Thursday, September 13, 2007

Question for the Southern Hemisphere

While this blog was recently named as a favorite on Blog Day by the Spanish language blog Bioterra (Bioterra blog day list), I remain concerned that only the Northern hemisphere appears to find the blog useful, judging by the slim usage in terms of visits from south of the equator.  What can I do to provide more relevant information for you?

September 13, 2007 in Africa, Asia, Australia, South America | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Vermont decision -- a tour de force

John Dernback just posted the Vermont decision to the ABA climate change list.  I thought I'd go read it before my energy class and then I realized that it is 244 pages long. Here's the opinion  vermont_decision.pdf and here's the  table of contents:

INTRODUCTION 1

BACKGROUND 6

I. Clean Air Act 6

II. Environmental Policy and Conservation Act 12

III. Massachusetts v. EPA 17

EVIDENTIARY ISSUES 24

I. Daubert Challenges 24

A. James Hansen, Ph.D. 29
1. Hansen’s Qualifications 29
2. Hansen’s Testimony 31
3. Reliability of Hansen’s Testimony 38
4. Relevance of Hansen’s Testimony 47

B. Admissibility of Testimony of Dr. Barrett N. Rock 48
1. Dr. Rock’s Qualifications 48
2. Dr. Rock’s Testimony 49
3. Reliability of Dr. Rock’s Testimony 51
4. Relevance of Dr. Rock’s Testimony 59

C. Admissibility of Testimony of K.G. Duleep 59
1. Duleep’s Qualifications 60
2. Duleep’s Testimony 64
a. Methodology 64
b. Validation of Results With Lumped
Parameter Model 67
c. Duleep’s Cost Analysis 69
3. Evaluating the Reliability of Duleep’s
Testimony 69
4. Relevance of Duleep’s Testimony 78

II. Discovery Violation 78

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS 86

I. The State Regulations 86

A. Implementation of California’s AB 1493 86

B. Adoption of Vermont’s GHG Emissions Standards 90

C. The Global Warming Connection 92

D. The GHG Regulation Provisions 98

II. Preemption 102

A. The Preemption Doctrines Do Not Apply 104

B. Express Preemption 120
1. De Facto Fuel Economy Standard 122
2. “Related to” Fuel Economy Standard 127

C. Field Preemption 130

D. Conflict Preemption 132

1. Frustration of Congressional Intent
to Maintain Nationwide Fuel Economy
Standards 134

2. Technological Feasibility and Economic
Practicability, Including Restricting Consumer
Choice, Reducing Employment and Decreasing
Traffic Safety 135
a. History of Technology-forcing
Regulations 137
b. Austin’s Testimony 140
c. Manufacturers’ Testimony 146
d. Duleep’s Testimony 152
e. Conclusions 155
(1) Austin’s baseline assumptions
and methodology 155
(2) Alternative fuels 166(a) Diesel 169
(b) Ethanol 175
(c) Hydrogen 182
(d) Plug-in hybrids 184
(3) Other technologies 185
(a) GDI/turbo 187
(b) Camless valve actuation 190
(c) Rolling resistance
improvements 191
(d) Reductions in aerodynamic
drag 192
(e) Continuously variable
transmission (“CVT”) 193
(f) Electronic power
steering 195
(g) A/C credits 195
(h) Credit trading 196
(i) Efforts to promote
technology generally 198
(4) Consumer choice 203
(5) Product withdrawal and job
loss 207
(6) Safety 216

II. Foreign Policy Preemption 222

A. National Foreign Policy on GHG Emissions 223

B. Zschernig Preemption 228

C. Garamendi Preemption 230

CONCLUSION 234

ORDER 240

September 13, 2007 in Air Quality, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Good news on ozone layer

Every so often we need a bit of good news.  Here's a piece for today:

More Good News for the Ozone Layer

By Phil Berardelli
ScienceNOW Daily News
11 September 2007

The nations of the world might be deadlocked over what to do about greenhouse gases, but one important agreement reached 20 years ago seems to have produced tangible benefits for the atmosphere and Earth's inhabitants. Researchers tracking one of the chemicals that is most destructive to the ozone layer have found that its levels peaked in the early 1990s and have been declining steadily ever since. The finding reinforces conclusions that Earth's ozone layer is slowly returning to health.

Atmospheric concentrations of ozone block up to 99% of the cancer- and mutation-causing solar radiation. The gas forms when ultraviolet (UV) light strikes and splits oxygen molecules. The resulting free oxygen atoms quickly combine with other oxygen molecules to form ozone, or O3. And when more oxygen atoms are freed by UV light striking ozone molecules, they likewise quickly rebond into ozone. This cycle had been occurring for more than a billion years, until humans began manufacturing chemicals that rose into the atmosphere and started ripping apart ozone in a way that prevented it from easily reconstituting. In 1987, recognizing the dangers to ozone and to the biosphere from the buildup of those chemicals, 191 nations signed the Montreal Protocol that initially limited and then banned the manufacture of ozone-destroying molecules.

The changes in the ozone layer have been slow but steady ever since. Scientists charged with monitoring the protective layer's health reported earlier this year that the primary type of ozone-destroying chemicals--known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)--had been declining since the mid-1990s (ScienceNOW, 5 March 2007). Now, two Arizona astronomers have analyzed data on hydrogen chloride (HCl) concentrations over the past 35 years. HCl, which comes from volcanoes and the breakdown of chemicals used to make plastics, rubber, and semiconductors, packs nearly as much ozone-destroying potential as CFCs, and its use was restricted by the Montreal Protocol. Utilizing instruments at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, Lloyd Wallace of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories and William Livingston of the National Solar Observatory, both in Tucson, found that HCl levels had fallen by an average of about 1.8% per year since 1993. This compares with an average annual increase of 5.7% from 1971 to 1993, the authors report in the August issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

The findings show that "there is indeed good evidence that the chlorine loading in the atmosphere is going down as a result of the Montreal Protocol," says atmospheric chemist Christopher Cantrell of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. That doesn't mean the ozone layer is out of the woods, however, he says. The observations don't "tell us about the status of bromine levels," Cantrell says. Bromine is rarer in the atmosphere but is "much more effective at destroying ozone." Nevertheless, he says, "I think most everyone agrees that we should see [full ozone layer] recovery eventually," although probably not for at least 50 more years.


September 13, 2007 in Air Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

PS -- crude actually closed over $80 today

September 13, 2007 in Energy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Oil Prices Certainly Haven't "Peaked"

My Climate Change and Energy Law class discussed peak oil yesterday, discussing the effect of the OPEC quotas and sketchy information from OPEC countries about reserves on our ability to predict or identify when oil production peaks -- and about the trajectory of oil prices we can expect when oil does peak.  That discussion came just in time for today's news: crude oil futures have now passed the $ 80 level for the first time:

Crude marks record close near $80 as supplies drop
                                             

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Crude-oil futures climbed into uncharted territory Wednesday, peaking above $80 a barrel and closing at a record high just below that level after U.S. government data showed that crude supplies dropped more than 7 million barrels and motor gasoline inventories fell a sixth week in a row.
       
Crude oil for October delivery climbed as high as $80.05 a barrel in regular trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That's the highest level a front-month contract has ever reached on the exchange. The previous record was $78.70 from the regular trading session on Aug. 1.
           
            The contract finished the session at $79.91 a barrel, up 2.2%, or $1.68.        
           
The data were a "big shock to the oil market," said John Person, president of NationalFutures.com. The "major draw in inventories is not indicative of a slowing economy."

"Consumers are still soaking up supplies rather than conserving and this is forcing refineries to increase production,"


"The market is painfully getting too pricy as we tap closer to the $80 level."
                        <>

U.S. crude supplies dropped a third week, down 7.1 million barrels to 322.6 million, for the week ended Sept. 7, the Energy Department reported early Wednesday.  Supplies have now dropped 14.5 million barrels from the mid-August level, though they're still up about 1.4% from a year ago, the data showed.   

                        <>

The American Petroleum Institute confirmed the decline, pegged the size of it at 5.2 million barrels for crude inventories. Its total for the week stood at 321.5 million. 

Motor gasoline supplies fell a sixth straight week, down 700,000 barrels at 190.4 million in the latest week, the Energy Department said. They've tallied a decline of 14.3 million from the late July level.   

            <>

In contrast, the API posted an increase in the fuels supplies. They were up 3.3 million barrels in the latest week, at 200.2 million....The decline in gasoline supplies came as U.S. refinery utilization fell to 90.5% of capacity from 92.1% a week ago, the Energy Department data showed. 

October reformulated gasoline closed higher by 3.49 cents at $2.016 a gallon, while October heating oil added 3.64 cents to finish at a record high of $2.2191 a gallon.    

OPEC takes action
                    <>

On Tuesday, crude-oil futures climbed even after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to raise its daily output by 500,000 barrels per day, starting Nov. 1. OPEC said its new production target for 10 of its 12 members would be 27.2 million barrels per day. Its previous target was 25.8 million.        

                        <>

Prices have reached a record "without an actual supply disruption from a major hurricane weather event," said Person. And even "with an official increase in OPEC's production quota, the market did not flinch," he said. "This shows just how strong the underlying fundamentals are with the supply/demand outlook." 

<>

"To add more fuel to the fire, if the Fed does actually lower interest rates at next week's meeting this, in turn, could further stimulate the economy and heat up the demand for gasoline," he said.And "with the prospects for a colder winter, heating oil demand will certainly put pressure on the refineries to purchase more crude oil, thus keeping prices above the $75 for the next month," he predicted.


