## Research should inform, not influence

Thomas Basbøll, who I sometimes have discussions with on Twitter, has a guest post on the LSE impact blog claiming that we need our scientists to build models that frame our policies, not to tell stories that shape them. If I understand what is being suggested in the post about how research should be conducted, then I agree with it. Researchers are meant to be doing research that aims to develop understanding of what is being studied. The results of this research can inform policy, but the research itself should not be designed to influence policy in some specific way.

However, I’m not convinced that what is being claimed in the post about how scientists are being encouraged to behave is necessarily true. The pressure on researchers to have impact does not imply that they should decide in advance in what way their research should influence some specific policy option; it means that they should tackle problems that have societal relevance. Ken Caldeira, for example, argues that [i]f you are not working on a problem that you feel is important and pressing, then you are probably working on the wrong problem. I don’t entirely agree with this (I don’t think we can always know whether or not some research will have impact) but I do agree that there are pressing problems that we should be focussing on.

Another factor is how one presents the results of one’s research. Researchers have some obligation to communicate with the public and with policy makers. However, in politically charged areas it can be important to understand how some research might be received and to think about how to present it in a way that makes it difficult to misinterpret. This does not imply leaving things out, or hiding inconvenient results; it simply means try to be careful about how the results are presented. It’s no good doing societally relevant research if the way it is interpreted publicly is not actually consistent with what the research is actually suggesting.

So, I agree with what Thomas says about how research should be conducted (it should inform, rather than influence) but I think one still has to be aware that research isn’t taking place in a vacuum. You have to decide what problems are worth tackling, and you also should be aware of the societal context when presenting the results to the public and to policy makers. If you want your research to inform policy, then it’s no good if what the public and policy makers hear isn’t what you intended.

We need our scientists to build models that from our policies, not to tell stories that shape them (post by Thomas Basbøll).
On choosing problems to work on (post by Ken Caldeira).

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### 195 Responses to Research should inform, not influence

1. John Hartz says:

Given that man-made climate change present an existential threat to the human race, I sure as heck believe that everyone, including scientists, ought to play a role in formulating and implementing mitigation and adaptation actions.

Time is not on our side!.

All hands on deck!

2. I’m not sure what precisely Basbøll is suggesting. It seems to suggest and imply more than it actually says. Perhaps I need to go read Jones and Crow in order to understand, but that’s one level of indirection resolving I’m not willing to go right now. He seems to be urging away from advocacy of specific policy.

However, does he really mean to say scientific reporting ought to be:

(1) Fact A
(2) Fact B
(3) Pre-established fact C
(4) Formal inference D, based upon A, B, and C.
(5) Done?

Everything I’ve heard and learned says otherwise. Even geological interpretations of a set of rocks are much more than a repeat of established and verified observations. There’s a tale, spanning eons … Of tectonic plates, uplift, erosion, faulting, vulcanism, etc.

Centers like that founded by Alan Alda try to teach these things. Policymakers repeatedly ask “But what does it mean? How much time do we have? What will it cost?” If anything they find scientific reporting too removed. In fact, they want to know things which aren’t really Science: What will it cost? Isn’t that a policymaker’s or at least engineer’s job to determine? And if punted to the engineer, the policymaker at least needs to spend the monies acknowledging it is an important thing to know.

Engineering is not the same as Science, but, there, the “just the facts” style of presentation has long been embraced, and, at the very least because of the tragic lessons of the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttles, the lesson is that the engineer needs to enlarge their mandate to all systems which affect the proper operation of something they are responsible for designing, constructing, and of seeing the proper operation. It would be intriguing I think to retrospectively look at the construction, launch, and sea trials of Titanic and her sister ships in the light of the findings on this point of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Titanic was classic: White Star Lines in a life-or-bankruptcy competitive battle pushing these ships into commission and headstrongly insisting they demonstrate rapid Atlantic crossings.

Besides, to a great degree, on the specific point of climate change, scientists have been doing exactly as Basbøll recommends. For decades. Certainly at least since LBJ was first briefed on the risks of climate change in the mid-1960s. And where has that gone? Is Basbøll suggesting our present situation is somehow scientists’ fault? With no responsibility on the part of Congress and Presidents? REALLY

3. hyper,
It all seemed a bit simplistic to me. We can’t simply communicate facts and hope that the public/policy makers interpret their significance correctly. We should be willing to discuss the significance of what some research suggests, and also present the broader context. A single piece of research presented in isolation may suggest one thing, but when connected with the broader research context it may suggest something different.

4. Willard says:

ThomasB was a regular contributor of concerns over the #astroSH thing:

https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/astrosh-haslitudes/

He deleted his blogs a few times, tried to return as a sock puppet.

Here he is, being praised by our Honest Broker in Chief:

The conflation helps those who’d prefer we stick near to the status quo as much as possible rather than seek political reforms.

5. Facts don’t care about feelings. That’s one of the defects about our culture, we overvalue feelings and undervalue facts. Why should we respect beliefs that are in conflict with the facts?

6. Caldeira has an interesting observation cited in the long NYT piece. He says there have been no fundamental climate physics breakthroughs since 1979. His claim is that it’s all been incremental research improvements.

7. Steven Mosher says:

Hyper, you are not sure what he is suggesting?

1. “Why not weigh all the costs, the effects, the results
Empathize with each other as if we were adults
Use our brains to craft arguments–not vilify
See that freedom’s a trade-off…”

2. Scientists have no such mandate, but they do have methods to help them build increasingly realistic models of the problems we face. These models correlate possible courses of action with probable real-world outcomes. They are never certain enough to suggest any particular policy, nor should any particular scientist or research group have the power to shape our laws. While they may accurately predict the result of a policy intervention, they cannot legitimately determine its value to the polity. There are strong incentives for scientists to “craft” a story, as Jones and Crow put it — one that simplifies matters and leaves policymakers with only one solution. But it’s a temptation they should resist.

3. Why not let our poets and politicians, rogues and orators, struggle over how that last scene plays out, and let our scientists confine themselves to clarifying our sense of the possible? We need science, not to tell us what must be done, but to show us what can. We need our scientists to build models that frame our policies, not to tell stories that shape them.

This is not that hard. It comports with everything I know working as a analyst for deciders.

Iv’e raised the examle a couple of times, but why not again.

” These models correlate possible courses of action with probable real-world outcomes. ”

We are given as task. Evaluate what will happen in a war with Russia, when
A) we have a stealth fighter that has 2 missiles, 4 missiles, 6 missiles,
B) that stealth fighter has RCS X, or Y or Z
C) that fighter has IR signature of P, Q or R
D) etc

So we do that job: we report the results of the possible actions one could take. If c02 goes to X, Y is likely to happen. If it goes to 2X, Z is likely to happen.
As analysts we argue about the models, faith in the models, inprovements, other approaches,
We may note: Your budget was 50Million per plane, but all of these winners will cost 65miilion
a piece. We may whine that the russian threat is unrealistic, but that is not our remit.
Our remit is to:
Provide the decision maker with the best information on the probable consequences
of decision X,Y or Z. We dont tell them to go ask congress for more money. We dont tell
them to go talk to the DOD threat assesment shop about their projection of the threat.
We stick to our knitting and remit.
We dont craft a story. we report, you decide. haha

“They are never certain enough to suggest any particular policy, nor should any particular scientist or research group have the power to shape our laws. ”

we did not suggest that peace with russia was a better approach than preparing for war.
we did not suggest the money could better be spent on vaccines or world hunger.
Our skill? developing models to model war. very hard, highly specialized. Our job
run scenarios that provide information to decision makers. Give them all the information
good, bad, indifferent. They flip the switch, poor souls. Power is cool until you realize
that its peoples lives in your hands. And if you have a skeptical doubting, prove it to me
mentality, then you dont want to be the king. you want to inform the king.

“While they may accurately predict the result of a policy intervention, they cannot legitimately determine its value to the polity.
There are strong incentives for scientists to “craft” a story, as Jones and Crow put it — one that simplifies matters and leaves policymakers with only one solution. But it’s a temptation they should resist.”

So what he suggests is pretty straight forward. ya got your models, you know the free parameters
You dont always do a full factorial obviously, but neither do you only look at, or only suggest
one course of action.

8. Dave_Geologist says:

So, basically, one set of non-scientists tell scientists how to perform and present science, and another non-scientist tells them not to do take that advice. Ho, hum.

Instead, researchers should focus on using the methods they have to build models correlating possible courses of action with likely real-world outcomes; not telling us what should be done, but showing us what can be done.

Isn’t that exactly what the IPCC AR’s already do?

TL;DR, keep on doing what you’re doing, and pay no attention to those pesky busybodies.

9. Chris says:

I suppose it’s a consequence of the recognized importance of science within our societies that more or less everyone considers it appropriate to tell scientists that they should be doing things differently than they are.

IMHO scientists are doing things just fine.

P.S. I was going to write a longer message but came to the conclusion that this is a bit of a non-issue and couldn’t think of a particularly useful contribution. Have posted this anyway to add my support for Dave_Geologist’s POV which I fully agree with.

Incidentally Ken Caldeira’s comments are fine and somewhat in the style of Peter Medawar’s “Advice to a young scientist”. No problem with scientist’s giving advice to young scientists – they can take it on board or ignore it as they see fit. I suppose that applies also to stuff various busybody’s tell scientists they should be doing – the difference is that all this seemingly self-serving stuff is played out in the public sphere and has the effect (maybe that’s the point) of making scientists appear negligent in some vaguely-defined sense and putting them on the defensive.

10. Nathan Tetlaw says:

“We need science, not to tell us what must be done, but to show us what can.”

as we’d say in Australia, what a load of s..t.

Scientists have every right to say what they think. And of course scientists will tell you what must be done, they do it all the time.People have skills that don’t just limit them to one role in society…

11. Nathan Tetlaw says:

And this is just weird:
“They are never certain enough to suggest any particular policy, nor should any particular scientist or research group have the power to shape our laws.”

So Mosher KNOWS what all scientists know?
and apparently they can’t participate in a Democracy as anyone else can

12. Dave_Geologist says:

Re Caldeira: “The reason the problem is important could be for fundamental scientific understanding, and not necessarily utilitarian concern”. So yes, Like Medawar’s advice. Or, h/t Chris, don’t get stuck in a Bad Project 🙂 . Admittedly it’s harder if you’re a cog in a Big Science* wheel. I’d take it as permission to say “this ain’t working out, I’d like to try something else”.

* I do have some insight to that through colleagues who were working on a Geological Survey mapping project or a fossil description for their PhD. Just finishing the job would satisfy the sponsor or museum. But your external examiners will be looking for something novel and original, not just spade-work. It was often unclear at the outset what that might be, and you had to hope something turned up that could be adapted, or make something happen if fortune didn’t provide. A good supervisor is essential there, both to make suggestions and to say “I think someone’s already ahead of the game on that one”. One of my colleagues moved onto a very different project with a different supervisor. In that case you also need a good Head of Department to support your move.

13. Willard says:

> So Mosher KNOWS what all scientists know?

No, he only needs to know how hard it is sometimes to deduce ought from is.

Publicizing this kind of inference may make scientists appear negligent in a well-defined sense.

***

Anyone who rejects that science is political may need to accept the inform/influence dichotomy. The only alternative I see is to go for the gun defense: “well, science doesn’t influence, scientists do.” Must be a vocabulary thing.

Playing “stay in your lane” games looks suboptimal when competing on policy analysts’ turf without being a policy analyst. The same applies to anyone who’d play that game on anybody else’s turf. Which may explain why everybody plays both roles depending on the ClimateBall episode.

14. @WHUT,

Caldeira has an interesting observation cited in the long NYT piece. He says there have been no fundamental climate physics breakthroughs since 1979.

Surely, Caldeira knows a great great deal more about climate than I do, as do his colleagues. On the other hand, his judgment of fundamental climate physics may just be Charney worship, and, in itself, a kind of cherry-picking. For one, I think the ensemble style of forecasting practiced by the European Centre represents a big advance. For another, I think we know a good deal more about oceans and their flows now than we did in 1979. (There is, by some reports, a belief on the part of some atmospheric physicists that to a first order oceans and their physical dynamics can be neglected, because they change so slowly. Needless to say, ocean scientists respectfully but strongly disagree.) For a third, we know a good deal more about ice sheets, permafrost, and the biological link with climate now than we did in 1979. Indeed, the biological link is much stronger than originally anticipated, particularly with global primary production, and is an active area of research.

Don’t get me wrong: Charney did a lot and was very smart. But there’s a sense in which people think the generation after Charney’s colleagues and students are scientifically inferior which I find extremely distasteful and pretentious. It’s like saying there has been no new mathematics invented after Laplace.

15. @hownottogoextinct,

I’m not so sure it’s so much about elevation of feelings as it is elevation of The Individual.

16. @Steven Mosher,

Hyper, you are not sure what he is suggesting?

The climate projections of greatest concern do not come from specific global or regional predictions of climate models, but what paleoclimate studies have to say, and what physical dynamics suggests forcing of $+5 \frac{W}{m^{2}}$ or higher might produce in terms of climate effects. We already know that wherever emissions are zeroed temperatures will stop increasing after about 10 years but (per Solomon and colleagues) they won’t decrease for 1000 years, and sea levels will continue to rise for a couple of centuries.

The only “climate models” needed to calculate that are available in a Python code on a desktop. Yet this gives no damage assessment or timeline. The recommendation is as it always has been: Greenhouse gas emissions need to be zeroed, and, to the degree to which they cannot be (e.g., agriculture), they need to be captured and sequestered.

Now you might think that is a policy recommendation, but, frankly, apart from wishful technological thinking, I don’t see anything that could work, nor is there any kind of option, engineering or otherwise, anywhere that can fix it. We don’t even know how to do the last part, “… need to be captured and sequestered”, not at a price which anyone can afford, at least not yet.

Moreover, this message hasn’t changed for a century. Can’t help it if people don’t like it.

Is that a specific enough suggestion for you?

17. endless talk about how to talk about the science, but so little global action. This is what we are doing about AGW: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/bp-shell-oil-global-warming-5-degree-paris-climate-agreement-fossil-fuels-temperature-rise-a8022511.html
5 degrees by 2050. Try to imagine what that might look like. Is it possible for our species to shift to profound action mode on AGW?

18. Willard says:

19. John Hartz says:

Science is a continuum from “pure” on one end to “impure” on the other. 🙂

20. I’m not quite sure what you mean. Are you saying you’re doing someone a favor by letting them carry on with false beliefs? If so I would have to disagree.

21. @hownottogoextinct,

No, not at all. I do think that, eventually, any individual or group or culture or country eventually runs into big trouble if they have false beliefs. That is, there is such a thing as Reality.

No, I think the problem you are actually referring to is not emotions but, rather, the triumph of Individualism over a more collective and communal emphasis, particularly in the United States. That one reason why Japan and many Scandinavian countries are so different in culture.

And I think hyper-individualism is reinforced by certain religions, notably evangelical Protestantism which assigns authority to the individual as long as they are “saved”. Unlike many other religions from Christianity, that particular strain does not even hold Scripture has having a particular say.

In contrast, while I am no expert but have read a bit, the Society of Friends does believe in an individual spirit, but they also have strong communal values.

In interest of fair advertising, I should say I am an atheist and physical materialist and I associate with a local Unitarian Universalist congregation.

22. Dave_Geologist says:

Actually smallbluemike, Shell and BP are just being responsible on behalf of their shareholders. Unlike governments, they’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Preparing for the worst of course means planning for the worst, even if they are only contingency plans which may be activated at some point in the future. Contra the article, that doesn’t mean they’re secretly planning to push the world on a 5°C path. I have car insurance (compulsory) and home insurance (voluntary now my mortgage is paid off), but I don’t plan to crash my car or burn down my house. All offshore wells are fitted with a blowout preventer, even though most wells don’t blow out and historically, BOPs only stopped the blowout about half the time.

According to the IEA, energy accounts for about 2/3 of anthropogenic CO2 emissions and oil and gas a little over half of that. So about one third. BP and Shell are big players but only produce a few percent of that. There’s loads of stuff outwith their control which could put us on a 5°C path, whatever they do. Stuff outside the entire O&G industry’s control. If I was CEO, I’d want to know that my planners have considered worst-case scenarios. Unlike governments, O&G companies (and power utilities, and other firms which install infrastructure with a 30-50 year lifespan) plan a long way ahead.

23. Dave_Geologist says:

Oh and a bit of loose wording by the Indy. BP (and I presume Shell) do have targets for emissions associated with their own operations (fuel, fugitives etc.)

BP is targeting zero net growth in our operational emissions

Thinking that BP Shell, XoM, whoever can reduce world oil and gas consumption by unilaterally cutting their own production displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the global O&G industry works. With a few tiny exceptions, they don’t own a barrel of oil or a cubic foot of gas until it’s out of the ground. Until then the host government owns it (or the landowner where mineral rights are not a State monopoly). The O&G company negotiates a licence to extract. Once it’s out of the ground, it can sell whatever is not taken off first as a royalty or under a production-sharing contract. There’s generally some financial reward for the government as well. If Shell said “we’re going to shut in our Nigerian fields”, the government would say “keep them running or at most warm-stack them, while we take away your licence and award it to someone else”. Governments have to take action. By taxes, regulations, subsidies, whatever. Thinking that Western O&G companies can fix our problem by their own actions is denying reality, just as much as the most ardent lukewarmer or ABCer. What they can do of course is stop supporting denialist propaganda organisations. But Shell and BP did that 20 years ago, as did most of their fellow majors.

24. @Dave_Geologist, @smallbluemike,

This is probably going to be a wee bit contentious, but, given your claims regarding corporate responsibility, @Dave_Geologist, with which I do not agree, then is Naomi Klein correct that the fundamental reason for AGW and its problems is capitalism, and until that is reformed or removed we should have every expectation of it continuing and, possibly, running off a cliff, Thelma & Louise-style?

I don’t agree with Klein. But I also do not agree with the idea that the only responsibility corporations have is to their shareholders. Indeed, a little study will reveal that is a relatively new idea, no older than about 50 years ago. The corporation was conceived as an entity which was as much mutual aid society as it was a vehicle for capital accumulation and management. That this aspect of it has been set aside is, a problem. Moreover, it is fundamentally self-destructive to the corporation and, thereby, in fact, in itself destroys shareholder value. I don’t mean it is destructive via AGW, even if that is true, too, but, as The Economist recently emphasized, capitalism needs a welfare state in order for it to survive.

Still, collective stupidity is one of humankind’s most amusing features, even if the humankind is Jamie Diamond. Per Voltaire: “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”

As damage from AGW increases, particular as upper middle class people start losing their wealth, what, I think, the leaders of BP and Shell and Exxon don’t get is how bitter and deadly an anti-fossil fuel blood-in-the-streets response might get. But, then, the aristocracy never does.

25. hyoerG said:

“It’s like saying there has been no new mathematics invented after Laplace.”

Interesting that Laplace’s Tidal Equations are still cited as the linearization for the primitive equations that go into GCMs. Laplace was primarily known as a mathematician but in this case the physics and the math intersect.

I mentioned to Caldeira that one of the biggest breakthroughs in fundamental climate physics since 1979 is in the topological origin of equatorial waves. This research is still in its infancy but I predict it will catch on soon.

