The Fractured Portfolio

A continuation

politics-sciencealexjonesclimatechange-02

This came up in a previous post (see the link above). As all should know by now, Alex Jones is Texas’ own authority on dealings devious and facts spurious. On Saturday The Alex Jones Channel featured an interview with wannabe scientist Timothy Ball, Ph.D. Ball is a retired professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg. From Wikipedia:

Ball rejects the scientific opinion on climate change, stating that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas.

Before I dive into some of Dr. Ball’s major absurdities, I want to lay out a partial transcript of the interview by Millie Weaver for infowars.com:

Weaver: Reporting for infowars.com I’m here in Phoenix, Arizona, where just this last weekend the Freedom Force International group held a conference here on the subject matter of climate change and the inconvenient lie that’s being perpetrated by the mainstream media and other people, such as Al Gore, that man is responsible for climate change and that we need to hurry up and take action in this. Well, Donald Trump just met with Al Gore, and we have all these mainstream media leftist outlets touting that Donald Trump is going to veer from  his campaign pledges and keep some of these regulations on the basis of man made climate change.

[There is a short clip of Al Gore discussing his conversation with Donald Trump. Weaver continues, aiming to refute any implication that Trump will back off on climate change.]

Weaver: Well, I have information that counters that, and I just met with the man this weekend named Timothy Ball that spoke at that conference, who is scheduled to meet with Donald Trump’s VP. This is very important because this man has evidence that counters the policy opinions of Al Gore. So let’s go ahead and hear what he has to say.

You’re scheduled to meet with Trump’s upside advisor soon. Isn’t that correct?

Ball: Yeah.Well, one of the things that… About 25 years ago I appeared before Congress on the climate issue, and I was also invited to speak at a place called the Competitive Enterprise Institute. I met Myron Ebell and then at the Heartland or climate conferences or around. I met him several times. About a month before the election date he was notified by the Trump people that he was going to be put in charge of deregulating EPA, so and was invited to go and meet with Myron in Washington on the 12th of December and will lay out the issues, and he knows a lot of it. But one of the things I think I can contribute is providing his ways of explaining to the politicians and to the public the complexity.

When you burn ethanol, which of course is plant-produced, and the government was telling people when you burn ethanol there is less CO2 produced than from fossil fuel. Not true. It’s simply not true. When you burn ethanol you get far more CO2 produced, okay. But what they said was, well growing the plants takes CO2 out of the atmosphere, so we’re giving them a net taker. But with the actual car going down the road, so the ethanol car’s putting out far more CO2 than the fossil fuel car.

And of course the government shifted the subsidies to corn-producers, that they got far more money if they produced the corn, and it went to the ethanol plan than if it went to the food plan. That led to a massive increase in basic food costs around the world. And I’ll show you how that links. When corn is basic and the price went up, all the other basic food supplies went up. That led to food riots in Egypt. OK. Obama said, “Oh no, that’s Arab spring. That’s democracy.” No it wasn’t. It was the food riot. But Obama, of course, said we’ve got to get to get rid of Hosny Mubarak, because he wanted to put the Muslim Brotherhood in. So he exploited the situation that his own policies in the corn market had created. But this is the kind of clever and devious games that they use.

Weaver: What are some of the health or environmental effects that these supposed green energy projects can do?

Ball: What did the alternative energies, of course, are in terms of the bird kills, the bat kills, the environmental damage, the noise that they produce, the footprint. And in order to replace a 1000 megawatt coal station you need acres and acres of land. The turbines need to be spread out because they interfere with each other. If you go by a wind farm there is always one turbine turning. That’s being driven by electricity off the grid, because you need that energy to to get the other wind turbines started. Okay. Plus once you’re using wind power as a source of energy into the grid, you can only use about twelve percent of your total energy production from  wind, or solar, because if it disappears, the system will draw on the grid, so the grid has to pick up that power demand instantly. So what people don’t know is when the wind turbines are turning, the coal plant is also running. So again this goes back to this problem of doing proper cost-benefit analysis. And that is just missing in every phase of this whole environmental scam. And that needs to be looked at. And particularly if it’s a project like the wind project, the government don’t want  to hear about the problems with it. They suppress all of that. But there are so many side effects. One of the things that concern me for a long time is noise pollution.

At this point Ball goes on to discuss what he considers to be more matters more critical than CO2 emissions. These include the real issues of flooding and droughts and clean water. He agrees the Flint, Michigan, water crises is real and needs to be addressed. He assures us that the Trump administration is not going to dismantle the EPA. The EPA is still needed, but it needs to be refocused [my words]. Then he concludes with a final shot at CO2 emissions.

Ball: The real issues have been pushed aside by these phony issues. And they talk about fake news, this is fake science. But for a political agenda.

Ball is a real college professor, having taught at a real university. His problem is that he wants to proclaim outside his field of expertise. I am reminded by others, and I agree, that it is not who is saying something that counts, but whether what is said is true. In Ball’s case, a lot of what he says is outside his professional field and also is not true.

Let’s examine what Ball has to say about burning ethanol in an automobile engine. Some Skeptical Analysis is in order. I have college degrees in engineering and physics, and I have taken courses in thermodynamics, chemistry, and physical chemistry. That said, I am going to pull on the Internet for my information here. We all know how reliable Internet sources are. Here is one:

The energy of ethanol relative to gasoline
A. 76,000 = BTU of energy in a gallon of ethanol
B. 116,090 = BTU of energy in a gallon of gasoline
C. .655 = 2/3 = GGE of energy in a gallon of ethanol. A / B. (GGE =energy in a gal. of gas)
D. 1.53 = Gallons of ethanol with the energy of 1 gallon of gasoline. D = B / A.

Let’s take the above as true. I have another source from the United States government that agrees much with those numbers. Yes, your mileage burning  ethanol will be much lower. So, what does that matter? Examine the carbon impact.

Here is gasoline. Assume the octane molecule:

C8H18

Here is ethanol:

CH3CH2OH

Here I am going to make a wild assumption. The density of the liquid form is proportional to the molecular weight. That gives:

Gasoline → 8 carbon atoms
Methanol → 2 carbon atoms

Burning a gallon of gasoline injects four carbon atoms into the atmosphere (in the form of CO2) for every  one carbon atom injected into the atmosphere for a gallon of methanol. But gasoline gives you more miles per gallon. Even so, methanol wins. Where is Dr. Ball getting his numbers? Is Inforwars.com a fake news site?

There’s more. Dr. Ball is shown saying:

But what they said was, well growing the plants takes CO2 out of the atmosphere, so we’re giving them a net taker. But with the actual car going down the road, so the ethanol car’s putting out far more CO2 than the fossil fuel car.

Tadaa! The car running on ethanol is putting more CO2 into the air than the car running on gasoline (not true). Therefore the car running on ethanol is worse. Dr. Ball has either slipped a gear in his thinking, or else he is trying to pull a switch on his listeners. In the case of ethanol, all the carbon the car is putting into the atmosphere was just weeks earlier pulled out of the atmosphere. There is no net introduction of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Others have pointed out to me that ethanol production is not carbon neutral. Restated: planting, raising, harvesting the crops and producing ethanol from the crops requires the use of fossil fuel to the extent of rendering ethanol a net gain in CO2 (more CO2 into the atmosphere). What needs to happen for ethanol fuel to be carbon neutral is for all the fuel used by farm machinery and all the energy used in the production of ethanol from  the crops be carbon neutral. The process must be able to rely solely on its own product. Can this be done?

An examination of Internet sources would confirm that producing ethanol from corn is not carbon neutral. An item from Scientific American magazine is typical of findings:

California regulators, trying to assess the true environmental cost of corn ethanol, are poised to declare that the biofuel cannot help the state reduce global warming.

As they see it, corn is no better – and might be worse – than petroleum when total greenhouse gas emissions are considered.

Such a declaration, to be considered later this week by the California Air Resources Board, would be a considerable blow to the corn-ethanol industry in the United States.

Corn growing has been subsidized for more than 20 years by the mandate to include ethanol in gasoline fuel mixes. This subsidy is not likely to go away soon, due the powerful lobbying interests of regions producing corn.

