Will Andy Revkin Tee Off on Chu?

I don’t like talking about political appointees, but Chu is supposed to be a “scientist”.

If you don’t know the answer to something, it’s a good idea not to pretend that you do. Take a look at Chu’s appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee url (h/t reader Gene)

[self-snip]

Chu was there as a scientist. Barton asked Chu how the oil and gas got to the Alaska North- wasn’t it warmer when the organics were laid down?

Chu rose to the bait, in effect foolishly denying that it was warmer up north in the Cretaceous, the date of key Alaska source rocks, attributing the presence of oil and gas in Alaska to continental drift. It “drifted up there”.

Nope.

The most recent source rocks in Alaska were laid down in the Cretaceous – see here.

Four key marine petroleum source rock units were identified, characterized, and mapped in the subsurface to better understand the origin and distribution of petroleum on the North Slope of Alaska. These marine source rocks, from oldest to youngest, include four intervals: (1) Middle–Upper Triassic Shublik Formation, (2) basal condensed section in the Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous Kingak Shale, (3) Cretaceous pebble shale unit, and (4) Cretaceous Hue Shale.

By the Cretaceous, Alaska was more or less in its present position. Here is the relevant map from http://www.scotese.com:

It was still much warmer than the present up in the Arctic in the much more Pliocene (the period before the Pleistocene) only 2 million or so years ago. I did a post a couple of years ago showing some interesting Pliocene tree trunks recovered in situ from Canadian Arctic islands.

This is as bad or worse than some of the Bush malapropisms. Chu’s supposed to be a professional scientist. Chu had better raise his game if he wants to stick in the big leagues. Chu

Here’s an interesting test for Andy Revkin and other science writers. They aren’t shy about teeing off on George Will, who isn’t even a scientist, but will Andy (who’s an excellent reporter in my opinion) pile onto Chu or just give him a pass? Everyone knows the answer.

[self-snip]

Here’s the exchange:

Barton: How did all the oil and gas.get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?
Chu: [Laughs.] This is a complicated story. Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around and so it’s a combination of where the sources of the ol and gas…
Barton: Isn’t it obvious that it was a lot warmer in Alaska and the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas …
Chu: There’s continental plates that have been drifting around through the geological ages…
Barton: So It just drifted up there?
Chu: That’s certainly what happened. uh, and it’s a result of things like that.
Chairman: Time has expired.


272 Comments

  1. Harry Mallory
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:05 PM | Permalink

    This is as bad or worse than some of the Bush malapropisms.

    snip – sorry, not that wide.

  2. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:08 PM | Permalink

    Please don’t take this as an opportunity to vent about politics. I will delete any such posts.

    Please do not refer to any members of the administration other than Chu.

    • tetris
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 10:21 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#2),

      Sure Steve:

      No political comments allowed on this post that emphatically puts a key US administration official in the spot light for misrepresenting “science” for political purposes…? N.B. in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee?

      Come, come: can’t be just a little bit pregnant.

      It only shows how deep a Nobel Prize [in Physics] can get you into “hot” manure..

      As always, keep up the good work.

  3. Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:12 PM | Permalink

    Barton’s grin at 22 sec is classic. He knows hes got him.

  4. Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:19 PM | Permalink

    Sorry if I referred to someone other than Chu – posts crossed. Is it really AGW (or anybodies) orthodoxy that the Arctic was cold in the Cretaceous, or is Chu just making it up as he goes along?

    Steve: Barton isn’t in the administration. :) His question to Gerry North in the HS hearings was surgery with a smile as well.

  5. Greg F
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:27 PM | Permalink

    I think this is just another example of the proliferation of experts that aren’t really experts.

  6. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:41 PM | Permalink

    KAte Shepherd at grist thought that Chu got the better of this exchange.

    Yes, Chu did look confused, but not about the origins of oil—rather, about why Barton would ask such a bizarre question.

    My, my.

    • Gene Nemetz
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 9:34 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#7),

      “bizarre question”

      How is it bizarre? Calling the question bizarre says more about ‘grist’ than it does about the question. It seems like the Energy Secretary should have known the answer. But Steven Chu has no background in that field. He does have a published opinion (co-author), here, on energy. It appears, IMO, that he was placed as Energy Secretary because of his view on nuclear energy.
      =

      Steven Chu did win a Nobel. Richard Feynman puts the Nobel Prize in perspective.

      • Mark T
        Posted May 3, 2009 at 10:54 PM | Permalink

        Re: Gene Nemetz (#14),

        Richard Feynman puts the Nobel Prize in perspective.

        Wow. I’ve never seen that interview.

        Mark

      • stephen richards
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

        Re: Gene Nemetz (#14),

        I do so miss the genius. He was my idol, my mentor my everything at the time I was studying physics. A brilliant man who could/should have been alive today to kick the arses of those that need it.

  7. Gene Nemetz
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:45 PM | Permalink

    “(h/t reader Gene)”
    Original h/t Lubos Motl.

  8. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:53 PM | Permalink

    Most blogosphere commentators are with Kate Shepherd, puzzled only that BArton asked the question. They are under-estimating Barton. It also shows how people extrapolate from very little geology knowledge to over-confidence.

  9. Doug
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 8:58 PM | Permalink

    I thought the Cretaceous was a minor source rock. Then I read this article:

    http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/abstracts/html/2007/annual/abstracts/lbPetersKenneth.htm

    Contrary to conventional interpretations, the results of ALS (alternating least squares) analysis show that oils in the field originate mainly from Cretaceous Hue Shale rather than Triassic Shublik Formation source rock. These results were confirmed using both ratios and concentrations of biomarkers

    Buy hey, he has a big prize in Physics

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

      Re: Doug (#10),

      This is an interesting link. Also see http://infometrix.biz/info/MVA_Circum-Arctic%20Oils.pdf .

      The abstract refers to the use of principal components analysis to show that “oils in the field originate mainly from Cretaceous Hue Shale rather than Triassic Shublik Formation source rock”. We’ve not had much luck seeing principal components being applied sensibly in Team studies; I wonder if geologists do any better.

      Chemometrics is multivariate statistics applied to chemical problems. It is a powerful tool for genetic classification, correlation, prediction of physicochemical properties, and de-convolution of mixtures. Source- and age-related biomarker and isotopic data were measured for >1000 crude oil samples from wells and seeps north of ~55oN latitude. A unique, multi-tiered chemometric decision tree was created that allowed automated classification of 31 genetically distinct Circum-Arctic oil families. This new method, which we call decision-tree chemometrics, utilizes PCA (principal components analysis) and many tiered KNN (K-Nearest Neighbor) and SIMCA (soft independent modeling of class analogy) models to classify and assign confidence limits for newly acquired oil samples and source-rock extracts. Geochemical data for each oil sample were also used to infer the age, lithology, organic matter input, depositional environment, and identity of its source rock. The data identify nine petroleum systems on the North Slope of Alaska. Crude oils from the giant Prudhoe Bay Field were studied to assess the relative volumetric contributions from different source rocks. Contrary to conventional interpretations, the results of ALS (alternating least squares) analysis show that oils in the field originate mainly from Cretaceous Hue Shale rather than Triassic Shublik Formation source rock. These results were confirmed using both ratios and concentrations of biomarkers. PLS (partial least squares) analysis of the biomarker and isotope data allows accurate predictions of the physicochemical properties of these oil samples, such as sulfur content.

  10. BarryW
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 9:02 PM | Permalink

    You seem to think that facts are more important than ideology in politics. Even if Chu is wrong he’s right because it supports the “correct” narrative. Nobody (of any import) is going to make anything out of this in the media.

  11. John
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 9:08 PM | Permalink

    Yes, there is a lot of laughing at Burton in the comments of the version on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDTyI20Ka94 . Tthe references that I found for Alaska’s gas and oil are Jurassic and Early Cretaceous, not late Cretaceous (the map you are showing) when it was a bit warmer. Even then, http://www.scotese.com describes the Early Cretaceous climate as, “The Early Cretaceous was a mild ‘Ice House’ world. There was snow and ice during the winter seasons, and Cool Temperate forests covered the polar regions.” Also interesting is a 2004 National Geographic article titled “Two New Dinosaurs Discovered in Antarctica” that mentions, “Antarctica has sat at much the same latitude for the last hundred million years. But during the Cretaceous it enjoyed a warmer, lusher climate, similar to that of the U.S. Pacific Northwest today.” This stuff is all well-known.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 10:19 PM | Permalink

      Re: John (#12),

      Hue Shale seems to be a major source rock and is described in 2007 as Cretaceous to Tertiary, not Early Cretaceous.

      http://aapg.confex.com/aapg/2007am/techprogram/A111720.htm

      Most discovered petroleum involves source rocks in the Triassic Shublik Formation or the Cretaceous to Tertiary Hue Shale. Recent discoveries and regional geologic synthesis suggest that future exploration potential may depend on lesser known petroleum systems.

  12. Posted May 3, 2009 at 9:25 PM | Permalink

    Steve

    These posts and the growing evidence of lack of rigor in climate science brings forth a question. When will be the time that science begins to police itself and demand that the principles of scientific inquiry that have been bedrock for 300 years be enforced in the climate change research community? We simply must call for the upholding of the highest standards of scientific discipline in terms of results, background and referenced data, along with the process used to obtain a result.

    I have said this before in other venues but it is pertinent here. If, for whatever reason, the hypothesis of CO2 as the causative actor in the modern warm period is shown to be false due to the decline in solar activity expected over the next two decades or for any other reason, the entire moral foundation of the scientific establishment will be thrown into disrepute as it will be quite easy to show the lack of discipline and rigor in this current age of climate research.

    As a civilization of several billion people, we must have science and good science, to survive and prosper. A scientific community thrown into disrepute on this scale, will have negative effects for at least a generation in areas where science is desperately needed to help solve real and pressing civilization level problems.

    I call on all in the scientific community, no matter your bias on the subject of AGW, to demand that the standards of science experimentation be upheld, for the good of the profession, and for the good of us all.

    • AnonyMoose
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Permalink

      Re: Dennis Wingo (#13),

      When will be the time that science begins to police itself and demand that the principles of scientific inquiry that have been bedrock for 300 years be enforced in the climate change research community?

      Maybe 100 million years?

  13. sammy k
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 9:42 PM | Permalink

    as a geologist, mr chu’s answer to the very basic question of oil source rock in alaska says it all…he displays little understanding of earth’s paleoclimate…his comment about continental drift exposes his blind faith in AGW…what a pathetic example of ignorance for someone at the head of energy policy…

  14. MJ
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 10:19 PM | Permalink

    It’s Tina Fey.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0275486/

  15. Richard
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 10:21 PM | Permalink

    A classic case of the blind leading the blind. Steve is right; as a scientist Professor Chu would have done better to confess ignorance of the answer. No-one should expect him to be an expert in everything. Since those hearings are nothing less than a game of chess (or poker), his silence could have obliged Senator Barton to supply the answer and I wonder what that would have been?

    And no-one here has yet given the correct answer to the question either. As I understand it, the structures containing major oilfields may have been generated during the Cretaceous (Brooks Range Orogeny), but the source rocks were generated over a prior 120 million year period ranging from the Triassic (for the Prudoe Bay field) through the Jurassic and into the Early Cretaceous. Many climates, many depositional environments, many varieties of organisms. Now I know nothing about cooling atoms by laser light, but …

    See http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/oil-gas/publications/EPreports/ANSSummaryReportFinalAugust2007.pdf

  16. theduke
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

    Steve Mc wrote: “Barton must think that Chu is a total idiot.”

    No, Barton, who has been at this for some time, set a trap for Chu and he fell right into it. Barton knows Chu is a smart guy who has bought into the whole global warming concept, but he also knows Chu is completely unfamiliar with any arguments to the contrary.

    Rule number one when you are appearing before a Congressional committee: if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t pretend that you do. Take a pass.

    • Gene Nemetz
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

      Re: theduke (#21),

      if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t pretend that you do. Take a pass.

      Either way doesn’t it show that Steven Chu is the wrong man for the job?

    • Mark T
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 11:03 PM | Permalink

      Re: theduke (#21),

      Rule number one when you are appearing before a Congressional committee: if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t pretend that you do.

      I’ve heard lawyers never ask questions during a trial they don’t already know the answer to. They simply want you to say it yourself.

      Mark

      • Harry Eagar
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

        Re: Mark T (#24),

        Yeah, and I’ve seen a lawyer destroy his whole case by asking a question he thought he knew the answer to but didn’t.

        • Mark T
          Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:20 PM | Permalink

          Re: Harry Eagar (#111), Yeah, I can see how that would be a problem.

          I wonder, btw, if Chu’s problem is perhaps related to the otherwise OT defense discussion TAG and I have traded? Does he have much experience standing up getting questions fired at him? We engineering folk get quite used to it. Just curious.

          Mark

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 11:34 PM | Permalink

      Re: theduke (#21),

      Let’s not parse words pointlessly. You know what I mean. I’m sure that Barton recognizes that Chu has academic talent, but there’s a big difference between that and being qualified to be Secretary of a large federal department.

      The problem for Chu here is that he pretended to know something that he didn’t know.

      Organizations work to a considerable extent because people within organizations learn the discipline of undertaking to find something out if you don’t know the answer – but you don’t pretend to know things that you don’t.

      And you particularly don’t pretend that you know things when you’re dealing with a smart down-home guy like Barton.

      This was like Palin and Katie Couric.

      • kim
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:45 AM | Permalink

        Re: Steve McIntyre (#26),

        Yes, Chu was wrong, no big crime there, but what is damning is that he said that tectonics was “certainly” how the oil got there. Heh, tectonics certainly ‘covered’ what’s there.

        What dismays me is that the alarmist blogosphere immediately assumed that Chu was right. I watched a blog go to nearly a hundred comments before anyone, me, asked what a geologist would say. Then, when I googled for the geology and presented it, I was still doubted.
        snip

        In my opinion, Andy is an honest reporter, badly misled by his rolodex of alarmist scientists. I think he’ll snap to the truth eventually. His blog, dotearth, is moderated such as to allow skeptical viewpoints a voice. That’s unusual among true believers of his stripe.
        ===========================================

        • curious
          Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:16 AM | Permalink

          Re: kim (#34), Maybe I’m naive but I suggest a courteous letter/enquiry to Mr Chu from a geologist (or well informed jounalist) would be a constructive step. I don’t think kicking him around the park on the basis of that YouTube clip would serve any useful purpose – his use of “certainly” was OTTOHH rather than part of a prepared argument. IMO it would also be worth clarifying the relevance of the question to the AGW debate and attaching/citing a copy of Obama’s statement on FOI and transparency.

          Re: the clip – was it this meeting?:

          http://www.congressional.energy.gov/documents/4-22-09_Final_Testimony_(Chu).pdf

  17. theduke
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 11:28 PM | Permalink

    Gene wrote:

    Either way doesn’t it show that Steven Chu is the wrong man for the job?

    Yes, of course. But from President Obama’s point of view, he was the perfect man for the job because of his tendency to accept the tenets of AGW and all that implies.

    The science is incomplete, inconclusive, and anecdotal, but the politics are already locked in.

    That said, I think the tide is turning and that the weakness of the science upon which the policies being proposed are based is becoming increasingly apparent.

    What worries me is the amount of science that needs to be audited in virtually every environmental field beyond the immediate subject here, which is AGW and the studies that reputedly prove it. The enthusiasm for environmental science that began in the late 1960s has given us a body of science created by an entire generation of environmental reformers that needs to be audited with the same vigilance that Steve Mc employs on this site.

  18. John A
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 11:46 PM | Permalink

    I think it demonstrates that receiving the Nobel Prize does not imbue the recipient with extra scientific knowledge outside the area of the awarded scientific work. If anything it makes the subsequent lapses of ignorance even more embarassing.

    snip

  19. tty
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:41 AM | Permalink

    Chu may actually have some basic knowledge of Alaskan geology. Most of Alaska really is a mess of accreted terranes which have drifted in from the far, largely tropical, reaches of the Pacific.
    However the North Slope is the big exception since it is part of the Arctic Alaska-Chukotka microplate which was part of the Canadian Arctic until the Early Cretaceous, so if anything it has come south a little bit.

  20. Jim
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 1:05 AM | Permalink

    For the record, before his elevation to be department secretary
    Dr Chu was going around talking about the importance of doing
    something about Global Warming. He gave a talk at the 2008
    DAMOP (division of atomic and molecular physics) about the
    importance of global warming.

    Anyway, two questions were asked
    (a) What do you think about Nuclear Power
    Dr Chu stated that Nuclear could definitely be part
    of the solution.
    (b) What about corn -> biofuel
    Dr Chu stated he thought this was insane.
    Now, in that audience, giving answers contrary to those above
    would lead many in the audience to doubt your credibility.

    Anyway, examine what Dr Chu has said in relation to these
    two topics since becoming secretary. Pretty much nothing,
    since these ideas do not run parallel with those in the
    Obama admin.

    I suspect that if someone asked Dr Chu how it felt being
    elevated to the major league of Department secretary, he
    would reply in the vein of a typrical rookie recruited to
    the NY Yankees “I’m just happy to be here”. But for him to
    remain there requires he repeat the mantra of those who
    elevated him to that position.

    PS. Dr Chu did some very good work that well merited the
    Nobel prize. So do not slag him off on that respect.

  21. Posted May 4, 2009 at 4:38 AM | Permalink

    So your real beef is that, while some oil deposits were laid down during the Triassic (which did indeed drift to their current position), some were also created in the Cretaceous and, what, Chu should have mentioned both? Why, how would this fact have any relevance to the current debate?

    How Barton’s gang actually felt about this is evident from their response to the Youtube clip they posted of the exchange, which was to kill all comments pointing out that Barton was too dumb to know he had made a fool of himself.

    Honestly Stephen, this is pathetic even for you.

    • MrPete
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:24 AM | Permalink

      Re: bigcitylib (#30),

      Relevance: Barton’s question could have led to a reminder that the high latitudes were once quite warm.

