By Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

The New Hockey-stick: 

climate-change As anticipated, statistical expert Steve McIntyre is shredding the new hockey-stick reported (in Science on March 8) by Marcott, Shakun, Clark, and Mix (Marcott-Shakun). McIntyre has found major errors and unexplained peculiarities in the methodology and treatment of data.

These include truncation of data that are inconsistent with the conclusions of the study and which show a recent decline in temperatures. McIntyre reports that it is unknown if it was intentional or if the mathematical algorithm they used went awry.

Marcott-Shakun assigned different dates of the top of the cores (most recent data) from those assigned in the original studies – for example the latest year was 510 years before present in the original study becomes present (1950). Another core was dated in the original publication as 10th century but was re-dated to Marcott-Shakun to present day. There may be a rational for doing this, but it should be stated in big red letters. One commentator wrote that the Marcott’s original thesis justified some re-dating. But McIntyre reported that re-dating he is concerned with occurred after the original thesis, and Marcott-Shakun does not provide a justification for wholesale re-dating.

Due to the the re-dating, the data bases of the thesis and the Marcott-Shakun study now appear to be incompatible. Perhaps even worse, a particular class of proxies, alkenones, which account for 31 of the 73 proxy data sets, (according to McIntyre’s reconstruction) show a decline in 20th century temperatures under the dates established in the original studies. The re-dated Marcott-Shakun series show a sharp increase in temperatures for the same period.

Do doubt, more will be revealed in due time as McIntyre doggedly pursues his goal. However, editors and journalists who broadcasted the new hockey-stick, which was highly promoted by Michael Mann, should take the quote of the week seriously. Please see links under Challenging the Orthodoxy

 When Evidence and Models Conflict: Martin Livermore wrote a thought provoking essay on what may happen if current trends continue, and nature departs significantly from climate model predictions / projections. The scientific positions of both sides may harden, until the political support for climate science can no longer be justified.

One may add that this course may be unfortunate for science in general as the public may begin to reject all scientific inquiry. However, the alarmists have added greatly to the burden, by expressing great certainty in their work, which politicians have used to pursue costly and, probably unneeded, alternatives to fossil fuels. 

 NSPS: Some commentators are wondering why the EPA is letting the schedule slip for issuing final rules on New Source Performance Standards (NSPS). These new standards will include carbon dioxide emissions and effectively prevent all new coal-fired power plants without carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that has yet to be proven on a commercial scale. It is clear that EPA also wishes to impose similar standards on existing plants as well, but cannot do so until it issues the final rules on new plants.

Some commentators are suggesting that the EPA will relax the rules to permit high efficiency coal-fired plants; other commentators suggest that the EPA is waiting for the confirmation of Gina McCarthy to become the new administrator.

Former EPA General Counsel Roger Martella suggests there may be more at play than these two reasons. No one can request legal review of EPA’s proposed standards; the final standards must be issued before litigation can begin. The stalemate favors the EPA because no utility will start construction with the threat of impending, crippling rules. Martella thinks that the rules are legally vulnerable and the EPA is trying to make them less vulnerable. He also states that the proposed rules may be too severe for natural gas power plants, as well.

A further complication for EPA to regulate existing utilities is that the courts have ruled that EPA must rely on existing, commercially available technology. It cannot justify regulations by claiming it will drive technology.

An additional issue may be the upcoming 2014 election with the administration unwilling to totally outrage states dependent on coal-fired power plants and those with coal mining. Please see Article # 3 and links under EPA and other Regulators on the March. 

 Energy Policy: According to the Investor’s Business Daily, the stimulus bill contained about $90 Billion for various alternative energy schemes. After four years, there is very little economic benefit to be shown for this expenditure of money. Expensive electricity from unreliable wind and solar is not economically beneficial. Although demonized by many in Washington, starting before and all through this time US, oil and gas production on private and state lands have soared, one of the few bright spots in the economy. President Obama recognizes this success, because he takes credit for it whenever it is opportune, although his administration tried to stop it.

In what was billed an energy speech, a week-ago, Friday, President Obama proposed an “Energy Security Trust.” Following the ways of Washington, the proposal is to tax success to give to failure. The president proposed taxing oil and gas to subsidize alternative energy schemes. Making the proposal particularly illogical is claiming it will be done in the name of energy security. The US is secure in natural gas, no imports from other continents, and North America is well on its way to oil security, especially if Washington would drop efforts to block further development, such as the Keystone pipeline expansion. US production of liquids recently surpassed imports. Please see links under Energy Issues-US and Washington’s Control of Energy. 

 Alternative Energy Bankruptcies: Even recently, American politicians were insisting that America was falling behind China in the energy technology race. Solar and wind will be the success stories of the 21st century. TWTW suggested that China was not in a race to install solar and wind generation on the grid, but to sell solar and wind products to the West. With heavy government backing, Chinese solar panel manufacturers dominated the market. This week Suntech, once the world’s largest producer of solar panels, defaulted on $541 million in bonds, indicating the Chinese government, which backed it, recognizes that there is a glut of manufacturers and solar panels on the market. There is no reason to continue to fund a failing venture.

Also this week, Western Biomass Energy LLC filed for protection of bankruptcy court. Western Biomass was the first company to qualify for credits under the EPA program, certifying cellulosic ethanol for sales. Thanks to a law passed in 2007, refiners need to mix cellulosic ethanol into gasoline blends, even though commercial scale production does not exist. This further demonstrates that Washington cannot necessarily mandate or subsidize breakthroughs in technology. Someday a breakthrough may come for cellulosic ethanol, but no one knows when. The mandate was voided by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in January 2013. EPA cannot mandate a technology that is not commercially available. A question remains: will the EPA use its power to lower the volume mandate for ethanol, which is driving up gasoline prices? Please links under Subsidies and Mandates Forever, Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Solar and Wind, and Alternative, Green (“Clean”) Energy — Other 

 Number of the Week: 42%. According to Steve McIntire reconstruction of data from alkenones, which account for 31 of the 73 proxy data sets used in Marcott-Shakun, show a decline in 20th century temperatures in the original publications while Marcott-Shakun shows a sharp increase in 20th century temperatures. This, alone, calls into question their value as proxies for instrument data. 

 Continue to PDF Full Report (pdfredundant download here) for this week’s library of climate change articles.

An avalanche of economy-crippling EPA regulations, soaring energy prices, and a White House that has Climate Change as its centerpiece. President Obama acknowledged as much in his acceptance speech, when he said he wanted to “pass on a country that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” [NB: The planet hasn’t warmed for the past 16 years!]  Read More