oil deposits are buried thousands of feet below the surface and that sophisticated equipment must be used to both locate the deposits and then extract the oil.  Eighty percent of our economy is dependent on oil – and will be for the forseeable future –  but for years we have been told that we are going to exhaust the Earth’s natural  supply.  The ” Theory of Peak Oil” took hold of many engineers worldwide and was loudly amplified by environmental activists.   Take this 2007 assessment from  the Institution of Mechanical Engineers:

” There are an estimated 1.3 trillion barrels of proven oil reserve left in the world’s major fields, which at present rates of consumption will be sufficient to last 40 years.

By 2040, production levels may be down to 15 million barrels per day – around 20% of what we currently consume. It is likely by then that the world’s population will be twice as large, and more of it industrialized (and therefore oil dependent).

First developed  in the 1950s by petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert, peak oil theory held that any individual oil field (or oil-producing country) will experience a high rate of production growth during initial development, when drills are first inserted into a oil-bearing reservoir. Later, growth will slow, as the most readily accessible resources have been drained and a greater reliance has to be placed on less productive deposits. At this point—usually when about half the resources in the reservoir (or country) have been extracted—daily output reaches a maximum, or “peak,” level and then begins to subside. Of course, the field or fields will continue to produce even after peaking, but ever more effort and expense will be required to extract what remains. Eventually, the cost of production will exceed the proceeds from sales, and extraction will be terminated.

Of course Peak Oil  Theory was completely turned on its head five years ago when the shale oil revolution hit  North America.  Hydraulic fracturing (famously known as ” fracking”)  as well as horizontal drilling are the new technologies which have allowed drillers to tap dense, previous inaccessible shale deposits.  Because of this revolution, daily world supply has surged to 1. 2 million barrels a day, an increase  of 400,000 units over 2012 daily production.  And its is only going up.

The incredible boost in world supply has  had the shock of bringing the price per oil barrel down as well, dropping almost by half to now a current $65 per barrel.  And of course this may come down much further as the global glut forces more countries to sell their oil at lower and lower prices.  We have already begun to see this reality at our local gas stations.  Here in California, the price of gas in the most expensive areas in edging down below $3.00 a barrel ( from a peak of $4.85) and in some parts of the country, gasoline is selling at less than $2.50 a gallon. 

The geopolitical consequences of this development are staggering.

The first to feel the bite will be Russia.  Only six years ago, the Russian economy was going through a decade-long boom, allowing Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin to enlarge subsidies, social transfers, government salaries and embarking  on massive development programs including the exorbitant Sochi Olympics.

However rising consumer prices and the closure of markets in the West  is having a severe impact on the average income of Russian citizens who are also fearing that the rapidly devaluing rouble could wipe out their savings. In his annual “Nation Speech” on Thursday, Putin blamed the West for trying to stymie Russia’s growth, even comparing the West’s policy with that of Hitler, and promising Russia would persevere. But even he acknowledged the dire situation when he offered “amnesty” to Russian businessmen who in recent months have transferred at least 100 billion dollars of assets out of the country.   The flight of capital and the loss of confidence in Russia’s long term economic future could stop the Russian juggernaut in its tracts that no amount of nationalistic breast beating nor invasion of neighboring countries will stem.

The second country or institution to be significantly affected is  the OPEC group of oil producing nations. Last week Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading supplier of oil, at an emergency meeting of the OPEC consortium, refused to reduce its supply, which might have placed a brake on prices.   This was done in order to let oil prices drop as far as they can, so that that more highly capitalized drillers will be forced out because their costs of extraction will be too high ( the Saudi cost of extraction is the lowest in the world at approximately $5.00) .  But the good news is that the  stranglehold OPEC has exerted on oil prices since the 1970s is weakening.  The United  States production boom is  accelerating to the point where it may become a completely oil independent by 2020 and a competing exporter of crude oil even sooner.

Iran clings to the hope that OPEC will cut output, pushing the prices back up.  But with its hopes curtailed and nuclear talks with the West still unresolved, the tension between Iranian politicians in favor of reestablishing relations with the West and the hardliners prepared to risk even greater financial hardship to keep the dream of a nuclear weapon alive, will greatly intensify, together with a greater potential for food riots. Iran will also have less ability to continue supporting its regional allies, the Assad regime in Syria, Iraq’s Shiite government (also suffering from the low oil prices), Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.   The weakening regime may be ripe for counter-revolution.

Other countries with oil-based economies such as Venezuela which were once ascendant are now fearful of a rapid decline.  President Hugo Chavez had nationalized the oil industry and used the oil money to finance the populist-socialist-Bolivarist fiscal plans. But despite Chavez’s promises to develop a diverse economy, industry and infrastructure, Venezuela’s fortunes remain reliant on the price of oil and under his successor Nicolas Maduro, the growing deficit is already causing shortages of food and other goods that it can’t produce for itself. Dozens of citizens have already been killed in violent demonstrations which are set to get worse. Under Chavez, Venezuela generously supported other nations in Latin America which adopted his strident anti-Americanism and propped up Cuba’s weak economy. Maduro won’t be able to do the same and he will find it difficult to cling to power in his own country as basic commodities become scarcer.  A realignment of South America’s poorer  countries with the richest oil producing country in the hemisphere may be in the offing for those who were once in thrall to Venezuela.