26. Dave_Geologist says:

Well, corporations do speak of responsibility to wider stakeholders, employees, governments, citizens. There may or may not be an element of lip service in that. I was never high enough in the hierarchy to find out. I certainly did take my own responsibilities not to get people injured or to be complicit in a spill very seriously. And I’m not saying they don’t carry a degree of responsibility. But so do the car companies who, even in Europe, are pushing heavier, less fuel-efficient 2WD “SUVs” and “crossovers”, which never leave the tarmac and would be worse off-road than my lighter Focus. And the people who make those car-buying choices. And the ones who choose petrol over diesel. And who turn on the a/c rather than take off their cardigan. And commute by car where there is a perfectly good bus or train service. Yes there may well be punitive sanctions on the companies that produced the oil and gas we burned. But it won’t solve the problem. Because it’s not, and never was, the root cause. Thinking that it is is denying reality. With the attendant risk that we think we just have to punish the Big Bad Oil Companies and everything will be fine. It won’t. And while we’re enjoying the delusion of the reality-denial, we won’t be making the wider changes we all need to make. Government-level (taxes, regulations, subsidies) as well as personal. So regardless of whether it’s just or unjust, it’s counter-productive. Cathartic perhaps, but counter-productive.

27. yes, it might get a little contentious, but that is not required. The difference of opinion that exists here has to do with the paradigm in primary use. DG is responding from the mainstream capitalist paradigm and I am posting from the paradigm of individual and community action to a tragedy of the commons that is powering the sixth great extinction. What is at risk in one paradigm is a way of life; the dominant economic model that our species employs in relationship to the universe and each other. What is at risk in the other paradigm is the habitability of the planetary ecosystem, an unraveling of the web of life that exists on this planet. Both are valid ways of looking at the particulars of this situation and the choice about which paradigm is in use determines the rest of the discussion. That’s my 0.02. Adherents to the capitalist/neoliberal experiment in terraforming the planet have trouble turning loose of that model. I acknowledge that our capitalization/monetization of the planet and ecosystem may be a sticky problem that appears to be aggravated by attempts to address it (gonna stay away from a certain term there), but if you believe that the capitalist and market force model is the wrong paradigm for an existential threat, then you have to discard the model, pick up a different model and address the fallout of an economic collapse within the context of the new model. Do I want to do that? No, I am comfortable for the moment and the bau model has allowed me to retire in modest comfort, but it threatens my grandchildren with a world that may be distinctly inhospitable to them and I am very, very fond of my grandchildren, so I am personally willing to have my comfort threatened on behalf of the possibility that my grandchildren grow to adulthood on a planet where they don’t face the food scarcity and other calamities that accompany a 5 degree temp rise. 28. Willard says: 29. @Dave_Geologist, Sure, the blame is ultimately consumers who want to disregard long term consequences for short term gains (e.g., regulation regarding application of lawn chemicals versus emissions and spills at chemical factories). But, AFAIK, that’s not how it works: It’s conceptually simpler to single out a handful of targets and go after them than solve the actual problem. Moreover, many progressives believe all corporations including the automotive companies you cite are at fault, per Naomi Klein. I don’t agree with that either, since I see a role for the corporation. But their act needs reforming badly, and, given the countdown of the AGW clock, quickly, and stuff like this isn’t helping. I had hoped that the advent of a Green Century and the overwhelming cost effectiveness of solar and wind technology, dragging storage and EVs with it, would be the opportunity for corporations to demonstrate they could do something good and positive. That revolution should happen, if we don’t have a violent political revolution in the meantime, but it is going much slower than it could, predominantly because vested interests are using every trick they can find to hang onto the regulatory high ground. This is why I, personally, am virulently against centralization of energy supply: It provides a few with too much political influence if not power. It would be nice to think we could move in some systematic way to a decentralized green power source. After all, if we only allocated half as much land as is dedicated presently to cow grazing we’d be all set. But I no longer think that’s the way it’s going to happen. It will be rough, and chaotic, and a log of people will lose their jobs and wealth for a long time, and the incumbents will go bankrupt, along with their knowledge and capital and capability, replaced by upstarts who Just Do Things Differently. Oh well. 30. Mitch says: Again, concentrating on what scientists should say is another squirrel. There is no climate model, from the simplest energy balance model to the most complicated ESM, that shows a low response to fossil fuel emissions. We know that continuing to burn fossil fuels will cause major problems. The science has basically been done except for “how long do we have?” and “how fast do we have to pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere? “ 31. Joshua says: These models correlate possible courses of action with probable real-world outcomes. They are never certain enough to suggest any particular policy, ? The outcomes of models, properly accompanied by confidence intervals and margins of error, are never certain enough to suggest any particular policy? I don’t understand that argument. First, such outcomes might suggest one particular policy for me, even if they suggest a different particular policy for you. It seems entirely reasonable, to me, that a particular scientist may believe that the results of particular models suggest particular policies. Second, it seems entirely possible that certain models would suggest particular policies almost to the exclusion of any other policies – in any real world context. Of course, absolute certainty (or an absolute guarantee that a particular policy is optimal) is not attainable. What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? 32. quite right, Mitch. and no offense intended to DG, but I think his frame of reference for addressing the problem of AGW demonstrates Einstein’s suggestion that: No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. The solution lies in a radical reworking of our economic institutions and frameworks. Is it going to happen? I hope so, but I am not optimistic about our species. I am optimistic about the planet’s ability to bring forth an amazing diversity of living things and its ability to shrug off the great extinction events and bring forth the next amazing round of diverse living things. The problem with an extinction event is that you don’t want to be there when it happens. Extinction events are much more interesting when they are in the historic record or off in the distant future. 33. Dave_Geologist says: hyper et al. The Tragedy of the Commons dates back to long before there was politics, capitalism, communism, or any other ism except “grunt”. Mammoths, anyone? They survive all the previous interglacials but not this one. What was different? Oh yes, anatomically modern humans. It’s perhaps politically incorrect to suggest that the original humans arriving in Australia wiped out their megafauna by over-hunting, but that’s only because we like fairy-tale narratives with goodies and baddies, so modern victims aren’t allowed to be earlier villains. The whole point of the Tragedy of the Commons is that it requires collective action to fix it not individual actions, be it individual humans or individual companies. Hence Hardin’s later “unregulated” qualification. As I mentioned on a previous thread, my past European oil-industry colleagues, in general, had no problem with that. Render unto Caesar and all that. Some jobs are best done by governments. And inter-governmental organisations. That’s a no-brainer in most of the world, but anathema, AFICS, to a large number of USAnians. An analogy: We punished the Big Bad Oil Companies so everything will be fine. We fined the tobacco companies so I can safely carry on smoking. 34. c’mon, Dave, straw man arguments. Are you willing to drop that and discuss the nuances and complexity of this situation? “We punished the Big Bad Oil Companies so everything will be fine.” How about we just stop subsidizing all fossil fuel industry, slap a heavy carbon tax on any corporate profits from fossil fuels and lighten corporate tax load on green energy profits. Watch the corporations suddenly shift their future energy investments away from fossil fuels. Why can’t we do this? I don’t know, could it have something to do with the way money determines US public policy? “We fined the tobacco companies so I can safely carry on smoking.” It’s an inherently unsafe product, so should not be manufactured for sale and profit. If people want to grow their own tobacco and smoke, let’m. If we are going to let it be sold, slap a heavy health cost tax on corporate profits to cover public health costs that are otherwise shared by a large non-smoking population. Slap a public health cost tax on the pack when consumer purchases. Tobacco gets expensive, right? Too bad. Grow your own if you are serious about smoking. Nobody gets to safely carry on smoking. Even the family members and casual second hand smokers don’t get that luxury, so let’s toss that idea to the curb, ok? Second amendment is about right to bear arms, I don’t think there is anything in there about tobacco and fossil fuels. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of heavy lifting and I don’t see it happening. We get straw man arguments and discussion about how to present the science. Do you have some buried reservations about your work in the oil patch? Get over it, it’s in the past. We have some serious work to do if we want to reconstitute human economies to avoid driving the sixth great extinction event. The sixth great extinction event is a one-off. There are no analogies except the five previous events. But, hey, maybe I am wrong about all, in which case, I guess, fine the tobacco companies and give me a light or smok’m if you got’m. 35. Willard says: > maybe I am wrong about all, Then more circumspection would be in order, mike. Please chill. 36. @Joshua, The outcomes of models, properly accompanied by confidence intervals and margins of error, are never certain enough to suggest any particular policy.’ I don’t understand that argument. Yeah, I don’t understand it either, not at all. Someone may not like the idea of You have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero, and it may seem preposterous given the investment civilized society has made becoming dependent upon fossil fuels, but what that says is those investments were short-sighted. It’s time to stop mainlining. Get to a rehab. 37. @Dave_Geologist, The answer to ToC has been known since the late 19th century, and it’s a Pigovian tax. (That’s a great term, but it’s only by happenstance that it aligns with pig, being by Pigou and Baumol.) But ToC isn’t the only problem. As noted most eloquently by Mark Carney of the BoE, the other problem is that there is presently no systematic mechanism to allow investors to price in risk of climate change, environmental pollution, or government regulation in response to either or both. A number have been proposed (see also) but, surprise, surprise, those most affected are objecting to them. Accordingly, the other risk is a Minsky moment for valuations when markets suddenly realize the risks. Personally, I dearly look forward to that moment occuring, with all its financial ramifications. Darn idiots deserve it. (Including, to some extent, myself.) 38. Ugh: The possibility of a good deal more than a mere punch-to-the-collective-chin just got uncomfortably real: On the possibility of climate bifurcation. This was always there, and if this was just another paper in, say, Earth System Dynamics, as respectable as that journal is, I’d nod my head in woe and move on. But this is in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy M. Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin P. Summerhayes, Anthony D. Barnosky, Sarah E. Cornell, Michel Crucifix, Jonathan F. Donges, Ingo Fetzer, Steven J. Lade, Marten Scheffer, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene'', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018. With supplement.  Examples of existing work: (1) Timothy M. Lenton, Hermann Held, Elmar Kriegler, Jim W. Hall, Wolfgang Lucht, Stefan Rahmstorf, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, 2008. (PNAS, yes, but basically a report from a workshop on possible points, and the possibility of a hothouse Earth was not considered.) 39. Chris B. says: If humans cause the earth’s global average temperature to increase by a further 1 degree Celsius, the world could face a “hothouse” climate and trigger further warming — even when all human emissions cease, an international study has found. Key points: Study found the climate is heading for a tipping point that could make the planet uninhabitable It could cause temperatures up to 5C higher than pre-industrial averages Current global efforts to curb emissions are “unlikely” to prevent the dangerous situation The study titled Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, which involved researchers from around the world, was published in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/07/31/1810141115 Earth at risk of ‘hothouse climate’ where efforts to reduce emissions will have no impact, study finds. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-07/climate-heading-for-tipping-point-and-risk-of-hothouse-earth/10080274 40. Chris B. says: 41. izen says: ” However, in politically charged areas it can be important to understand how some research might be received and to think about how to present it in a way that makes it difficult to misinterpret. … It’s no good doing societally relevant research if the way it is interpreted publicly is not actually consistent with what the research is actually suggesting. The only people that are not influenced when informed of the best results of research are those who have reasons to doubt, disparage or deny the results. The IPCC takes care to inform, providing a comprehesive overview of the research. That is then mediated by ‘advisors’ who understand how some research might be received, and present it in a form to influence policy makers by interpreting it in a way that may, or may not be consistent with what it actually suggests, in the SPM. The role of scientists in presenting research in ways that may influence as well as inform is minor compared to all the other actors who interpret it for public consumption. Motes and Beams… 42. hothouse earth? some of us are not at all surprised with these studies. It has not been hard to see this coming. it sure has been hard to get others to recognize a big problem on the horizon and steer a different course and this is not just a matter of how we communicated the concern or whether each of us has done everything in our small realm of influence to make appropriate changes in our lifestyles, this has simply been the course of our species. This from the Beeb article: “The authors say a total re-orientation of human values, equity, behaviour and technologies is required. We must all become stewards of the Earth.” I wonder if they mean we might have to retool capitalism and look at how to slam the brakes on certain industries whose normal course of business and profitability are diametrically opposed to the kind of “total re-orientation of human values” that would be required to end our fossil fuel addiction pronto, even if that means a cold turkey experience? Sounds like the authors need to chill a bit. here is a link to the Beeb’s piece: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45084144 From my chill buddhist perspective, I look at the implications of the 8 fold path and decided that a livelihood based in certain destructive industries was not right livelihood for me. I had to make a living and some of the jobs sometimes seemed wrong or askew to me, but my worklife was largely about building shelters for humans, working in health care, and then finally working in bankruptcy field for the past 15 years helping folks shed debt so they could afford groceries and utilities. It was not perfect livelihood, but it was right livelihood as I understood it for large chunks of time. Eight fold path for those interested: https://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/8foldpath.htm a little off-topic, I suppose. warm and chill regards to all, Mike 43. Nathan says: “No, he only needs to know how hard it is sometimes to deduce ought from is.” But this would be true regardless of whether they were a scientist or not. Scientists are not especially poor at being ‘certain’. And who could reasonably argue scientists are less able to be ‘certain’ than anyone else? “Playing “stay in your lane” games looks suboptimal when competing on policy analysts’ turf without being a policy analyst. ” Though, some scientists could actually be policy analysts as well. Or even politicians. We’ve had a few scientists in politics in Australia and they’ve done a reasonable job – the standards are not so high here 🙂 In any event, being from Democracies, I would have thought scientists would have every right to participate in policy formulation. Unless in Mosher’s mind Scientists are some sort of autocratic cabal that will force society in particular directions. Anyway, my rant is largely irrelevant. 44. Steven Mosher says: “Unless in Mosher’s mind Scientists are some sort of autocratic cabal that will force society in particular directions.” Simple. Guy said he didn’t understand the authors argument.. I tried to explain it. Quote the text and then relay my own experience. Step 1. Restate the guys argument. Step 2. Try to give the strongest version. Still on 1. 45. Steven Mosher says: “Scientists have every right to say what they think. And of course scientists will tell you what must be done, they do it all the time.People have skills that don’t just limit them to one role in society…” He is not arguing that scientists should not say what they think. He is arguing for a focus on what can be done. Contrast. We can reduce emissions. We should reduce them to zero tommorrow. In the end I think his advice is probably too vague. Or at worst targets curbing a behavior that is marginal. But its worthwhile to actually represent his views fairly. Then criticize. 46. Steven Mosher says: 47. Dave_Geologist says: How about we just stop subsidizing all fossil fuel industry, slap a heavy carbon tax on any corporate profits from fossil fuels and lighten corporate tax load on green energy profits Totally agree smallbluemike. But it’s not just the fossil fuel industry we’re subsiding by ignoring their negative externalities. it’s the car industry, the airline industry, the overseas hotels, the supermarkets, the palm-oil industry (where it clears forests), the plastics industry, the computer/phone/server industry (which makes vastly greater profits than O&G companies), Starbucks and Coca-Cola (bottle, can, cup disposal), this blog, etc. The most effective societal and industrial changes, IMO, will result from applying the taxes at the sharp end, where the product emits CO2. For example, cars. In the UK, fuel costs about £1.30 per litre at the pump. Crude costs about 30p per litre. Wholesale petrol or diesel cost about 45p per litre, a 50% uplift for processing, transportation and sales costs. Tax is about 90p per litre. A 20% tax on crude would add 5p per litre. It won’t hit oil company profits, because they’ll pass it on to customers. It’s higher than their rate of return on investment so not passing it on would lead to losses and a share price collapse, followed by a huge reduction in supplies, like in 1973*. They’d be unable to raise capital and you need to replace about 10% of the supply each year to stand still. Saudi Aramco could take up the slack for a while, but might prefer to keep the market tight and the price high. Many other OPEC countries will be unable to raise production. It’s an open secret that the ones who report exactly their OPEC quota each year are lying. They can’t make their quota, but don’t want to surrender their %age share of the OPEC ceiling. Pensions in the UK and the US would be savagely cut, because the O&G companies make up such a large part of their portfolio and they’re among the few large companies which also pay large dividends which fund current outflows. All of which would lead to massive social and economic disruption and a political backlash that would knock climate action back by decades. Would it be worth all that to see some sad CEOs? Not to me, YMMV. Fortunately that won’t happen because they’ll just treat it like an oil price fluctuation and pass it on. An extra 5p per litre. You can save that now just by shopping around. It will have zero impact on peoples’ driving habits. OTOH a 20% sales tax on 2WD fake SUVs that are hundreds of kilograms heavier than a hatchback with the same interior space? Big impact. And it wouldn’t wreck the car companies. They’d just go back to making what they made ten years ago. * Completely shutting them down would cause short term disruption but we’d be back to square one in five or ten years. After two or three decades of indigenisation, the State oilcos have the skills. The main reason they use western companies is that they don’t want to invest their own money up front, and the capital markets trust a lot of those countries less than they trust publicly quoted O&G companies. Too many developing-world government loans have been defaulted on over the years. 48. Dave_Geologist says: No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. And yet the ozone-hole problem was solved. Or at least the solution was put in place and is working. And monitoring has detected cheats like the Chinese home insulators. Using existing systems of governance. No evidence there of a changed level of consciousness. The US problem can be solved, Just make climate change your hot-button question, like gun control and abortion. Don’t vote Republican, even if you’re anti-abortion and pro-gun. The two sides are not as bad as each other. The Democrats could and should do better, but on this issue the Republicans are positively malign. The EU countries are making a difference. Even China is reducing its energy intensity per unit of GDP. Yes they could do better. But they could also do worse. At least in densely populated Europe, everyone can’t have their own solar cells, Tesla batteries and windmills. Regulated capitalism with the trappings of social democracy and some State-owned entities works. Americans would probably call it socialism, but David Cameron and Angela Merkel are Conservative by European standards. The clue is in their party names (in Europe, Christian Democrat = right, Social Democrat = left). 49. Dave_Geologist says: Do I have some buried reservations about my work in the oil patch? Not at all. If you think I’m having regrets because I retired, had time to read about AGW and became “aware”, you’re wrong mike. I’ve been aware of AGW and considered it a problem since the 1980s, when I read a popular book about sea level rise. I remember it well because it was one of those Aha! moments. As a geologist, I was very aware of the role of melting ice. But steric SLR came as a complete surprise. I slapped my forehead and said that I, of all people should have known that. Solid and fluid expansion played a huge role in the thermodynamic calculations I had to to do for my PhD, spanning hundreds of °C temperature range and tens of km depth range. My attitude has always been to do it safely, and as efficiently as possible to minimise direct emissions. But that in the end, oil and gas is a buyer’s market and you have to change the habits of the buyers. With the exception of Saudi Arabia, no-one has the ability to turn on the taps at a week or a month or even a year’s notice, and the Saudis do it for political reasons. And it’s a just-in-time supply chain with no more than two or three days’ inventory at each stage. The swings from30 to $130 and back were all down to market demand. The supply side is very slow to respond. The demand side responds fast, e.g. after the financial crisis, but it needs more than a few percent to change peoples’ habits. And there isn’t a magic money tree in O&G profits which could be used to subsidise change. Headline profits sound huge because these are huge businesses. Shell upstream made$10B profit last year on 1.5B boe production. About $6 per barrel. To put it in perspective, that equates to 3p per litre for Brits buying petrol . Out of 135p. For Americans, about 15c per gallon, out of$2.50. Its return on average capital employed over the past three years was 6%, 3% and 2%. These are low-margin businesses, on a par with power utilities. Like utilities, their attraction to investors is a steady dividend. Compare that to the US beverage industry (average around 25% for the big brands), 20% for Facebook and Google, 20% for US discount stores. So there has to be some pain for ordinary people. Just as smokers had to give up some pleasures for the health benefits to themselves and others. Imagining otherwise is a form of denial.