"The uncertainty about the economy is one of the main focuses of the oil market," Flynn said. "It seems that the oil market is starting to bet that we might not see as big of a demand drop as feared."

September 12, 2007 in Energy | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Putting a face on disease vectors affected by global warming

MosquitoItalian Virus Outbreak May Portend Global Spread

By Martin Enserink
ScienceNOW Daily News
7 September 2007

Another pathogen has jumped its traditional boundaries to begin what some fear is a march around the globe. This time the invader is a virus that causes chikungunya, a crippling and painful disease until now found only in the tropics. This summer, it sickened more than 160 people in and around two small villages in Italy. Chikungunya is transmitted by the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), a species that is taking the world by storm, and medical entomologists worry that the disease has the potential to follow the insect. Chikungunya is rarely fatal but can cause severe fevers, headaches, fatigue, nausea, and muscle and joint pains.

September 11, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Higher temperatures create another public health risk: suicide!

The bad news keeps on coming.  A recent study showed an association between higher temperatures and violent suicides -- the obvious concern is that global warming will increase the number of heat waves and thus the number of suicides:
                Psychiatr News September 7, 2007
                Volume 42, Number 17, page 17
                © 2007 American Psychiatric Association
               
         

               

Clinical & Research News

Long-Term Temperature Trends May Affect Suicide Rates

Joan Arehart-Treichel

Researchers suggest possible causes of an apparent relationship in England and Wales between increased temperatures and suicide rates. 

There is little doubt that hot weather can adversely affect people's health. During periods of sizzling temperatures, there is a surge in the hospital admissions of patients with heat-related conditions and deaths due to various causes. Severely mentally ill patients are at an even greater danger of dying during brutal temperatures than the general population is, according to a report in the August 1998 Psychiatric Services, by Nigel Bark, M.D., of the Bronx Psychiatric Center in the Bronx, N.Y. 


Figure 1
 
 

Now it looks as though heat may have an impact on suicides as well, a study published in the August British Journal of Psychiatry has found. It was headed by Lisa Page, M.D., a clinical lecturer and National Institutes of Health research fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. 

Page and her colleagues investigated whether there was any relationship from 1993 to 2003 between daily suicide counts in England and Wales and daily temperatures. They took various factors into account that might have skewed results, including year of death, month of death, day of the week, public holidays, and hours of daylight. 

They found an association. Above 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit), there was strong evidence for a small but significant effect of increasing temperature on all suicides, but especially on violent ones. In fact, suicides increased by 42 percent during the July 29 to August 3, 1995, heat wave, compared with what was expected for that time of year. This 42 percent was well in excess of the 11 percent increase in all-cause mortality reported for the same period. 

Concluded Page and her colleagues: "There is increased risk of suicide during hot weather.... This is the first time that death from suicide has been shown to be contributing to the known increase in all-cause mortality at higher temperatures." 

The ways in which high temperatures might contribute to suicides remain to be determined, though. The neurotransmitter serotonin might be implicated, Page speculated during an interview, since "serotonin levels are known to vary cyclically around the year, with low levels in the summer months. Also, postmortem studies have shown that people who commit suicide are more likely to have low levels of central serotonin.... However, I know of no evidence to support the idea that serotonin levels respond quickly to increases in temperature, which is what would have to be the case for this to be a realistic explanation for our findings." 

Nonetheless, Page and her colleagues believe that the putative impact of hot weather on suicidal behavior will become even greater as global warming continues. 

"I am not sure that these results have huge implications for psychiatrists," Page admitted. "The effect of temperature on suicide is small when considering any one individual patient and when contrasted with traditional (individual level) risk factors such as male gender, previous self-harm, or major mental illness." 

Nonetheless, she does believe that the results have public health implications and that countries' health-service plans for heat waves should perhaps address suicide prevention. 

"Those with mental illness are highlighted as an at-risk group in England's heat-wave plan," she said, "although this is because of their increased susceptibility to heat stroke rather than for suicide prevention." 

Interestingly, in charting the relationship between daily suicide counts and daily temperatures over the course of a decade, Page and her colleagues could not find any peak in suicides during the spring and summer months, as have a number of researchers in the past. One reason, she said, may be because "temperature has a short-term, that is, near-immediate, effect on suicide that may well not be reflected if monthly patterns are inspected." 

Another possible explanation is that high temperatures do not play any role in the spring-summer suicide peak. A 2003 study found that the hours of bright sunlight a day, not temperature, explained the peak in suicides during Australia's spring and summer (Psychiatric News, June 20, 2003). 

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, and the European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection for the EuroHEAT project. 

An abstract of "Relationship Between Daily Suicide Counts and Temperature in England and Wales" is posted at <http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/191/2/106>. {blacksquare} 

               

September 11, 2007 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science, Social Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)