      As to who is being dumb… as has been mentioned in this thread…
      * this report shows when source rocks were deposited (see p. 8 )
      * The details of timing and location area matter of active research. So in some ways nobody should be particularly overconfident.
      * However, in browsing the literature, I’ve seen general acceptance that this area was both warm and high latitude in the period of interest. (see the above link for example.)

      Even in the Jurassic timeframe, it’s pretty obvious that the northern Canadian islands (from which the Arctic Alaska-Chukotka Microplate peeled away) are high latitude, not tropical:

      (You can go back further, even to Triassic, and see the same thing, but it is less obvious.)

      To me, this seems a classic case of scientific pride enabling an expert in one field to assume he knows answers in another. And for the peanut gallery to pile on. (Note: I wouldn’t be too quick to assume the primary author here at Climate Audit has this wrong. After all, he happens to have some expertise in geology…most likely more than Chu.)

      Bottom line: it seems entirely appropriate to suggest that Barton knew what he was doing, and that Chu was the one “too dumb to know he had made a fool of himself.”

    • Michael Smith
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:37 AM | Permalink

      Re: bigcitylib (#30),

      So your real beef is that, while some oil deposits were laid down during the Triassic (which did indeed drift to their current position), some were also created in the Cretaceous and, what, Chu should have mentioned both?

      No, the “real beef” — as Steve clearly points out — is that Chu pretended to know something he didn’t know — for purposes of evading the issue of whether or not it has been much warmer up north in the past than at present.

      snip

  22. curious
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:15 AM | Permalink

    FWIW I think the video clip shows a guy put on the spot by a smart informed question he was not expecting and had not considered with 6 seconds to go. IMO you can almost see Chu trying to work it out from first principles but his first principles did not appear to include the possibility/knowledge req. to get the right answer.

    He fell into a well laid trap – not a hanging offence IMO – it’d be interesting to see the whole lead up to this last six seconds. If he is the scientist his record suggests he’ll take this on board and do some looking and thinking and sort his views out. As someone noted above none of us are experts in everything so I’d say give him a chance. Same issue as using the HS graph – if he is asked where it came from and what he knows about it and its limitations IMO it’ll be his response that informs about the man.

  23. richard
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:41 AM | Permalink

    And if, perchance, Chu had admitted he didn’t know all the details about this particular oil field, would the not be hoots of derision heard here be equally loud?

    • kim
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:53 AM | Permalink

      Re: richard (#32),

      Richard, as Steve points out, the big problem was Chu’s ‘certainty’. He was wrong, and apparently hasn’t the self-knowledge to know when he is ‘certain’ of things or not. He was bluffing or badly misinformed. Energy Secretaries shouldn’t do or be that.

      Apparently he fell into the trap in order to avoid mentioning climate variability. It would amaze me if he didn’t know that climate has varied dramatically in the past. That he chose to hide that and bluff it out rather than point out that variability over that time scale has little to do with the present debate is very disturbing. Why couldn’t the man be frank?
      =============================================
      ===============================================

  24. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:43 AM | Permalink

    My initial interest in this entire topic derives from geologists, who bemoan the public ignorance of even general geological knowledge, but think that they know things.

    IMO knowing something about the earth’s history should be part of the general knowledge of a high school science graduate, let alone an undergraduate science graduate. It’s bizarre to me that someone like Chu should lack this general knowledge. This should be regarded as an elementary question for someone in Chu’s position, not a trick question. Sort of like asking someone how to spell potato.

    Just because it was warmer than the present during the Cretaceous hardly ends the debate over policy. Chu could reasonably have pointed out that the sea level was much higher during the Cretaceous or that CO2 levels were much higher or that there were no humans during the Cretaceous and maybe returning to Cretaceous conditions represented risks to the species that were foolhardy. There were many options open to him if he had any command of the file.

    Richard in a comment above is correct that saying that he didn’t know the answer would have exposed him to ridicule. Quite so. However, had he not been so over-confident in things that he didn’t know, knowing that there were only a few seconds left, he could easily have run the clock with non-responsive discussion about past warm periods.

    Instead he opened his mouth and removed all doubt about his ignorance. As Satchell Paige-Mark Twain said: it ain’t the things that you don’t know that hurt you; it’s the things that you know that ain’t so.

  25. Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:59 AM | Permalink

    Well, he did know that some of the North Shore deposits were from the Triassic, didn’t he? Perhaps his answer was not 100% complete, but then, as Frank Zappa once said, why give a classical music answer in a disco environment?

    In any case, the argument Barton was TRYING to make, if he had a coherent argument in mind, is of the “it was warmer then and there weren’t any SUVs” variety. The standard tripe, in other words.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:13 AM | Permalink

      Re: bigcitylib (#40),

      BCL, contrary to your claim, there is not a shred of evidence that Chu “knew” that some of the North Slope deposits had Triassic source rock.

      Personally I saw no evidence in the exchange that he had a clue about the geology. If he knew that some source rock was Triassic, then he would also have known that other source rock was Cretaceous and, as someone that seems to be fairly straightforward, he would have given a more nuanced answer to Barton’s question along the lines of the alternatives that I suggested above.

      As I observed above, there are plausible answers that Chu could have given that would not be caving in. The problem is that Chu gave an ignorant answer.

  26. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:08 AM | Permalink

    In an early climateaudit post, I reported briefly on an invited presentation to my squash/tennis club on climate change.

    In it, I showed a standard climate history from a geological perspective even using a quote from Scotese that happened to mention Alaska:

    During the Early Eocene alligators swam in swamps near the North Pole, and palm trees grew in southern Alaska.

     
    Contrary to what Chu told Barton, there is ample evidence of warmth from fossils that were laid down while Alaska was more or less at its present latitude or even further north. This includes the Cretaceous shales that are the basis for much oil production.

    Now that Chu’s ignorance on the matter is exposed, people seem to be trying to work up an argument that there are also Triassic shales in Alaska and that the Triassic shales were laid down in low-latitude settings and moved north tectonically. That’s irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    The Cretaceous shales are very important economically (not just in Alaska, but around the world.) I know that most of the source rock around the Atlantic – from the North Sea to Brazil – was laid down more or less contemporaneously in the Turonian subperiod of the Cretaceous. I would not be surprised if the Hue shales on the Alaska North Slope prove to be from around that period. That’s around 84 MA.

    For what it’s worth, Chu’s comment about oil forming over “hundreds of millions” of years is off by an order of magnitude. The huge reserves from Cretaceous source rock are tens of millions of years old, but, if you’re a Nobel-winning scientist and Secretary of Energy, why worry about orders of magnitude?

  27. PhilH
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:13 AM | Permalink

    “I’ve heard lawyers never ask questions during a trial they don’t already know the answer to.”

    Speaking as a trial lawyer and a judge for forty years, I can tell you that that’s a myth. Lawyers do it all the time.

    “The problem for Chu here is that he pretended to know something that he didn’t know.”

    One of the first things a lawyer needs to learn is that when a client or a judge asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, the only appropriate response is: “I don’t know the answer but I will find out and get back to you.”

    • Mark T
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

      Re: PhilH (#43),

      Speaking as a trial lawyer and a judge for forty years, I can tell you that that’s a myth. Lawyers do it all the time.

      Good ones? That would seem silly to me, but I’m not a lawyer, either, nor do I claim to be one or even play one on TV. I didn’t even stay in a Holiday Inn last night.

      Mark

      • PhilH
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

        Re: Mark T (#74), Mark: They are pretty careful not to ask such a question about a really crucial issue unless they are reasonably sure of the answer. On peripheral stuff, it’s okay. And sometimes, when you get that feeling that you have uncovered something unexpected that might break it open for your side, you go for it.

        Phil

        • Mark T
          Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

          Re: PhilH (#90), Which makes complete sense. Particularly on TV. I’m quite certain the lawyer I heard say that (message board I think) was not being 100% literal, btw.

          Re: TAG (#93),

          What do you think that the examiners would do?

          Realistically? Not much other than chiding and a requirement to make the clarification in their text before requisite signatures show up on the dotted line. A defense is more dog and pony show than anything. They don’t get to their thesis defense if they haven’t already proved their worth (well, a good adviser won’t allow the defense unless his candidate is ready).

          Mark

        • TAG
          Posted May 4, 2009 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

          Re: Mark T (#96),

          Realistically? Not much other than chiding and a requirement to make the clarification in their text before requisite signatures show up on the dotted line. A defense is more dog and pony show than anything. They don’t get to their thesis defense if they haven’t already proved their worth (well, a good adviser won’t allow the defense unless his candidate is ready).

          I’m aware of a thesis defense that was similar to this. It turned into a war with loud vices clearly audible to the audience who were waiting in the hall way while the examiners considered their decision. After four hours the thesis was accepted but only with major revisions.

          I also had an instructor who was told that his thesis could not be presented because it was inadequate. I found it surprising that an academic would say something like that to him since he was not someone anybody would say “No” to. Later, while researching for my final year project, I found his thesis bound in the library. There are multiple ways to pass a thesis defense.