Possibly I’m fooling myself. Possibly I have different morals. But you should also consider the possibility that I’m simply better informed.

50. Good answer, Dave. The best answer available informed by the paradigm in which your analysis takes place. We can just agree to disagree on places where our venn diagrams of options simply have no overlap. My best to you.

51. Willard says:

Nathan,

I think we’re in violent agreement here. ThomasB’s (and Junior’s) false dichotomy (or worse conflation) between politics and policy could be criticized in many ways. Some of them miss the mark, that’s all. Let’s try to find the shortest way to show how silly is ThomasB’s argument. Take his:

In his 2005 Nobel lecture, Harold Pinter suggested that art allows “a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation”. Why not let our poets and politicians, rogues and orators, struggle over how that last scene plays out, and let our scientists confine themselves to clarifying our sense of the possible? We need science, not to tell us what must be done, but to show us what can. We need our scientists to build models that frame our policies, not to tell stories that shape them.

This is grade-A CAGW meme dogwhistling. There is the opposition between scientists and “poets and politicians, rogues, and orators.” There is the “what must be done” and “what can.” There is “models” and “stories,” “frame” vs “shape.”

There’s no real argument there. Only a dichotomy exagerrated by dubious semantic choices. Take his models – should scientists really stick to providing models? Not at all. Models need to be presented in some way. Their presentation changes according to the mode and the audience. Compare a TED talk with an ArXiV pre-print, and consider everything in between, The more you’ll try to reach the public, the more you’ll need to use storification.

Which means that, strictly speaking, ThomasB’s claim that scientists should stop storytelling is just false. They can’t. The claim is also wrong. Scientists should storytell. They are being judged according to their outreach. Not only that, but they should participate more in the democratic processes. That’s the point of my last post:

https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/science-might-be-political-but/

ThomasB’s argument is also misguided, for the idea that scientists should tell anything about what can be done looks like an Escher sentence to me:

Think about it – scientists should tell us what is politically feasible, i.e. their scientific results depend on the policy window available? Ask any policy analyst except an honest broker. I predict this analyst will suffer cognitive dissonance.

I spent a few hours with ThomasB already over issues of sexual harassment in astrophysics. Hours I can’t have back anymore. Not worth it.

***

If you can tell more about the Aussie scientists who did some politics, that’d be great. It might be useful for my next post.

52. Dave_Geologist says:

Thanks mike. My best to you. We can agree on the need to act. The problem with actions is that there are many choices, whereas inaction is always the same choice. One reason conservatives have it easy (or at least easier) in coming to an agreement. Just keep things the same, or put them back they way they used to be.

According to the EPA’s calculator, you have to burn 112 gallons of gasoline to emit a tonne of CO2. A $24 per tonne CO2 tax would add 21c to a gallon. Would that reduce peoples’ driving in the USA? A less than 10% price hike? In the UK the current price is about £6 per gallon. I don’t think a 4% price hike will do much. Which is why, unpopular as it is with economists and our supporters on the Right, I’d favour a mix of tax and regulation. Or of allocating taxes differently than just by CO2e. For example, exempt public transport, hospitals, schools etc. from the tax and raise more from discretionary transport like cars in compensation. Exempt rail freight but charge trucks more. UK farmers already get a large fuel duty exemption. Keep and extend that to encourage more local production and less imports. Include manufacturing emissions. That should punish cars vs, trains and buses. Etc. And yes, if you want to and can get support, tax oil companies more. Although bear in mind that in the UK at least, they already pay extra taxes over and above Corporation Tax (the Chancellor’s last reduction was making the “supertax” smaller, not removing it let alone taxing them less than other industries). And face hidden taxes, like depreciating assets over 30-40 years not the usual 5-7. But don’t imagine that it will release a huge pile of money with which to do green stuff. Or that, if they pass it on to consumers, it will raise retail prices enough to change behaviours. Obviously the more complicated you make it the harder it is to get agreement, and I wouldn’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But I can’t help thinking sometimes that the sort of CO2 taxes conservatives are prepared to talk about ($20 per tonne of CO2) are around that level because they’ve done the same calculation I have, and concluded it will be too small to influence consumer behaviour.

Oh dear, a scientist giving policy advice. Time to duck 🙂 .

53. @Dave_Geologist, @smallbluemike,

$24 per tonne CO2 tax would add 21c to a gallon. Would that reduce peoples’ driving in the USA? A less than 10% price hike? In the UK the current price is about £6 per gallon. I don’t think a 4% price hike will do much. The Biodome in Montreal makes the case for regulation in part citing the inelasticity of fossil fuel prices, noting that, while there was greater enthusiasm for fuel efficiency standards, when oil was north of US$100 per barrel there wasn’t a big downturn in driving.

I think there are articles which suggest that to be effective Carbon Taxes need to be something between US$200 to US$600 per tonne CO2. I’ve heard figures above US$1000 per tonne. 54. I think when you look at resource consumption outside a discussion of income and wealth inequality, then you are headed for a swing and a miss. Look at this family’s water consumption in Austin, Tx for an example of what I am thinking about: https://www.statesman.com/news/local/austin-top-single-family-water-user-2017-congressman/96egsvzrWWwRvNWpbefhfO/ I think a carbon or water tax would not make this family bat an eye. They might continue to produce CO2 in the same way they currently consume water – at a rate equal to 20 average Austin families. How do level the playing field so that a carbon or pigovian tax is progressive and effective? The obscenely wealthy will consume an obscene amount of resources and produce an obscene amount of waste and I think we need to address that as a matter of fairness. Fairness is a significant consideration in a situation where the social costs of our lives can be shunted off to future generations. This is not right, we should work on doing right at every juncture. again, simple 8 fold path stuff for me. 55. Dave_Geologist says: I think, like hyper says, that you’d have to raise prices a lot to change the average consumer’s habits. So much so that it would seriously harm the poor and vulnerable, who’ve contributed least to the problem. Unless you also raised social security, allocated a basic income, increased the minimum wage, whatever, which opens another can of worms. Regulation and targeted taxes can be more flexible. Hit the SUV drivers, not the hatchback drivers. Be careful about balancing particulates vs. CO2. Don’t make it impossible for the poor to buy a 5-10 year old diesel hatchback, but restrict their access to Low Emissions Zones where there is generally public transport available. Set up Park & Rides outside the LEZs. Etc. 56. Dave said: “I’ve been aware of AGW and considered it a problem since the 1980s, ” We were aware in the mid-70’s that oil depletion was an even bigger issue, and even though I was a young kid I remember reading about the issue in fishing magazines. Having that knowledge it’s been interesting watching all the oil-producing regions disappearing one by one, with technology and investment schemes frantically trying to keep pace with the decline. 57. I remember in geography class at U of Texas hearing about oil depletion with discussion of the challenge of shale oil extraction and tar sand processing. The frame in those days was that it might never be economically feasible to process the tar sands for oil. Luckily, “we” came up with fracking to access the shale oil and prices have risen enough to make tar sand processing look ok. Thank god for that or the fossil fuel industry might have had to retool and reinvest for less profitable energy sources like wind and solar, or power storage technology. Gaming the market for profits on oil reserves and processed fossil fuels has a lot more ups and downs, I think. I don’t remember discussion of any wildcat strikes for wind and solar energy. Too bad for all of us imho. Mike 58. geo class at UT was around 1973 I think. 59. Dave_Geologist says: And yet… global oil production was about 50M bopd in the 1970s, and is now pushing 100M bopd. And crude oil cost about$20 per barrel in 1970 and had risen to over $100 by 1980 (adjusted to 2017 prices) vs. about$50 per barrel in 2017. Despite a significant increase in the host-nation take among OPEC countries. Pretty close to the long-term average.

Funny that….

BTW the AGW book was a proper science summary with physics. That’s what convinced me. As with evolution the only way it could not happen is if God intervened to stop it. Campbell and Odell were just numerology.

60. Willard says:

My kingdom for portable units:

61. mt says:

Willard: > The only alternative I see is to go for the gun defense: “well, science doesn’t influence, scientists do.” Must be a vocabulary thing.

I don’t understand the sneering. Of course it’s a vocabulary thing!

This distinction clarifies numerous issues at the interface of science and society. Even so there is some polysemy to deal with, but this is progress. So when we are done mocking this position, perhaps we might consider what it might mean if someone had some semblance of a point.

62. Willard says:

> I don’t understand the sneering. Of course it’s a vocabulary thing!

I suppose this depends upon what “vocabulary” means.

My point is related to the sentence chopped from your quote: anyone who rejects that science is political may need to accept the inform/influence dichotomy. Not only we’d need to define science in purely informational terms, but we’d have to posit a way by which this information carries no influence. The alternative I considered bypasses defining science altogether, and restricts the concept of influence only to what agents can do. Both options police usage in a manner that I feel can easily become unsustainable.

Whatever the merit of such conceptual analysis, showing that ThomasB’s claim is an Escher sentence is more expeditive.

63. Dave said:

“And yet… global oil production was about 50M bopd in the 1970s, and is now pushing 100M bopd. “

It’s difficult to find any report that shows a rise in conventional crude oil production since 2005. Of course, unconventional sources, natural gas liquids, biofuels, refinery gains have made up for the scarcity. The global oil production which is now reported around 90 uses a book-keeping scheme that adds to the crude oil total. This chart from Platts is one to argue over:

64. mt says:

I don’t care what word we use to describe that-which-can-be-defined-in-informational-terms, but we need a word for it to make sense of this mess. I think for now we should call it something other than science. “Scientia” has been proposed. I’m not sure about the overtones as I’m not familiar with the word. In this comment, I will call it information.

There is information. There are minds which have a better or worse grasp of the information, owing to some combination of talent and effort. That information needs to be conveyed to decision-making systems.

That process has been actively subverted and decisions are being made very badly. Much worse than a half century ago, I would claim, not because the information is weak or the intentions are worse, but because the information transmission has been subverted.

That’s the problem. We can’t talk about the problem if people are quibbling about words and about roles in ways that obscure the problem. The key problem is getting the correct information to the people and systems which make and implement the decisions, in the presence of malign efforts to prevent this transmission.

In the ordinary course of events, scientists do not have to be much involved. But when fake evidence is developed in ways that fool the target decision makers into thinking it is authoritative, it is not so simple.

This subversion is why we still haven’t acted on what we knew thirty years ago about climate. And this is why climate and numerous other decisions are being handled so badly.

And this is why “science is political” in the sense “that scientists act in the larger political sphere”.

We do so neither because it’s inevitable nor because really it’s a good thing. It’s not inevitable and in a better world it would not be necessary or common. Scientists nowadays are obligated to act in the larger political sphere, because the other roles in society are evidently failing to take reasonable account of the available information.

This violates the inform-not-influence ideal. But what are we to do under the circumstances?

I think we should not lose sight of the problems with blurring the line. We should especially not lose track of the fact that there is a line to blur!

Unless and until the intermediaries between science and policy regain their footing, scientists have to do their job for them. But this is not ideal.

65. @mt,

I may be simply asserting that I am an Old Fogey in doing so, but it seems to me we have a process and system for sorting this kind of stuff out rather than agonizing over all these kinds of things. It’s called education and The People, who are the ones ultimately who need to make decisions about technical things and tradeoffs, and judge whether or not their elected representatives are actually serving them, need to obtain more education than they presently do. Reacting off-the-cuff to something on Facebook or Fox News or CNN or Twitter from a “gut feel” is never going to work well. Even Jefferson knew that.

There’s too much responsibility here being put upon scientists and experts and not enough upon the public, in my opinion. If a public is going to have to make decisions about highly technical things, which, even setting climate change aside, it certainly does, whether it’s Internet-related stuff or the budget of the Department of Defense, they should expect to need to know things in order to be able to do so. And they should know when they don’t. Enter climate or the economy, and their responsibility is greater.

Yeah, I know, it sounds like a punt, but Science and scientists can’t do everything.

66. izen says:

The paper warning of a hothouse Earth and that tipping points may be closer than we think, there could be 97ft of sea level rise plus uninhabitable equatorial regions has received wide coverage on the mainstream media. In the UK it was a main story in much of the press and had heavy coverage on the BBC.

The reports have been factual, seeking to inform with little editorialising or false balance. A good example of the media reporting in a fair and balanced manner.

The influence it may have is more problematic. In the Grauniad there were the “I told you so” and “It’s worse than we thought” response.
But the posts in the Telegraph and the Mail show the influence that this information had on their readers was different. Derision and dismissal were the common response. The accusation that this was cashing in on the heatwave to get more grant funding, the inclusion of ‘might’ and ‘could’ indicated that it was all just speculative, and of course the usual sneering at anything coming out of East Anglia which, as ‘everybody knows’ is guilty of fraud.

So the information in the PNAS paper has influenced different audiences in very different ways.

Influence is in the eye of the beholder.

67. izen says:

Is this the way an ‘Escher’ statement works ?

68. Nathan says:

Willard

“I think we’re in violent agreement here. ”

Yes, i think we are!

69. Dave_Geologist says:

It’s difficult to find any report that shows a rise in conventional crude oil production…

Well, yes. But that was the fundamental problem with Hubbard, Campbell and Odell. They were using reasonable statistical methods to produce yield curves for already identified plays. In an industry with a century-long track record for not just filling in the gaps but for identifying new plays. In a world where most of the geography had not yet been explored. They provided the right answer to the wrong question. There’s no difference in principle between moving from the Lower 48 to Alaska, onshore to offshore, shallow water to deep water, fraccing tight sandstones to fraccing organic shales (actually the best candidates are the limy or silty beds between the proper shales). Not only that, the technologies are not new. Horizontal drilling was already in place before Hubbard. What was missing were the downhole sensors to enable accurate tracking of target horizons, and the seismic quality to put the kick-off point in the right place. Fraccing has been around in its present form since the 1950s and in more primitive forms since the 1880s. The first gas producer in the UK North Sea was a slant, fracced well in an unconventional reservoir (a naturally fractured, tight sandstone with mass production. It’s invention, decades of refinement and cost reduction, then mass production. Like computers, televisions or mobile phones. Existing technologies reach the point where they can first compete with old technologies, then supersede them because they’re cheaper. HCO were like an electronics expert saying there could never be mobile phones because we couldn’t make valves small enough. Or that we could never have the current computer and device markets because you couldn’t cram enough transistors onto a Paxolin circuit board, and anyway germanium is too scarce and hard to extract in large quantities*.

This chart from Platts is one to argue over

Still rising. And still cheaper. Aren’t we clever 🙂 .And don’t forget the conventional but less accessible/more highly taxed resources which have been crowded out of the market by historically low oil and gas prices. And as I said above, it’s a buyer’s market, driven wholly by demand. The people who lost their shirts in the US shale gas play didn’t lose them because the technology was unsuccessful. They lost them because it was too successfull, flooded the market and drove the price down. There plenty more where that came from once the price rises. We won’t get CO2 under control by waiting for the oil and gas to run out. That will be far too late.

* That was one of the premises in James Blish’s Cities In Fight novels. Germanium was the de facto galactic currency, analogous to gold, because huge quantities were needed for transistors and even with a galaxy to plunder, resources were scarce.

70. Dave_Geologist says:

Oops, something went wrong there in copy-paste. I was storing the comment in a text editor while I fact-checked, in case my browser page refreshed and lost it. The middle bit should read:

The first gas producer in the UK North Sea was a slant, fracced well in an unconventional reservoir (a naturally fractured, tight sandstone with mass production. It’s invention, decades of refinement and cost reduction, then mass production.

71. Dave_Geologist says:

Try again, I think it was bad html (less than and greater than signs).

The first gas producer in the UK North Sea was a slant, fracced well in an unconventional reservoir (a naturally fractured, tight sandstone with less than 1 mD permeability). In 1967. There were already fracced gas wells onshore UK. By the 1980s we were fraccing that sort of reservoir with an oil-based carrier fluid so you were only overbalanced during the actual frac job. The first North Sea oilfield came onstream in 1975, from a floating production facility using remotely operated subsea wells. Controlled by the sort of hydraulics I built during my high-school work-experience placement in an engineering laboratory. Multilaterals came in during the 1990s.

The path of these technologies is not invention then mass production. It’s invention, decades of refinement and cost reduction, then mass production.

72. Steven Mosher says:
73. Dave_Geologist says:

But the posts in the Telegraph and the Mail show the influence that this information had on their readers was different.
But you’re never going to persuade Mail and Telegraph readers. As with Republicans in the US, the only solution is to outvote them. Persuade the middle.

74. Dave_Geologist says:

To clarify what I mean by a buyer’s market: demand is not very price-responsive. There’s a bit of fuel substitution at the margins, e.g. in power stations, but in general people don’t buy more oil and gas when the price falls or buy less when the price rises. They spend the money they’ve saved on something else: nice clothes, a restaurant meal, a holiday weekend, etc. Or find the money by cutting back on those things, rather than leave the car in the garage. Demand inflexibility, plus just-in-time production, transportation and processing, means that supply is closely matched to demand rather than vice versa. That makes the price volatile and vulnerable to demand shocks like the financial crisis, or supply shocks like threats to close the Straits of Hormuz. It’s why you have to be very careful about interpreting supply curves over time as a true reflection of supply availability. Better to use Reserves, with all their flaws. And it’s why I’m sceptical that anything other than a draconian carbon tax, which will disproportionately harm the poor, who’re least to blame, will change our habits. A Universal Basic Income might be one way to mitigate that, paid for by the carbon tax. I don’t agree with the Guardian writers that UBI will change our attitudes to something more environmentally friendly.

Small-scale trials of UBI show most people would still work, but UBI could break the link between work and consumption. We all do it, saying: “I work so hard, I deserve that fancy meal, new gadget, or long-haul flight.”

I note, first, that the trials are not linked or directly quoted, and second, that the wording of the first sentence is ambiguous. Is “UBI could break the link between work and consumption” a result from the trial, or the authors’ wishful thinking. My money is on the latter. I can see the reverse effect: “The State provides me with all my needs, so the proceeds from working are precisely for spending on ‘extras’. I work while the slobs next door are lying on the couch. I deserve my treats.” In the same way I might spend a well-earned bonus after a burst of hard work on luxuries and a nice holiday, rather than on paying down my mortgage. (Been there, done that.)

75. izen says:

@-Dave_G

That seems to assume that politics is one dimensional, either a bounded line with Left and Right at either end, or some might favour a circle.
Perhaps it is more likely it is Hamiltonian.

But how do you persuade the middle ?
Almost by definition they are content with the status quo of the political and economic system they live in, and are uninterested in change to a ‘better’ system either based on past or future Utopian precepts.

76. Dave_Geologist says:

Did you check the authors out Steven? Or was it an accidental direct hit on the thread topic?

Lewis is a plant ecologist and Maslin a palaeoclimatologist. Although from his publication list I see he does have a track record in science-and-society stuff as well as the hard science. And it’s not hard to split them, even with just their titles to go on, e.g.

Sediment failures within the Peach Slide (Barra Fan, NE Atlantic Ocean) and relation to the history of the British-Irish Ice Sheet

Evolution of southern Benguela Upwelling and Agulhas leakage over the last 3.5 Ma

The role of orbital forcing in the Early-Middle Pleistocene Transition

Testing the reliability of paper seismic record to SEGY conversion on the surface and shallow sub-surface geology of the Barra Fan (NE Atlantic Ocean) [gosh, that takes me back 25 years!]

