Wednesday, June 27, 2012

US will halve reliance on Middle East oil by 2020

Expanded Oil Drilling Helps U.S.Wean Itself From Mideast

WSJ.COM 6/27/12
HOUSTON—America will halve its reliance on Middle East oil by the end of this decade and could end it completely by 2035 due to declining demand and the rapid growth of new petroleum sources in the Western Hemisphere, energy analysts now anticipate.
The U.S. will halve its reliance on Middle East oil by the end of this decade and could end it completely by 2035 due to falling demand and growth of new petroleum sources, energy analysts say. Angel Gonzalez has details on Markets Hub. Photo: Bloomberg.
The shift, a result of technological advances that are unlocking new sources of oil in shale-rock formations, oil sands and deep beneath the ocean floor, carries profound consequences for the U.S. economy and energy security. A good portion of this surprising bounty comes from the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique perfected during the last decade in U.S. fields previously deemed not worth tampering with.

A Military Shift

China gets about half its oil from countries around the Persian Gulf. Add to that China's strong belief in naval strength, and toss in U.S. eagerness to wind down military involvement in the Middle East, and you get all the ingredients for a historic reshuffling of the security picture in the region. The question for Washington is deceptively simple: Would that be good or bad?
By 2020, nearly half of the crude oil America consumes will be produced at home, while 82% will come from this side of the Atlantic, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By 2035, oil shipments from the Middle East to North America "could almost be nonexistent," the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries recently predicted, partly because more efficient car engines and a growing supply of renewable fuel will help curb demand.
The change achieves a long-sought goal of U.S. policy-making: to draw more oil from nearby, stable sources and less from a volatile region half a world away. "Whereas at one point there were real and serious concerns about the ability to maintain sustainable access of supplies to the United States if there were disruptions in the Middle East, that has changed," Carlos Pascual, the top energy official at the State Department, said in an interview.

China's Story

Even as Beijing fears a growing reliance on Middle East crude, the rate of its economic growth leaves policy makers few options. As a result, China is settling in for along-term economic and political presence in a regionthat for decades has overshadowed U.S. foreign policy.
U.S. officials stress that the Middle East will remain important to American foreign policy partly because of the region's continuing influence on global oil prices. "We need to continue to pay attention to how global markets function, because we have a fundamental interest that those markets are stable," Mr. Pascual said.
That means the U.S. military will keep guarding the region's oil shipping lanes, as it has done for decades. "Nobody else can protect it and if it were no longer available, U.S. oil prices would go up," said Michael O'Hanlon, a national security expert with the Brookings Institution, who says the U.S. spends $50 billion a year protecting oil shipments. But China, a growing consumer of Middle Eastern crude, is seeking a larger presence in the region, with its navy joining antipiracy efforts near Somalia.

Canada's Role

Canada's oil-sands deposits hold the world's third largest reserves of crude oil, behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Canada, meanwhile, is the largest exporter of oil into the U.S., the world's biggest oil consumer. That's promising to make Canadian-U.S. energy cooperation as important as it's ever been.
Still, growing domestic energy production could allow the U.S. to lessen its focus on the unpredictable region over time. Dependence on Middle East oil has shaped American foreign, national-security and defense policies for most of the last half century. It helped drive the U.S. into active participation in the search for Arab-Israeli peace; drove Washington into close alignments with the monarchies of the Persian Gulf states; compelled it to side with Iraq during its war with Iran; prompted it to then turn against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait, bringing about the first Persian Gulf war; and prompted Washington to then build up and sustain its military presence in the region.
Whatever the success such strategies had in ensuring American influence in the region, all also came at a price. Involvement in the Arab-Israeli peace process brought the U.S. the enmity of many of the region's most radical forces upset at the failure to create a Palestinian state. The decision to build up an American military presence in the region was used as a rationale for anti-American agitation and attacks by al Qaeda and other extremist forces.
The shift away from Middle Eastern oil means closer ties with Canada, which is emerging as the top U.S. energy ally, but also with Latin neighbors that are strong trading partners. A dollar spent buying oil from these countries is more likely to end up back in the U.S. than a dollar spent buying Iraqi or Saudi crude. Economies buoyed by petrodollars also lessen the appeal of northward migration for Latin America's poor, says Jeremy Martin, director of the energy program at the Institute of the Americas in La Jolla, Calif.
The American energy revolution also is making a splash across the Atlantic. Countries in Eastern Europe, long dependent on Russia for their energy, are seeking to tap their own shale resources with the help of U.S. companies. Even Russia, which needs new sources of oil to maintain its status as an energy superpower, is getting into fracking with the biggest U.S. oil company, Exxon Mobil Corp. This month Exxon and Russia's state-controlled OAO Rosneft broadened an existing alliance to include the joint development of tight oil reserves in western Siberia.