        • Mark T
          Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:18 PM | Permalink

          Re: TAG (#97), It is a poor adviser that lets a student get to the point of defense without being ready. Furthermore, preliminary copies of the thesis/dissertation should be sent out well before the defense, and any credible reviewers will voice major concerns before the actual date. Waiting to pounce during the defense itself is shameful and serves only to humiliate the candidate. For most, the hardest part should simply be standing up in front of an audience of peers (more than peers, actually) and presenting the case convincingly, i.e., demonstrating presentation skills on top of the theoretical skills.

          Mark

  28. George M
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:31 AM | Permalink

    Steve: (#39)
    Remember how long it took the geologists to admit to Plate Tectonics. I am old enough to recall that playing out in the scientific press, and it was painful to watch. I can imagine how the “deniers” felt, but in any event, it took a while to get them all (?) on board. I suppose there are no further holdouts, I’ve since quit watching. Bottom line, the geologists have nothing to complain about. There were times when they needed to get their own house in order, and were pretty slow to do so.
    As far as Chu is concerned, I would expect a good general science professor from any one of a dozen major universities would bring a much more well-rounded knowledge to the job at hand. Concentrating on one very narrow discipline often causes loss of contact with the wider physical world.

  29. Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:32 AM | Permalink

    Your quibbling Stephen. Chu’s answer is still correct, though again, perhaps incomplete.

    snip – you’re using language that you know is not allowed here.

  30. Knut Witberg, Norway,
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:43 AM | Permalink

    The problem is that the new US secretary of energy does not know where his knowledge ends and his assumptions begins. This is very human, and every schoolboy with ambitions done so before him.

    But from a man that has turned sixty, is a Nobel laureate and is testifying before a very important committee, you certainly don’t expect anythin like this. In fact, that this happened is astonishing.

  31. MrPete
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:45 AM | Permalink

    BCL, even if Triassic, the land was most likely at high latitude. So how is Chu’s answer correct?

    [snip - same applies here as for BCL. WE're not going there]

    Science is science. People can disagree vehemently in many other realms, particularly politics, policy and faith. Yet they all still can have sufficient discipline to discover new truths through science and other studies. The hard part is letting go of our preconceived biases.

  32. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:45 AM | Permalink

    Some of the Alaska North Slope source rock was Triassic, an earlier period than the Cretaceous. But that’s not the end of the story.

    Scotese on the Late Triassic (with a map showing Alaska North Slope around the present latitude of Hudson Bay:

    Global climate was warm during the Late Triassic. There was no ice at either North or South Poles.  Warm Temperate conditions extended towards the poles. 

    Or Scotese on the Middle Triassic:

    The interior of Pangea was dry during the Triassic.  The polar regions were warm, even during the winter

  33. curious
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:49 AM | Permalink

    Details of 22 April 09 proceedings here:

    http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1587:the-american-clean-energy-and-security-act-of-2009-day-2&catid=128:full-committee&Itemid=84

  34. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:59 AM | Permalink

    Here’s a more-or-less transcript of Chu :

    Barton: How did all the oil and gas.get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?
    Chu: [Laughs.] This is a complicated story. Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around and so it’s a combination of where the sources of the ol and gas…

    Barton: Isn’t it obvious that it was a lot warmer in Alaska and the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas …

    Chu: There’s continental plates that have been drifting around through the geological ages…

    Barton: So It just drifted up there?

    Chu: That’s certainly what happened. uh, and it’s a result of things like that.

    Chairman: Time has expired.

    Chu’s answer is not merely “incomplete”, it’s ignorant.

    That doesn’t mean that Chu’s energy policy proposals (which we’re not going to discuss) are discredited because he’s ignorant of geological history. However, I find this ignorance of geology annoying, as undoubtedly indicated by my sharper-than-usual tone here.

  35. Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:08 AM | Permalink

    tty said:

    Most of Alaska really is a mess of accreted terranes which have drifted in from the far, largely tropical, reaches of the Pacific.

    California’s the same, maybe worse. Bits and pieces of stuff everywhere. My favorite terrane? The Shoo Fly Complex.

    Steve: the Alaska North Slope is what’s relevant here. Let’s stick to that.

  36. curious
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:19 AM | Permalink

    Steve – I get the point you are making but you rightly dislike cherry picking – I think if you have a transcript of the clip you should put all of it up instead of a “more or less account”. Barton ambushed him at 6 secoonds to go and he didn’t handle it well and, yes, showed ignorance. Someone who knows their stuff should drop him a line and see what comes back as a considered response.

    Steve: It’s a pretty accurate transcript of the YouTube clip up to ums and ahs,

  37. Brian
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:25 AM | Permalink

    wow … what a horrible misrepresentation of Chu … talk about ambushes. You come across as petty and vindictive. You should stick to the detailed auditing of data and statistics.

    Steve: I’m sorry – wherein have I misrepresented Chu? I’ve transcribed his testimony and I don’t think that I’ve misrepresented him. Please tell me exactly how I’ve misrepresented him as I would be happy to correct any such misrepresentations.

  38. theduke
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:57 AM | Permalink

    It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Barton’s people had wind of this hole in Chu’s knowledge–perhaps some statement he’d made at an earlier date– and exploited it.

    One thing for sure: the Nobel Prize ain’t what it used to be.

    As for the so-called “ambush with six seconds to go,” I see no evidence for that. It may be that the previous witness took up more time than Barton anticipated. If Chu had wanted the time to respond in detail, it would have been granted to him. As it was, he answered as if he had a plane to catch.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:03 AM | Permalink

      Re: theduke (#54),

      Chu could simply have said: “CO2 levels were much higher when the Alaskan oil and gas deposits were laid down. That’s one of the many reasons why we’re worried about the impact of CO2.”

      But that’s not what he said.

    • curious
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

      Re: theduke (#54), Maybe you are right about there being prior knowledge of this “hole” – to my mind that would tend to support the notion of an ambush: “surgery with a smile” indeed?

      FWIW I make a rough transcript of the clip linked first in the post:

      B – Dr Chu, I don’t want to leave you out. You’re our scientist. I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds: How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?

      C (laughing) – This is a complicated story but oil and gas is a result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around and so it is the combination of where the sources of where the oil and gas are ..

      B (interrupting) – Pardon me. Wouldn’t it be obvious that one time wasn’t it a lot warmer in Alaska? and on the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas and shipped it up there and put it underground so that we could now pump it out and ship it back?

      C – No there are continental plates that have been drifting throughout the geological ages and..

      B (interrupting) – So it just drifted up there?

      C – er, that’s certainly what happened, so it’s a result of things like that.

      Unknown – Sirs (?), this time has expired Mr Chairman.

      May not have this 100% so apologies for slips – please correct where required. The interchange on YT is 73secs – fairly much over the 6 secs Barton was offering to include Dr Chu. As posted above I think it would be worth giving Dr Chu the opportunity to clarify.

      • D. Patterson
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

        Re: curious (#69),

        As posted above I think it would be worth giving Dr Chu the opportunity to clarify.

        Chu has had every opportunity to address the criticism of his testimony. He has the entire facility of the Department of Energy Public Affairs Office press releases and his weekly public appearances and speeches to correct his false statement to the Congressional Committee. Instead, he has deliberately chosen to ignore the criticism and permit his false testimony to stand without further correction or clarification. Consequently, Dr. Chu is complicit in permitting his political supporters in the mass media and blogosphere to use his false testimony in falsely maligning the reputations of critics as deniers of Chu’s false statement.

        I just telephoned the DOE, and the Public Affairs Office is declining to respond to questions from the general public about Dr. Chu’s response to Rep. Barton’s question. When asked if there are any further press releases or other responses by Dr. Chu to Rep. Barton’s questions and comments about the sources of Alasakn oil and gas, the Public Affairs Office requires a bona fide MSM “reporter” to send an e-mail request for such information to the DOE Public Affairs Office.

        If Secretary of the Department of Energy Dr. Steven Chu did not want to inappropriately benefit from any false statements or misleading statements he made in his testimony to the Congressional Committee, it may fairly be observed Dr. Chu could be obligated to not permit inquiries from the general public and the press to continue to be so easily obstructed in the ways we have so far witnessed.

        Likewise, Andy Revkin is conspicuously absent in challenging Chu’s April 22nd statement at this late date.

      • Scott Brim
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

        Re: curious (#69)
        .
        Reading this testimony, it quite is clear that both participants in the conversation know where the other is coming from. It would also appear that there are some who would go so far as to dispute the earth’s geologic record, as it is currently understood and interpreted, in the service of an agenda.
        .
        Assuming Mr. Barton chooses to play his card further, he will request formal testimony from the US Geological Survey concerning the substance of his question, and will then compare the content of the USGS response to the content of the previous testimony.
        .
        Suppose Mr. Barton does so. In today’s agendized political climate, is it possible we will then witness the USGS successfully rewriting the earth’s geologic history — in pretty much the same way and for pretty much the same purposes — that NASA and NOAA have successfully rewritten the earth’s paleoclimate history?

        • Heath
          Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

          Re: Scott Brim (#89),

          This is EXACTLY what worries me about this subject.

          It is quite clear that Chu was caught off guard and fumbled his way through the answer. His answer wasn’t exactly “wrong” in that of course plate tectonics are part of the process that causes the pressures and thermal energy required to create petroleum from fossils. However, it is also clear that Barton was driving home the informed point that Alaska hasn’t moved much in the time period in which the majority of its reserves formed.

          Funny though, go read the Youtube comments on the video and 90% of the idiots on there are calling Barton a hick and calling Chu’s answer a slam dunk. These are the SAME sheeple who are falling in line with the alarmist bandwagon. These are the same people who argue “scientific consensus” on the internet. Yet, all it takes is for them to hear Chu offer a “scientific sounding” explanation (tectonics) and they nod in unison because he is a Nobel winning scientist. Anyone calls him out on his less than complete and bumbled explanation is scientifically illiterate to these sheeple. All because he is a “scientist” and nobody questions a “scientist’s” knowledge. jeez.

          But back to the post I quoted…Does anyone else worry that the climate science movement has enough momentum that its not out of reason that consensus geology textbooks might be rewritten in order to satisfy and compliment the “settled” science of AGW? I shudder to think.

        • Scott Brim
          Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:56 PM | Permalink

          Re: Heath (#107)

          … Does anyone else worry that the climate science movement has enough momentum that its not out of reason that consensus geology textbooks might be rewritten in order to satisfy and compliment the “settled” science of AGW? I shudder to think.

          As the community of practicing geologists further evolves to support the world’s environmental management activities, as opposed to the world’s mineral wealth exploitation activities, I fully expect that such a transformation will eventually take place — whatever serves the evolving marketplace for geoscience talent, as it progressively shifts from the private to the governmental sector.

  39. Alan Bates
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:11 AM | Permalink

    I don’t find his lack of knowledge about geology irritating but I do find the way he answered reflects badly.

    I used to work in the most modern nuclear power station in the UK and was there during the construction, commissioning and early operating phases. We had inspectors crawling all over us (no complaints). They would come along and ask even the most junior staff difficult technical questions (again, just fine by us).

    The guidance we gave our staff was to answer the question if we knew the answer but if we didn’t to say something on the lines:

    “I don’t know but I know someone who does.” and then take them to the expert concerned.

    Pity Chu didn’t do the same …

  40. Magnus A
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:13 AM | Permalink

    theduke. You’re right! Chu’s da man for the One. Wasn’t he fantastically sober and intellectual etc in his appearance at the National Energy Summit 2008 saying this about global warming flooding this century …or something? See at 1:45 in the Youtube clip linked below.

    “We are not talking not ten thousand people. We are not talkning about ten million people. We are talking hundreds of millions to billions of people being flooded out, permanently.”

  41. Magnus A
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    By the wat, I hope Chu didn’t talk about 9 billions of people flooded out… :-/

  42. thefordprefect
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:22 AM | Permalink

    Where does CO2 and temperature come into this:

    Most sources of info seem to suggest that oil is formed in oceans from carbon based life form – plankton “fish” thing that drown. This then has to be covered by sediment from rivers and compressed and heated to form oil which then migrates to its final resting place

    http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/fuels/oil.html

    http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF13/1335.html

    http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2009/04/how-did-that-oil-get-to-alaska.html Posted by: Ignatz | April 23, 2009 at 11:31 AM
    Plankton, whales, fish, penguins all seem to like it cold. If there is water, death, and sediment then there is oil.
    Or am I wrong

    I have to admit I thought it came from dinosaurs until I searched!

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

      Re: thefordprefect (#59),

      there are foraminera that like it cold, but the evidence for polar warmth in the Cretaceous does not merely lie with the existence of foraminifera but with the sort of foraminifera and other things that are dated to these periods. Geologists have a pretty good understanding of which foraminifera go with whih temperatures for one thing. For another, there are things like in situ sequoia trees in the Pliocene Arctic islands. The idea that it wasn’t warm in the Arctic in the Cretaceous is against a considerable body of geological knowledge.

  43. Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

    #54 If Barton’s people had wind of this they wouldn’t have waited about two weeks of their guy looking silly to exploit it.

    snip

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:36 AM | Permalink

      Re: bigcitylib (#60),

      I doubt that this was “planned”. No one could have reasonably considered the possibility that a Secretary of Energy would be this ignorant of the geological provenance of oil and gas in the Arctic.

  44. Gunnar
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:38 AM | Permalink

    >> demand that the principles of scientific inquiry that have been bedrock for 300 years be enforced in the climate change research community?

    Why don’t we start right here? Let’s not confuse expertly done math.statistical analysis, presented in the form of entertaining and insightful prose with science.

    Science is performed using the scientific method. Those are the principles of scientific inquiry.

    I love the rich irony of this thread, folks picking on Chu as scientifically ignorant, while accepting non scientific premises themselves. It reminds me of the scene from Life Of Brian “It’s not meant to be taken literally”.

    Where is the scientific EMPIRICAL evidence that oil is generally derived from decaying life forms?

    As with most false conclusions, one can present it clearly with invalid logic:

    premise: Life is carbon based
    premise: Oil is carbon based
    invalid conclusion: Oil comes from life

    The scientific evidence that oil is produced abiogenically is overwhelming.

    But somehow, I’m speculating that this will be quite unwelcome on this forum.

    Obviously, the oil found on Saturn’s Moon Titan, was NOT from buried biomass.

    With daily high temperatures of only about -180, and a mass of only 0.0075 that of earth, we can rule out that idea that dinosaurs walked on Titan.

    Yet, it has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth.

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/02/14/2162556.htm

    Basic logic, and the evidence is implying that oil produces life, not the other way round. Or more precisely, Life is carbon based, but not all carbon based substances come from life.

    We now know from empirical evidence that hydrocarbons are the high pressure polymorphs of the H-C system. According to the second law of thermodynamics, it is impossible that they could be derived from biomass.

    http://www.gasresources.net/AlkaneGenesis.htm

    So, now, re-reading Chu’s answer, he actually says nothing wrong. Everything he said in that short transcript is correct. He falls into no trap.

    “Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology

    Geology is not decaying biomass.

    It is barton, with whom I speculate that I probably agree with politically, who looks foolish with “Isn’t it obvious that it was a lot warmer in Alaska and the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas”

    Hey Barton, assuming that Texas has not been exporting oil to Titan, it’s certainly a lot colder than Alaska there. Are you saying that Titan was once warm, and that dinosaurs roamed or floated on it?

    Gunnar sends in the following amendment to this post:

    Upon further research, I take back what I said in #63. I now believe that there are two valid prevailing theories. But to focus more on the primary issue:

    Chu: “Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology”

    1) Natural gas is a gas consisting primarily of methane, which has been found on Titan. Methane is primarily abiogenic. No one disputes that.

    2), #59 is a great point (Life thrives in the cold). #61 doesn’t answer this point at all, because the issue is not “was the polar region warm”, but “where did the oil come from”.

    There is still plenty of life in polar regions from which it can be derived. Oil under Santa’s place does not imply that it was warm there. It may have been, but it’s not logically implied by the presence of oil.

    3) Nor is 100 million years incorrect, because life has been on earth for 3500 million years.

    “It was early in the Archaean that life first appeared on Earth” (http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/precambrian/archaean.html)

    More specifically, Selby and Creaser have dated the oil in nearby Alberta to 112 million years ago.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/308/5726/1293?ck=nck

    Obviously, Alaska was warmer in the past, as tectonic plates moved, but this is not implied logically from oil being in Alaska.

    premise: oil can be produced with both warm and cold surface environments
    premise: oil exists in the high latitudes
    conclusion: the presence of oil does not imply warm surface temperatures

    Reminder that Steve said: No more discussion of abiogenic theory please.

    Steve: Chu was not relying on an abiogenic theory of oil. No more discussion of this theory here please.

    • Pat Frank
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#63), Just a word here. Earth condensed at about 1000 K, while Titan condensed at about 100 K. There could have been no abiogenic hydrocarbons on primordial Earth. The comparison is specious. Oil on Earth is full of steroids, porphyrins and reduced sulfur that could only have been derived from the reformation of once-living tissue. There may be abiogenic oil, but if so it’s been heavily contaminated with life-derived hydrocarbons. No exit exists for Dr. Chu through abiogenic oil.

  45. Hank
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:41 AM | Permalink

    Nobel prize winners are notorious getting seduced into thinking themselves as not only bright but knowledgeable. The example that leaps to mind is William Schockley (co-inventor of the transistor). Go listen to some of these guys give speeches once they get their prize and you may hear some surprising things. Nobel prizes require lively imagination more than broad knowledge.

  46. sammy k
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:47 AM | Permalink

    mr mcintyre,
    you are right on the mark as usual with mr chu’s statements and the revealing state of his knowledge of paleoclimate…i also concur with your dismay about the lack of earth history as part of a high school curriculum…just recently my collegiate alma mater has elected to cancel geology as part of its curriculum…unbelievable, considering the magnitude of policy decisions that are being made today based on what we know, or in the case of mr chu, what he doesnt know about earth’s paleoclimate…dont let the agenda promoters bother you too much in their opinions of mr chu’s ignorance…your doing a great service in exposing the truth and as the great satchel paige would acknowledge “dont ever look back, they may be gaining on you!!!”…thank you and please carry on

  47. Hal
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:52 AM | Permalink

    Why all this agitation about Chu’s knowledge outside his field, he can’t even handle Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion.
    He equates 3 deg C to 11 deg F !!!!

