I’ve said I try to keep away from this stuff, but, you know, its kind of like eating peanuts. Like watching crash videos. You feel like you should turn away, but you can’t. Is there such a thing as Stupid-porn?

Desmogblog:

Affidavits in Michael Mann Libel Suit Reveal Astonishing Facts About Tim Ball Associate John O’Sullivan

Affidavits filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court libel litigation brought by climate scientist Michael Mann against climate science denier Timothy Ball reveal that Ball’s collaborator and self-styled “legal advisor” has misrepresented his credentials and endured some significant legal embarrassments of his own. The affidavits also reveal that Tim Ball was “aware of the charges against John O’Sullivan almost from the start” and has tried to distance himself from his erstwhile advisor and writing partner. The affidavits [12] come from research of science and medical writer Andrew Skolnick, who documents O’Sullivan’s misrepresentations, backtracking and questionable behavior. Tim Ball and John O’Sullivan had a close working relationship, even before Mann sued Ball for libel in March 2011. For example, they co-authored the climate science denial book Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, which was published in 2010. Skolnick’s evidence shows that O’Sullivan made a series of false claims, including:

  • that he was an attorney with more than a decade of successful litigation in New York State and Federal courts;
  • that he was employed by a major Victoria, B.C.(Canada) law firm that is representing Ball in the libel action;
  • that he is a widely published writer, with credits in Forbes and the National Review;
  • that he had received his law degree from the University College, Cork, Ireland and/or from the University of Surrey (O’Sullivan’s actual legal accreditation, apparently obtained after the Mann-Ball action commenced, comes from an online degree mill, Hill University, which promises delivery in two weeks);
  • that he is a member of the American Bar Association.

One affidavit includes an online comment in which O’Sullivan says, “For your information, I am a retired academic and I have litigated personally or assisted others in pro se litigation at every level of court there is in New York State as well as Federal level, for over a decade and never lost.” Although O’Sullivan admits in this particular comment that he is not, in fact, licensed to practice law, in the U.S. or the U.K., he adds, “I’m just some Brit with a brain who can go live with his American wife in her country and kick ass big time around a courtroom.” Certainly, O’Sullivan was successful in winning an acquittal when he was personally charged in England as a high school teacher accused of sending lewd text messages and assaulting a 16-year-old female. Given the acquittal, it would not generally be appropriate to bring up this sordid and unproven bit of history, except that O’Sullivan himself went on to write an “erotic” “novel” with a startlingly similar storyline: Vanilla Girl: a Fact-Based Crime Story of a Teacher’s Struggle to Control His Erotic Obsession with a Schoolgirl. Read the rest of this entry »

National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Arctic sea ice continued to track at levels far below average through the middle of July, with open water in the Kara and Barents seas reaching as far north as typically seen during September. Melt onset began earlier than normal throughout most of the Arctic.

Overview of conditions
As of July 23, 2012, sea ice extent was 7.32 million square kilometers (2.82 million square miles). On the same day last year, ice extent was 7.22 million square kilometers (2.78 million square miles), the record low for this day.

Arctic sea ice extent continued to track at very low levels, setting daily record lows for the satellite era for a few days in early July. Extent is especially low in the Barents, Kara, and Laptev seas. In the Barents and Kara seas, the area of open water extends to the north coasts of Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlya, as far north as typically seen during September, the end of the summer melt season. Polynyas in the Beaufort and East Siberian seas continued to expand during the first half of July. By sharp contrast, ice extent in the Chukchi Sea remains near normal levels. In this region the ice has retreated back to the edge of the multiyear ice cover. Ice cover in the East Greenland Sea, while of generally low concentration, remains slightly more extensive than normal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Over the last day, a line of thunderstorms crossed the nation’s midsection, brought some damaging winds and power outages, but reports suggest that there was nowhere close to enough water to dampen the raging drought.  Like water on a hot skillet, a pounding rain on bone dry soil tends to run off quickly without soaking in.