Milestones for American Oil

Associated Press
Crude oil pipes at the Bryan Mound site near Freeport, Texas
The prospect that new sources of supply in the Americas could lead to years of flat or even falling oil prices is a source of great concern in the Kremlin. Surging oil revenues over his 12 years in power have helped President Vladimir Putin pay for an eightfold increase in government spending, going to everything from pension and wage hikes to costly projects like the Sochi Olympics to a major military buildup. Now, his government is scrambling to find ways to tighten its belt as oil prices—and thus tax revenues—slide. Finding a new driver for Russia's economy is "a colossal challenge," said economy minister Andrei Belousov.

The domestic oil picture has become part of the presidential campaign this year. President Barack Obama likes to point out that output has surged during his first term. "We've added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some," he said in a speech earlier this year. Mitt Romney, the presumed GOP candidate, says the U.S. must do more to promote domestic exploration and says Mr. Obama is holding back the industry. Mr. Romney's campaign ads say that on "Day 1" he will give approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project to bring oil from Canada that Mr. Obama's administration has rejected for now.
The renaissance of the U.S. oil patch is pushing down oil prices, giving a boost to the economy at a time when a global slowdown threatens to crimp demand. Research firm Raymond James lowered its 2013 forecast for U.S. crude prices this month to $65 per barrel from $83, partly because production in the U.S. has risen much more quickly than previously expected.
Just the same, obstacles to developing the Western Hemisphere's oil riches remain.
Argentina recently nationalized the assets of Spanish energy giant Repsol SA, arguing that the company wasn't investing enough to develop the country's full oil potential. The action makes investors leery of risking capital there to tap shale-rock formations that could rival booming U.S. oil fields.
In Brazil, where most of the newfound oil lies under thick salt domes far beneath the seabed, a small spill in a Chevron Corp. offshore field led to criminal charges, which Chevron contests. Also, state giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA cut its world-wide 2020 production forecast by 11% earlier this month while estimating that extracting its oil would be more costly than anticipated.
In the U.S., offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is recovering slowly from the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Still, U.S. government forecasters expect that U.S. petroleum purchases from the Middle East, Africa, and Europe will drop to about 2.5 million barrels a day by 2020, from more than four million barrels today. Oil imports from the Persian Gulf's OPEC members—a group that includes Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait—will drop to 860,000 barrels a day that year from 1.6 million barrels currently.
Global oil and gas investments tripled between 2003 and 2011, according to IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. In the Western Hemisphere, where the U.S. and Canada provided more political stability for investors, they nearly quadrupled. In 2011, 48% of global oil investment, or $320 billion, ended up in the Americas, up from 39% in 2003.