Assessing the relative contribution of economic, political and environmental factors on past conflict and displacement of people in East Africa

The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health

Is climate change the greatest threat to global health?

Cascading uncertainty in Climate Change models and its implications for policy

Emergence of the Carbon-Market Intelligence sector

Carbon trading needs a Multi-Level Approach? [A Nature Comment, not a Letter or Article]

Climate Science in the Public Sphere

Nothing on Universal Basic Income. So his peer-reviewed publications include pure-science, and science-as-informer, but his science-as influencer stuff is in the non-peer-reviewed literature. Sounds about right to me.

BTW I respectfully disagree with him about the start of the Anthropocene. We already use 1950 as radiocarbon Year Zero and as Present in palaeoclimatology. I see no point in changing it to 1965. Needless confusion for the sake of a tiny change. It ain’t broke. No need to fix it.

77. Dave_Geologist says:

But how do you persuade the middle ?

By persuading them that the status quo is no longer static. That not only is the the New Normal, it will soon be exceeded by a new New Normal.

That seems to assume that politics is one dimensional, either a bounded line with Left and Right at either end, or some might favour a circle.

The Overton Window. And the Central Limit Theorem.

78. “Still rising. And still cheaper. Aren’t we clever “

Easily fooled by the current status. If you are saying that 100 million barrels of oil are being consumed every day, that means that 36.5 billion barrels of oil need to be discovered per year to keep that pace up over the long term. Look at this chart closely — it shows that in the last couple of years that less than 25% of the amount necessary is being discovered (8.3 billion in 2016 and 7.5 billion in 2017), and this is in “BOE – barrels of oil equivalent”, which is a redefinition of crude oil to include all manner of substitutes for crude oil. And as this is only on estimate, it could be much less than this if the “oil” is not fully recoverable.

79. Dave said:

“Like computers, televisions or mobile phones. Existing technologies reach the point where they can first compete with old technologies, then supersede them because they’re cheaper. HCO were like an electronics expert saying there could never be mobile phones because we couldn’t make valves small enough. Or that we could never have the current computer and device markets because you couldn’t cram enough transistors onto a Paxolin circuit board, and anyway germanium is too scarce and hard to extract in large quantities*.

When I was at IBM, my group was the first to experiment with SiGe technology used to make high-speed transistors that go into cell phones. I think the current SOTA of SiGe holds the performance record and are a key to the 7nm technology, which is the highest density yet achieved :
https://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/07/research-alliance-produces-first-7nm-node-test-chips-clears-path-next-gen

The point is that this is a technology that can be improved, versus crude oil supply which is a finitely constrained, non-renewable resource with therefore fixed limits to recover. I don’t think this is really that hard to understand, even with the obfuscation.

80. mt says:

“Yeah, I know, it sounds like a punt, but Science and scientists can’t do everything.”

As is plainly evident. But as long as the other institutions are failing, it falls to scientists, acting outside their formal institutional roles of information gathering and dissemination, to plainly state the consequences of their information.

I think this situation, as one of its relatively secondary but still important unfortunate side effects, contributes to endless confusion about whose job it is to do what.

I insist, in sympathy with the parent article, that there a crucial sense in which “science” ought to strive to be apolitical, and another sense in which “science” is, by definition, apolitical. The polysemy of the word “science” contributes to the confusion, though probably not so much as the failures of education and journalism and discourse to account for the actual information at hand.

People like Roger Pielke Jr. ask legitimate questions. They are problematic not in terms of the questions they ask, but rather because they largely provide incoherent answers.

I suggest that hereabouts we have a consensus on these three points:

1) There is some enormously consequential information. 2) There is the institution, call it “the scientific community”, still somewhat functional, that is tasked with gathering and analyzing information. 3) Here is the society ignoring the information. Why?

I suggest that the failure is in the institutions which we expect to validate and disseminate information. They are broken, to some extent because malign forces conspired to break them, and to some extent because of inherent weaknesses in their own constitutions.

Some suggest that the problem is science being political, “science has always been political” as accusation. Some suggest that the problem is science striving in a futile effort to be apolitical, “science has always been political” as exhortation. (We’re damned arrogant if we do and damned arrogant if we don’t!)

I think what scientists should do is not the key issue. The key issue is how society should be structured to process information.

But meanwhile, we do have to decide what to do! Individuals with expertise, be they within or outside the relevant scientific institutions, have to navigate this uncharted territory as individuals.

But we also need to try to chart the uncharted territory. As scientists and scientifically inclined people, if we reflect collectively on what we are doing and what we should do, we will need a clear shared nomenclature to do that.

81. Dave_Geologist says:

Note the word “conventional” Paul. My tank doesn’t care where the oil comes from. Neither does the climate. And four years is ‘way too short. Exploration and development expenditure is the first thing that gets cut back when prices fall. The first of those adds new stuff. The second moves stuff from resources to Reserves. Investment tracks oil price. And despite all that, net reserves increased in 2017. Probably because companies over-developed when prices were high. That overhang is what’s keeping prices low. Once it’s used up, the current under-investment will tighten supply and prices will go back up. ‘Twas always thus.

Even this paper, which takes a quite constrained view of supply, breaks Paris. They have us busting through 2°C sometime between 2050 and 2100, and up to 3°C by 2100. And recent papers are making it look like AR5 underestimated rather than overestimating ECS. Even if they’re right, we can’t afford to go there. To meet Paris, we’ll have to leave some of those resources in the ground. And I suspect that’s an underestimate of what we could produce. It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future 🙂 , but there is one certainty. While Peak Oil curves have sometimes been right about individual plays or basins, they’ve always been wrong about global production. I’ll also admit that I have an aversion to graphs which show an inexorably rising trend, but predict a fall just around the corner. I’ve seen too many of those from the ABC epicycles crowd.

82. Dave said:

“To clarify what I mean by a buyer’s market: demand is not very price-responsive. “

Think about why conventional crude oil production has essentially plateaued for the last 12 years. It’s more than likely a combination of asymptotically reaching the fixed supply constraints and simultaneously having to deal with the global economy’s strict requirement for a source of liquid fuel. That demand is keeping the crude oil production level plateaued, even as it’s becoming more difficult to maintain over time, therefore the movement to unconventional secondary supplies of oil such as shale and tar sands.

83. Dave said:

“While Peak Oil curves have sometimes been right about individual plays or basins, they’ve always been wrong about global production. I’ll also admit that I have an aversion to graphs which show an inexorably rising trend, but predict a fall just around the corner. I’ve seen too many of those from the ABC epicycles crowd.”

All the effort going into unconventional sources of oil are entirely due to finite constraints of the conventional crude oil supply. Nobody even knows if the shale oil is or will be profitable, because all of the cash-flow indicators show that the production is highly leveraged via debt. As I said, the global economy requires a source of liquid fuel and the worker-bees will do whatever it takes to keep it going, even if it means producing massive amounts of debt.

84. Dave_Geologist says:

Time will tell Paul, time will tell. Plenty of deep-water conventional exploration was going on, and development plans were being made, when oil was £100 plus per barrel. Those resources didn’t evaporate. They were put on hold because shale came online and depressed the market. Shale is currently crowding out stranded conventional resources. When the price is right they’ll reappear. Some overnight when you’re talking Reserves. Remember they have to be profitable at year-end prices. A bunch of stuff was de-booked when the oil price fell because they were no longer profitable. Even though some of them continued to produce*. They’ll be re-booked as soon as they cross a price threshold (OK not overnight, at year-end).

I suggest we agree to differ on this one, as we are straying rather far from the topic.

* That’s not as silly as it sounds. I’ve worked on a field that did that. We kept it going for the positive cash flow. But because you have to depreciate CAPEX on a Unit Of Production basis, we made an accounting loss on every bcf. Eventually Head Office decided it didn’t like the look of the impending write-downs and told us to stop. I presume they persuaded the auditors that we didn’t need to write down the whole field yet, as it was probably just a price blip. The SEC doesn’t allow that flexibility wrt Reserves. Not counting it, even if it’s produced, makes sense to them because SEC Reserves are for the benefit of financial analysts, not petroleum engineers or geologists. You shouldn’t treat a loss-maker as an asset. if anything, they should count uneconomic production as negative reserves.

85. Dave, you explain the oil market and reserves very well, but not much analysis of whether we can afford to access and burn the fossil fuel reserves that you describe without creating an ecological catastrophe. The social and planetary cost simply does get warrant consideration in a traditional market analysis of fossil fuel market. Can you address that? How should that kind of impact be factored into the market or does it have no place in the analysis?

86. Dave_Geologist says:

I did mike, in discussing Wang et al.

Even if they’re right, we can’t afford to go there. To meet Paris, we’ll have to leave some of those resources in the ground.

If we had a flexible approach, not just a flat tax on CO2e, we could steer production towards the least environmentally unfriendly sources rather than the cheapest or those which have no choice but to recover their sunk costs, even producing at a loss. We could, for example, tax tar sands more heavily than offshore light crude. I’ll be unpopular for saying it, but shale oil and shale gas, properly regulated, drilled from pads not nodding donkeys everywhere, is probably the least damaging option. Certainly better than 5,000 mile leaky pipelines from Siberia. Coal should be substituted anywhere it can. Oil-fired power stations should be incentivised to switch to gas. We don’t need the Arctic. Trouble is, many in the USA would probably think that sounds like communism.

87. @izen,

The deriders don’t know, then, what the National Academy is. See

To quote Dr Tyson, Science is bigger than politics.

88. ok, sounds fine, but I think the whole question of usable oil reserves should be built around the idea that you put forward: that we use the fuels that have the lowest ecological damage with commitment to accept the rest as stranded resources barring a breakthrough on DAC or some new technology that would allow us to burn fossil fuels and still reduce the planetary atmospheric load to some acceptable level in a reasonable time period. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that 410 ppm is an expensive experiment in atmospheric CO2 levels. I think the energy companies should step up and do their part to inform and influence. They know many of the same things that climate scientists know, doesn’t the industry bear any responsibility for their part in the AGW calamity?

If they do not, shouldn’t we stop prosecuting drug dealers for providing drugs to addicts? If the responsibility falls on the users, shouldn’t that be a consistent policy with regard to dangerous substances?

89. Dave_Geologist says:

Sorry, I’m breaking my own suggestion to stop. But for clarity, of course I agree oil and gas are a fixed resource which will run out some time. But it’s technological advances which have got finding rates down from 1:10 or 1:20 to 1:3 or 1:4, recovery factors up, and stranded assets producible. Much of them due to those tiny transistors, many of which are deployed in the supercomputers which the industry uses to make all those nice seismic images. And in the downhole sensors which have transformed geosteering. And the virtual reality goggles for well maintenance. How cool is that?

Anyway, definitely my last word. What’s the point in debating whether we can afford to produce 30%, 50% or 80% of the available O&G resource? The key point is that for the sake of the planet, we can’t produce all of it. The precautionary principle says we need to take steps to wean ourselves of fossil fuels, and can’t take the gamble that Mother Nature will save us by running dry before we’ve completely trashed the planet.

90. “What’s the point … ?”

Dave, Because there’s little understanding. Which is the motivation for our book titled Mathematical GeoEnergy, available at the end of the year via AGU/Wiley
https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Mathematical+Geoenergy%3A+Discovery%2C+Depletion+and+Renewal-p-9781119434290

91. Dave says: “The precautionary principle says we need to take steps to wean ourselves of fossil fuels, and can’t take the gamble that Mother Nature will save us by running dry before we’ve completely trashed the planet.”
Maybe I am wrong, but I thought it was crystal clear that it is certain that we can completely trash the planet with known reserves. I don’t think that should be described as a gamble. I don’t think Dave means to traffic in misdirection, but I think he is steeped in the fossil fuel industry and will tend to reproduce memes from that culture. Some of those memes are that we are gambling with the trashing of the planet and that the problem of CO2 is consumer demand, that the industry is just responding to market demands or share holder responsibilities. Those are convenient memes that allow the industries to claim little or no responsibility for the AGW predicament.

I am not interested in attacking Dave, who seems like a reasonable guy who has made reasonable choices and I will readily acknowledge that I am steeped in the ecology movement and will naturally reproduce memes and positions from that culture. The facts are that in both cases, oiil and gas industry and the ecology movement, some of the memes produced simply don’t stand up to scrutiny and analysis. And, we have driven the ecosystem into a precarious state where solid scientists are starting to publish and worry about hothouse runaway warming. That used to be a meme that only the ecology movement was willing to pose seriously.

Going up in the woods for a couple of days to hike and splash around in the Skokomish River, so will be offline. When it gets this hot, my spouse and I head to the woods where it is cooler. No fires along the Skoke right now, but the air is pretty crummy from fires to south and north.

92. Dave_Geologist says:

I think the energy companies should step up and do their part to inform and influence. They know many of the same things that climate scientists know, doesn’t the industry bear any responsibility for their part in the AGW calamity?

Google BP climate change. Nothing denialist there. Other environmental stuff on the sidebar. Nicely designed web page. Even an internal carbon price of 40 per tonne. ENI climate change. Eni acknowledges the scientific evidence on climate change produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and was one of the signatories of the Paris Pledge, which supports the goals in the Paris Agreement. Compare Chevron (not denying but let-it-happen-and-adapt). ExxonMobil “The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action. Increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect. There is a broad scientific and policy consensus that action must be taken to further quantify and assess the risks.” Like AAPG, playing the uncertainty monster. however they do appear to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax “Ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy”. Ford climate change “We believe that climate change is real and that we share the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit the global temperature rise to under 2°C.” People do have some responsibility to look for themselves. And journalists to report. 93. Dave_Geologist says: mike, “oil companies don’t own resources in the ground” is not a meme. It’s a legal reality in the vast majority of oil-producing countries. “The oil market is demand-led” is not a meme. It’s reality. If it was supply-led, the Saudis are being really, really stupid and the whole history of OPEC was a waste of time. They could just open up the taps and we’d burn more fuel. What’s that, they’ve done it before and instead of consumption spiking, the price crashed? Well that’s reality for you. It bites. 94. Dave, here are the memes I mentioned: “Some of those memes are that we are gambling with the trashing of the planet and that the problem of CO2 is consumer demand, that the industry is just responding to market demands or share holder responsibilities.” Both the ecology movement and the fossil fuel industry traffic in truths/facts and memes. Have I ever said that the “oil companies don’t own resources in the ground” or that “oil market is demand-led” are memes? one thing I did say was a meme was that “the problem of CO2 is consumer demand.” The consumer demand is for the cheapest energy that the consumer can access. That happens to be fossil fuels if we can avoid paying the social costs of those fuels and the fossil fuel industry in conjunction with nation/state players have done a pretty good job of preventing the social costs of the fuels from being added to the price at the plug/pump. (fossil fuel industry? generally republican or democrat in donations/connections/support? I think pretty clearly aligned with the libertarian wing of the R party which is doing a fine job of preventing serious climate action in the USA. I don’t think that’s a meme, I think that’s a truth/fact) This is problematic and contentious, so let’s speak carefully and make sure we hear and understand each other, if we can. Let’s keep it chill. That makes sense because I think we agree on a lot of details and we both carry memes and potential half-truths from the different cultures where we have spent our time. I think a reasonable analysis of who owns the oil resources has to look at what happened when Mossadegh attempted to manage iranian petro reserves as something that belonged to the people of Iran. I think there is a pretty reasonable argument to be made based on Iran and Iraq experiences, that individual nation states cannot safely attempt to exercise significant control of oil reserves if it threatens fossil fuel energy industries and the ff consumer nation states most closely aligned with the fossil fuel industry/companies. I think the fact is that the “oil companies and the industry aligned nation/states (USA/UK et al) control the fossil fuel resources”. Ownership is fluid and resides with the changing entitites in ascendance in the political and military negotiating that go along with the struggle over these valuable and dangerous resources. Remember the stories about the Iraqis throwing babies out of hospital incubators when the US needed to protect Kuwait from Iraq? I guess that was a military adventure that the US had to launch at least in part to protect infant health care in Kuwait, and really didn’t have that much to do control of Kuwaiti oil resources. The fossil fuel industry does not have clean hands when it comes to the CO2 problem on the planet. I expect that we agree on that, but I could be wrong. 95. izen says: @-hyperg “The deriders don’t know, then, what the National Academy is. See -” I suspect if they ‘know’ anything at all, it is that it is a bunch of elitist liberals milking the common man for vast amounts of taxpayer money to peddle fraudulent ‘chicken-little’ sky is falling stories. In cahoots with Marxist-Globalists seeking a NWO. And their opinion of Neil deGrasse Tyson means they dismiss ANYTHING he has to say. (along with Bill Nye) A view I must admit to sharing to some extent, I find both to be the annoying face of science communication, perhaps it is that American enthusiasm… 96. izen says: @-Dave_G “By persuading them that the status quo is no longer static. That not only is the the New Normal, it will soon be exceeded by a new New Normal.” Yes, it is a good strategy for motivating engagement and change of the unconcerned middle. However the results from similar attempts in healthcare to persuade people that they need to make significant changes to the way they live to maintain the status quo of their health do not indicate this is especially effective. Particularly when otters are muddying the waters with doubt. (tobacco, sugar, sat-fats) And social conformity and logistics drives individuals to maintain their commitment to established commercial options, like pre-packaged processed meals and FFs for space heating. 97. Dave_Geologist says: “Some of those memes are that we are gambling with the trashing of the planet and that the problem of CO2 is consumer demand, that the industry is just responding to market demands [or share holder responsibilities].” I would delete the last bit. Without consumer demand, producing oil and gas would be bad for shareholders. “the problem of CO2 is consumer demand. The consumer demand is for the cheapest energy that the consumer can access”. Not a meme (if by that you mean it’s untrue). True. What should oil companies do about that? Tell people the IPCC are right? Been doing that for two decades, with one and a half exceptions. Stop funding denier lobby groups? Ditto. Advocate a carbon tax? Google . Even Exxon appear to be in favour, although they word it differently. Put up prices and increase their profits? They would if they could. Unilaterally cut production? Can’t, or at least will cut their throats and make no difference to production. If they do it overnight, without letting governments appoint new operators, they’ll be responsible for social unrest. There’s nothing to stop consumers cutting their CO2 footprint now. Bought an SUV? Your CO2 problem. Turned up the a/c? Your problem. Drove rather than taking the train? Flew to Bali for a holiday? Bought loads of stuff in disposable plastic packaging? Ditto cubed. Voted Republican? e to the power ditto. The only way to change consumer behaviour is tax and regulation. Get on with it. Imagining that some sort of Damascus moment on the part of some CEOs will change the selfish habits of seven billion people is a recipe for doing nothing. Mossadeq was a long time ago. Ain’t gonna happen. Western oil companies have had assets* expropriated right, left and centre across OPEC since the 1970s. No-one went to war over it. Once again consider the possibility that my views are different because I know more about this than you do. And that some of what you think you know, is actually not true. I agree that the FF industry doesn’t have clean hands. But no-one has clean hands. At least the FF industry is systematically reducing their own plant emissions. Ford and GM are systematically increasing their emissions of their cars by promoting bigger and heavier. * The issue is not the oil in the ground. It’s the billions of dollars of infrastructure which were seized, rather than voiding the production licences and buying the facilities. Iraq was not about oil. The Western oil companies there have a pretty shit deal. Halliburton are probably making more profit. Same with Libya. Qaddafi drove a hard bargain and the new rulers voided the licences. I’ve had involvement in Kuwait. the Kuwaitis drove a really, really hard bargain. hardly worth being there And the coalition nations got no favours for their oil companies. Highest bidder. The old bogeymen shrivelled up and died decades ago. 98. Dave_Geologist says: Ah, hypertext problem again. Google oil-company-name climate change. I’ve got a post in moderation, with too many links I presume. 99. The historical revisionism practiced by the oil companies is often quite absurd. They have colluded in the past to provide cornucopian projections of oil production (to perhaps too-gullible energy agency statisticians) that have always had to be scaled back later due to depletion. According to them, we should be producing 30% more oil than was projected back in 2001! 100. Don’t the Saudis and for instance the French own their reserves unlike in the USA and merely license companies to extract them? 101. Yeah, then, they and perhaps you don’t know much. NA and later NASEM were established by President Abraham Lincoln to provide the United States government impartial and independent advice on scienrific, engineering, and medical matters. It is not at all like the Royal Academy.

