Friday, December 24, 2010

For Atrios

A Glorious Christmas to All

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The EPA sends Eli a Christmas gift

The US Environmental Protection Agency, has announced new regulations for CO2 emissions from power generating facilities

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing the final series of actions that will ensure that the largest industrial facilities can get Clean Air Act permits that cover greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions beginning in January 2011. These actions are part of EPA’s common sense approach to GHG permitting outlined in the spring 2010 tailoring rule.

The first set of actions will give EPA authority to permit GHGs in seven states (Ariz., Ark., Fla., Idaho, Kan., Ore., and Wyo.) until the state or local agencies can revise their permitting regulations to cover these emissions. EPA is taking additional steps to disapprove part of Texas' Clean Air Act permitting program and the agency will also issue GHG permits to facilities in the state. These actions will ensure that large industrial facilities will be able to receive permits for greenhouse gas emissions regardless of where they are located.
Well, that's the good news, slightly less good is the second part
In the second set of actions, EPA has issued final rules that will ensure that there are no federal laws in place that require any state to issue a permit for GHG emissions below levels outlined in the tailoring rule.
Where this leaves California is another question. Perhaps what this means is that other EPA regulation which would have forced lower limits in certain air pollution districts cannot be used to limit them, but that the states can proceed on their own
EPA has worked closely with the states to ensure that the transition to permitting for GHGs is smooth. States are best suited to issue permits to sources of GHG emissions and have experience working with industrial facilities. EPA will continue to work with states to help develop, submit, and obtain approval of the necessary revisions to enable the affected states to issue air permits to GHG-emitting sources.

Beginning in January 2011, industries that are large emitters of GHGs, and are planning to build new facilities or make major modifications to existing ones, must obtain air permits and implement energy efficiency measures or, where available, cost-effective technology to reduce their GHGs emissions. This includes the nation's largest GHG emitters, such as power plants, refineries and cement production facilities. Emissions from small sources, such as farms and restaurants are not covered by these GHG permitting requirements.
Some time ago, Eli pointed out that Congressional action would actually be weaker than what the EPA would do given Supreme Court rulings. Listen to Eli.

New rules that were issued are
The most important of these will be rules focusing GHG permitting initially on the largest sources
Still, Eli is quite satisfied with the first four, given that a Congress critter from Texas denigrated Rabett Run, as reported by FOB Joe Romm

FLORES: Absolutely, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to get on Natural Resources is it puts me in the position, not my full jurisdiction over the EPA but I do have some jurisdiction there. I can tell you the House as a whole, the Republicans in the House as a whole want to get the EPA shut down on these bunny trails that’s going down that are throwing people out of work — particularly the way it’s abusing Texas. And I think that Texas can count on getting some relief from the EPA within the first few months of this Congress because they really have gone overboard.

Eli and friends are quite fond of those bunny trails, and suspects that the Obama administration just blew Rep. Flores and Texas a giant strawberry.

The permitting rule itself runs something like this
On May 13, 2010, EPA issued the final GHG Tailoring Rule. This rule effectively raised the thresholds for GHG emissions that define when permits under the PSD and Title V Operating Permit programs are required for new and existing industrial facilities. Without the GHG Tailoring Rule, the thresholds established in the CAA for other pollutants would apply to GHGs. The phased in approach, established in the Tailoring Rule, provides time for large industrial facilities and state governments to develop the capacity to implement permitting requirements for GHGs.
Importantly it takes effect immediately, before Congress can take inaction
  • Starting in January 2011, large industrial facilities that must already obtain Clean Air Act permits for non-GHGs must also include GHG requirements in these permits if they are newly constructed and have the potential to emit 75,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) or more or if they make changes at the facility that increase GHG emissions by that amount.
  • Starting in July 2011, in addition to facilities described above, all new facilities emitting GHGs in excess of 100,000 tons of per year CO2e and facilities making changes that would increase GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy CO2e, and that also exceed 100/250 tons per year of GHGs on a mass basis, will be required to obtain permits that address GHG emissions
  • Operating permits will be needed by all sources that emit at least 100,000 tons of GHG per year on a CO2e basis beginning in July 2011.
  • Sources less than 50,000 tons of GHGs per year on a CO2e basis will not be required to obtain permits for GHGs before 2016.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rabett Can Read

A very nice article (well except for the obligatory drive through by Richard Lindzen) by Justin Gillis about the Keeling curve and its implications in the New York Times. Two, rather personal statements from Charles Keeling's wife

In an interview in La Jolla, Dr. Keeling’s widow, Louise, said that if her husband had lived to see the hardening of the political battle lines over climate change, he would have been dismayed.

“He was a registered Republican,” she said. “He just didn’t think of it as a political issue at all.”

and son

As he watches these difficulties, Ralph Keeling contemplates the unbending math of carbon dioxide emissions first documented by his father more than a half-century ago and wonders about the future effects of that increase.

“When I go see things with my children, I let them know they might not be around when they’re older,” he said. “ ‘Go enjoy these beautiful forests before they disappear. Go enjoy the glaciers in these parks because they won’t be around.’ It’s basically taking note of what we have, and appreciating it, and saying goodbye to it.”

On Dec. 11, another round of international climate negotiations, sponsored by the United Nations, concluded in Cancún. As they have for 18 years running, the gathered nations pledged renewed efforts. But they failed to agree on any binding emission targets.

Late at night, as the delegates were wrapping up in Mexico, the machines atop the volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean issued their own silent verdict on the world’s efforts.