The great winners of this oil lottery will be countries in the West.   The rapid drop in oil prices has given American taxpayers, according to Goldman Sachs, the equivalent of a $75 billion tax savings.  The growth in consumer confidence can only reignite the U.S. economy after six years of stagnation.  “Self sufficiency in oil and gas,” says Mark Papa, the former CEO of  EOG Resources, the leading  crude oil producer in the lower 48 states, “will give the United States a two to three fold competitive advantage over Europe and Asia, leading to a revival of in-sourced manufacturing.  It will result in a state and federal tax revenue bonanza and will diminish the need of  the U.S. to tip toe around Russian and Persian Gulf sensitivities, giving the U.S. a leverage in the exercise of foreign policy, it has not had in years.”

Europe, still struggling with recession and with many of its Southern countries in economic free fall, will benefit from releasing itself from dependence on Russian oil and gas WHICH will buy more cheaply from the United States, Canada and OPEC.  The cheaper gas prices should have the same revitalizing influence it is having in the U.S..

The great blow back to this extraordinary economic windfall is due to come from the environmental movement.   Certain that that the West’s embrace of Peak Oil Theory would lead to the diminishing reliance on fossil fuels –  to the benefit of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar – environmental attacks on fracking will only grow in volume and possibly violence as an attempt is made to prevent further oil and natural gas exploration and to disrupt its transport.

We have already seen the impact of the environmentalist campaign in California, which sits on one of the largest shale oil reserves in the world, and has adamantly refused to allow that resources’ exploitation.   In 2011, the Energy Information Administration (EIA)published a report by INTEK Inc. which stated that the Monterey Formation contains 15.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable shale oil—64% of the entire estimated shale oil resource in the continental U.S.    The EIA/INTEK report was used as the basis of a March 2013 University of Southern California (USC) economic analysis which projected as much as a $24.6 billion per year increase in tax revenue and 2.8 million additional California jobs by 2020.

And yet anti-fracking activist organizations  have mounted an unending campaign to stymie the oil deposits’ exploration and extraction. Drawing on State-wide fears of increased water usage during drought, exacerbated seismic activity and pollution of the water table , county after county has enacted anti- fracking regulations.

A bill proposing a statewide moratorium on fracking failed in  the California House of Assembly  in May . But in January, a state law that requires oil companies to obtain permits for fracking and to estimate how much water they’ll use took effect. State agencies are developing more comprehensive regulations, but many local governments are taking matters into their own hands.

Last month, the City of Carson in Los Angeles County imposed an emergency 45-day moratorium on all new drilling because of fears that Occidental Petroleum would use fracking to drill more than 200 wells near homes and a university.

And in February this year Los Angeles became the first oil-producing city in California to ban fracking technologies.

Drilling wells are pictured in Los Angeles, California (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

The joke is how little water is used in fracking and how senseless is the idea that drilling will set off tremors and earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault.

“They’re skilled at marketing and skilled at hyperbole,” said Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association in Sacramento, a group that represents 550 companies and individuals in the oil industry. “But we use less than a total 300 acre-feet of water a year for fracking. That’s equal to what all golf courses in California use in half a day.”

And polluting the water table?

A landmark federal study , released by the Energy Department and issued in July, 2013 found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing contaminated drinking water in western Pennsylvania.  Study after study has turned up little evidence that fracking is unsafe or that it harms suburban or rural water supplies.

“About a third of the 2,000 new oil wells in California are hydraulically fractured,” Zierman said. “They also talk about air pollution from methane leaks.  Our air [quality] laws established regional air districts that regulate all our service equipment, every joint, every coupling [that’s] permitted.”

Reeling from years of business flight and economic recession, if there is a State that could use the injection of economic stimulus afforded by the new drilling technologies, it is the State of California.

Wise Jed Clampett, who moved to Beverly (Hills, that is) after his lucky strike, would probably look upon this blood feud with some amusement.  He knew that economic success is a matter of luck on the one hand and good timing, the right location and the perfect (gun) technology on the other.  He might shake his head and whisper:

Jes’ dang stoopid, ain’t it? ”


Keystone Stonewalling Reveals the Truth of Presidential Inaction

November 16, 2014

Much has been said in the ten days following the mid-term elections in the United States about the coming confrontation between the President and Congress.  The President has publicly warned the soon-to-be Republican controlled Senate that failure to present him with an immigration bill that he can sign will encourage him to go over their heads and order a sweeping reform of immigration policy by executive fiat.  For the past four years his Administration has consistently claimed that it is Congressional inaction, and his not his own unwillingness to act, which  is the true cause of legislative gridlock.