    From a comment in the Hockeystick thread:
    Norman Yarvin:
    May 3rd, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I’m not sure whether this website has noted it previously, but Chu has given a speech in which he said that a change of three degrees Centigrade is equal to eleven degrees Fahrenheit:

    http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2008/12/obamas-cabinet-may-be-first-wi.html

    (It’s at one minute into the video.)

  48. Tom C
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    What is even more telling about this exchange, and the blogosphere reaction, is that Chu was condescending (the laughter and the use of the word “certainly”) even as he was showing his ignorance. This is characteristic of persons with a certain politics and worldview. Any challenge to any geological or biological fact tied up with current political orthodoxy means that the questioner- snip – must be laughed off.

    BigCityLib’s twisting and straining to show that he was partially right is really desperate.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

      Re: Tom C (#67),

      If one googles “chu alaska oil gas”, the blogosphere all seems to think that Chu taught Barton a lesson. The level of overall ignorance is very disspiriting.

      • ianl
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

        Re: Steve McIntyre (#68),
        Steve Mc

        It’s not merely ignorance over geological information, it is wilful ignorance … because such knowledge is regarded as irrelevant.

        “What does stuff that happened millions and millions of years ago have to do with today ?” I’ve heard such comments for over 30 years and still hear them said. The Aus National Parks & Wildlife (Govt greenies in charge of national parks) have refused to make available free brochures on the geology of the parks to the general visiting public on the grounds that “people are not interested in rocks”. Bookburning, of course.

        snip

  49. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink

    When Steve M says “Chu was there as a scientist” in the introduction to this thread, I think that might be why we are surprised by the answer or an attempted answer at all.

    I would counter that Chu in his new appointment was there as a politician. On a recent thread here, we saw his slide presentation that was very much a political marketing job.

    I suspect that Chu, the scientist, and particularly since the question did not bear on his area expertise, would have refrained from an attempted answer or at least would have tempered his answer with provisos about his lack of expertise in the area of the question.

    In fact, I think that many answers to climate science questions that are being answered by the scientist and not advocate would be much less certain in their tone.

    Who knows, perhaps Chu over reached because he saw Barton as an iconic denialist that needed the typical political comeuppance that does not have to be grounded in fact – as can be seen by some of the reaction in the blogosphere.

    • curious
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

      Re: Kenneth Fritsch (#70), Maybe he’ll decide politics isn’t for him. The last 1min15 or so of this suggests he might find a party line challenging – perhaps the “certainly” was tongue in cheek?:

      (and not cherry picking too much I hope :) – there are other relevant bits around 15:30 and 20:00 and elsewhere)

      Re: Stephen Richards – In Dr Chu’s biog on the Nobel Prize site he lists Feynman as “inspirational”

      http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1997/chu-autobio.html

  50. Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

    First I have to say ,

    [self snip]

    And Chairman Chu should know enough to simply say I don’t know because [self snip]

    [...]

    and It’s clear by his sudden inability to build nuclear plants he is a politician now apparently forced to make ridiculous conclusions. If [snip some more....]

    Religion and politics mix poorly with science.

    The level of overall ignorance is very dispiriting.

    In the US we’re breeding the group think from school age. It’s all about how it makes you FEEL now. After all feeling is equal to logic. Does it feel good when polar bears drown. [more snipping, should be working so I can pay my taxes]

  51. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 11:48 AM | Permalink

    My question is how can we be sure the Scotese maps are reliable? How certain are we that Alaska was that far up north that long ago?
    Overall, I agree with the assertion that Chu was pretending to know the answer when he obviously didn’t.
    But hey! Why not? The science is settled and they have all the answers. Who are we to doubt this huge esteemed body of knowledge and universal (imagined) consensus?
    Will Revken tee off on Chu?
    Only if hell freezes over.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:42 PM | Permalink

      Re: Pierre Gosselin (#73),

      May 4th, 2009 at 11:48 am
      My question is how can we be sure the Scotese maps are reliable? How certain are we that Alaska was that far up north that long ago?

      A high latitude location for the oil bearing stratigraphy of Alaska in the Mesozoic to Cenozoic Era is as certain as it ever gets. In addition to the stratigraphy and fossil evidence of fauna and flora, you also have evidence from the paleogeomagnetic fields in the rocks establishing positions relative to the Earth’s magnetic poles. The formation of these oil and gas deposits is relatively very recent origin when considered in geological time spans. If you were to model the time periods involved and made a 24 hour day representative of the Earth’s existance from its formation to the present year, then the Earth formed at midnight and the continental plates representing about 70 percent of today’s granitic continental masses were forming in the morning at about 8:20AM. This would place the formation of the Alaskan oil and gas deposits we are discussing at about 11:12PM to 11:46PM, or about 24 to 48 mintues before the present. In other words, the oil and gas deposits formed far too recently for continental drift to have moved that particular continental fragment very far from its current location in the high latitudes. The other forms of evidence confirm the conclusion that this continental part of present day Alaska has been located in Earth’s high latitudes since not long after the first forests on the Earth developed in the Late Devonian Epoch nearly 385 million years ago, about 10:00PM in the 24 hour model.

      • Gene Nemetz
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#92),

        If you were to model the time periods involved and made a 24 hour day representative of the Earth’s existance from its formation to the present year, then the Earth formed at midnight and the continental plates representing about 70 percent of today’s granitic continental masses were forming in the morning at about 8:20AM. This would place the formation of the Alaskan oil and gas deposits we are discussing at about 11:12PM to 11:46PM, or about 24 to 48 mintues before the present

        Something along these lines is what I would rather have heard from an Energy Secretary.

  52. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

    How should have Chu answered?
    Acting like he knew was probably his only option. It was enough to get him through the moment.
    If he had answered he didn’t know, then he would have looked really incompetent.
    Either way he would have been exposed. Good job Mr Barton.
    And again we are reminded why there’s little desire for public debate on the alarmist side.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

      Re: Pierre Gosselin (#75),

      As I mentioned above, it was open to Chu to say:

      CO2 levels were much higher when the Alaskan oil and gas deposits were laid down. That’s one of the many reasons why we’re worried about the impact of CO2.

      It wasn’t that tricky a question. Chu’s problem was that he thought he knew something that he didn’t know.

      • curious
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:48 PM | Permalink

        Re: Steve McIntyre (#78), Steve last one from me on this but Dr Chu wasn’t asked about CO2. Sure it was open to him to say anything he liked but he was asked about:
        1) How did the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?
        2) (as an interruption) Was it possible Alaska and the North pole warmer than they are now?
        3) Had the oil been sent by pipeline from Texas to “up there”?
        4) (as an interruption) Had it (oil or maybe in the context of the interruption a continental plate) just drifted up there?

        No mention of CO2 whatsoever from the clip I saw. Clearly he doesn’t have your knowledge on geology so I think you could write a usefully informative and inquisitive letter. You could enquire about the HS at the same time.

  53. Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

    I hope Steve will forgive me for asking him a slightly off-topic question: Why do you think that Andrew Revkin is a good reporter?

    I read him fairly regularly and have found serious mistakes in his reporting. I suppose that I would say that he can be a good reporter, but too often lets his ideology write his stories

    And to go back to the topic, I think that you have made a solid point about Secretary Chu, who is not well-informed about geology.

    (Incidentally, I wish that President Obama would ask Chu for advice about nuclear energy.)

    • kim
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jim Miller (#77),

      Revkin may have read the Monckton letter, but it was our fearless MJW who had the productive interchange with Revkin leading to the correction. He, MJW, writes of the interchange and why the correction was inadequate on Anthony’s blog.

      By the way, Steve, why don’t you write Andy Revkin about this Barton/Chu mess? He just might look into it.
      =======================================

  54. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

    the duke,
    Chu is not the only scientist that appears to think AGW crisis is a forgone conclusion. And the politics are locked in already – as you claim. Yet the politics are immensly frustrated by sites like Steve’s, and proponents are now scrambling.
    The latest sign of their pressing urgency is illustrated by an upcoming conference in Essen, Germany, 8-10 June, dubbed
    THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION – Climate Change as Cultural Change.
    This Congress poses the question (I kid you not!):

    Democratic regimes are not well prepared for the level of participation that is required: Can free democratic societies cope with the effects of grave changes in the global climate, or might authoritarian regimes possibly be better placed to enforce the necessary measures?

    Chu probably relates well to this position – unfortunately. And as a result, his zeal to act has perhaps seriously impaired his scientific judgement.

    Hat tip: http://www.eike-klima-energie.eu/?WCMSGroup_4_3=6&WCMSGroup_6_3=1247&WCMSArticle_3_1247=519

  55. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:36 PM | Permalink

    I don’t wish to put Chu in the same boat as Schellnhuber or Ramstorf, but it does show where this could all be heading.

  56. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:51 PM | Permalink

    The link to
    THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION – Climate Change as Cultural Change

    http://idw-online.de/pages/de/event26829

    See speakers. Recognise anyone there?