A lot of that money went into the revival of the U.S. oil patch, where energy companies learned to profitably produce oil from tight oil formations by injecting them with high-pressure jets of water mixed with chemicals and sand. The technique has raised concerns with environmentalists who claim it uses too much water and can contaminate water supplies.
First developed in natural-gas fields, fracking yielded an unexpected oil boom that has redrawn America's energy geography. Abundant crude, combined with a huge refining base and waning demand at home turned the U.S. into a net exporter of refined products last year; the EIA expects that situation to continue beyond 2020.
North Dakota went from being a minor producer to surpassing Alaska in March in petroleum output thanks to the Bakken Shale, which is being developed through fracking. Now it is only second to Texas in oil production.
The Bakken, as well as Texas' booming Eagle Ford Shale and the deep-water U.S. Gulf of Mexico, helped average daily U.S. oil production rise 6% between October 2011 and March 2012, topping six million barrels a day for the first time since 1998, the EIA said this month.
"U.S. oil production was for nearly 40 years in total decline, and that decline was never supposed to end," says Jim Burkhard, an analyst with IHS CERA. "This is a major pivot point."
Canada's oil sands—where the earth is drenched in thick, tar-like oil—contain some of the largest quantities of oil in the world but for years they were too expensive to tap. Companies had to mine tons of oil-drenched sand for each barrel of oil, or inject steam deep beneath the earth to make the oil liquid enough for extraction.
As oil prices began to rise, starting in 1999, oil-sands reserves became more profitable, and early investments from Canadian producers like Suncor Energy Inc. and Encana Corp., along with international producers like Royal Dutch Shell PLC turned Canada into the largest oil exporter to the U.S. Later in the decade, international investment poured into Alberta's boreal forest from U.S.-based companies like ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil, and Chinese oil companies like Sinopec, PetroChina Co. and CNOOC Ltd.
Deep-water technology enabled Brazil, which for years depended on oil imports, to become a net exporter in 2009. By 2020, Brazil's production is expected to rival Canada's, rising 57% to 4.7 million barrels a day, thanks to some of the largest offshore oil field finds in 30 years.
The drop in American energy imports comes at a time when hundreds of millions in the developing world are beginning to consume more energy as they rise from poverty. "We're very fortunate that this is happening," said Marvin Odum, the president of Shell's U.S. unit, who also heads its exploration and production activities in the Western Hemisphere. "It enables resources to flow to emerging economies."
—Gerald F. Seib, Gregory L. White, Chip Cummins and Keith Johnson contributed to this article.

A graph that disproves AGW

From The Inconvenient Skeptic comes a graph that disproves AGW, showing satellite observations which prove that for each 1C increase in Northern Hemisphere temperature, outgoing longwave radiation increases by 2.2 W/m2. According to the IPCC, a doubling of CO2 levels will "trap" 3.7 W/m2 in the troposphere to cause 3C warming at the Earth's surface. However, as shown by this graph, a 3C warming would increase outgoing radiation to space by 3*2.2 = 6.6 W/m2, far more than the heat claimed to be "trapped" by doubled CO2 of 3.7 W/m2. As stated by The Inconvenient Skeptic, "There is simply no physical method by which CO2 is capable of overcoming this barrier.  There never has been and there never will be. This is why global warming by means of CO2 level is impossible and always will be impossible."

From The Inconvenient Skeptic:
Northern Hemisphere (NH) Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) as a function of NH temperature 
The direct dependence is a 4th order one, but even a simple linear regression gives an R^2 of 0.96.  Every 1 °C change in temperature results in a 2.2 W/m^2 increase in NH OLR.  There is simply no physical method by which CO2 is capable of overcoming this barrier.  There never has been and there never will be.  This is why global warming by means of CO2 level is impossible and always will be impossible.

Environmentalist says calling environmentalism a religion is the only criticism that does real damage

Related: New book calls belief in man-made climate change 'a pagan religion' 
Related: The climate religion fades in spasms of anger and twitches of boredom
Related: WSJ: Doomsday cultist Harold Camping is merely the Christian Al Gore
Related: The real science trashers
Related: Posts on environmentalism as a religion

From the comments:

Environmentalism, in the form of Climate Change Alarmism, is a religion.
Notice all the structural and behavioral similarities:
Monk = Scientist - They provide the articles of the faith
Priest = Journalist - They spread the faith and convert the faithful
Sin = Carbon Emissions - How an individual's acts hurt the community
Salvation = Energy Reduction - How an individual can redeem oneself
Indulgences = Carbon Credits - Buying forgiveness
Church = IPCC - Organisation in charge of the faith
Bible = IPCC Reports - the official guidebook to the faith
Evangelists = Activists - aggressive promoters of the faith
God = Gaia - the "superhuman" who will "judge" us
Lovelock = Judas - the betrayer of the faith, the apostate
Hell = 2 degree temperature rise - hot/cold/dry/wet whatever is bad will be worse
Signs from God = Any Storm or Drought
Tithes = Carbon Taxes - every religion needs money

Environmentalism is not a religion

Of all the nonsense climate change deniers throw at the green movement, there one criticism that does real damage, says James Murray
Anti wind turbine : Banner slogan on trailer protesting against windfarms in Carmarthenshire
Banner on trailer protesting against windfarms in Carmarthenshire, Wales, 25 October 2010. Photograph: Keith Morris/Alamy
Of all the blithering nonsense climate deniers throw at the environmental movement, there is perhaps one criticism that does real damage – that "green is the new religion".
We can handle the scientifically illiterate and ethically questionable attempts to undermine evidence of climatic change using cherry-picked data and discredited theories, just as we can counter the increasingly futile attempts to question the importance of the green economy and the efficacy of clean technologies. The scientific evidence linking greenhouse gas emissions and potentially dangerous levels of climate change is now so well proven, and the physical demonstration of effective clean technologies so prevalent, that the guileless smears attempted by self-styled "climate sceptics" lack their former sting.
They are fighting a losing battle with science and evidence, hence the increasingly vocal suggestion that green is the new religion. This line of attack is hugely effective and highly damaging for three main reasons.
Firstly, and most importantly, if you can convince people to see environmentalism as a religion, then you move green issues from the field of science and data into the field of theology and belief.
Religion can mean a "pursuit or interest followed with great devotion" – a definition which could just about allow environmentalism to be classified as a "religion". But it is more commonly defined as "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods", or "a particular system of faith and worship". Equate "greens" with this type of religion, with faith and deities, adherence and heresy, and it becomes all but impossible to prove or disprove the central tenets of environmentalism.
"Climate change is a matter of faith," say the climate sceptics, "green actions are acts of religion – they have no place in the real world of politics and business." Frustratingly, you can argue against this accusation all you like, but any response is tainted in the eyes of your critics by the fact it is made with a "religious conviction" that will brook no argument.
Secondly, this trope is doubly clever because like all good smears it draws on the weaknesses of its target. Some environmentalists are occasionally guilty of the worst excesses of religion. There is a tendency to drown out legitimate criticism in the most forceful terms, an inclination towards proselytization that can alienate many people, and an occasional willingness to cling to sacred cows even when the scientific evidence suggests we should at least discuss their being slayed (I'm thinking nuclear power and GM as prime examples). The image of environmental campaigners filled with passionate, but not religious, conviction makes the suggestion that environmentalism has become a religion look convincing.
Thirdly, if you can convince people that green is a religion then you allow anyone who disagrees with environmental policies or business models to wrap themselves in the comforting blanket of heresy. You create a powerful narrative of brave resistance which appeals to iconoclasts, rationalists, and sceptics (in the true sense of the world) everywhere.
All of which brings me, somewhat circuitously to the Guardian and Simon Hoggart's second assertion in as many weeks that wind turbines are like church spires, in that "they achieve nothing but have a purely religious significance" – an argument that was expounded by drawing on James Lovelock's recent claims that environmentalism has become a religion.
"He's right," Hoggart wrote of Lovelock's latest comments. "[Environmentalists] accuse their opponents not just of being mistaken, but of heresy. They put too much importance on symbolic acts; just as your marrow at the harvest festival doesn't end world hunger, so you won't save the planet by cycling to work. Wind turbines, like spires, reach for the skies to no apparent effect. Facts that contradict dogma have to be concealed, as in the East Anglia data hush-up. Allies who change their minds can be denounced as apostates."
Now Simon Hoggart is one of the best and most respected journalists working in Britain today, but, like his stable-mate at the Guardian, Simon Jenkins, he has decided wind turbines are loathsome and that anything to do with climate change and environmentalism should face the same cynicism that serves his peerless political sketch-writing so well.
As such, Hoggart can argue greens have been captured by "religious fervour", wind turbines serve no purpose beyond the symbolic, the only take away from the University of East Anglia affair was the ludicrous assertion that data was "hushed-up", and one of the UK's most intelligent journalists is happy to declare that "I have no idea who is right about climate change".
Without wishing to accuse Hoggart or many of the other commentators who have made similar points in recent years of heresy, this is all utterly nonsensical.
Environmentalism is not a religion in any real sense of the word. Yes, some of its supporters display levels of conviction that can look religious, but the central tenets of environmentalism, not to mention green policies and campaigns, are based on evidence and the application of scientific reason.
We might sometimes disagree on the evidence and the conclusions, but no one is using faith as an argument to advance their case. Those who do are quickly discredited and are increasingly confined to the more "out there" extremes of the environmental movement.
I'm sure Hoggart is being truthful when he says he does not know who is right about climate change, but if he wanted to apply the same standards of knowledge to other areas he would have to admit he is not sure who is right about the link between smoking and cancer – the medical establishment, or the discredited hacks who spent years providing dodgy research to the tobacco companies. He can argue that wind turbines look ugly, but to argue that they have "no apparent effect" is to dismiss reams of independent evidence to the contrary, not least the energy meters attached to any wind turbine recording the power being fed into the grid.
People who suggest climate change might not be happening are not heretics, but they are guilty of a quite staggering lack of intellectual rigour and those who suggest green is a religion, including the estimable James Lovelock, are guilty of a remarkable category error.
You can call environmentalism an ideology, a political movement, even a lifestyle; but it sure as hell isn't a religion.
James Murray is the editor of BusinessGreen

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

EIA: US CO2 emissions will remain less than 2005 levels for the next 23 years

Not that it will make any difference to the climate, the US Energy Dept. predicted today that US CO2 emissions will remain less than 2005 levels for the next 23 years, and that the US will rely less on imported oil and become a net exporter of natural gas. 

EIA: U.S. CO2 emissions remain static

Published: June 26, 2012 at 7:13 AM

WASHINGTON, June 26 (UPI) -- WASHINGTON, June 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Energy Department predicted carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. energy consumption should remain less than 2005 levels for the next 23 years.

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, in its annual report, said energy-related CO2 emissions grow slowly because of economic factors, improvements in energy efficiency and the increased use of low-carbon energy forms.

"Emissions remain below their 2005 level from 2010 to 2035, even in the absence of new federal policies designed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions," the EIA said in its reports.

The EIA found that the use of natural gas to produce electricity increases from 24 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2035. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, meanwhile, increase their share from 10 percent to 15 percent during the reporting period.

At the same time, the report states, electricity generation from coal declines from roughly 48 percent in 2008 to less than 38 percent during the coming decades.

The report states that, under its current assumptions, the United States starts relying less on imported oil and the country will eventually become a net exporter of natural gas.

The EIA cautioned, however, that some of its projections could be influenced by economic and regulatory factors.

Time Mag finally admits 'We've heard warnings about imminent environmental collapse before, and they haven't yet been right'

Photo: CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP / GettyImages
By Bryan Walsh 
Expectations were extremely modest for the Rio+20 Earth Summit that ended last week--and the best thing that might be said about the conference is that it managed to clear that very low bar. Despite the presence of more than 50,000 people and about 100 heads of state and government--though not, notably, U.S. President Barack Obama--the summit produced very little of note. The final statement that was negotiated at Rio--titled "The Future We Want"--was 253 paragraphs of affirmations and entreaties that added up to little more than a plea for something better. The Chinese diplomat Sha Zukang, who headed Rio+20 for the U.N., called the statement "an outcome that makes nobody happy," while environmental NGOs were blunter: "A failure of epic proportions" said Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International, adding that the statement itself was "the longest suicide note in history."

It's tempting to use the failure of the Rio+20 conference as evidence that international environmental summits and accords are simply unworkable. But it's hardly only environmental issues that are gridlocked at the global level. Just a few days before Rio, the leaders of the world's most powerful countries failed to make much progress on either the European financial crisis or the violence in Syria--two problems that are more immediately pressing than climate change, water shortages, endangered species or just about any other big-picture issue that was kicked around in Rio. If the leaders of the world can't come together to avert what could be the next great global recession or a growing Syrian bloodbath, fixing the infinitely more complex problem of climate change seems all but hopeless.

So how worried should we be? There's no shortage of frightening studies that tell us we're headed for a climate tipping point--we've covered them here at Going Green. But we've heard warnings about imminent environmental collapse before, and they haven't yet been right, as the Danish economist and environmental contrarian Bjorn Lomborg points out in an essay in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs.

Lomborg looks back to an influential 1972 report calledThe Limits to Growth, by the Club of Rome--a blue-ribbon collection of business leaders, scholars and government officials convened at the time by the Italian tycoon Aurielo Peccei. Based on forecasts drawn from computer models developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Club of Rome predicted that the world was about to hit a wall on vital natural resources like food and energy, even as it was choked by pollution. A TIME magazine story on the report, headlined "The Worst Is Yet to Be?", captured the grimness, laying out a nightmarish scenario of mass starvation, deindustrialization and general collapse--all to happen within our lifetimes.