Here in mid-michigan, we got some storms, but also, for the last 36 hours, some clouds and showers that have been keeping things helpfully moist. Farther south in the corn growing areas, not so much.

The Herald Bulletin (somewhere in Indiana, apparently..)

The rain that has fallen on northern Indiana for eight of the past 13 days hasn’t been enough to get South Bend out of a severe drought.

Weather officials say it will take weeks of rain to overcome months of dryness, and that’s true for the rest of the state as well. Almost all of Indiana is in some form of drought, and one-fifth of it is in the worst stage.

Conditions aren’t expected to improve in the next month, either. The long-term forecast for August calls for above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall, said Al Shipe, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.

“This drought is not short term,” added associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa. “This drought is probably going to go on at least a few more months. It’s not going to be any quick fix where you get a series of rains and it’s done.”

Market Watch:

 The drought that has parched large regions of the U.S. this summer shows no signs of easing and is instead getting worse, according to a report released Thursday. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows “widespread intensification” of drought through the middle of the country and the map tracking it “set a record for the fourth straight week for the area in moderate drought or worse.” The map has 53.44% of the U.S. and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse, up from 53.17% last week while 38.11% is in severe drought or worse, compared with 35.32%.

Extreme drought is hitting 17.2% of the nation, vs. 11.32% the previous week and 1.99% is in exceptional drought, more than double the earlier figure. “We’ve seen tremendous intensification of drought through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Nebraska, and into part of Wyoming and South Dakota in the last week,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and author of the U.S. Drought Monitor. He added that every state in the country had at least some of its area under abnormally dry or worse conditions.

West Central Tribune, Willmar Minnesota:

The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies drought in various stages, from moderate to severe, extreme and, ultimately, exceptional. Five states — Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska — are blanketed by a drought that is severe or worse. States like Arkansas and Oklahoma are nearly as bad, with most areas covered in a severe drought and large portions in extreme or exceptional drought.

Other states are seeing conditions rapidly worsen. Illinois — a key producer of corn and soybeans — saw its percentage of land in extreme or exceptional drought balloon from just 8 percent last week to roughly 71 percent as of Thursday, the Drought Monitor reported.

And conditions are not expected to get better, with little rain and more intense heat forecast for the rest of the summer.

Jason Box is a researcher at the Byrd Polar Research Center.  I bumped him yesterday since I’d read he was just back from Greenland, to see if he had any insights on this obviously eventful season.  He answered with this link.

Jason Box’s Meltfactor blog:

explanation and premonition of complete surface melting over Greenland

Box et al. (2012) end the article’s abstract with an explanation of the atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics that led to the extreme year 2012 Greenland melting …and a premonition:

“Abnormally strong anticyclonic circulation, associated with a persistent summer North Atlantic Oscillation extreme since 2007 enabled three amplifying mechanisms to maximize the albedo feedback: (1) increased warm (south) air advection along the western ice sheet increased surface sensible heating that in turn enhanced snow grain metamorphic rates, further reducing albedo; (2) increased surface downward shortwave flux, leading to more surface heating and further albedo reduction; and (3) reduced snowfall rates sustained low albedo, maximizing surface solar heating, progressively lowering albedo over multiple years. The summer net infrared and solar radiation for the high elevation accumulation area approached positive values during this period. Thus, it is reasonable to expect 100% melt area over the ice sheet within another similar decade of warming.

Further, to the paper’s conclusions:

“Accumulation area radiation budget shift [2000-2011]

In the 12 years beginning in 2000, the reduced albedo combined with a significant increase in downward solar irradiance yielded an accumulation area net radiation increase from -0.9 to -0.2Wm^2. Another similar decade may be sufficient to shift the average summer accumulation area radiation budget from negative to positive, resulting in an abrupt ice sheet melt area increase. The ice sheet mass budget deficit is therefore expected to become more sensitive to increasing temperatures via the ice albedo feedback, especially in negative summer NAO index conditions [which did persist in 2012]. Future work should therefore be concerned with understanding potential tipping points in ice sheet melt regime as the average radiation budget shifts from negative (cooling) to positive (heating), as it seems the threshold of this has just been reached. It will take some time, perhaps years for the cold content of the firn to be sufficiently eroded to allow continuous summer melting and an ice sheet surface characterized by 100% melt extent. Further warming would only hasten the amplification of melting that the albedo feedback permits.

Work Cited

  • Box, J. E., Fettweis, X., Stroeve, J. C., Tedesco, M., Hall, D. K., and Steffen, K.: Greenland ice sheet albedo feedback: thermodynamics and atmospheric drivers, The Cryosphere Discuss., 6, 593-634, doi:10.5194/tcd-6-593-2012, 2012. Download the accepted pre-print

I mentioned yesterday the developing story about an end run play around the Keystone Pipeline roadblock. Another route may be in the works to bring Canadian Tar Sands gook to the export market in Eastern North America. I’m on the road today doing an interview on this. For now, here’s an update from Paula Essunger, a Science writer who lives in Vermont and organizes with 350Vermont.org.

Paula Essunger at Vermont350: 

An October 4 deadline looms for the decision on yet another application to tap the tar sands. At first glance, this application seems modest: it only involves a single segment of a pipeline, and it runs entirely inside Canada. No U.S. Presidential Permits seem to come into play, no buses to DC, no White House sit-in.

But on both sides of the border, people are connecting the dots. To the west, the segment meets up with a line that has already been pumping tar sands liquids eastward for years. This is the line that put bitumen spills on the wider map back in 2010, when Enbridge pumped over a million gallons of tar sands bitumen through a pipe rupture and into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Known as the Dilbit Disaster (dilbit is diluted bitumen), this spill demonstrated that while conventional oil spills can be catastrophic, responding to bitumen spills is much harder.

Before the spill, Enbridge was planning on reconstructing that line, to be able to pump higher volumes. Enbridge was planning on reversing the flow in the segment mentioned above, so that it would connect with the spill line and bring its tar sands streams further eastward. In fact, Enbridge planned to reverse the flow in the whole line of which that segment is a part, all the way to Montreal. And before the spill, Enbridge was working with the operators of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line (PMPL) to reverse its flow, to create one long connected pipeline project, known as Trailbreaker. Tar sands liquids arriving in the Chicago area would be pumped eastward through Trailbreaker: via Michigan, Ontario, and Quebec. Part of the flow would then turn south in Montreal, through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, to Portland, and out onto the global market.

After the spill, the project appears to be proceeding fairly steadily, but Enbridge downplays the fact that they are currently expanding the spill line, preferring the term “restoring”; downplays plans to reverse the flow on the whole of the line from the spill line to Montreal, calling the segment reversal a “standalone” project; and denies any plans still exist for crossing the border at all, even though their project partners applied for a permit (recently denied) for a pumping station. A station like that would be needed to push heavy tar sands liquids through the line in reverse, pumping it south, from Montreal to Maine.

The line they have in mind using was constructed in 1950. The first pipe along that route was laid a decade earlier, during World War II. It allowed tankers to dock and unload in Portland rather than having to face the submarines in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in order to bring oil to the refineries in Montreal.

In the late eighties, a company leased the 1950 line and reversed its flow to bring Canadian natural gas to New England. A decade later, the line reverted back to pumping oil northwest, from Maine to Montreal. Each change required a Presidential Permit. From the Tar Sands Action on Keystone XL, we know that the State Department handles the review for “crude oil” pipelines (at least to the extent that they don’t outsource the assessment process to the pipeline operators themselves). But bitumen and diluted bitumen aren’t actually a kind of crude oil (the IRS actually relieves tar sands streams from some taxes for this very reason), they’re a different beast altogether, as the spill responders at the Kalamazoo River learned the hard way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Business Week:

The cost of wind power has dropped below the price of coal-fired energy in parts of India for the first time as improved turbine technology and rising fossil-fuel prices boost its competitiveness, Greenko Group Plc (GKO) said. “Today we’re able to supply energy below the cost of conventional power,” said Mahesh Kolli, president of Greenko, which is building wind projects with General Electric Co. (GE) (GE) in India. “That’s the key development for this year.”