  57. bmcburney
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if there isn’t a larger message to take away from this. It seems to me that we have seen the Hockey team (I don’t know if Chu himself is an actual team member or just a supporter) draw mistaken conclusions based on a shakey understanding of fields which are just outside of their “core competence” but are necessary to the analysis they want to perform. I can recall seeing mistaken ideas about statistics, economics, geology, and some problems with plant biology. There may be others which are not springing to mind. Is it the case that some notions drawn from a weak and general understanding of these related fields are just “too good to check” with actual experts?

  58. derekcrane
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

    Andy Revkin’s comment on the Chu controvery:

    I guess Dr. Chu didn’t read this story of mine — http://bit.ly/nytPoleOil — or the chapter in “The North Pole Was Here” on the Arctic’s warm past. I’ll send them to his office and see what he says.
    — Andy Revkin, Dot Earth blogger, Reporter

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 1:36 PM | Permalink

      Re: derekcrane (#84),

      Andy Revkin sent me a courteous email referring me to the above link at his website and saying that he would put something up when he got an explanation. He sounded a bit disappointed with Chu’s comment.

      • theduke
        Posted May 4, 2009 at 9:56 PM | Permalink

        Re: Steve McIntyre (#88),

        Bravo. You’ve put him to the test. Let’s see how good a journalist he is.

  59. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 1:20 PM | Permalink

    Whatever drove Chu to fumble as he did ought to serve as a warning to the remaining scientists who still have a grain of respect left for the field of climate science.
    My God! Imagine the ramifications for true science, and you true scientists here, if this “Great Cultural Transformation” gets rammed through by authority. Climate science would be put in the dark ages for possibly decades. Public policy would then be based on mythology. That aint scary?
    By the way, I think we are appointing Revken to a key player position that he is not. The Times is sinking.

  60. Bill
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

    Hi Steve,
    I love your blog. This was interesting to me. I had no idea of all this about climate. I always thought the oil in Alaska (and potential in Antarctica?) had drifted to the cold as Chu surmised in his answer. I am surprised to find out that the oil comes from a time when those continents were warm.

    • Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

      Re: Bill (#91),

      Recent warming is not unprecedented, it’s sometimesprecedented only the hot air is unprecedented.

  61. TAG
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

    Suppose a graduate student in an energy related field was asked this question during an oral examination or perhaps their thesis defense and gave the same inadequate answer? What do you think that the examiners would do?

  62. Posted May 4, 2009 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    Kim – MJW? And do you have a link to what you are talking about?

    • MJW
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jim Miller (#94), At the risk of seeming to toot my own horn (which I hardly need to do, thanks to Kim) my comments are on the WattsUpWithThat.com thread on the NYT correction. My first comment is at 21:42:12 on May 2.

      • Posted May 4, 2009 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

        Re: MJW (#101),

        Thanks for the correction either way. They slipped ‘reader’ pretty deep in the article. The post sounded like the correction didn’t make the headlines but I didn’t catch what page it was on.

        • MJW
          Posted May 4, 2009 at 4:10 PM | Permalink

          Re: Jeff Id (#105), I was given the impression I’d be credited by (my real) name in a follow-up piece, and was even asked for my occupation and where I live. Perhaps it was an effort to butter me up, or to check me out to make sure I wasn’t an evil big-oil shill. In any case, I was both slightly disappointed and slightly relieved that I wasn’t identified beyond a “reader.”

    • kim
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jim Miller (#94),

      It’s all at Watt’s Up on the NYT correction thread.
      ==============================

  63. Barclay E MacDonald
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 3:15 PM | Permalink

    Chu’s error is no big deal, if he takes this as a valuable lesson and in the future is careful to understand what he doesn’t know, that his objectivity is key, and congressmen and others just might know things he doesn’t. We are judged not by how well we accept our successes, but by how well we deal with our defeats.

    He’s manifestly a smart and accomplished person. He can readily avoid such errors in the future. I hope he will take Barton’s lesson to heart and as energy secretary not simply be mindnumbingly narrow minded like BCL and Brian above. I suppose we do have to expect that regardless of his personal objectivity, the politics of being in the current administration require some appeasment of the BCLs. But as indicated here, that needn’t be that hard. They can find support for their views in the weakest places.

  64. Pat Frank
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

    Steve M. wrote, “Here’s an interesting test for Andy Revkin and other science writers.

    When has Mr. Revkin or any other mainstream science writer ever picked up on the shoddy science, the poor integrity of the IPCC, or the chicanery in proxy climatology that have been extensively and factually documented here and elsewhere?
    .

    They have long since, and repeatedly, failed the test you offer here, Steve.

  65. ianl
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

    I meant to add that the only question most people ask a geologist is:

    “Just tell me where the gold is !”

  66. Posted May 4, 2009 at 5:56 PM | Permalink

    See other problems with Chu’s science (as well as other Obama appointees) at
    http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/ObamasGovernment.htm

  67. nanny_govt_sucks
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:10 PM | Permalink

    Continental drift is another magic bullet, I guess like CO2 and aerosols in a delicate balance determining our climate. But like the latter, I have a strong feeling the former is bunk as well. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3rholKox10

  68. John M
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

    While I admit I am out of my depth wrt to the details of oil and gas formation specific to the North Slope and the Arctic (as Steve pointed out in the previous thread), IMO there is enough wiggle room for Chu to escape a trouncing in the media. Barton’s seeming dismissal of tectonics in general, along with some of the arguments put forth here and in the blogosphere (“correct but incomplete”), relegates the detailed geologic arguments to “inside baseball” status with the general public.

    Add to that the media’s favorable disposition toward Chu.

    I think the mere fact that tectonics applies to Alaska’s geologic history (as pointed out by tty ) will make Chu’s comments “good enough” for most people and especially the media.

    If SNL does do a skit on this, expect them to have Barton and not Chu as the butt of the jokes, possibly with an appearance by “Sarah Palin”.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 8:11 PM | Permalink

      Re: John M (#112),

      John M:
      May 4th, 2009 at 6:11 pm
      While I admit I am out of my depth wrt to the details of oil and gas formation specific to the North Slope and the Arctic [...] IMO there is enough wiggle room for Chu to escape a trouncing in the media. Barton’s seeming dismissal of tectonics in general, along with some of the arguments put forth here and in the blogosphere (“correct but incomplete”), relegates the detailed geologic arguments to “inside baseball” status with the general public.

      Add to that the media’s favorable disposition toward Chu.

      I think the mere fact that tectonics applies to Alaska’s geologic history (as pointed out by tty ) will make Chu’s comments “good enough” for most people and especially the media.[...]

      It beggars the imagination to see how you could say, “Barton’s seeming dismissal of tectonics in general[....]” Barton asked the following questions and received the following responses from Chu.

      Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas: “Dr. Chu, you’re our scientist. How did the oil and gas get under Alaska?”

      Energy Secretary Steven Chu, D-Calif.: “This is a complicated story, but essentially oil and gas got there as the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology, and in that time also the plates have moved around. And so it’s the combination of where the sources of the oil and gas are and…

      Rep. Barton: “Isn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas and shipped it up there and put it underground so we could now pump it out, was it?

      Sec. Chu: “There are, there’s continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages.”

      Rep. Barton: “So it just drifted up there?”

      Sec. Chu: “Ah, that’s certainly what happened.”

      “A glorious mess”

      Barton obviously was prompting Chu to acknowledge the deposits of Alaskan oil and gas were formed in Alaska while Alaska was located in the high latitudes and the Earth’s climate was much warmer than at present. Anyone who knows anything whatsoever about basic geology, also knows oil and natural gas deposits are formed when geological faults and folds provide oil and natural gas with geological traps in which to accumulate. Anyone who knows anything whatsoever about basic geology, also knows tectonics is the building and modification of the Earth’s crust by volcanism, faults, and folds. Consequently, Barton’s prompting of Chu to acknowledge the formation of oil and natural gas deposits in Alaska while Alaska was located in Earth’s high latitude regions by definition implies recognition the oil and natural gas deposits are produced by tectonic events. Saying otherwise can never be anything other than an extremely absurd denial of the the very definition of tectonics.

      Stunningly, Chu completed the classic maneuver of opening his mouth and removing all doubt with his replies. Let’s look at some of those briefly. For example:

      “This is a complicated story, but essentially oil and gas got there as the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology, and in that time also the plates have moved around. And so it’s the combination of where the sources of the oil and gas are and…

      If Chu had intended to mean that “oil and gas got there as the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology” before the formation of the Alaskan oil and natural gas deposits, he is dead wrong. Today’s continental plates were formed about 2.5 to 3.0 billion years ago, which is about 2,500 to 3,000 million years ago. In other words, there were thousands of millions of years of geology and continental drift preceding the formation of the Alaskan oil and natural gas deposits and not mere hundreds of millions of years.

      Chu’s defenders could elect to spin his reply, “oil and gas got there as the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology”, to mean it took that long for the formation of the oil and natural gas deposits. Unfortunately that approach is also dead wrong. The Alaskan oil and gas deposits are only tens of millions of years old to a somewhat over 100 million years old. They are certainly not “hundreds of millions of years” old.