Obviously that hasn't occurred. On the whole, humanity is significantly healthier and wealthier than it was 40 years ago--especially in developing nations like China and India, which have seen hundreds of millions of people lifted out of abject poverty. The Club of Rome predicted that the world would effectively run out of vital natural resources like aluminum, oil and natural gas; nothing of that sort has happened either, and some of those resources have actually become less expensive. While there are still 1 billion people who go to bed hungry each day--a number that has crept up recently after falling for years--global calorie availability since the Club of Rome report has increased by more than 25%. "Over the past 40 years," Lomborg writes, "the fraction of the global population that is malnourished has dropped from 35% to less than 16%, and well over 2 billion more people have been fed adequately." When famines and mass starvation do occur, as they have recently in parts of Somalia and Sudan, war and political unrest bear more of the blame than farming failures or environmental degradation.

This isn't to say that the world is better in every way than it was 40 years ago--not remotely. The number of endangered species continues to grow, as do extinctions, so rapidly that some scientists believe we may already be entering the sixth great extinction event. (The last great extinction event occurred 65 millions years ago, when the dinosaurs died off and made way for the mammals.) And while the environmental alarmists have been wrong in the past, there's no guarantee they'll be wrong in the future. Some problems--like carbon emissions--are growing even faster today than the pessimists would have predicted a decade or two ago. The 7 billion people on Earth--led by the 1.2 billion people who live in the rich nations of the developed world--are changing the planet so rapidly that we're entering a new geological age called the Anthropocene, one in which humans are dominant force on the global ecosystem. That puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders to manage the planet, and as the Nature Conservancy's Rob McDonald put it with elegant understatement in a recent essay, "our track record of such management thus far is not encouraging."

So if tackling environmental problems globally seems impossible for now, what should we be doing? For one thing, Lomborg thinks, we should take some of the attention and money that goes to fight climate change and instead put it towards environmental threats that are killing people right now: namely, the lack of clean water and sanitation, as well as ordinary air pollution. Nearly a million people die annually due to outdoor air pollution from sources like coal-fired power plants and traffic fumes, while as many as 2 million people--nearly all in the developing world--die from indoor air pollution that mostly comes from cooking and heating in poorly ventilated huts. "We need to focus on those practical problems," Lomborg told me in a recent interview. "That's where a difference can be made now."

To those who fear that we might be standing on the brink of planetary collapse, concentrating on clean-burning stoves might seem like straightening the pictures while the house burns down. But if there's one lesson we can take from Rio, it's that top-down problem solving isn't an option any longer. Maybe the best we can do for now is try to solve the small problems--and hope that the big ones are less big than we fear.

How Cuba Became a 'Happy' Country

Citizens flee on rafts. But environmentalists know better.

In what league does Iraq beat Britain, Haiti beat the United States, and Afghanistan beat Denmark? Political corruption? Violent crime? Temperature? No, welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Happy Planet Index. It is a little window into the way many environmentalists think.
The Happy Planet Index (HPI) purports to "measure what matters: the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them." It beautifully illustrates the two great vices of environmentalist thought: fetishizing resource efficiency above everything else and treating happiness economics with far too much respect.