At midnight Mauna Loa time, the carbon dioxide level hit 390 — and rising.

resonate. Which brings Eli to the question that Eli would ask James Annan, when those about you are acting as if their hair were on fire, and you are calm and collected, maybe there is something you don't know? There is a strong tendency to confuse calm with knowledge, sometimes the truth can be very scary.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Policy Mill Grinds Fine

The White House has announced new science policy guidelines for the US Government. More accurately, these are guidelines for agencies on how to deal with scientific personnel and public relations. There were, as some can recall, issues in the last administration about how public relations officers were "dealing" some scientists out. Among the few interesting points are:

Agencies should expand and promote access to scientific and technological information by making it available online in open formats. Where appropriate, this should include data and models underlying regulatory proposals and policy decisions.

Agencies should communicate scientific and technological findings by including a clear explication of underlying assumptions; accurate contectualiation of uncertainties; and a description of the probabilities associated with both optimistic and pessimistic projections, including best case and worst case scenarios where appropriate.

Mechanisms are in place to resolve disputes that arise from decisions to proceed or not to proceed with proposed interviews or other public information related activities.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Melting hopes

A new paper by O’Donnell, Lewis, McIntyre and Condon on temperature trends in Antarctica, is the hit of the blogosphere, and it is scaring the carrots out of Eli. To understand why, compare the results of O'Donnell, et al, with the earlier ones of Steig, et al. The O'Donnell work shows cooling in interior East/Central Antarctica, but much higher warming in West Antartica, especially along the coast.

This means that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is subject to even more stress than previously thought, and is much more in danger of collapse than previously thought, which already was causing premature hare whitening.

If that ain't bad enough, O'Donnell et al.'s results say that the coast of East Antarctica is warming even faster than Steig, et al. deduced, so that situation is also worse.

It doesn't much matter if ice warms , but stays frozen, but it matters a hell of a lot if it warms and melts, or even warms and weakens. Melting and weakening in Antarctica occurs mostly at the margins and not in the interior, and what interior melting occurs, refreezes before it can contribute to sea level rise, while melting and weakening on the edge of the continent, contributes directly and immediately to sea level rise.

There also appears to be some differences between the maps at Real Climate and Climate Audit, both for O'Donnell, et al., and Steig, et al., but the bottom line is the same not matter which versions you use.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Creature from the Pielkesphere

The Creature from the Pielkesphere has been nattering on about how it is so un-nice to point out the dangers of abusing the atmosphere. Keith particularly waved his pearls at Joe Romm and Brad Johnson, although Eli is on the not suitable for dinner list. Give the lad credit, at least he has moved the target from doing something in the sweet bye and bye to doing stuff for other reasons now. (Yes, this is obscure, but see below)

Throbgoblins gets it in one

Friday, December 03, 2010

Another fine mess Stanley

UPDATE: Wiley Coyote requests a hint on the Stanley matter:

Medical Writing Editing and Grantsmanship brings word to Eli of another fine mess, one that makes the fluffy kerfuffle (Eli DOES hate that word) about the Wegman Report, various theses, and the response of George Mason University, look an introductory course. In this case,
Based on the findings of an investigation by Columbia University (CU) and additional analysis conducted by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) during its oversight review, ORI found that Bengu Sezen, former graduate student, Department of Chemistry, CU, engaged in misconduct in science in research funded by National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant R01 GM60326. Specifically, ORI made twenty-one (21) findings of scientific misconduct against Dr. Sezen based on evidence that she knowingly and intentionally falsified and fabricated, and in one instance plagiarized, data reported in three (3) papers* and her doctoral thesis.
Seven papers were earlier retracted unilaterally by the adviser, Dalibor Sames and the claims were big news at the time. A good summary can be found in an presentation for an ethics class by Julia Wang. One of the dirty littles in this pile of laundry is that Sames ran through five other graduate students who could not reproduce Sezen's results (as in fired) and that Sezen has continually defended her results.

UPDATE: M. points to Sezen's defense which is JSE class. Ed Wegman will NEVER top this
Sezen now also claims that Sames did not use the proper catalysts when trying to reproduce her work. In an e-mail to C&EN, she writes: "It is as simple as this: You can not make espresso without coffee beans. Prof. Sames and coworkers claimed in their retractions that they could not reproduce my recipe for espresso. And later (when I asked which brand of coffee beans they used), they stated that they did not have (and never had) coffee beans. Without having coffee beans, how can one try to reproduce the recipe?"
More to the point, it turns out that after leaving Columbia when this first broke (in 2006, it looks like John Mashey is going to have to learn patience) Sezen went to Germany, got her PhD and now holds a group leader's research position in Turkey.

There is lots of comment on this and will be more

Janet Stemwedel had opined on this mess in early days with the question of whom should you trust and when

5. So can you ever trust your collaborator, or should scientists all author their papers alone? Can advisors ever trust their graduate students, or graduate students their advisors?

The alternative to trusting other scientists, whether by way of collaborations or by consulting the scientific literature, is doing all the science you care about all by yourself. And if that's your plan, you really have too much to do to be reading blogs. Scoot!

On the other hand, since scientists have some acquaintance with the idea of backing their beliefs with facts, it's good to base your trust on facts, too. This would be easier if collaborators took the time to get to know something about the pieces of the project contributed by their collaborators, if PIs still got involved in conducting experiments themselves, if grad students worked up their data with their advisors at least some of the time rather than only delivering the finished product with a pretty bow on top.