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New, significant controversies popping up every day

Keeping up with the latest news on the global warming/green energy beat is like playing whack-a-mole at a county fair. There’s too much going on to do justice to every development. Here are three significant ones in recent days:

(1) The Washington Post is reporting a $38.6-billion loan guarantee program the Obama administration set up in 2009 to create or save 65,000 “green” jobs, has so far created just 3,545, with almost half the money spent. This was the program that allocated $535 million to the now-infamous California-based solar manufacturer, Solyndra, President Barack Obama’s poster-child for his new green economy before it went bankrupt, throwing 1,100 people out of work.

Even the Democrats aren’t trying to defend the Solyndra loan on its merits. Rather, they argue Solyndra’s application started under the Bush administration. Meanwhile, the Obama administration insists the loan-guarantee program is on target, having saved 33,000 allegedly “green” jobs at Ford Motor Co. through a $5.9-billion loan guarantee, enabling Ford to convert to producing more fuel-efficient vehicles.

However, several economists are highly skeptical of this claim, including Josh Lerner, a Harvard Business School professor, who told the Post: “I always take these job estimates with a big grain of salt. There tends to be a lot of fuzzy math when it comes to calculating these benefits (regardless of the party taking credit for the program).”

(2) A new paper by lead author Dr. Nigel Fox of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) of the U.K.’s National Measurement Institution (synopsis available at eurekalert.org) warns all existing space data used in computer models to calculate the future impact of climate change are highly unreliable.

In a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Fox, head of Earth observation and climate at NPL, notes: “Nowhere are we measuring with uncertainties anywhere close to what we need to understand climate change and allow us to constrain and test the models. Our current best measurement capabilities would require more than 30 years before we have any possibility of identifying which model matches observations and is most likely to be correct in its forecast of consequential potentially devastating impacts. The uncertainties needed to reduce this are more challenging than anything else we have to deal with in any other industrial application, by close to an order of magnitude. It is the duty of the scientific community to reduce this unacceptably large uncertainty, by finding and delivering the necessary information, with the highest possible confidence, in the shortest possible time.”

Fox proposes the launch of a new space satellite designed by NPL called TRUTHS (Traceable Radiometry Underpinning Terrestrial-and-Helio Studies) which would improve current satellite measurements by a factor of 10, and help to upgrade the performance of existing satellites gathering information on climate, which typically lose their calibration during launch.

(3) Finally, a government MPP has caused an uproar in the Ontario election by claiming Premier Dalton McGuinty is considering a carbon tax in addition to a cap-and-trade market that will raise consumer prices on electricity, gasoline, home heating fuels, and many other goods and services. Liberal MPP David Levac said a few hours later he misspoke himself by confusing a carbon tax with cap-and-trade — hardly comforting considering he’s the parliamentary assistant to the energy minister and, particularly in that portfolio, should know better.

Toronto Sun, 22 September 2011