Countries with high living standards tend to use more natural resources. That's why instead of being praised as having a dynamic economy and being the least corrupt country in Africa, Botswana comes at the bottom of the Happy Planet Index. It scores a pitiful 22.6, way below the Democratic Republic of the Congo (30.5) and Zimbabwe (35.3). Botswana's people might enjoy a much higher standard of living, but that means a larger ecological footprint.
Of course I will use less oil if I walk to work instead of driving or even getting the bus, or if I bring in crops by hand instead of using a combine harvester. The price you pay for that is normally taking a lot more time and therefore being a lot less productive: That's why we have to balance resource efficiency against other priorities. You might be able to consume fewer resources (and create lots of green jobs) by having people run in giant hamster wheels, but that doesn't make it a sensible way to power a city.
Happiness economics has similar problems. It works by asking people how satisfied they are with their lives. To assess "experienced well-being," the Happy Planet Index uses a question called the "Ladder of Life" from the Gallup World Poll. It asks respondents to imagine a ladder, where zero is the worst possible life and 10 is the best possible life, and report the step of the ladder on which they feel they currently stand.
The problem with a question like that is that your horizons might be a little more limited if you've grown up in a war-torn village in Afghanistan instead of prosperous, stable and connected Denmark. The average inhabitant of Copenhagen can probably imagine a more impressive life than the average inhabitant of Kabul, and that means a much higher bar for the real lives to meet.
It's even worse if you've grown up on the American dream. Do we really want to give countries high marks because the people living there treat just scraping by as a real achievement?
The Happy Planet Index hasn't been composed by some lonely obsessive living with his mother and boring a very small number of readers in a rarely visited corner of the Internet. No, the Happy Planet Index has been produced by the New Economics Foundation, a think tank with an annual budget of more than $3.9 million and a staff of more than 50. They may be as mad as a box of frogs, but these people are well-funded and influential.
They are also playing with taxpayers' money. One of the New Economics Foundation's biggest donors in 2010-11—giving them more than $155,000—was the British government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs paid more than $90,000 for another project in 2009 in which the New Economics Foundation produced a report—"Moments of change as opportunities for influencing behaviour"—which looked to Communist Cuba for an example of "mass efficiency improvement."
Cuba, by the way, ranks 12th on the Happy Planet scale.
Reports like the Happy Planet Index claim to show us a different way of measuring success that "puts current and future well-being at the heart of measurement." But there's a reason Cubans regularly risk (and lose) their lives trying to escape their home country and make it to America, and there's no waves of humanity flowing in the opposite direction. That the Happy Planet Index can't capture those realities, or chooses to ignore them, suggests, well, that its authors are living on another planet.
Mr. Sinclair is director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, a London-based think-tank.

New paper finds greenhouse gas warming to be half of IPCC assumptions

A new paper published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics finds the sensitivity of Earth's climate to changes in greenhouse gases is about half that assumed by the IPCC. The paper examines changes in solar activity to determine 
"The sensitivity of the ECS [Earth's climate system] to changes in radiative forcing at the top of the atmosphere is equal to 0.41±0.05 K W−1 m2." 
The IPCC, however, claims that a change in the top of the atmosphere [TOA] radiation of 3.7 W/m2 from a doubling of CO2 will lead to a 3°C ± 1.5°C temperature increase. The IPCC climate sensitivity is therefore 3K/(3.7W/m2) or 0.81 K/W/m2, about double the amount [0.41 K/W/m2] determined by this new paper. 

Note, however, this paper calculates sensitivity on the basis of solar radiation, which is significantly different from infrared radiation from greenhouse gases. Unlike UV and visible radiation from the Sun, infrared radiation from greenhouse gases cannot heat the oceans [70% of Earth's surface area], therefore the sensitivity to greenhouse gases on the land surface is calculated to be 

(1-.70)*0.41 = 0.12 K/W/m2

indicating the effect of doubling CO2 levels on Earth's climate is trivial and confirming the low sensitivities obtained by others from observations without computer gaming. Here here here as well as Lindzen & Choi, Paltridge, Spencer & Braswell, and others.

Estimation of impulse response of Earth's climate system at short time intervals

  • Chair of Meteorology and Climatology, Saratov State University, Astrakhanskaya st. 83, 410012 Saratov, Russia
The method is described for restoration of the impulse response h(t) of the Earth's climate system (ECS), regarded as a time-invariant linear dynamical system whose input is the change in solar constant, and output - the global mean surface temperature anomalies. Search for solution of the ill-posed inverse problem is carried out on a compact set of convex downward non-negative functions. This suggests that ECS may be a first-order dynamic system or a set of similar independent subsystems with different time constants. Results of restoration of h(t) at time intervals up to 100 months show that it is a rapidly decreasing function, which do not differ from zero for t>3 months. An estimate of the equivalent time constant gives the average value of 1.04±0.17 months. The sensitivity of the ECS [Earth's climate system] to changes in radiative forcing at the top of the atmosphere is equal to 0.41±0.05 K W−1 m2.