The cost of wind has closed in on coal thanks to more advanced turbines, which can produce more electricity from lower wind speeds. The shift means new wind farms in India will be able to survive without state subsidies, potentially attracting investors to a country where 57 percent of installed capacity is coal-based and 31 percent renewable, including hydropower. Greenko began operating its first wind project in Ratnagiri in Maharashtra state this year using 1.6-megawatt GE turbines designed for low winds. That farm is “achieving efficiencies never before seen in India,” with a 30 percent plant load factor, Kolli said today by telephone. That’s a measure of a site’s actual generation compared with its theoretical capacity.

New Energy Finance show the most efficient wind projects in India run at a similar cost to new coal-fed plants. The best projects have a levelized cost of energy, which allows for comparison between different fuel sources, of 2.7 rupees (5 cents) to 4.4 rupees a kilowatt-hour, compared with coal’s 1.9 to 4.8 rupees, Ashish Sethia, an analyst at London-based BNEF, said in a July 3 note.

The economics of Indian wind developments may lure investors away from markets such as the U.S., where the end of a tax break for wind-power utilities could cause a 75 percent slump in new installations next year, according to BTM Consult, a unit of Navigant Consulting Inc. (NCI) (NCI) Kolli said India’s decision to suspend a wind subsidy in April won’t affect investments. Read the rest of this entry »

Most people that pay attention to energy and climate issues will know about Keystone, the proposed pipeline to channel Canadian Tarsands gook to Gulf Coast refineries for overseas sales.

But while Keystone gets the media, there is a back door route quietly being planned in the upper midwest. If you watch the video, you’ll see one of the less appealing characters wearing a t-shirt labeled “Enbridge”, which may be a name you have not heard. There is an end-run being staged around the stalled Keystone project. Stay tuned for more on this, but Michigan Public Radio fills in some blanks.

Michigan Radio:

Enbridge Energy is planning to replace an old pipeline that runs through Michigan.

It’s called Line 6B. That’s the same line that broke in Marshall nearly two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline.

Joe Martucci is a spokesperson for Enbridge. He says the new pipeline will cut down on the number of repairs they’ll have to make.

“The purpose and need of it is integrity driven and also to increase the capacity of the line at the same time.”

After the Marshall spill, Enbridge was ordered to reduce the pressure in Line 6B.  That means there’s a lot less oil flowing through that pipeline now than there was before the spill.

Martucci says the new pipeline will allow Enbridge to double the amount of oil they can transport, up to 500,000 barrels per day.  There is the potential for the pipeline to move as much as 800,000 barrels per day. But Joe Martucci says they would have to add more equipment to do so, and file a new application with the state of Michigan.

He says oil from Alberta’s tar sands region will be the main product in their new pipeline.

Beth Wallace with the National Wildlife Federation says there’s evidence Enbridge wants to make the Great Lakes region a hub for transporting tar sands oil.

“There’s a way they can push product all the way east for export, and they’ve actually talked about that in some of their presentations and Power Points to their investors.”

To do that, the company would have to reverse the flow of oil in one of its Canadian pipelines.

Enbridge spokesperson Joe Martucci confirms that the company is proposing to reverse the flow of oil in that Canadian pipeline. But he says there is no larger-scale plan in place.

“Well, I think that’s a notion without substance as far as I know. I know of no plan or proposal that would connect all those dots.”

I’ll be interviewing Beth Wallace of NWF tomorrow. Will update this soon.