Gordon Fulks, PhD. Comments At AFP's "Its About Jobs" Rally
The Merchants of Fears Attack of the Primary Energy Source in America: COAL
July 24, 2012
Gordon J. Fulks, PhD Physics University of Chicago
The title of my remarks today is “The Merchants of Fear attack the primary energy source in America: COAL.” They are addressed to this crowd and to President Obama who is visiting our fair city today.
Good Morning everyone. I trust you will enjoy this beautiful day, where we have been promised a high temperature approaching normal. Imagine that! NORMAL! After another long cold Spring, we may now enjoy a few weeks of real summer weather, the best summer weather in America. Some of you may realize that the Spring of 2011 was the coldest in the Pacific Northwest since records began in the late 1800s. That is until the tricksters at NOAA revised the data to show it only the second coldest! I wonder if they will eventually revise it to be the “warmest on record?” Honesty has not been the primary goal at NOAA under the heavily politicized Jane Lubchenco, appointed by President Obama.
In the short time I have this morning to address the fearmongering over coal, I am going to give you perspectives of three astrophysicists (the notorious Global Warming Guru Dr. James Hansen of NASA GISS, the well-known Dr. Willie Soon of Harvard University, and me.) I’m originally from the University of Chicago Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research, have worked on many geophysical problems in the Think Tank world, and am very familiar with the science of assessing risk.
Also in tribute to a Liberal, Alexander Cockburn, whose death the other day significantly lowered the collective IQ of the Left, I am going to include some of his thoughts. In his wonderful essay :”Who are the Merchants of Fear?”, he begins by saying: “No response is more predictable than the reflexive squawk of the greenhouse fearmongers that anyone questioning their claims is in the pay of the energy companies.” To preemptively answer that charge, I have no financial relationship with any fossil fuel company, beyond a “pay at the pump” relationship with the oil companies.”
The specific fearmongering we have seen with proposed coal exports here in the Portland area has centered around clouds of dust coming from coal trains and diesel smoke coming from diesel locomotives. The local fearmonger claiming a commission from our Governor is Richard Ellmyer. He wrote a long expose for The Oregonian detailing his amateurish calculations. Without any technical training, Ellmyer makes the classic mistake of generating large numbers without putting them in any context. Tons of theoretical coal dust have no meaning unless compared with the vastly larger figure for tons of ordinary dust from many natural sources. They are as much of a health hazard.
And of course Ellmyer is into ‘number inflation’ where he uses the largest numbers he thinks might be believable, without regard to veracity. If you believe his numbers, the proposed coal trains will lose a million pounds of coal each day from blow-off. That’s completely ridiculous!
As Loren Mayer of PGE’s coal plant in Boardman pointed out to us, the fine coal that might blow off quickly settles to the bottom of the coal cars, well out of reach of the wind. The coal on top is also coated with a spray designed to further reduce blow off.
But what about the photos that activists circulate of trains leaving vast black clouds in their wake. A Burlington Northern Santa Fe employee in this area thinks that those are probably trains transporting coke not coal. Coke is a sooty material that resembles charcoal. It is far different from the coal that various companies are proposing to ship through the Portland area. Use of such photos is very dishonest, though not at all surprising coming from the fearmongers.
As a scientist, I like confirmation from alternate perspectives. So I asked my brother who lives in Scottsbluff, Nebraska to send some photos of the busy railroad tracks near his home. Those tracks are on the main line handling coal shipments from Wyoming to many power plants in the East. If coal dust were significant anywhere, it should be there. What did he find? NOT A TRACE of coal dust anywhere! NOT A TRACE!
His photos did show a little diesel smoke coming from one train. As the owner of a diesel tractor and a diesel car, I know that diesels put out a little black smoke. And as a reviewer of the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB’s) latest study of diesel smoke, I know that heavily political regulatory agencies maintain that such smoke is hazardous. But UCLA Professor of Epidemiology James Enstrom, and I, and a number of others found fundamental flaws in their $750,000 analysis that should have relegated it to the rubbish bin. With extremely tortured logic, they claimed a slight increase in premature deaths from cardiovascular problems while ignoring the slight reduction in lung cancer fatalities that their analysis also showed. That reduction was laughable. Although this made their study ridiculous, CARB ignored all criticism.
Of course local fearmonger Ellmyer just spews the nonsense about “carcinogenic.”
At this point let me introduce an unlikely ally in the battle against those who blow minute concerns far out of proportion: Dr. James Hansen. He is well-known for his statements about “Coal Death Trains.” But Hansen is using an unfortunate reference to the Holocaust to further Global Warming hysteria not complaining about virtually non-existent coal dust. In fact, Hansen goes out of his way to point out that those things that are hazardous in large quantities have no consequence in very very low quantities below some threshold. He uses the example of radiation, which most people fear but is around us all the time. He correctly points out that sunlight is a very intense form of radiation that is actually beneficial to us in small doses.