This is not scientific evidence against ethanol fuel, however. With politics out of the picture, the ethanol solution may still be viable. Brazil is significant:

Brazil is considered to have the world’s first sustainable biofuels economy and the biofuel industry leader, a policy model for other countries; and its sugarcane ethanol “the most successful alternative fuel to date.” However, some authors consider that the successful Brazilian ethanol model is sustainable only in Brazil due to its advanced agri-industrial technology and its enormous amount of arable land available; while according to other authors it is a solution only for some countries in the tropical zone of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

The significant drawback to ethanol production as a substitute for fossil fuels (gasoline) is the ecological impact of farming. Certainly growing corn on farm acreage and then using only the kernels to produce fuel is inefficient. Corn stalks and leaves represent a significant load of carbon that is removed from the atmosphere while the plant is growing and then returned to the atmosphere when these parts are used as animal food, burned, or composted. Using farm  land to produce fuel instead of food impacts the ability of the planet to feed its human population.

The good news is that it’s not necessary to grow crops in order to remove carbon from the atmosphere to produce fuel for cars, planes, and trains. While nothing can compare to the efficiency of thousands of square miles of green leaves soaking up sunlight and carbon  dioxide while no human hand is laid upon the process, other means will become necessary in future economies. They are being developed. Here is one:

A pilot project to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into pellets that can either be used as fuel or stored underground for later has been launched by a Vancouver-based start-up called Carbon Engineering.

While the test facility has so far only extracted 10 tonnes of CO2 since its launch back in June, its operations will help inform the construction of a $200 million commercial plant in 2017, which is expected to extract 1 million tonnes per day – the equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road every year. It plans to start selling CO2-based synthetic fuels by 2018.

Required for consideration is the total cost of such an operation. What needs to be considered are:

  • Initial construction (total costs)
  • Maintenance of the machinery
  • Cost of operating the process (total cost)
  • Environmental footprint of the process

But this post is about Dr. Ball and his apparently off-track remarks about AGW (anthropogenic global warming). Dr. Ball boasts of his engagements at such scientific confabs as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, and his association with the likes of Myron Ebell. That’s a bit of sarcasm, in case you missed it.

The Heartland Institute I have covered previously:

A big deal with Heartland Institute was global warming. I highlighted the phrase because, as all know by now, it has a special meaning. The term has come to represent the apparent fact that human activities are causing a precipitous warming of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. More specifically, the burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to more effectively trap solar energy. The consequences range from melting of polar ice, which will result in a devastating rise in sea levels—not so devastating maybe to Orlando, Florida, which promises to become a seaside resort—to possible crop damaging climate change. Mitigating action seems to indicate reduced use of fossil fuels, an action opposed to those who own stock in the industry.

A lot of science gets lost in organizations such as Heartland. Here is what fell out of some documents pilfered from Heartland’s inner sanctum:

Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.-Confirmation that Charles G. Koch Foundation is again funding Heartland Institute’s global warming disinformation campaign. [Update: Apparently even the Koch brothers think the Heartland Institute’s climate denial program is too toxic to fund. On Wednesday, Koch confirmed that it did not cut a check for the $200K mentioned in the strategy memo after all. A statement released on KochFacts.com and the charleskochfoundationfacts.org states that “…the Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.”]

The Competitive Enterprise Institute also seems little concerned with real science:

In May 2006, CEI’s global warming policy activities attracted attention as it embarked upon an ad campaign with two television commercials. These ads promote carbon dioxide as a positive factor in the environment and argue that global warming is not a concern. One ad focuses on the message that CO2 is misrepresented as a pollutant, stating that “it’s essential to life. We breathe it out. Plants breathe it in… They call it pollution. We call it life.” The other states that the world’s glaciers are “growing, not melting… getting thicker, not thinner.” It cites Science articles to support its claims. However, the editor of Science stated that the ad “misrepresents the conclusions of the two cited Science papers… by selective referencing”. The author of the articles, Curt Davis, director of the Center for Geospatial Intelligence at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said CEI was misrepresenting his previous research to inflate their claims. “These television ads are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate”, Davis said.