If NAS is seen as partial, or self-seeking, then clearly the problem is not questioning impartiality, it”s questioning the role of rational inquiry and scholarship at all. And if that is their attitude, I say for myself let them fry, and make recommendations and choices for those who care. Hard enough to design a system against accident, let alone malicious willful action.

102. Dave_Geologist says:

Paul.

My other posts. To paraphrase Macmillan (although disappointingly, he apparently never said the “Events” quote): demand, dear boy, demand. If the demand was there, or the price rose, the taps would be opened up.

hyper

Outside the US and Canada, pretty much everyone owns their reserves, and licenses companies to extract them. UK, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, the rest of Europe, Africa, South America, SE Asia, all the OPEC countries, every country that models itself on OPEC. That was the case even back in the sheikhs-and-kings day. A “concession” was a licence to extract, in return for some combination of royalties and cash payments. In some it’s technically owned by the State Oil Company, but that’s just labelling. In some (e.g. Algeria for gas, at least until recently), the government owns it all the way to the export terminal, and you get a delivery that matches your share of production. Quoted companies don’t like that, because the SEC quibbles about counting it as Reserves. In Abu Dhabi (again, this may have changed recently), you never own any oil. You get paid a fee under a service contract. It used to be $1 per barrel, with bonuses for exceeding production targets. Kuwait is similar. You generally can’t book those as Reserves, just income. In some countries the oil or gas goes into a JV company and you don’t get your share until the export terminal. Again the SEC is sniffy about that, unless you own more the 50% of the JV. You have to jump through a lot of hoops when you’re a minority shareholder, like BP in Rosneft, because turning up or down the taps, and choosing what to develop, is outside your control. Even in the US, the government owns reserves on Federal land. BTW I was expecting someone to say “why do they operate in OPEC countries when the terms are so poor?”. Pre-preemptively the answer is “see previous comments”. These are high-volume, low-margin businesses. OPEC is the ultimate high-volume, low-margin territory. They’ve been doing this for more than half a century, and know exactly how hard to squeeze without driving companies and finance away. The large integrated companies in particular have refineries to fill and filling stations to supply. A steady stream of technically-easy, no-surprises oil provides their baseload. There’s a lot more profit to be had in the US, UK, Canada etc., especially in the harder geography or with unconventionals or HPHT, where there are tax incentives, but that stuff is expensive and technically risky. A wise CEO maintains a mixed portfolio. 103. Dave_Geologist says: One final word from me, as I find Hothouse Earth much more interesting. Who funds the AGW disinformation campaign? “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations”. Look at the supplementary material Tables S11 and S12. Only one oil company on that list, ExxonMobil. And their funding dried up in 2008. Koch Brothers? Not an oil company. They do own a fuels business, for which they buy raw material from oil companies. But then maybe you buy some of their gasoline. Or their ethanol. And they own a pipeline. If you only tax the upstream producers, the Kochs get off Scot-free. Hmm, Coors and Lilly. Better watch what beer you drink, and what pills you take for that hangover. Annenberg? Newspaperman. The DeVos’s. The American Petroleum Institute? That represents everyone in the industry, 600 companies from drillers to pipe and tank manufacturers, not just the upstream multinationals. And it only spends$3-4M per year in lobbying, so doesn’t make it into S11 or S12 as an “influential node”. Chickenfeed. One small strike against the Europeans for having their US subsidiaries as members. But the API do a bunch of other stuff around standards and it’s pretty much impossible to operate in the US if you’re not a member.

Look at the other names and what else they do. While some of them no doubt have shares in oil and gas companies, it’s a roll-call of the libertarian right. IOW they’re in it for the politics and the culture war, not the money.

104. Dave said:

“If the demand was there, or the price rose, the taps would be opened up.”

I really can’t believe what I am reading here. In the USA, there are no taps left to open up. Stripper wells are diffusion-limited, pulling in a few barrels per day. The major gushers of the day have all been shut-in long ago. They can barely keep the Alaska North Slope pipeline flowing, The only reason the Bakken was even exploited was because of scarcity elsewhere — oil producers have known about the trapped oil in North Dakota since the 1950’s yet they didn’t start full-scale fracking until several years ago.

When you say that “the taps would be opened up” is at best a figure of speech or euphemism to mean to go massively in debt and apply expensive technologies to extract meager amounts of oil.

105. Dave_Geologist says:

$50 –$200 per barrel is not massively expensive Paul. We were well on our way to $200 before the financial crisis and China’s slowdown from epic t fast growth. People didn’t stop driving cars or flying in planes. There are a lot of well in tight reservoirs doing a lot more than a few barrels a day, and their low permeability means they can keep on doing that for decades. With a refrac now and again to give a short-term boost when the price is high enough. In the case of Saudi Arabia there are taps that can be opened up. In the USA, it needs money to be spent. But people didn’t stop drilling because they ran out of targets, they stopped because the price went too low. One criterion for deciding whether Peak OIl, when it comes, was demand or supply led will be to look at the price. It should fall or stay static in the first place as society decarbonises, but rise steeply in the latter case. I’m pretty sure it will still be viable for speciality chemicals even at$1000 per barrel. Just not for filling gas tanks.

106. I have great confidence that the oil industry will be able to find and deliver fossil fuels as long as it is profitable regardless of any other related outcome or obstacle. The engineering problems that might limit supply can be overcome the engineers and other scientists available to the fossil fuel industry. The industry has a very powerful “can-do” culture.

107. @Dave_Geologist,

Yeah, I never quite understood the idea of “peak oil” without a price per bbl given. My dad, when he was still working and still alive, as organic chemist, was looking at synthesizing petroleum from sugars. No doubt that would be very expensive, but …

108. “I’m pretty sure it will still be viable for speciality chemicals even at $1000 per barrel.” Yes, that’s referred to as peak oil. As crude oil becomes more and more scarce, the price increases. 109. @WHUT, @Dave_Geologist, I have thought about a different scenario. Suppose instead of oil being expensive it is incredibly cheap, say, less than$0.10 per barrel, because no one wants it. There would need to be reasons beyond its energy capacity why no one would want it, and I can suggest a few, but let’s set that aside for the moment.

What would this do to the market?

I think the first thing that would happen is that the number of oil-providing stations would collapse, simply because they cannot charge enough margin to compete with other products they might sell, because the return on investment would be too low. So, stores that sold it for $.20 per barrel still could not pay for the overhead of selling the stuff. In such a world, while running a vehicle, say, on oil would be inexpensive, the price would not be high enough to assure supply, both at the end delivery point and along the supply chain. So what about reasons for this, especially considering things like that people are willing to pay$1.00 or more for 16 oz of stuff you can essentially get out of your kitchen tap?

One might be that the devices used to power or move using oil are so unreliable and expensive to operate that it doesn’t matter if the oil were free, you would be incurring an effect cost of $10/gallon just to turn the engine on. It might not be$10/gallon (but it might be) and this could be that the reliability of alternative means of moving and generating is so much better than the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), no one has them any longer, so parts are no longer made and stocked. Sure, I guess you can get vacuum tubes for things some place these days, but they are rare. In the end, you pay people to custom forge parts.

110. Crude oil is a perfect fuel source. Humans will exploit it until it becomes difficult to extract, which is what the economic situation is right now.

Fracked oil gave us a reprieve but that won’t last long. In the Bakken, they are already in the tertiary recovery stage with what is called in-fill drilling, which are closer spacing than the originals. It was just like yesterday that the Bakken was a great discovery, but eventually it will transition to ghost towns. That’s the way resource extraction has always played out.

111. Dave_Geologist says:

Back to my previous comment. If oil is supply-limited, the price will rise until it can no longer compete as a fuel source but only for chemicals. If that happens before we’ve exceeded our Paris limits, all well and good. But we shouldn’t make policy on that basis. If we get it wrong, we’ll keep burning oil and blow through Paris. I come form the position that all previous Peak Oil predictions have been wrong, despite all but the first claiming to have learned from their predecessors. Some because they failed to take account of price elasticity (the Bakken rig count is rising now that contractors have dropped their prices and operators are getting cleverer, and $150/bbl didn’t cut demand). All because they failed to account for new plays. While there is untapped oil in place, saying it will never be tapped is no different from saying we’ll never do the deepwater Gulf or Alaska because it’s too difficult. Of course Peak Oil will come sometime, but for the sake of the planet it matters hugely whether that is 2030, 2050 or 2100. If a 2030 prediction allows governments to say “no need to spook the voters, the market will save us and OPEC will get the blame for gasoline being unaffordable, not us”, we risk disaster if Peak Oil is in 2050 or 2100. That of course goes back to a previous discussion, should scientists censor knowledge or results which could be abused by bad actors? Of course not. Paul should publish his book. But put it in context. Until there is consensus, it will be analogous to the LC18 ECS or to the PETM and interglacial ESS’s greater than 6 K. There’s nothing pejorative, wrong or shameful about that. It’s how science advances. Sometimes an idea pans out, sometimes not. But you only know which after it’s been subjected to the test of time. My money is on a low-price peak oil. That we stop using it as fuel, despite it still being cheap, because we can’t responsibly burn it without carbon sequestration and that isn’t cheap. If we drive that by policy, the planet wins whoever’s right. If Paul’s right, we’re doing oil companies no harm, and indeed a favour because they’ll steer clear of uneconomic resources. If I’m right, they’ll over-invest and they’ll have wasted money on stranded assets, money which could have been spent on wind or solar. Infill drilling is nothing new. Nor is secondary and tertiary recovery. They’re part of the reason previous peak oil estimates went wrong. What is new (for a century) is the scale of the prize. Conventional oil gives about 8-10% recovery under depletion, 40-50% under waterflood, and 50-60% under tertiary recovery (CO2 flood, huff-and-puff, smart water). Shale oil gives less than 10%, even in the vicinity of the well. The petrophysical reservoir-limits recovery is comparable to conventional, and shale oil is still in the depletion-drive part of its history. The only barriers to getting the rest out, a five- to ten-fold increase, are technology and cost. Absent regulation enforcing Paris, IMO we’ll skip waterflooding and go straight to CO2 flooding and controlled subsurface combustion. The latter as a precursor to going after immature oil shale like the Green River. 112. “Infill drilling is nothing new. Nor is secondary and tertiary recovery. They’re part of the reason previous peak oil estimates went wrong.” Dave, In-fill drilling, and secondary and tertiary recovery are proof of how all the peak oil estimates turned out to be qualitatively true. The Bakken is an example of a secondary reserve for crude oil all by itself, and would never have been exploited if not for the USA hitting peak oil for conventional crude oil some time ago. The mathematical reason that peak oil estimates were not quantitatively precise is because the original models never took into account fat-tail statistics. Some of the original peak-oil estimates were made in the 1950’s, while fat-tail probability models were not applied to science until years later. 113. Dave_Geologist says: But Paul, if you reduce Peak Oil to saying that each individual play follows a Hubbert trend, or your trend, or a Zipf curve for total resource (which is fat-tailed, is routinely used, and which I’ve used in anger back in the 90s and my bosses made decisions on), that’s totally uncontroversial. And interesting if you’re only concerned about whether to continue exploring in an existing play or move on to something else. But from a climate point of view, it’s uninteresting. The atmosphere doesn’t care whether the CO2 comes from a new play, new technology, or an existing play. And it’s not what most people in the industry or the public mean by Peak Oil. They mean the point at which not just the existing, mature plays dry up. But new geography, new reservoirs and new technology also dry up. 114. Dave, the Hubbert curve is not fat-tail. As for Zipf, I am not at all surprised that you have used the Zipf curve in your own work. That’s what I found out in writing the book — most of the mathematical analysis that I am presenting has likely been used by the oil industry, but they have kept it proprietary and away from public view. Try searching “oil reservoir” & Zipf on Google scholar and you won’t find much at all, except for some recent papers from China. Peak Oil is really a short-hand term and the better characterization is oil depletion. 115. Dave_Geologist says: Agreed about Hubbert Paul, I was only referring to Zipf. It’s very common and has been for decades. But as you rightly infer, knowing when a basin is on its last legs and it’s time to move on, is the sort of thing companies keep proprietary. Not the principle of Zipf which is published, but the fact that they use it and find it useful. Just as we always kept our oil price forecasts, cost of capital and inflation forecasts confidential, and our target internal rate of return. If you reveal these things, it’s like showing your poker hand. Makes for fun when it’s time to get financial sanction for a project. The Operator produces a “plain vanilla” version, but all the Partners know we’re not using those numbers internally. Kinda like kriging. When Cowtan and Way did it and said it was new, I said “what? you mean they’re not doing that already? we’ve been doing it for a century”. Or 3D workstations and seismic attributes. I first used a workstation in the early 80s, using optical stacking with a set of seismic lines printed on mylar and hanging in a box. Interpretation was with erasable felt pens. I first used attributes on a digital workstation in the mid 80s and had one on my desk by 1990 (OK, under it, it was a microVax with a disk pack the size of a filing-cabinet drawer; I think the computer cost$20-30k and I shared the disk pack with a neighbour because it was even more expensive). If you read the academic literature, you’d think that only really exploded around 2000. So I probably owe you an apology for thinking initially that “this book looks a bit old-hat”. Perhaps (or perhaps not), but if yes, only to the privileged few. The oil industry has always been high-tech. Check out the owners of the top ten or top 100 supercomputers. And we were using nuclear downhole tools in the 1960s (active-source and sensors, not nuclear power).

I like Zipf because lots of stuff in geology follows power-laws and is self-similar. Fault lengths, fault displacements, length-displacement ratios, size of flexural-isostatic footwall traps and fault-bend-fold compressional traps. Even coastlines 🙂 . And for some categories there are mechanistic explanations for why it’s like that, not just curve-fitting. So there’s an expectation in my mind of power-law resource statistics.The Southern North Sea is a particularly cool example (that’s why I remember it 🙂 ). The traps sealed by Zechstein salt are all geometrically similar footwall highs and compressional anticlines. But the exponent differs by a factor of 1.5 between the basinal Rotliegend reservoir, and the shelfal Rotliegend and basinal Carboniferous. The basinal Rotliegend is a thick reservoir, thicker than the typical gas column, so trap volume scales as the cube of the linear dimension. The others are thin reservoirs, so apart from minor edge effects, the trap volume scales with area. So you’d expect a cube-square law to apply when comparing them, and Wow!, when you run the numbers, it does! Which again gives confidence that there’s a real physical basis for the chosen curve-fit.

116. @Dave_Geologist, @WHUT,

It’s important to not over-interpret Zipf’s Law. I don’t know of it’s connection to oil and such. However, it has been used and abused with respect to the Internet. Some references:

L. A. Adamic, B. A. Huberman, “Zipf’s law and the Internet”, Glottometrics, 2002, 3, 143-
150, and its references, especially those concerning least effort principles.

G. A. Miller, “Some effects of intermittent silence”, The American Journal of Psychology, 1957.

R. Perline, “Zipf’s law, the central limit theorem, and the random division of the unit interval”, Phys. Rev. E 54, 220 – Published 1 July 1997.

R. E. Wyllys, “Empirical and Theoretical Bases of Zipf’s Law”, Library Trends, Summer 1981, 53-64.

Wyllys gives the scholarly setting, but Perline nails the explanation, including clarifying a mystery left in Mandelbrot’s work. Interestingly, Perline credits Miller’s 1957 with the key insight. In particular, Perline summarizes Miller by

… Zipf’s law can be derived ‘‘without appeal to least effort, least cost, maximal information, or any branch of the calculus of variations.’’

Perline reports that Li, in

W. Li, IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 38, 1842 (1992).

simulates Zipf-like generation but mistakes his distribution for a power law when it is actually log-normal.

In the end, there’s nothing really that special about Zipf, apart from the subtlety of the explanation. As I wrote elsewhere (not publicly available):

if letters of words are chosen with equal probability, and spaces are as probable as all
letters combined, the resulting distribution of words will be Zipﬁan.

117. I agree that these laws should not be indiscriminately applied. The first step is to try to solve the problems at hand given known random variates. For example, fat-tailed models often come about from applying a ratio distribution to the variates. Fractals or Zipf are nowhere to be seen.

118. @WHUT,

What’s interesting is that, at least in my work, distributions of data are seldom assumed any longer. Empirical distributions are used instead, whether expressed by any of the standard techniques for density estimation, or by indirect techniques like forests and trees, and mixture distributions. Of course doing this assumes there is an adequate amount of data in hand. But that data might not what one typically thinks. It could, for instance be a modest number of records (10^2, 10^3) but each having thousands of descriptors or attributes.

Distributions still appear, but often as engineering devices, like Bayesian hyperpriors where characterizing the distribution with a high degree of fidelity is pointless, that is, fidelity to what?

119. I rarely use a distribution other than based on maximum entropy constraints. So if all you have is a mean, then assume the standard deviation equals the mean. This works for many physical behaviors.

120. Dave_Geologist says:

Thanks hyper. One thing I’ve found with real, noisy geological data, is that you need a decent order-of-magnitude range to get a distribution which allows you to confidently distinguish between truncated power-law and lognormal. And in geology, you often have observational or physical limits on the range you can measure. Coastlines break down at the scale where tidal processes dominate and they’re non-stationary, and even more at the dune or sand-grain scale. Bed-bounded joints break down at the bed thickness and the sand-grain scale. Crustal-scale faults break down at the thickness of the elastic lid and at the multi-bed scale where the material can no longer be considered homogeneous. Seismic has a lower resolution limit and core or image logs upper and lower limits.

I’m encouraged when I see (as I have) that core observations lie on the extension of seismic observations on a log-log plot, but it could be coincidence because there are three orders of magnitude’s worth of missing observations in between. Faults and shear fractures strain-soften or strain-harden the rock, so you generally get different statistics for high- and low-strain domains and have to partition your basin. If you cheer when one fits you need to allow for multiple throws of the dice. OTOH, when you find that low, medium and high-strain domains, picked in advance, each shows it own self-consistent relationship, that’s encouraging.

I’ve found that the nice relationships which hold in relatively undisturbed parts of a basin break down to a shotgun scatter in domains subject to strong compressional inversion. That could be because instead of reversing part of the previous deformation on every fault, some faults get a lot of reversal and others get left behind. In the basin I’m referring to, you get strain hardening during burial and strain softening on uplift. So displacement gets spread around during burial because each strain increment tends to go to a different place than the previous one. During uplift, it tends to re-use the same place. Or it could be because we can’t distinguish between inverted normal faults and newly formed reverse faults, and are inadvertently mixing apples and oranges.

The real world is complicated. Isn’t it always 😦 .

121. @Dave_Geologist,

The real world is complicated. Isn’t it always … .

Expressions of the world are complicated, and often delightfully so. But one can get arbitrarily complex behavior from the operation and interaction of handfuls of simple rules.

122. Dave_Geologist says:

True hyper. But we can’t observe the rules, only the outcomes 😦 .

123. @Dave_Geologist,

Yeah, but that doesn’t mean the rules don’t exist. Plato’s allegory of the Cave.

124. “The oil industry has always been high-tech. Check out the owners of the top ten or top 100 supercomputers. “

You don’t have to convince anyone that (1) oil companies made a lot of money and (2) that they could make more if they invested their profits into making even more money.

But also realize that the field of petroleum engineering (which might still command the highest starting salary) will eventually disappear as a discipline. The field will have extracted itself out of existence. Any vestiges will be merged into chemical engineering.

125. Dave_Geologist says:

They don’t actually make a lot of money Paul, compared to their investment. The raw numbers are huge but so are the numbers for employees, equipment, capital expenditure and operating costs. Shell’s upstream profit last year was about $6 per barrel and its return on capital employed in the last three years was 2%, 4% and 6%. Home Depot has rocketed from five times that to ten times that in the last few years. US discount stores and beverage manufacturers average about 20%. The other majors are similar to Shell, except for those who got their fingers burnt in shale who are lower or negative. As are power utilities and banks. These are high-volume, low margin businesses which investors buy for their annual dividends. Not magic money trees. In any case I fail to see how making money and high tech correlate. For most of its life Amazon ran at breakeven. Google and Facebook ROCE is now around 20%. Home Depot probably made or bought a clever inventory system but I bet they don’t own a supercomputer and their checkouts probably run on XP, NT or maybe Win7. Verisign make a stonking 80% but they probably don’t invest much capital, just rent space on server farms. The current crop of PE’s have more to fear from the sort of automation and VR BP has introduced into its own shale wells and will implement on the ones it bought from BHP than they do from the industry shutting down. Unless of course we take regulatory or tax actions to accelerate decarbonisation. 126. Dave_Geologist says: I’m not saying it’s not complexity out of simple rules hyper. In fact, IIRC the fault-growth model which generated power-law statistics was essentially a set of cellular automata following very simple rules. 127. https://www.wsj.com/articles/shell-launches-25-billion-share-buyback-as-profit-soars-1532587470 Shell Kicks Off Big Oil Earnings With Growth Spurt Oil major’s profit almost triples on higher oil prices I am not willing to be distracted by comparisons with other corporations. I think the fossil fuel industry should be analyzed in the context of itself alone, its profits and its cost. It’s hard to look at the fossil fuel industry and not conclude that this is an extraction/resource depletion endeavor that privatizes profit and socializes risks and long-term costs. I can’t slap enough lipstick on this oinker to make it look good. I can’t bring myself to feel sorry for the industry and its troubles maintaining consistent profits when I consider how my kids and grandkids will suffer the long term social costs from this industry’s work. Mark Twain comes to mind: “You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.” http://www.paulgraham.com/cornpone.html if you have a few minutes for Mr. Clemens corn pone opinions, we all got’m 128. @Dave_Geologist, In any case I fail to see how making money and high tech correlate. For most of its life Amazon ran at breakeven. Google and Facebook ROCE is now around 20%. Home Depot probably made or bought a clever inventory system but I bet they don’t own a supercomputer and their checkouts probably run on XP, NT or maybe Win7. Verisign make a stonking 80% but they probably don’t invest much capital, just rent space on server farms. (emphasis added) Most people do fail to see, including some of principals in the high tech. In order to surf a high tech wave, you need to properly bet on a technology which will have exponential cost decreases per unit time. Also, it helps to have a business which has very low capital and headcount requirements. Finally, the key measure is per transaction cost, which is how Google evaluates everything. This is what most people in conventional businesses do not see about EVs, solar, and, to some extent, wind. It is also proving true of storage, which was/is a surprise to me. These are businesses with high capital requirements on the front, especially when/if they are still in the R&D stage, but once they get to scale, the marginal cost of service is zero. And profitability comes almost entirely because you sign a contract to deliver service at a fixed cost for 20-30 years, and, over time, that revenue turns into profit because the technology makes year-over-year operation cheaper, with little capital investment required. This is particularly true if improvements can be had at the price of a software update. This is also what will, in my opinion, despite the attractiveness of fossil fuels in the long run, kill them. And internal combustion engines. High-tech companies get set up and killed when they make a lot of money quickly, and then get complacent, thinking patents and other counter-competitive practices can protect them. 129. “In fact, IIRC the fault-growth model which generated power-law statistics was essentially a set of cellular automata following very simple rules.” Nope, that’s way too complicated. Power-laws come from a simple application of dispersion to exponential (fast) tails. Why would you apply a complex model where the simple explanation works so much better? This is the book to refer to for various derivations “Critical Phenomena in Natural Sciences, D. Sornette, 2006 130. Dave_Geologist says: Oil major’s profit almost triples on higher oil prices Indeed. Hence ROCE going from 2% to 6%. From peanuts to cashew nuts. As opposed to Pepsi or Coca-Cola’s coconuts, Home Depot’s coconut tree and Verisign’s coconut plantation. 131. Dave_Geologist says: And because my pension is diversified away from the sector I worked in, I probably get less of my corn pone from O&G than any Brit with an occupational pension or any American with a 401-K. And BTW I’ve been presenting facts, not opinions Look them up yourself if you don’t believe me. Climate isn’t the only sphere where the truth is sometimes inconvenient. 132. Dave_Geologist says: Why would you apply a complex model where the simple explanation works so much better? Because Physics. Understanding the physical basis of the process, by setting up a model which closely relates to the step-by-step way a real fault gets built up, generates insights you’ll never get just from statistics. Insights which can be applied out-of-sample, for example by aiding understanding of how an orderly progression of fault growth might turn into a disorderly progression and cause an earthquake when you dump millions of gallons of water into the aquifer. Insights which might help you to predict earthquake return time in circumstances where you don’t have a long enough time series. Insights which might help decide whether the risk of another New Madrid is declining because it was due to post-glacial rebound or constant because it’s due to far-field plate tectonic stresses. Or something else I haven’t thought of – I only gave it five minutes’ attention. 133. That’s just dispersion. There’s a variability in all those rates that combines to give a fat-tail. Surface wind speed is a great example of this. It’s essentially randomized to the point that a maximum entropy fat-tail analysis fits the data very well. However, when there is a constraint on wind speed, such as exists in the stratospheric layer encircling the earth along the equator, the outcome is different. Here the states of the system have to follow Navier-Stokes for the topological boundary conditions, i.e. a vanishing Coriolis force. The speed essentially reverses direction triggered by the forcing of the atmospheric tides. Each example is simple in its own way. The first via statistical mechanics, and the second by deterministic physics. 134. Dave_Geologist says: High-tech companies get set up and killed when they make a lot of money quickly, and then get complacent, thinking patents and other counter-competitive practices can protect them. If that’s supposed to be a prediction for O&G companies, as opposed to tech companies, I’m afraid the cap doesn’t fit. First, they don’t make a lot of money quickly. They make a moderate return, slowly, using the exact same model you described. A lot of speculative spend up front (exploration) even more before you produce the first barrel (development), then run at a cumulative loss for two to ten years, then make a net profit when all you have left are running costs. In the upstream, very few patents are held by the oil majors. Amoco patenting coherency was very much an aberration. That’s why it elicited so much anger. Not jealousy at their smarts, but outrage at their brazen cheek. The extraction technology patents are held by service companies. It’s a pretty mature industry though so most stuff is out of patent and protected by trade secrets. That’s why the fraccing companies don’t want to disclose their mix. It made from off-patent stuff, the mix is unpatentable, and secrecy is their only protection against copycats. The chemical industry holds a lot of patents, processing nozzles and such as well as chemicals. But they generally license it rather than go for a monopoly. Customers will accept the processing hiccups from not-quite-special plastic beads, rather than restrict themselves to one supplier of special plastic beads. They don’t want to be held over a barrel, don’t want to stop production if there is a hiccup in bead supply (their plant is optimised for specific beads), and don’t want to have stranded assets if someone else comes up with an extra-special bead in five years time. The licensor gets a nice, steady revenue stream, without having to invest capital. And if non-competitive practices is meant to be a dig at O&G companies spreading climate disinformation, give me an example. All the majors bar Chevron and ExxonMobil pulled out of the guilty industry lobby group in the mid-90s. It was arguable until then that there was still uncertainty. In some cases (BP), a change of CEO was the trigger. ExxonMobil pulled out of denial funding in 2007-8, and accepted the IPCC science when Tillerson became CEO, so all you’ve had for a decade are Chevron and small (by global standards) local US companies. Plus investors like the Kochs, who are not O&G producers (but do manufacture ethanol for fuel), and right-wing billionaires. Who probably invest in Amazon and Google as well as O&G companies. Of course you can always claim they’re doing it in secret. But then you’re wearing the same paranoid conspiracy hat as the Moncktons of this world, just a different colour hat. 135. I am curious, Dave. What do you think a civil society should do in a case like tobacco where it becomes apparent that an established industry is profiting on a product that does significant harm? What is the ideal process for addressing the situation where a profitable product creates harm that is a socialized cost like second hand smoke or higher medical costs for all? It’s easy to look back and see how the tobacco companies came under increasing pressure over time, from labeling to state lawsuits, but again, my question is in the theoretical, how should a civil society respond a profitable product with relatively high social costs that are not borne by the folks working or profiting in the industry? The obvious big three (guns, tobacco, alcohol) were featured in the movie Thank You For Smoking. I watch that once about once a year, pretty entertaining. 136. Dave_Geologist says: Easy one to answer mike. Tax and regulation to “nudge” industry and society. The more time we waste dreaming of inadequate or unworkable solutions like magic money trees (which I generally find lies behind the “Shell profits” meme), the more violent the nudge will have to be. Eventually it will be like an airbag, opting for the lesser harm. For example, I’ve already pointed out that O&G producers don’t own a barrel in the ground, and that leaving it there would be in breach of their licence terms and get them replaced. Do it as an act of virtue signalling? That’s the same as the denier argument that climatologists and AGW believers shouldn’t drive cars, fly to conferences or eat beef. The gesture would of course have zero real-world impact. Unlike tobacco, oil and gas (and coal to a lesser extent coal because it can generally be substituted) are needed to run the current economy. Do you want a world with no ambulances, no ER’s, empty supermarkets and no ‘leccy to power your computer? If not, we need a managed transition. Managed by governments and the UN. Even Exxon support a carbon tax, as long as it apples equally to all industries. I would target it where it makes the most difference, in the most energy-consuming industries, because that’s where the traction is (an upstream tax means ER’s pay the same as Joe Six-pack’s 5 litre 4×4). And make it cash-positive so we can subsidise green energy and ease the transition for poor people, e.g. by funding overseas development or giving rebates or discounts to poor in the West. That sort of thing is probably undeliverable in the USA, but is deliverable in Europe, China or India. Have you considered your own corn pone mike? Don’t forget, deeply held beliefs can be even more influential in distorting your view of reality than money. People will die for their beliefs. Few if any will die for money. Perhaps only in a exceptional circumstances like going to an organ harvester and smuggler to buy a cancer cure for a loved one, in which case the motive isn’t really money. 137. Dave_Geologist says: And a final thought tonight for mike and hyper. What do these statements have in common? The tobacco companies secretly funded passive smoking misinformation, so the oil and gas majors are secretly funding AGW disinformation. Greenpeace knew within days that their estimate of the amount of oil in Brent Spar was ten times too high, but kept mum for weeks. In fact they never told the truth, Shell outed them when they got their rig back. Then they admitted it but said it was OK because they were acting in a good cause and didn’t tell a pre-planned lie. Therefore they’re lying about [insert current Greenpeace campaign here]. CRU researchers talked informally about stopping some crap paper being published, therefore all climate research is controlled by a cabal and the truth is hidden from us. The KGB began secretly transporting influential British individuals to Moscow and Leningrad for training. Marxists infiltrated the new green groups, who were fomenting their own version of trouble… Once they had been motivated in these directions by the Communists, then these organisations took on a life of their own. They are essentially still following the KGB playbook without being aware that they’re doing so. It’s absolutely the same pattern. (Monckton in The Unpersuadables The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. nanufacturing non-competitive. (DJT) NASA faked the Moon landings, so AGW is a hoax. 138. pretty dense answer that you gave, but I think we are in agreement that regulation and taxation are the way to steer both industry and consumers away from letting a profitable industry that produces a dangerous product continue to do business as usual. On the tax end, I think you are saying that you support a pretty straight forward carbon tax, but I am not sure because you threw in a lot of weird stuff like joe six pack and a world without ambulances. I support a straightforward carbon tax with annual step increases as needed to drive us to a spot where the CO2 ppm accumulation in atmosphere and oceans stop rising. How the carbon tax revenues would be allocated is something to haggle about once the annual step carbon tax is in place. The primary concern is and should be the accumulation of CO2 in atmosphere and ocean. A transition away from a heavy carbon economy is going to be painful, but I think we can figure out how to keep ambulances, ERs running. Decarbonizing the food supply looks pretty daunting to me and I am not sure how we feed 7 or 10 billion people if/when we move away to a zero emissions global presence, I just know that the current path is not going to work. Are we in agreement on most of this so far? As to regulation, what does that look like to you? To me, that might start with an end to exploration for new fossil fuel reserves. But I haven’t thought much about regulation, you have probably thought more about it than I have. I think the carbon tax is the place to start and the carbon tax doesn’t seem to have much traction, so I don’t spend much time thinking about regulation. Along with corn pone opinions, we also carry our default set, so that stuff is always with us. It remains difficult to know exactly what lurks in our blindspot. Here is an interesting study on default effects from a couple of weeks ago: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/08/13/1810986115?collection= Cheers Mike 139. huh? no clue what you are getting at here. 140. @Dave_Geologist, @smallbluemike, and @WHUT, Regarding my comment above concerning money-making in high tech, it’s also been apparent from keen observation the last 10 years of my career that scientific fields also have waves of instrumentally-driven and theory-driven success, and that some fields fade away. And a chunk of this lately has been when theory and explanation, both in fundamental results and in experimental work, get replaced by computation. Some of this is cost drive. So, I offer: a recent figure from Nature. Surely, in oceanography, the cost of steaming R/Vs is driving the field to rely more upon unmanned and remotely operated vehicles, and things like semi-permanent ocean observatories. This might be moved by cost, but, in fact, it’s a boon because, for the first time, long series of observations are available rather than hit-or-miss opportunity sampling. One thing, though … When fields fade away there are isolated good ideas and methods which are sometimes forgotten, because, presumably, so much curriculum and practicum is taken up with teaching new things. Accordingly, The Library continues to be one of the most importance pieces of research apparatus. Still, there appear to be backwaters which resist technological improvement. I continue to rail against the prominence of p-values in geophysics and medicine. Has anyone significantly improved how paleomagnetic observations on land are taken? And some fields, which I’ve mentioned in other posts here, continue to resist the benefits of data science, and machine learning. And regarding faked lunar landings … 141. “Plus investors like the Kochs, who are not O&G producers (but do manufacture ethanol for fuel), and right-wing billionaires. Who probably invest in Amazon and Google as well as O&G companies.” The Koch brothers are huge in the refinery business. In Minnesota, the Koch Pine Bend Refinery can be seen for miles and lights up the sky at night. They also own a 500 mile pipeline, with a private offshoot that feeds the MSP airport. Most of it comes in from the tar sands. Oil is a business where the money gets doled out in many ways. 142. Dave_Geologist says: I know the Kochs are refiners Paul. But they’re not Big OIl as usually expressed, which is the supermajors. The Kochs are big as individuals, hence their being billionaires, but they’re tiny on a global scale. Their US refining capacity is about the same as BP’s (they’re next to each other in this IEA ranked table). One subsidiary of one multinational, one which is far from the biggest player in the US market. The money gets made bu processors and consumers all the way down the food chain, right down to the mom-and-pop gas station and the freelance parcel delivery driver. Much more money than is made upstream (Shell’s$6 per barrel in a year when they tripled their profits).

Understandably, given my background, I get annoyed with two memes which are prevalent among people with whom I otherwise agree.

The first is that Big Oil (which immediately triggers Shell, Exxon, BP, BHP, Total, Agip/ENI in peoples’ minds) is frustrating the transition to sensible CO2 policies and funding the wave of lies and misinformation. They’re not. Exxon stopped their funding a decade ago, the rest (except perhaps Chevron) two decades ago. And even then the lobby group they were in was a small player compared to the politically motivated think-tanks and non-oil-billionaires’ “charities”. Follow the money.
The supplementary material is free. Scroll down to the tables at the end. You can probably cherry-pick some exceptions, but look at the amounts and the dates. And the influential nodes, which is what the peer-reviewed research was about. Only Exxon makes it in, and only until 2008. In the US, it’s politics, not oil. In Russia and Saudi Arabia, it’s state-and-crony-owned oil but not supermajor oil. Know thine enemy and you have a better chance of winning.

The second is that the supermajors made huge windfall profits for decades and should be punished for it, and that the proceeds will allow the rest of us to undertake a painless decarbonisation. They don’t and they didn’t. They’re huge companies with huge spends, but their percentage profits have for decades been at power-utility levels, not tech levels or even beverage-makers or chain-store levels. Quoting the raw numbers without that context is like saying 1°C is only a 0.3% warming of the planet. It’s a static-volume, low-margin business where the biggies got big by M&A, not by organic growth. We used NPV as our internal measure to allocate capital spend, which growing companies also do. But the spend was to replace old fields and plant, not to grow. Running hard to stand still. We used ROCE as our market-facing measure because that’s what companies do whose shareholders are in it for the annual dividend. It’s a measure of how well our more-or-less fixed capital can fund the dividend. There is no magic money tree, and dreaming that there is puts off the day when we will all have to accept that we’ll all have to make sacrifices.

Those two memes are the green equivalent of “it’s not warming/hasn’t warmed for a decade” and “it’s the Sun”. Just as prevalent, and just as wrong.

143. Dave_Geologist says:

A shorter second comment 🙂 .

