Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Global Warming Hoax Includes Phony UA Scientists, Dept.

A phony scientific paper has the blogosphere and global warming skeptics in an uproar.

The Nov. 3 online publication in the "Journal of Geoclimatic Studies" is attributed to Daniel Klein and colleagues in the Dept. of Climatology at the University of Arizona and elsewhere. Klein, his colleagues, the Dept. of Climatology, and the journal, however, don't exist. They are the apparent creation of David Thorpe, a UK-based journalist and web-site designer, who posted the phony report online to "test the scientific illiteracy and credulity of global warming skeptics" (see his description of the hoax at

The phony study claimed that global warming is caused by large quantities of CO2-emitting bacteria on the sea floor, and not by humans.

Reuters News Agency put out a story ( /) about skeptics being taken in by the hoax, at least briefly, spreading the word that, "This could not be more damaging to manmade global warming theory..."

The blogosphere is rife with stabs at the skeptics, including Rush Limbaugh, for being so gullible, while the skeptics are claiming to have spotted the hoax very quickly and grumbling about 'black ops' tactics by the other side.

There is a nice summary of the hoax at

The hoax paper is now posted as a pdf at

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Planet Bob, EarthScope, and other videos from ASU

I applaud ASU for its creative use of videos to help explain and communicate science.

The ASU International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) launched a media campaign to raise public interest in cybertaxonomy. View the trailer at It's also posted on YouTube, and while not as popular as dropping Mentos into a Diet Coke, it's attracting attention.

Another video, featuring Matt Fouch, looks at the "Bigfoot" seismometer array deployed in Arizona as part of the EarthScope USArray program.

Google energy plan includes geothermal

In a press released issued today, Google announced "a new strategic initiative to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that will be cheaper than electricity produced from coal. The newly created initiative, known as RE (less than symbol) C will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies.

The full announcement can be read at

Google's philanthropic arm,, "will make strategic investments and grants that demonstrate a path toward producing energy at an unsubsidized cost below that of coal-fired power plants. Google will work with a variety of organizations in the renewable energy field, including companies, R&D laboratories, and universities."

Oil crunch coming?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) last week reported in its annual energy outlook that it cannot rule out a "supply-side crunch" in world oil markets by 2015. IEA projects even faster demand growth than it did last year.

Experts say the recent run-up in oil prices to nearly $100 per barrel is being driven by global demand outpacing supply, rather than the pattern of recent decades where oil producers cut back supply or political unrest pushed up prices. [photo courtesy of Ks Geol. Survey]

Of particular concern to the U.S. is the forecast from Canada's National Energy Board for production from the Alberta tar sands, currently running about 1.3 million b/d, which is starting to slip. The Board now believes that we should expect a daily production of 2.8 million b/d by 2015, down from the 3.0 million b/d that had been forecast.

Citing higher production costs as the reason why it was reducing its forecast, the Energy Board clearly left open the possibility of further cost-related reductions in the years ahead. According to the report, “a number of companies are reassessing the economics of their projects.”

Monday, November 26, 2007

More twists in BHP - Rio Tinto merger proposal

Speculation last week was that Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold might be a target of a takeover attempt by London-based Rio Tinto to thwart the proposed $150 billion takeover of Rio Tinto by BHP Billiton.

Rio Tinto and Freeport are partners in the Resolution copper mine under development in central Arizona.

In recent days market analysts are speculating that China is opposing the BHP-Rio Tinto merger because it would consolidate the world's biggest iron ore producers. The combined company would control 40% of the world market for iron ore, according to Economist magazine. The analysts say China's growth is consuming half of the world's iron ore and they want more competition to lower prices, so they may working behind the scenes to prevent the merger. German steelmakers are opposing the merger as well.

Rio Tinto is fighting the merger proposal by raising its dividend by 30%, and increased the expected savings from buying Canada's Alcan in July by over 50%, promising $940 million a year. Rio Tinto also plans to triple its iron-ore output, in part by investing $2 billion in its Western Australian mine complex.

What role Freeport may play in this international game is still to be seen.

Monday, November 05, 2007

UA's SAHRA wins UNESCO prize

The UA's NSF-funded Science and Technology Center for Sustainability of Semi-arid hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHRA) is a co-winner of the 2007 International Great Man-made River Prize. The prize is awarded every other year by UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization.

SAHRA is a joint winner of the prize with the Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing (CHRS) at U.C. Irvine.

The UNESCO prize "rewards remarkable scientific research work on water usage in arid areas as well as areas subject to drought and also for the development of agriculture for the benefit of humanity and the environment."

NSF officials have told me that SAHRA is the model they point to on how to run a science and technology center. This augers well for SAHRA's continuation after NSF S&T center funding ends.

Oil and gas estimates released for NW Arizona

The USGS released a new assessment of oil and gas potential that includes the extreme NW corner of Arizona, in the Sevier thrust belt. The USGS estimates mean reserves of 301 million bbls of oil (MMBO) and 100 billion cubic feet (BCFG) of natural gas but since the area is predominantly in Utah, we can't tell how much may lie in Arizona.

Last year, my colleagues in the oil business in Utah told me a leasing play was underway in northern Arizona, following the thrust belt discovery by Wolverine Exploration in central Utah. It seems clear this is the target they are after.

The USGS estimates range from 33 MMBO and 10 BCFG (at a 95% confidence level) to 809 MMBO and 279 BCFG (at a 5% confidence level) for the Sevier thrust belt. Only a small part of that is likely to occur in Arizona.

The full report is at "Geologic Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the Eastern Great Basin Province, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Arizona," USGS Digital Data Series, DDS-69-L, Version 1.0, 2007.

Arizona geothermal in new renewable energy report

A report on Arizona's renewable energy resources commissioned by Arizona's three largest utilities, Arizona Public Service (APS), Salt River Project and Tucson Electric Power (TEP), identified more than 5,000 megawatts (MW) of untapped renewable energy resources in Arizona.

Two geothermal sites in eastern Arizona, Clifton and Gillard hot springs, were estimated to be able to produce 20 and 15 MW of electricity, respectively, for a total of 215 GWh/year. Because the production tax credit will expire before they can be brought online, there costs will be high, but comparable to solar power currently.

AZGS received well cores from the Clifton prospect, which are available for research.

The Arizona Renewable Energy Assessment is available on the Black & Veatch Web site at: