Friday, February 12, 2010

Oddities and Counterintuitive Snow Fall

4198063059_e09e430769_o This comment from President Barack Obama struck us as a little odd:

He said Congress needs to pass a bill that includes Republican preferences such as incentives for nuclear energy and "clean coal" technology, as well as Democratic proposals for incentives to develop alternative energy sources like solar, biodiesel and geothermal energy.

"I think that on energy, there should be a bipartisan agreement that we have to take a both/and approach rather than either/or approach," Mr. Obama said.

Obama usually seems exceptionally clued in on partisan premises, but we’re not sure we’d divide the Republican and Democratic energy preferences this way – this formulation seems left over from the 70s.

We think Congress has demonstrated a fairly comprehensive embrace of clean air technology regardless of party affiliation. Maybe the comment seems odd given the President’s own touting of nuclear energy during the State of the Union. Obama usually has this about right. 

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Speaking of odd, here’s a blog post from Chicago Tribune business writer Greg Burns:

The acquisition of Allegheny Energy by rival utility FirstEnergy Corp. shows how far cap-and-trade has fallen from the top of the nation's political agenda.

Allegheny gets 95 percent of its power from coal-fired plants, emitting 45 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to the blunt report here that the company prepared when cap-and-trade legislation still had momentum in early 2009. "This is a major challenge," the report concludes.

Apparently it's less of a challenge today. The $8.5 billion deal announced here Thursday includes a roughly one-third premium on Allegheny stock. That likely reflects how the potential threat of a government-sanctioned carbon-trading scheme has receded into the background.

We’re not major business buffs, but Allegheny just got bought by its rival  - which might well be just what happens - after you issue a report noting a tough environment for your company. Even if cap-and-trade fails, EPA rulemaking is still pending. Burns seems to want to make a point his example does not really support. We’ll be interested to see how FirstEnergy means to proceed with Allegheny.

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Well, odd is as odd does – this one just strikes us as assuming something unattractive about the American people:

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said the blizzards that have shut down Congress have made it more difficult to argue that global warming is an imminent danger.

“It makes it more challenging for folks not taking time to review the scientific arguments,” said Bingaman, who as the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over energy and climate change issues.

“People see the world around them and they extrapolate,” Bingaman said. “I think that it’s hard to see an economy-wide cap-and-trade [proposal] of the type that passed the House could prevail,” he added, though he suggested a more limited alternative could have a better chance.

On the other hand, the massive snow fall broke records all around, suggesting that something is not well with the weather.

While the frequency of storms in the middle latitudes has decreased as the climate has warmed, the intensity of those storms has increased. That's in part because of global warming — hotter air can hold more moisture, so when a storm gathers it can unleash massive amounts of snow.

Or a lot of rain when temperatures no longer reach 32 degrees. We suspect Bingaman knows this and was making a comment on how people see things in fairly straightforward terms – lots of snow, no climate change. But it’s not precisely counterintuitive to say that bizarre weather patterns accompany changes in the climate.

Time’s Bryan Walsh provides the correct conclusion:

Ultimately, however, it's a mistake to use any one storm — or even a season's worth of storms — to disprove climate change.

Baltimore. The row houses provide the clue.

2 comments:

SteveK9 said...

Bingaman's logic is particularly odd. Why would the American (all 330 million) be overly influenced by weather in Washington, D.C.? I'm sure it was still pretty warm in his home state of N.M. Talk about 'inside-the-beltway' thinking. News flash: DC is not the universe.

DocForesight said...

"Ultimately, however, it's a mistake to use any one storm — or even a season's worth of storms — to disprove climate change."

Or to prove climate change is happening. But we have heard claims to that effect, have we not? Hurricane Katrina, wildfires in southern California, dry spells in the midwest, hot summer desert temps (surprise!). Add your favorite bleat here...