My point about ambulances and poor people is that the evidence from the $150/bbl era is that a$20 per tonne carbon tax won’t be nearly enough to change our collective habits. It will need to be enough to hurt if it’s done entirely that way, perhaps $100 per tonne or more. That will have adverse consequences for public services and for people who can’t afford it. So if it’s cost-neutral because that’s all that can be legislated, it needs to be cost-positive for some sectors and cost-negative for others. Which is why Exxon caveats its support with “equal across all industries”. Exxon doesn’t want targeting. I do. It can be less financially painful with regulation. CAFE, city-centre road charging, sales taxes based on fuel economy (not just for cars), scrappage schemes for the most polluting, etc. My sense is that enough people in Europe will accept inconvenient regulation, in return for not having money taken out of their pockets, to make that happen. But not in the US. I wouldn’t directly cut exploration because some new resources can displace inefficient or leaky existing ones. But there’s no need to go to the Arctic. We have plenty without that. I’d make the production sector one of those where the tax is revenue-positive, but base it on the Operator’s own emissions, not the oil produced. The Operator is responsible for those. The car driver is responsible for the CO2 coming out of his tailpipe. That would penalise tar sands and leaky wellheads and pipelines, and encourage early retirement or repair of the worst offenders. 144. Dave_Geologist says: I continue to rail against the prominence of p-values in geophysics and medicine. Has anyone significantly improved how paleomagnetic observations on land are taken? I’m struggling to think, hyper, of a geophysical application where p-values are prominent or even present. Unless you include climatology. GPS must have enormously improved the location records of the sample (you don’t make observations in the field, other than sample location and orientation, you collect samples and analyse them in the lab).There have been huge advances in lab instruments, with miniaturisation, automation, SQUIDs etc. Which lets you measure smaller samples, measure many samples to get better statistics, and explore the various remanent magnetisation stages more thoroughly. In my day, lab-manhours were the critical path item. Now I should think it’s data analysis. Which is helped of course by computers. You do make gravity measurements in the field, and there have been some technological improvements, Plus broad-brush from satellites of course. But there are solid-state devices (nanotech with tiny moving parts) on the cusp of commercialisation, which will turn it into a big-data science. 145. @Dave_Geologist, I’d make the production sector one of those where the tax is revenue-positive, but base it on the Operator’s own emissions, not the oil produced. The Operator is responsible for those. The car driver is responsible for the CO2 coming out of his tailpipe. That would penalise tar sands and leaky wellheads and pipelines, and encourage early retirement or repair of the worst offenders. I agree, but I strongly suspect the reason why the Carbon Tax policy is framed the way it is is that it exploits the public perception of corporations being anonymous rich folks, as opposed to “hurting the little guy”, as Democratic House Speaker DeLeo of Massachusetts is fond of saying, using it to stop almost every modernization or potential tax burden under the Sun. Plus the operator level enforcement might be harder, but I could think of lots of ways to make that work. 146. Dave_Geologist says: Most have their own internal targets hyper so already measure it. Of course, cheating. But some stuff is obvious. Fuel records for pumps or generators. Methane sensors on and around well pads. If the EPA insists, Operators can’t keep them out like they do NGOs. It’s hard to hide the energy use in extracting tar sands. Meter at the start and end of pipelines. Already there for the benefit of customers. CHP in refineries. Most of this stuff is already measured by the companies themselves, so they know where there is a cost-benefit case for increased efficiency, or not. It’s just not made public. Where there are different tax treatments between sales oil or gas and that used on-site, there will already be fiscal meters subject to Revenue inspection. Buses in the UK used to get a fuel duty rebate. No doubt some cheated, and no doubt some were caught and fined or jailed for tax fraud. Governments have a big stick in that regard, generally with much stiffer penalties than for civil fraud. If your boss tells you to rig the numbers, and you know someone in another State has gone to the Big House for that, you’ll think more than twice. Of course some Americans would have conniptions at that sort of State intrusion. 147. Interesting the defense in that the oil industry isn’t an extreme profit machine. Recently I have been looking at how to calculate the instantaneous frequency of an orbit. This is a tricky calculation. What I found yesterday on the digital signal processing StackExchange forum: “And one last, not so important question, why is it that most papers I find on instantaneous frequencies are from the area of geography, especially in calculating seismographic events like earthquakes. Barne’s paper also takes that as an example. Isn’t the instantaneous frequency interesting in many areas?” “The reason is that the seismographic system “vibroseis” is used in the oil industry to do seismic surveys. The trucks I’ve linked to vibrate from about 5 Hz to about 90 Hz and can be made to do chirp signals. There is much money in the oil industry, and processing the returns from these signals can be very, very lucrative. Hence, many people have spent many hours analyzing such signals, including looking at instantaneous frequency techniques.” Making money is a huge motivator. Engineering Occupation Average Annual Salary ———————————————————————— Petroleum Engineers$147,520
Architectural & Engineering Managers $138,720 Airline Pilots & Flight Engineers$131,760
Computer Hardware Engineers $110,650 Aerospace Engineers$107,700
Sales Engineers $104,660 Nuclear Engineers$104,630
Chemical Engineers $103,590 Engineering Professors$102,000
Mining & Geological Engineers $100,970 Electronics Engineers$99,660
Marine Engineers $99,160 Engineers, All Other$96,350
Electrical Engineers $95,780 Biomedical Engineers$91,760
Materials Engineers $91,150 Mechanical Engineers$87,140
Civil Engineers $87,130 Environmental Engineers$86,340

148. https://phys.org/news/2018-08-fracking-risen-percent.html#nRlv “The amount of water used per well for hydraulic fracturing surged by up to 770 percent between 2011 and 2016 in all major U.S. shale gas and oil production regions, a new Duke University study finds.

I expect that we may look back in 30 years and conclude that we should have been more careful with injection fracking. Engineers and MBAs are good at making things happen, but their record on unintended consequences suggest engineers need to be constrained by the vision, knowledge and caution of specialists in other disciplines.

149. Yes, I saw that. They could easily drain all the aquifers in their quest to retrieve tight oil.

150. Dave_Geologist says:

Of course Paul, some guy on there Internet is a much more reliable source for the profitability of the oil industry than audited company accounts. In the same way Heller, Watts and Tisdale are much more reliable sources for the reality of AGW. IOW not at all.

Really, Paul, here of all places? And a bait-and-switch too 😦 . I specifically said that the profits are high, but because the expenditure is also high, indeed very high, the profitability is low by stock-market standards. As I said, it’s not just anti-AGW memes that are hard to see through when motivated reasoning kicks in.

Your source is not well informed about the use of instantaneous frequency either. It has nothing whatever to do with Vibroseis. It’s the dominant frequency of the signal in a seismic trace, calculated on a short (not strictly instantaneous) sliding time window. One of the earliest seismic attributes to be used, going back to the 1980s and before, usually along with instantaneous phase.

And I presume you’ll agree now that we shouldn’t live in buildings, cross bridges, fly in planes, use computers, buy stuff, go to University, or do anything that involves your entire list of professions. Because they all earn more than the US average for an advanced degree of $72,824. So obviously they’ve all been bought and can’t be trusted. Fortunately, I even win there. The median annual salary for an accountant was$68,150 in 2016, so they earn much less than the lowliest engineer. Even less than the US average for an advanced degree of $72,824. So unfortunately for the meme, you’re going to have to trust the inconvenient truths presented in those audited accounts, because accountants are so poor, they must be really, really honest. Believe it or not Paul, some of us can’t be bought. 151. Dave said: “I’m struggling to think, hyper, of a geophysical application where p-values are prominent or even present. Unless you include climatology. GPS must have enormously improved the location records of the sample (you don’t make observations in the field, other than sample location and orientation, you collect samples and analyse them in the lab).” My most recent paid task was in working with GPS and generating precise leap-second corrections. At that level of precision, it’s a mix of deterministic and stochastic calculations. There are so many second and third-order calculations in orbits that get obscured by noise. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264370716301168 I’m not a credentialled climate scientist, but I started looking at orbital impacts on climate based on my experience in this domain. As far as I can tell, no one has comprehensively applied detailed ephemeris as forcing on climate models. Google scholar “GPS draconitic year” and you will see how much effort has been expended to analyze this slight nodal orbital effect on GPS measurements. Nowhere near the same effort is applied to climate models. 152. Dave_Geologist says: Fracking water is indeed a problem mike. At least in water-shortage regions. And disposal of waste water without triggering earthquakes a bigger problem. But a bare “up to 770%” is a tad misleading. Bet you’d jump down the throat of a lukewarmer who stuck hard to LC18 and said “the IPCC admits ECS could be as low as 1.5°C”. Like I said, motivated reasoning cuts both ways. Figure 2 tells a more balanced tale. Fig. 2. Box plots of water use with lateral lengths. Water use per well data (cubic meter per well; left y axis) for shale gas (top row) and tight oil regions (bottom row) with median lateral lengths per well (meter per well; right y axis) for each region plotted as colored lines. The central line of each box is the median, while the top and bottom of each box represent the third and first quartile, respectively. Whiskers on the box plot represent maximum and minimum values, while circles above the box plots show outliers in the data. Whiskers on the colored lateral length lines show the 95% bootstrap confidence intervals. Long laterals and multilaterals are used as a cheaper alternative to more wells, so to assess the trend meaningfully you really have to look at reserves per gallon of water. If a longer lateral produces three times as much oil for double the water, that’s a water-conservation win. Some plays look like they’re getting more efficient in their water use, some less efficient. Ah good, the authors thought of that. “We define the water-use intensity for hydraulic fracturing as the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing to generate a unit of energy from the produced gas and oil”. Figure 4 shows a mixed bag. Some going up, particularly the Permian, some pretty flat. Eyeballing the confidence intervals (does top early overlap bottom late?), only the Permian makes it and for gas, only for one year. The Eagle Ford is on the cusp. Of course, with four basins and two phases, you have eight rolls of the dice. If you allow a cherry-picked end year (e.g. 2015 for the Bakken), even more rolls. If these are 95% and 5% confidence limits, you’d expect one “significant” result just by chance, either rising or falling, every ten rolls. So all in all, pretty weak gruel. Which is not to say that water abstraction isn’t a problem. Especially with drought knocking on the door or already in the room. But shouting “up to 770%” in light of Fig. 4A and C, is not really playing cricket. At least not if we want to have a factual discussion. Fig. 4. The changes in the water intensity of hydraulic fracturing with time. Water-use intensity variations with time for hydraulic fracturing of shale gas (A) and tight oil (C) regions and corresponding FP water/water use ratios in shale gas (B) and tight oil (D) regions. Water-use intensity is defined as the amount of water required to generate a unit of energy. (A) and (B) show the water-use intensity for shale gas–producing regions, while (C) and (D) show water-use intensity for unconventional oil-producing regions. Whiskers represent 95% bootstrap confidence intervals. [The italicised text is wrong in the figure label, as is clear from the y-axis units. It’s correctly described in the text: “When comparing the volume of FP water production rates to the water used for hydraulic fracturing, we show that, in many cases, more water is used for hydraulic fracturing than returns as FP water over the first year (Fig. 4; FP water/water use ratio < 1)".] But you can ignore Fig. 4B and D anyway. It's irrelevant. You can't re-use the back-flowed water other than for more fraccing, because it's contaminated with hydrocarbons, heavy metals and NORM, and is much nastier than the original frac fluid. And it's decades of water production you have to worry about, not one year, when it comes to safely disposing of wastewater. They're probably thinking of it as a reusable fraccing resource because they think shales don't flow back formation water after the first year, or produce more water than was used in the frac. They're just plain wrong there. Shales do flow back formation water, just like coals, generally more per barrel or bcf as the well gets older, not less. E.g. 200-1000 gallons per million cu ft. I wish they didn’t. It would make the waste-water disposal problem a whole lot easier. You could just use all the flowback water to frac the shales. Trouble is, all the plays are net water producers over well life. And they all produce nasty contaminated water, whether or not they’ve been fracced. 153. Dave said: “The oil industry has always been high-tech.” Not any longer that the high-tech industry itself. For several years my small group was running a Cray/SGI supercomputer for a well-funded project. Ours had 16 CPUs while the one delivered to NCAR around the same time had 128. Coincidentally my co-worker and good friend was the son of the co-founder of Control Data who later split-off Cray Research with Seymour. Being in the middle of all this high-tech stuff, we all learned that coming up with a simpler model beats throwing CPU cycles at a problem — often all that having a fast computer buys you is that you get to a wrong answer more quickly. Maybe that’s enough, pruning away all the dead ends. 154. Dave_Geologist says: The oil-industry high-tech stuff, especially supercomputer use, is mostly big-data Paul. Number-crunching 3D seismic surveys. KISS is their motto, but the datasets are BIG. Most reservoir engineering simulations are run on a comparable computer to an under-desk workstation. An HP Z-series or whatever the modern equivalent is, with a few dozen cores and a few dozen GB of memory. Nothing more is needed. Sometimes they do use it for multiple stochastic runs, like is done in climate simulations. Mostly for big-ticket, less predictable applications like waterflooding naturally fractured reservoirs, where there can be complex interactions between parameters and where you can get outcomes that look chaotic (ducks and covers 😉 ), in the sense of realisations being distributed around two or more “attractors” rather than continuous. Or for optimisation runs where it’s not clear which are the right pseudos to tweak and a genetic algorithm searches for the best, potentially multiple candidates. And for coupled geomechanics/reservoir simulation models. But there weren’t many industries back in the 80s where it was routine to have access to a shared first-gen IBM PC and to have an on-desk VT120 or VT200 linked to a VAX running a bunch of specialist applications plus the ALLINONE email/spreadsheet/word processor package. Ah the good old days. The Tektronix 4107 with onboard graphics card and local zoom/pan. A MicroVAX under my desk by 1990 and, joys of joys, Macs instead of IBM PCs. Until corporate IT put a stop to that in the mid-90s 😦 . My own external email address by the mid-90s to communicate with and receive reports from contractors. We had a Cray when I was in London. Clouds of what looked like soap bubbles used to pour out of it’s den from time to time and float across the street. What was that all about? 155. I love this: “coming up with a simpler model beats throwing CPU cycles at a problem — often all that having a fast computer buys you is that you get to a wrong answer more quickly” It fits with my sense that the oil industry is busy asking the technical and economic questions, like how do we get more oil out of ground and keep our slight profit per barrel from slipping away from us? and doesn’t spend enough time on the questions about how much more oil can we safely pull from the ground and burn? and how should we use the precious resources that we can burn to power a transition to the next power sources and what should those be? The duty to inform is not just on the scientists, the technologists also have special knowledge and may have some duty to inform, but I realize that does not fit well in the corporate business model where a lot of focus is often on the next quarter or yr numbers. God forbid that we upend the corporate business model just to avoid a major extinction event. And therein lies a good deal of the USA problem with response to AGW: our economic system is linked quite strongly to short term numbers and our political system can seldom see anything beyond the next election cycle. a certain end of the world scenario cartoon comes to mind: 156. I am curious about one thing you said: “If your boss tells you to rig the numbers, and you know someone in another State has gone to the Big House for that, you’ll think more than twice.” Can you provide a few links or examples of an oil exec who has gone to the big house for rigging numbers? I believe it may have happened, but I am drawing a blank and with a background in social work, business and law, it would not have been on my career radar. 157. smallbluemike said: “It fits with my sense that the oil industry is busy asking the technical and economic questions, like how do we get more oil out of ground and keep our slight profit per barrel from slipping away from us? and doesn’t spend enough time on the questions about how much more oil can we safely pull from the ground and burn? and how should we use the precious resources that we can burn to power a transition to the next power sources and what should those be?” Good observation of the classical rationalization used by every oil cornucopian that I have run into. Invariably, faced with a depleting resource, they claim that they should exploit that resource faster because the extra extracted energy is the key to powering the technology that will find useful alternatives. 158. Steven Mosher says: Just raise prices what could go wrong https://www.npr.org/2018/07/15/629198841/haitis-prime-minister-resigns-after-riots-over-fuel-price-hike Actually I blame the Oil companies. They should know not to sell their product to idiots who will raise prices. Maybe engineers should rule the world https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/15/europe/italy-bridge-warning-fallout-intl/index.html 159. From friends that worked there, William Norris, who ran Control Data Corporation, was big on creating service bureaus. He would hire domain people and pair them with his computer staff and they would job shop to agencies such as NOAA, NASA, and others. They produced many MET and climate science research reports and journal articles going into the 1980’s. This is a classic that I have often cited: https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0469(1985)042%3C0950:ACOAWS%3E2.0.CO;2 Of course that would not last as everyone became computer savvy. Norris was also a social activist and did much to bring educational tools to students, much more conscientious than any oil company. This gets to the theme of the original blog post. 160. Steven Mosher says: “We had a Cray when I was in London. Clouds of what looked like soap bubbles used to pour out of it’s den from time to time and float across the street. What was that all about?” hmm dunno. some of the early versions had cooling via Fluorinert cant recall which version FC 72? or 75? configured in a sexy looking tower. Now, the liquid of choice is novec, cool stuff. 161. anoilman says: smallbluemike: “…doesn’t spend enough time on the questions about how much more oil can we safely pull from the ground and burn…” I think you give businesses (any business) way too much credit for being intelligent. That’s not in the cards, and I honestly don’t see it anywhere. Its better to think of businesses as machines set in motion to extract wealth. They don’t have to make sense, they just have to work. I see that over and over.. To give you an example I’m currently an engineer working in the oil field. I have one patent for industrial measurement, and honestly.. It was easy to get. Everyone in the industry copied everyone else’s product, yet no one knew how it really worked. In fact everyone spent their time making products that were much more of the same, with new and improved paint. Other patents I saw, were all trying to the (wrong) thing better. The reason for this situation is simple, companies don’t do research. Its risky, expensive and often has huge downsides. Its easier and less risky to just keep doing what your doing. As for messing with numbers, I quite simply wouldn’t trust anything oil says. I just wouldn’t. 162. anoilman says: Steve Mosher: Those cooling systems make too much noise and are prone to failure. I built a gaming PC with no moving parts for my son. http://www.nofancomputer.com/eng/products/CR-100A.php https://www.asus.com/Graphics-Cards/GT730SL2GD3BRK/ https://seasonic.com/prime-titanium-fanless# Its annoyingly quiet. 163. Steven Mosher says: Oilman. nice project. The heat sinks on the GPU are cute. not even close. some day I will tell you stories about early cooling system ideas for GPUs. It was fun. Miners are a different beast. The system has 104 chips at 12.5w per chip , each 53sqmm heat sinks about 5kg of aluminum, and you still need a fan that runs about 65-80db Fanless not possible, unless you go liquid, which brings it’s own challenges. what fans sound like want to make millions? cool it without fans/heatsinks or liquid. 164. Steven Mosher says: “The reason for this situation is simple, companies don’t do research. Its risky, expensive and often has huge downsides. Its easier and less risky to just keep doing what your doing.” weird. my experience. Northrop: Massive Research and development budgets. For every dollar paid to an engineer up to 25% would go toward R&D. Example: that VR you see today, all grew from “dead end” research done in the late 80s and 90s. Drones and UAVs, same thing . the job in advanced design was to identify and start development of technology that was 20 years out. Example First concept of this was circa 1987, delivery vehicle was a C135, however. Software was already done, decades ago. Creative Labs: had a whole division targeting pure research into audio algorithms. shorts and sandles in santa cruz. good gig if you could get it. but you had to be wicked smart. maybe folks just pick different employers. Some people pick places where you dont have to be creative every day..Companies with no R&D focus. Some folks pick places that are more R&D focused. 165. @Dave_Geologist, I’m struggling to think, hyper, of a geophysical application where p-values are prominent or even present. Unless you include climatology. So, a counterexample to your claim: Doubrovine, Steinberger, Torsvik, “A failure to reject: Testing the correlation between large igneous provinces and deep mantle structures with EDFstatistics”, Geochem.Geophys. Geosyst., 17, 1130–1163, 2016. Another: Thibert, Sielenou, Vionnet, Eckert, Vincent, “Causes of glacier melt extremes in the Alps since 1949”, GRL, 45, 817–825, 2018. But there is progress, as this excellent case: Boué, Lesage, Cortés, Valette, Reyes-Dávila, “Real-time eruption forecasting using the material FailureForecast Method with a Bayesian approach”, JGR Solid Earth, 120,2143–2161, 2015. And there’s the kind of scientifically qualitative discussion I don’t know what to make of, even if it attempts to present quantitative results, however astatistical they be: Berghuijs, Woods, Hutton, Sivapalan, “Dominant ﬂood generating mechanisms across the United States ”, GRL, What is this? 19th century descriptive Botany? (*) My favorite line: “God, I hate knowing everything.” 166. @Dave_Geologist, @WHUT, What differentiates computer-based high tech from manufacturing and things like the oil industry is that costs per unit of product decrease (super) exponentially year-over-year with computer-based high tech: It is cheaper to wait to buy a product if one only wants a fixed about of product. But people don’t. This affects computers, circuitry, digital cameras, smart phones, etc, and will EVs. This occurs because of the Bass diffusion that governs these markets, and because they are heavily intellectually-driven and software driven, and not much else goes into them. Sure, circuit chips are circuit chips are made from raw materials, but the semiconductor industry was able to slay that dependency a long time ago: When the materials get scarce, they are changed, the process is changed, even the technology can be changed. In contrast, mining copper or any other commodity is, at heart, something which has fixed costs for transport and so on. The two businesses — or for that matter, manufacturing diapers — are not at all comparable. 167. There is a new article by Hansen and Kharecha which analyzes the in-depth article by Keith, Holmes, St Angelo, and Heidel to suggest that present estimates of Carbon capture is a whopping$451–$924/tCO2. Note there is a typographical error at the Hansen and Karecha paper at that point. The full pertinent section reads: Second, note that Keith does not include the cost of CO2 storage, which has been estimated as$10–$20/tCO2. Inclusion of storage makes the cost estimate for carbon capture and storage (CCS)$123–$252/tCO2. Finally, note that costs are often discussed in units of$/tC, where tC is tons of carbon. A ton of CO2 is 44/12 times heavier than a ton of C. Thus, the Keith study implies a removal cost of $451–$924/tC [sic].

Also, costs are discussed typically per tonne of Carbon, and that’s a metric ton, not a British ton.

If it is this high, this completely blows the lid off of the relatively optimistic cost numbers used in the associated blog posts here.

168. (Sorry in the last paragraph should read as below.)

If it is this high, this completely blows the lid off of the relatively optimistic cost numbers used in the associated blog posts there, namely there, there, and here.

169. Sorry, @WHUT, @Dave_Geologist,

Big iron never was and never is as important as proliferation of fast, small stuff is. They are impressive, but they have a lot of overhead. Sure, climate models, modeling nuclear explosions, modeling radioactive plumes, new airframes, reservoir modeling, cracking ciphers, etc, etc. One problem these all have, as important as they are, is that they are weighed down by millions of lines of legacy computer code. Or, in a phrase I believe I coined and used when at IBM: Software has weight.

170. @Steven Mosher,

In my 40+ years in high technology, I have watched supposedly high tech companies do less and less research of any kind, and even outsourcing it. The amount of research — and by that I mean basic research — done by corporations in the United States is a fraction of what it used to me, primarily because it is judged to be “not mission critical”. I suspect the kinds of things you are discussing is simply product development, not research.

Also, American (and many other) corporate R&D is, in my opinion, handicapped by an obsessions with intellectual property. As I’ve expressed here before, I think that’s a big mistake, at least in high tech. (It’s also a mistake, as is excessive secrecy, in military work and by the government, but that’s another story, and for different reasons. I would never blow the whistle on them. If I were an enemy and wanted them to fail, I’d just let them do what they are doing now.)

I’m a strong supporter of open innovation, per Henry Chesbrough. If that means less profits — and I do not estimate it does, not in the long term — so be it. This is as much about having fun as making money.

171. Dave_Geologist says:

Mike, visit the website of any of the supermajors, at least the European ones. They’re already telling the world all this stuff. And planning for it. But saying: governments: you lead, we’ll follow.

172. Dave_Geologist says:

Can you provide a few links or examples of an oil exec who has gone to the big house for rigging numbers? I believe it may have happened, but I am drawing a blank and with a background in social work, business and law, it would not have been on my career radar.

Ah the Hillary offence. You can’t find any evidence, but it must be true so there’s a really, really good conspiracy going down 😦 .

173. Dave_Geologist says:

Invariably, faced with a depleting resource, they claim that they should exploit that resource faster because the extra extracted energy is the key to powering the technology that will find useful alternatives.

Funny, 35 years in the biz and that’s a new one on me.

174. Dave_Geologist says:

I stand corrected on p-values hyper. Although igneous petrology isn’t really geophysics, and I did say “other than climatology”. And it doesn’t appear to be widespread. 23k Scholar hits for geophysics AND p-value vs. 1.4 million for geophysics.

I have actually used it, to justify our net pay estimation for an Equity dispute. But that wasn’t doing science. That was lawyering, or rather using the approach which the lawyers told us the Special Expert would be receptive to.

175. Dave_Geologist says:

But in the Equity case (per anoilman’s comment), no fakery. Multiple alternative ways to do things, none of them wrong. In many cases elements of the calculation are hard-wired. For example a lot of contracts specify least-squares gridding using Zmap+ for reservoir properties. You have to use it even if you know it’s inappropriate, for example in a depletion-drive field with only crestal wells where you can see it’s making silly extrapolations downflank. It’s quite common to have multiple versions of the same calculation, but it’s not dishonesty, it’s horses for courses. Accounts preparation and SEC Reserves submission have strict, by-the-book rules which sometimes have perverse outcomes and misrepresent economic or future-production reality. We do a different calculation to make business decisions, based on our best estimate of reality.

For example if your platform is certified for 25 years, you only give it 25 years for regulated calculations. But experience tells us we can always extend its life, perhaps with upgrades or retro-fit, so our internal decision-making is based on a longer life with a capital spend in the 20-25 year window. Each field Partner has its own proprietary oil price, inflation, cost-of-capital, IRR targets and projections. If you’re the Operator you do open-book or plain-vanilla economics using publicly available benchmarks. And also your own internal calculation.

176. Dave_Geologist says:

Enron is the obvious case mike. Since the context of my original comment was fiddling production and fuel consumption records to cheat on taxes being a drawback to having a site-emissions-based approach to carbon-taxing producers rather than a flat per-barrel rate. We’re not talking here about skipping a BOP test, but about faking your electricity or fuel gas usage or diesel purchases. The first is already covered by existing safety and procedural regulations. The second is already covered by existing tax and accounting regulations. Unless you’re really stupid and like to throw away money, you’re already measuring and reporting your onsite and offsite fuel use because it’s a tax-deductible business expense. The incentive to fiddle is already there. That’s not news to the tax authorities, who have investigation and enforcement procedures already in place.

Fugitive emissions is a bit harder, but not much. You just need to put tamper-proof monitoring units in the right place, reporting by satellite or cellular. Cameras too if you need them. The difficulty third parties have at the moment is not that the technology doesn’t exist, or even that it’s prohibitively expensive. It’s that the operators won’t give them access to the right places. A government authority can say “let us in or we’ll shut you down”. For pipelines, put fiscal meters at every entry and exit point, and do the arithmetic.

177. Dave_Geologist says:

We’re talking at cross-purposes hyper. When I say a high-tech industry, I mean one that employs a large amount of advanced technology in it’s otherwise mundane operations. Not Silicon Valley and it’s cousins, who make that technology. That’s what I call the tech industry.

Oil and gas costs have come down over time, just not as fast as in IT. The wholesale price has been pretty much constant for decades, but the reservoirs we extract from have got much harder to find and much harder to exploit. If we were still doing it the way it was done in the 50s or 60s, it would be more like $500/bbl than$50/bbl

178. Dave_Geologist says:

anoilman, I’m sorry to hear of your experience. What numbers do you not trust? Reserves? Company accounts? Production figures? Employee headcount? Has someone told to to fiddle some numbers? Do you have an internal whistle-blowing line?

Or do you just have a gut feel that management can’t be trusted? Like angech’s gut feel that ECS is overestimated?

I can honestly say that in 35 years I was never asked to lie. Sometimes asked “are you sure about that”, to which I either said “yes”, or “now you mention it, you do have a good point there, I’ll take another look”. There are a few companies, and individual consultants in the Equity field, who had a reputation for bending the truth. But always stopped short of an outright lie and they were considered pariahs by the vast majority. Which is not to say that management didn’t sometimes hold their noses and hire them 😦 . But always in inter-company disputes, not for reserves, accounts or taxation where criminal penalties apply if you cheat. In fact, the supermajor which had the worst reputation for flouting the spirit of the law also had a reputation for being an absolute stickler for the letter of the law.

On the one occasion I’m aware of where someone lied (other than small individual stuff like fiddling expenses, which is a mug’s game as they always get caught), he was fired when management found out. A PE supervisor instructed two technicians to break double-isolation rules to finish a job on an unmanned platform so they wouldn’t have to overnight in the spartan emergency accommodation (at that time basically a caravan with a bucket toilet; we subsequent put in a flushing toilet). They falsified the records but it came out. Maybe someone talked, or maybe someone said “no way could you do the job in that time”. In any case when it was finally established what had happened, the supervisor was summarily dismissed and the technicians given a final warning. The supervisor then had to face the prospect of an HSE prosecution without the support of Company lawyers.

179. hmm…. I don’t think of enron as part of the oil and gas industry. I think of them as energy traders who were obviously manipulating markets for profit in a business model that looked like a ponzi scheme. But, ok, maybe enron/worldcom type prosecutions sent a chill throughout the entire business world. I am interested in hearing more from oilman. He seems to have views about the oil and gas industry and their numbers.

You tend to be a counterpuncher, and you also get too complicated with your answers for me to wade through successfully. KISS, right? That may just be who you are, but it also typical of folks who don’t like the questions being asked and want to deflect, confuse and punch back to bury the questions. I don’t spend trying to correct lukewarmers or engaging with troll types. I have better things to do with my time. I will have three to six grandkids coming and going at home with me today. That is where I spend most of my energy these days.

Cheers

Mike

180. hey, Dave. I was simply and politely asking about the statement that you made about people going to the big house.

I don’t get your comment about “the Hillary offence” because I have generally checked out on the culture wars. It’s just a reference that means nothing to me.

Can you keep it a little more simple, direct and civil please?

Thanks

Mike

181. @Dave_Geologist,

Finishing up on methodology, and signing off from this (pretty interesting and “open forum” kind of) thread, the principal assessments of the Neyman-Pearson Hypothesis Testing and Significance Testing kind of problem are:

M L Head, L Holman, R Lanfear, A T Kahn, M D Jennions, “The extent and consequences of p-hacking in Science”, PLoS Biol 13(3): e1002106, 2015.

However, their “science” is limited to PubMed papers (see their supporting online material), and so says little about the physical sciences.

There are also the key papers:

R L Wasserstein, N A Lazar, “The ASA’s statement on p-values: Context, process, and purpose”, The American Statistician, 2016, 70:2, 129-133,

with discussion by practicing Bayesian Professor Andrew Gelman,

Professor Gelman is nuanced as always, but does he really think that anyone with sense believes simply doing away with p-values somehow guarantees good statistical practice?

Most egregious, I’d say, on the significance side, are misinterpretations of p-values as probabilities of occurrence and then, worse, converting these to probabilities of reoccurrence. For better or worse, as uncredentialed as I am, I called out the `pause’ paper of Fyfe, Gillett, and Zwiers for exactly this sin, even though, as you say, Rockhound, that’s climatology. What was disappointing regarding these discussions of the so-called warming hiatus was that, AFAIK, no one addressed the problematic figure of that paper, the one showing the discrepancy between observational statistics and modern predictions on degree of warming, and especially methodological questions surrounding it. There was once a blogroll about the paper at Nature including Tamino’s and my writings on it, but that, apparently, has either been withdrawn or is now only available to Nature subscribers. (I’m not.) One of its problems was the hypothesis testing framework and then, even accepting that, was the failure to address the differences in variances between the models population and that of observations. The other problem with the overall paper was in the interpretation of the discrepancy between the two density estimates as a probability of a reoccuring event.

While statisticians, as Tukey observed, get to play in everybody’s sandbox, the practicing statistician ought to expect to have their advice often ignored. In my opinion, unless it is overtly a matter of life and limb, when it is the statistician’s ethical responsibility to speak out, ignoring a statistician’s advice is a risk taken by those ignoring it. It is nearly as bad as failing to consult a statistician at the beginning of an experiment. Per Ronald Fisher:

To consult the statistician after an experiment is finished is often merely to ask him to conduct a post mortem examination. He can perhaps say what the experiment died of.

On the statistician speaking out, in this post-Challenger and post-Columbia time, and perhaps, equivalently, in this post-BP Horizon time, in my opinion, I’d extend that responsibiility to any technically competent person facing a recalcitrant management after technical advice. The final expression of influence a technical person has upon a decision is to withdrawn their professional association from the activity.

Cleaning up a field so it uses proper statistical methods is ultimately the responsibility of those in the field. I’d say, too, it is the only practical way it can be done, as most fields strongly resist the efforts of statistical Gandalfs’ charging into them with their supporting horde of Bayesian Rohirrim. And, accordingly, whatever statistical mess they find themselves in is therefore their own responsibility. Who’s else would it be? Yes, there’s a role for the voice crying out in the wilderness, but reform belongs to those called.

Soon you will know. Soon you will be one of us.” (E S Yudkowsky)

By the way, Professor Yudkowsky implores readers to consult, instead, his much-improved “Bayes’ rule: Guide”, even if, in my opinion, it isn’t as much fun.

182. Dave said:

“The wholesale price has been pretty much constant for decades, but the reservoirs we extract from have got much harder to find and much harder to exploit. “

That’s shorthand for peak oil.

The oil industry does a good job of hiding the decline. I already linked to the cornucopian predictions of oil production upthread
https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/research-should-inform-not-influence/#comment-127814

183. Dave_Geologist says:

That’s not Peak Oil Paul, that’s the Red Queen. We’re having to run faster to stand still (I should have said that was inflation-adjusted price). But we’ve got much fitter in recent decades so we can run faster. Actually we’re doing slightly better than standing still. Still rising in 2017.

https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/en/corporate/images/energy-economics/svg/oil-production-by-region-stsr-bp.svg

You seem to be under the misapprehension that people in the industry are unaware that the effort level has gone up, that resources are getting harder to find and extract, but that continuous improvement lets us continue to extract at historic prices, inflation-adjusted. They’ve noticed. After all, they’re the ones making the effort. And are unaware that individual plays are passing through their own peak oil and being abandoned. They’ve noticed. After all, they’re the ones relocating the investment, materiel and personnel.

Demand, dear boy, demand. Nobody is turning out the lights because there’s no oil available. In fact there’s a bit of a glut at the moment, which is why the price is so low. It’s creeping back up as demand creeps back up. If it was creeping up because supply had failed, production would be declining. It’s not.

184. Dave said:

“That’s not Peak Oil Paul, that’s the Red Queen. We’re having to run faster to stand still (I should have said that was inflation-adjusted price). But we’ve got much fitter in recent decades so we can run faster. Actually we’re doing slightly better than standing still. Still rising in 2017.”

I know the difference, Dave. Over at The Oil Drum blog (now defunct), Rune Likvern coined the term Red Queen to describe how quickly new wells would need to be drilled to make up for the fast depleting Bakken wells. But a few months prior to that, I did a analysis which showed the Red Queen effect in mathematical terms.
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9506#comment-920619

We are way ahead of the oil industry in terms of analysis, that’s for sure!

185. Dave_Geologist says:

Or maybe they just don’t publish Paul? Like with Zipf.

186. Dave_Geologist says:

Back on topic. For those with access to UK TV:

Saving Planet Earth: Fixing a Hole

The relevant part starts about 15 minutes in. Deja vu all over again 😦 .

187. Curiously, the AGU has no support in terms of sessions for fossil fuel research and there are no AGU indexing terms for fossil fuel research. It must be that at some time they decided that they would let AAGP handle all that.

The outcome of that is that the AAGP Explorer bulletin has this recent spread called “Are There Benefits to Climate Change?”

The oil industry exists in a different world, completely separate from the geophysics research community.

188. Dave_Geologist says:

The Explorer is a magazine, Paul, not a scientific journal. And despite its claim to be an international organisation, AAPG membership is overwhelmingly North American. With the whole culture-wars-driven AGW denial that brings. North America is not the world. American geologists are not all geologists. American petroleum geologists are not all petroleum geologists. American oil companies are not all oil companies. Etc.

“It must be that at some time they decided that they would let AAGP handle all that”. I doubt it. BTW Marine and Petroleum Geology is the top journal, not AAPG Bulletin. Nevertheless, a Google Scholar search for “american geophysical union” AND petroleum gets almost 100,000 hits. 10,000 since 2014. Yes some of them are false positives, but come on, all of them?

“The oil industry exists in a different world, completely separate from the geophysics research community”. Hahahahaha. Seismic. Magnetics. Gravity. Surveying. Basin modelling (my sometime game). Induced earthquake prediction – Zoback’s team at Stanford, very plugged into he oil industry. Subsidence due to oil, gas and aquifer withdrawal – ditto. Long-term subsidence due to shale depressurisation. Same team, ground-breaking work (in both senses). I know one of the authors, works in the oil industry. Poroelasticity. About 50/50 with geotechnical engineering. Digitisation of the Geological Society of London’s print archive? Largely funded by donations from Shell and BP.

Facts, eh? Where would we be without them?

189. Dave_Geologist says:

Paul, if you want a bit of perspective on Zipf laws applied to hydrocarbon resources 20 years ago, in the public domain, go to Amazon and pick up a copy of “Fractals in Petroleum Geology and Earth Processes”. The dead-tree version is very expensive, but the Kindle version ridiculously cheap. I don’t know how long for. It’s ten times as expensive on the publisher’s website so Amazon may be offering a limited-time deal. And you’ll find Scholar references going back to 1980 and beyond. Including discussions of whether it’s a good idea or not, so it had been applied before that.

190. Dave said:

“Nevertheless, a Google Scholar search for “american geophysical union” AND petroleum gets almost 100,000 hits. 10,000 since 2014. Yes some of them are false positives, but come on, all of them?”

We had a tough time determining which AGU session to submit our light tight oil abstract to earlier this month. We ended up going with a general modeling session.

There is very little discussion of oil depletion at the AGU, having gone there the last two years. Try to find one out of the thousands of abstracts submitted!

“Paul, if you want a bit of perspective on Zipf laws applied to hydrocarbon resources 20 years ago, in the public domain, go to Amazon and pick up a copy of “Fractals in Petroleum Geology and Earth Processes”. “

I met Mandelbrot (Mr. Fractal) when he worked in the same building years ago. I really don’t spend time obsessing over fractals, as that takes up a fraction of what goes into stochastic physics. In other words, it’s much easier to characterize via simpler mathematical formulations.

191. “The outcome of that is that the AAGP Explorer bulletin has this recent spread called “Are There Benefits to Climate Change?”

If even the questioned concept that there are benefits to climate change is controversial, it probably speaks to existing bias.

Of course, even the IPCC provides evidence of benefits, though sparingly.

We can summon Mr. Tol, or not, but a better question might be: “For how much longer will increasing CO2 and the corresponding global warming and climate change continue to be benefits net of detriments?”

192. @Turbulent Eddie,

“Are their benefits to climate change?”

Well, as the ecosystems around Chernobyl demonstrated, once human beings left, flora and fauna did superbly well. So, to answer the question, yes, there are benefits to climate change. I’m sure the rest of the biosphere would be delighted if this hog of global resources were annihilated.

193. John Hartz says:

hypergeometric: Re your response to TE, I would say, “what’s left of the biosphere as we know it today” rather than the “rest of the biosphere.”

Perhaps the AI systems that survive will be better inhabitants than we have been.

194. Oh, I dunno: Primary oceanic production is up, at least for now. I think the biosphere is pretty robust to CO2 and temperature excursions that aren’t too extreme, although there may be appreciable species churn. Ironically, I think some of the so-called invasive species are likely to be the most tolerant.

I’m hesitant to adopt an After me, the Deluge attitude: We are incredibly anthropocentric, even if we think “AI systems” we created will somehow carry on with a stiff upper lip. George Carlin:

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