Additionally, Myron Ebell’s science aversion is well  noted:

Myron Ebell is Director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. He is also the chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a loose coalition formed in 1997 which presents itself as “focused on dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis”. In these organizations, Ebell has been central in promoting climate change denial, distributing his views to the media and politicians.[Ebell, who is not a scientist, has been described as a climate change skeptic, a climate contrarian and a climate change denier.

In September 2016, Ebell was appointed by then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to lead his transition team for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This last part is something many find deeply disturbing. Whether Mr. Trump’s coming administration decides to run athwart modern science may depend on whether some level heads get his ear.

Timothy Ball’s scientific standing is another matter. Although Ball has a Ph.D. in climatology, he has never worked in the field. He is a scientist in the sense that geography is a science. Geography rightly deals with human populations and the effects of climate and terrain. This means his comments regarding the economics of ethanol production are within his realm. Clearly his thinking and his commentary regarding the science behind AGW remain contrary to known fact, allowing us to classify him as a fake news source. Some of the controversies surrounding Dr. Ball indicate a person not dedicated to scientific rigor and matters of fact. Again from Wikipedia:

Ball claimed, in an article written for the Calgary Herald, that he was the first person to receive a PhD in climatology in Canada, and that he had been a professor for 28 years, claims he also made in a letter to then-prime minister of Canada, Paul Martin. Dan Johnson, a professor of environmental science at the University of Lethbridge, countered his claim on April 23, 2006, in a letter to the Herald stating that when Ball received his PhD in 1983, “Canada already had PhDs in climatology,” and that Ball had only been a professor for eight years, rather than 28 as he had claimed. Johnson, however, counted only Ball’s years as a full professor. In the letter, Johnson also wrote that Ball “did not show any evidence of research regarding climate and atmosphere.”

In response, Ball filed a lawsuit against Johnson. Ball’s representation in the case was provided by Fraser Milner Casgrain. Johnson’s statement of defense was provided by the Calgary Herald, which stated that Ball “…never had a reputation in the scientific community as a noted climatologist and authority on global warming,” and that he “…is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist.”[45] In the ensuing court case, Ball acknowledged that he had only been a professor for eight years, and that his doctorate was not in climatology but rather in geography,[39] and subsequently withdrew the lawsuit on June 8, 2007.

In February 2011, it was reported that climate scientist Andrew J. Weaver had sued Ball over an article Ball wrote for the Canada Free Press, an article which was later retracted. In the article, Ball described Weaver as lacking a basic understanding of climate science and stated, incorrectly, that Weaver would not be involved in the production of the IPCC’s next report because he had concerns about its credibility.[49][50] Ball contended that the lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt to silence him because of his skeptical position on global warming, despite Ball’s own 2006 defamation lawsuit against Dan Johnson.

Ball found himself at the center of controversy again later that year, when he told an anonymous interviewer that Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, “should be in the State Pen, not Penn State,” due to Mann’s role in the Climatic Research Unit email controversy. Mann then sued Ball for libel, and stated that he was seeking punitive damages and for the article to be removed from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s website, on which it was originally published. James Taylor, senior fellow of the Heartland Institute, defended Ball, arguing that what he had said about Mann was merely a “humorous insult.” Fred Singer made a similar argument in a 2012 article, saying that what Ball had written was written as a joke and that Mann was “improvidently” suing him.

The positions and statements of Dr. Ball are representative of those I see from various global warming deniers. Here is a snippet of a conversation with somebody terribly interested in AGW but owning nary a clue regarding the associated facts:

Daniel G. Kuttner I’ll concede the context, I should have said “as I recall.” I will correct the above comment.
You must be kidding, though, about CO2 not being heavier than air. You’ve used a CO2 extinguisher, right? You have to know molecular weight, right?
Here’s a part of the calculation (didn’t want to buy the paper):
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/…/JZ062i003p00351/epdf…

In any case, most of the air at sea level is composed of mostly N, about 15% O2, and only about 1% being other gases. Its average molecular weight is 28
A molecule of CO2 has a molecular weight of 12 + (16)2 = 44. So CO2 is about 1.4x the weight of air.
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/molecular-weight-gas…
Your rebuttal?

Like · Reply · December 3 at 5:55pm

My rebuttal was this:

John Blanton Dan, I do not deny that CO2 is denser than air. However, you did not say, in your argument, that CO2 is denser. You said that CO2 is so many times heavier than the rest of the atmosphere. It’s not the same thing, and it’s not the kind of statement you want to make when arguing a technical point. Apparently your field has been in communication, and taking care what you say is a big part of communicating clearly. You are a non scientist, and you are arguing technical points with scientists, including me. You need to have at least as much knowledge about the subject as the scientists in order to make a successful argument. I get the impression you are pulling text from questionable sources and passing it off as knowledge. You need to pull from reliable sources if you hope to make headway in this kind of discussion.

Like · Reply · December 3 at 6:40pm

Then the conversation began to get really weird:

Daniel G. Kuttner I never said it was denser. I still don’t. It is heavier. My link shows that.
Density is a function of altitude and temperature.
Part of my proof also involves a thing called Partial Pressure. At altitudes of “greenhouse” effect, CO2 is less abundant, as is Oxygen and other heavier gases. This is one reason why humans require supplemental oxygen at altitude. CO2 is heavier than O2, so it’s even less abundant at altitude, resulting in a lower partial pressure of the CO2.
Just add the molecular weights in the table I linked.
Gosh, I’m beginning to sympathize with that religious guy. Can you please stay on topic and not change the argument each time? Maybe even answer a question or two?
Try to stay off the ad hominem, too. Calling someone a “non scientistt” and oozing condescension while YOU’re being non scientific doesn’t bolster your argument, nor refute theirs.
OK.. You get the last word.

And I did get the last word, but only because at some later point Dan and I  both concluded that further discussion was pointless. Dan came back with additional comments after I had this to say:

John Blanton Dan, calling somebody a non scientist is not ad hominin. It is not an insult. It’s just a fact of life in your case. You never made a serious study of science, and you never obtained a degree in science. I’m merely pointing out this fact as a precaution you need to take when wading into a discussion of matters scientific with one who does have considerable training and experience in the field. When you make these kinds of remarks, such as the ones regarding weight, density, carbon dioxide, the mixing of gases in the atmosphere, the problem becomes apparent. Your discussion of concentration variation illustrates you are not acquainted with principles of gaseous diffusion, for example. It’s high school science. As a result, your assertions regarding the distribution of carbon dioxide are completely wrong, and undermine the remainder of your argument.

Like · Reply · December 4 at 3:43pm

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.
This has not been a learned debate or even a discussion, in my book. Sad, actually, because I’m convinced you DO have the capability. It just appears you have an agenda you accept, and won’t accept anything that conflicts with or undermines that belief.
That’s not Science, that’s Scientism; a religion, of which there are many practitioners on the talking-head box.
Your political positions I’ve seen are supported the same way: Talk down to the opposition and question their credentials according to some amorphous standard.
Again, I await your analytical critique of my numbers. Maybe you can also support why the key members of the Global Warming “science” supporters have been caught THREE TIMES falsifying or cherry-picking their data.
That’s the only type of refutation I’ll answer hereafter on this subject.
PS: I was also hoping at some point you’d reply to my IM about your inventions. I am definitely interested in those!

Like · Reply · December 4 at 5:49pm · Edited

John Blanton Additionally, I am working off-site and am forced to keep my responses brief. Details later.

Like · Reply · December 4 at 3:45pm

John Blanton Once again, I’m on a short leash here. I don’t have access to my computer, so I will respond as I can for the time being. You are conflating weight and density. Keep the two straight. CO2 is denser than air, as you have discovered. You are wrong in concluding that CO2 is unevenly distributed. Below 90 km the gases remain evenly mixed. The remainder of your argument falls apart from there.

It’s much like the dialogues I have had with creationists. Those denying AGW and Darwinian  evolution give all the appearance of being driven  more by ideology than by hard facts. It makes for a weird world when these people get into  the upper reaches of government.

May Jesus have mercy on our souls.

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