But there is a glaring incidence of presidential inaction upon which Congress has every right to confront this Administration.

For six years the authorization to complete the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to Steele, Nebraska and then onward to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and export, has languished in bureaucratic purgatory.  The application for the pipeline (which is actually the third stage in a four part system of conduits which would bring nearly 850,000 gallons of crude a day, traveling 3,251 miles) was first presented in September, 2008, two months before Obama’s first term election.  Since then it has met a series of obstacles, first from the State Department and then the EPA and  then from a whole range of environmental organizations dogmatically opposed to its construction.  Little known by the public is that three other stages of the project have already been completed and are functioning.  Only the third stage, which links Canada to Nebraska remains to be built.

It is interesting to note that Keystone and its chief developer,TransCanada,  has vaulted almost every hurdle and objection thrown in its path – particularly from environmentalists.  An environmental study issued  by the State Department on August 26, 2011 claimed that there would be no significant environmental impact of the pipeline along its U.S. traverse.  A persistent environmentalist claim that an oil spill from the pipeline would significantly affect drinking water drawn from Ogallala Aquifer – which underlies Nebraska and eight other states – was quickly dispatched.  In April , 2013, James Goeke, a professor emeritus from the University of Nebraska who has spent 40 years studying  the Aquifer concluded a report in which he stated:   “A lot of people in the debate about the pipeline talk about how leakage would foul the water and ruin the entire water supply in the state of Nebraska and that’s just false. A leak from the XL pipeline would pose a minimal risk to the aquifer as a whole.”

The pipeline is supported by every State or Provincial  government through which it passes from Alberta to Texas.  A recent Pew Research Poll  found that  61% of American citizens support its construction.  Estimates conclude that it would create 42,000 temporary jobs during construction and up to 2,000 after completion.  It could contribute to bringing  down the cost of domestic fuel  since the Gulf refineries import a great deal of their oil from Venezuela and Nigeria, two countries with whom the United States maintains strained relations.  Moreover, the abundant Canadian oil is destined to be sold anyway and will be transported, if not by pipe, then by train or lorry across our continent, two modes of transport far more susceptible to oil spills and devastating environmental damage –  as the tragic  Lac-Mégantic derailmuent in Quebec on July 6, 2013, demonstrated.   It is instructive to note that  the oil in the Lac-Mégantic rail cars came from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota, an area that would be served by the Keystone expansion.

So it is quite stunning to hear the President once again talking about the valueless encumbrance that the pipeline will place upon the United States.   Speaking in off the cuff remarks in Burma this week he said:

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

But, Mr. President, aren’t oil markets global, so that adding the Canadian resource to world supply might also have some kind of impact on the prices U.S. citizens pay at the pump? And won’t Keystone also carry U.S. light oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale?

Someone else must have asked the President this question because his press secretary, Josh Earnest, was later compelled to clarify:

 “The President, as you’ll recall in a speech that he delivered last summer, indicated that one of the factors in that review should be the degree to which a project like this would substantially   contribute to the causes of climate change,” Earnest said.  “So this is a project that is still under review by the State Department to determine whether or not it’s in the national interest.”

Climate change is not in the national interest – so we have been regaled endlessly by this President and his acolytes over the past six years.  Putting aside for a moment the highly contentious issue of whether the Canadian oil will actually contribute to climate change (an issue dealt with far better by the Heartland Institute than me)  and whether there is any climate change at all ( another fractious subject), why is it then in the national interest to prevent the construction of the pipe itself  – a project  that is three quarters completed anyway?

As I have stated here earlier, this oil is going to be delivered one way or another – there is no getting around it.   So how is the construction of this pipeline – a great economic boon to our most important trading partner and ally in Canada – as well as a boon to the United States in creating jobs and quite possibly decreasing oil prices – likely to affect climate change?

The answer is, of course, that it won’t.  The pipeline is just a pipe, nothing more – a modern , effective conduit for oil that is likely to reach its intended destination anyway.   The furious objections  to the pipeline are therefore not economic nor environmental –  they are ideological, political and even religious.  The viscous substance traveling in that pipe has become a symbol to Obama and many fellow liberals (who view the world through apocalyptic visions of melting glaciers and massive tidal waves) of doom and human sin. The subscription to this religious narrative produces all kinds of twisted logic and political contortions. It is a deep shame that it has now found its way into the mouth of a man who is so vaunted for his supposed intellect – our President.

The House of Representatives on November 14th, passed a bill approving Keystone 252 to 161.  It looks likely to pass the Senate on Friday with a number of Democrats in oil producing states siding with the Republicans to create a 60 seat filibuster-proof majority.

If the Bill is then presented  to the President for signature and he proceeds  to veto it, the American people will finally know that while a  stone wall may have been erected in front of the Capitol Building, a much higher one exists on Pennsylvania Avenue – right in front of the White House itself.

 


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