Over millions of years we have evolved into a race of Supermen, able to withstand a little sunlight, a few cosmic rays, a little dust, and a host of pathogens. Of course some of you don’t believe in evolution and therefore have probably not evolved into Supermen like me!
Ah yes, but what about mercury? That’s another scare brought to you by the fearmongers. They know that large doses of mercury will destroy the human nervous system and can point to the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland as a historically accurate example. Mercury was long ago used in the felting of hats. The connection to coal comes from the minute amounts of mercury in coal that fearmongers claim will waft back from Asia as our coal is burned there.
This is where astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon comes in. He has done an extensive study of mercury in connection with new proposed regulations for Florida power plants that are part of President Obama’s promise to drive coal-fired power plants out of business. This quote says it all:
“Of the estimated 12,000-plus tons of mercury emitted into the air annually (mostly from volcanic activity, forest fires and effusions from ocean and soils), only about 45 tons (less than 0.5 percent) comes from U.S. power plants – and is largely undetectable when compared to the naturally occurring background levels in our land and oceans.”
Dr. Soon goes on to say: “It’s also worth noting that even a bottle of Hunt’s tomato ketchup or Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce contains at least 50 times (!) more mercury than what Florida proposes to permit in its waters.”
All of the erroneous emphasis on extremely minor pollutants can be traced back to Hermann Joseph Muller, the Nobel Laureate in Medicine in 1946. He was correct about radiation causing genetic mutations but deceitful about his linear model wherein half the exposure caused half the fatalities. He knew that data existed to show no effects below a certain threshold, yet lied to the King of Sweden in his Nobel acceptance speech. He spent the rest of his life suppressing the data and marginalizing opponents. One of the immediate consequences was an over-estimate of the probable deaths from leukemia among the atomic bomb survivors at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Below a certain dose, there were no excess deaths.
Such a conclusion about a threshold is generalizable to virtually all environmental hazards and would be universally accepted were it not for the fearmongers.
But what about the elephant in the tent that we have ignored so far: Anthropogenic Global Warming. Dr. Hansen claims that the slight warming we observed in the 20th century is just the beginning of a great catastrophe brought on by our burning of fossil fuels. Dr. Soon responds: “Its the Sun stupid!” Soon is a strong advocate of the Sun’s influence on our climate that is evident from the sunspot record. That record is the longest scientific record kept by man, dating from Galileo in 1610.
I take a slightly different approach arguing that the Modern Warm Period is a blessing not a concern. It is very similar to the previous Medieval, Roman, and Minoan Warm Periods, all of which were warmer than today and certainly not caused by man. What ties my argument to Dr. Soon’s is the likelihood that previous warm periods were also caused by a grand maximum of solar cycles like we observed in the 20th century. The dramatic cessation of solar activity since 2000 portends colder weather to come, as does the shift in ocean cycles to their cold phases.
The computer models on which alarmists place great emphasis are far from exact solutions of the fundamental physics and more akin to a Hollywood sci-fi movie or computer game than rigorous science. Their consistent failures despite great infusions of cash should suggest that we need to try a different approach.
Since my time is almost up, let me give a little space to a Liberal. They appreciate that. Here is what the just deceased Alexander Cockburn wrote a few years ago:
“The energy companies have long since adapted to prevailing fantasies, dutifully reciting the whole catechism about carbon-neutrality, sniggering jovially over Tom Friedman’s rapturous endorsement of “clean coal,” repositioning themselves as eager pioneers in the search for virtuous alternative fuels, settling comfortably into new homes, such as British Petroleum’s “Energy Biosciences Institute” on the UC Berkeley campus…”
“Greenhouse fearmongers are well aware that the only exit from the imaginary crisis they have been sponsoring is through a door marked “nuclear power…”
“I emphasize that there is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world’s present warming trend….”
“As with the arms-spending spiral powered by the Cold War, vast amounts of money will be uselessly spent on programs that won’t work against an enemy that doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, real and curable environmental perils are scanted or ignored. Hysteria rules the day, drowning really useful environmental initiatives …“ [end quote]
Thanks Alexander. May you rest in peace and may your fellow Liberal, President Obama, realize that scientific scams hurt this entire nation, each and every one of us.
In my humble opinion, the President should immediately stop bribing scientists to support his political agenda. The widespread corruption is appalling. The damage to science is appalling.
DO YOU CARE, MR PRESIDENT?
Thanks to all of you for coming today.