      Chu’s defenders could also try to spin his replies to somehow encompass Chu’s remark about “the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology” to somehow represent any number of other twists. Unfortunately, any such attempts are just as doomed to failure as the other interpretations. Why? Because the substantial terrestrial plant life required to form substantial coal, oil, and natural gas deposits did not yet exist during the geological time periods in which the continental plate bearing Alaska was last located in the Earth’s tropical latitudes. Substantial plant life did not become established on the terrestrial continents until the Devonian, and Alaska was already in Earth’s upper mid-latitudes and the high latitudes by the time the plant life needed to make the fossil fuels came into existence.

      So, no matter how you try to spin Chu’s responses to Barton’s questions, Chu’s responses are scientific nonsense unfit for a passing grade in an elementary school or high school general science assignment. About the only thing Chu could have gotten right in the whole exchange with Barton was Chu’s comment, “A glorious mess”, if he had applied it to his own testimony.

      • John M
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 6:35 AM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#121),

        Thanks. I’m certainly being given plenty of opportunity to learn more about geology, but let me make an additional point.

        I have no idea what Barton “meant” when he said “So it just drifted up there?”, but if it takes as many words as you used to explain what he “meant” by his 6 words, that doesn’t mean much to the general public and the media. What it means is that the discussion was simply not substantive enough for either guy to really make his point. Likewise, I can’t tell what Chu “”meant” to say when his answer was cut off.

        This is my concern: My entry into this discussion was based on how this might all play in Peoria.

        I’m certainly no defender of Chu, nor am I an apologist for AGW activists, but let me try to give you the same advice I’ve been trying to give to the “other side”. This comes from 28 years in the chemical industry. If your intent is to “persuade”, insulting those you are trying to persuade is not going to get you very far.

        Trust me, if I start multiple sentences in a discussion with “anyone who knows anything about basic chemistry…”, I’ve completely lost the argument.

      • curious
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 3:15 PM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#121), Hi D – Please can you supply a reference to the point in the clip which supports this:

        About the only thing Chu could have gotten right in the whole exchange with Barton was Chu’s comment, “A glorious mess”, if he had applied it to his own testimony.

        I’ve said my piece on the exchange but I’ve just watched the clip (as linked at the start of the post) again, whilst reading my notes, and I don’t hear “A glorious mess” anywhere?

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 6:57 AM | Permalink

          Re: curious (#145),

          145
          curious:
          May 5th, 2009 at 3:15 pm
          Re: D. Patterson (#121), Hi D – Please can you supply a reference to the point in the clip which supports this:

          About the only thing Chu could have gotten right in the whole exchange with Barton was Chu’s comment, “A glorious mess”, if he had applied it to his own testimony.
          I’ve said my piece on the exchange but I’ve just watched the clip (as linked at the start of the post) again, whilst reading my notes, and I don’t hear “A glorious mess” anywhere?

          John M correctly identified the source as a press release from the committee’s minority office. See:

          Press Release

          Scenes from An Earth Day Hearing
          House Energy & Commerce Committee, April 22
          April 22, 2009

          Q. How’d the oil get to Alaska, hitchhike? A. Yes

          Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas: “Dr. Chu, you’re our scientist. How did the oil and gas get under Alaska?”

          Energy Secretary Steven Chu, D-Calif.: “This is a complicated story, but essentially oil and gas got there as the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology, and in that time also the plates have moved around. And so it’s the combination of where the sources of the oil and gas are and…

          Rep. Barton: “Isn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas and shipped it up there and put it underground so we could now pump it out, was it?

          Sec. Chu: “There are, there’s continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages.”

          Rep. Barton: “So it just drifted up there?”

          Sec. Chu: “Ah, that’s certainly what happened.”

          “A glorious mess”

          Chairman-emeritus John Dingell, D-Mich.: “…It was our assessment at that time (of the Clean Air Act passage) that CO2 was not a pollutant. In any event, you are now in this wonderful situation where you’re going to have to regulate under the Clean Air Act unless this committee does something. …Just how many regulations and regulators will there be if we regulate under the Clean Air Act? My off-the-cuff figuring tells me it’ll be something on the order of 106. Am I incorrect in that judgment?

          EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, D-New Jersey: “I, I, I don’t know how you came up with the number 106, sir, but…”

          Rep. Dingell: “Would you give us an answer on that particular point? Please? …You’d regulate everything in sight for CO2 production. And I’m asking you how many or I’m asking you to deny that we would have a situation in which we’d have as many as 106 regulations, perhaps more, on CO2 emissions. You’d have to do it under the state implementation plans. You’d have to do it under all kinds of regulatory powers of the states and the federal government and you’d have, as I have defined, a glorious mess.”

          Before posting my reaction to the content of this press release and the quotation, “A glorious mess,” I did try to quickly clarify and confirm the quotation by looking for additional transcipts and videos. The transcripts proved to be incomplete and did not appear to cover the same range of the proceeding as the press release I quoted. Next, I turned to the C-SPAN video supplied by the House Energy & Commerce Committee. After streaming and downloading the video to several computers at different locations, all of the instances of the video terminated before the chairman finished his opening statement. So, the video was useless for listening to anything said by Chu and Barton.

          The YouTube video provided nearly all of the exchange, but there was an edit of the audio and video at the end of the clip and just before the chair announced the time was up. Consequently, this video also does not answer our question about the comment quoted in the press release.

          Finally, I telephoned Chu’s office and requested a clarification of his statements. When no response was received, I proceeded with the quotation in the press release in the absence of any clarifications from Dr. Chu’s office.

          Re: John M (#147),

          147
          John M:
          May 5th, 2009 at 4:26 pm
          Re: curious (#139),

          The “glorious mess” appears to have come from this press release.

          Link

          It refers to the quote in the Press Release following the transcript of the Chu video, which was actually made by Democratic congressman John Dingell from Michigan.

          The only video clip I know of is the one we’ve all seen.

          Thanks again for transcribing it.

          The tagline for Dingell did not appear until the next lines AFTER the quotation “A glorious mess.” Consequently, it appears the preceding tagline, “Sec. Chu:” is the person resposnsible for the statement in the quotation.

          As I wrote above, there is supposed to be another video from C-SPAN, but every copy I obtained is missing nearly the entire hearing, especially Chu’s and Dingell’s testimonies.

          Re: curious (#153),

          153
          reply and
          paste linkcurious:
          May 5th, 2009 at 5:19 pm
          Re: John M (#147), Hi John – thanks for the link. Sad editing IMO. And confusing presentation using quotation marks like that. Maybe something worthy of a journalist picking up on before people think Dr Chu said it.

          No problem re: transcript – audit is what its all about; keeps us all honest! Kind regards C

          If you examine the YouTube video very carefully, you can see where there is a cut in the audio and video at the point where Chu could have possibly uttered the quoted comment. So, it appears the video is inconclusive as evidence of the quotation. Chu’s office had an opportunity to clarify what was or was not said, but they have not yet responded to the inquiries.

        • curious
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 7:15 AM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#164), Hi D – Please can you quote the time ref. for the clip linked in Steve’s post where you suggest a cut could have taken place and I’ll have another look tonight? That is the version I transcribed and I don’t recall it looking like an edited version. I can’t say the same for the transcript on Barton’s Press Release site as linked by John M.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

          Re: curious (#165),

          FWIW after a brief look, I suspect there are two or more edits at about the 1:11 and 1:13 marks. You can see how the audio relates to two different shots, indicating some shot and perhaps audio compilation by the video editor.

          If it makes anyone happier, they can just assume my comment read as:

          About the only thing Chu could have gotten right in the whole exchange with Barton was someone’s comment, “A glorious mess”, if he had applied it to his own testimony.

        • curious
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#171), Hi D – I’m afraid I don’t see what you are suggesting in those last two seconds of the clip. However if the full wmv downloads successfully from the link I gave in 49 above, I’ll review it from there to check again. I’ll post again if I think there is a discrepancy – I suggest others check for themselves if they have a concern.

          FWIW your offer to have people “just assume” to make up for the original inaccuracy:

          If it makes anyone happier, they can just assume my comment read as:

          About the only thing Chu could have gotten right in the whole exchange with Barton was someone’s comment, “A glorious mess”, if he had applied it to his own testimony.

          doesn’t make me any happier as it simply underlines that you have not read and digested the information John M linked to, and attributed, in 147 and which you block quoted in your second cut and paste in 164 above. “Someone” is identified and he is referring to something quite different than Dr Chu’s testimony.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 7:02 PM | Permalink

          Re: curious (#172),

          it simply underlines that you have not read and digested the information John M linked to, and attributed, in 147

          No, that is not what happened. I read and digested the information, but my impression and interpretation resulted in a different conclusion. See the next:

          Re: John M (#174),

          The way I read it was that “A glorious mess” is the heading of the next section of the press release. Look at the last sentence in your long block quote. I think they extracted Dingell’s comment and made it the heading. Dingell’s comment appears to me to be from an unrelated hearing.

          I noticed Dingell’s use of the phrase as you have mentioned, but my impression was one in which Dingell was reusing Chu’s shortly foregoing phrase for the sake of rhetorical reinforcement and impact.

          If it is assumed that the press release used a misleading quotation of Dingell’s statement as a header, then I suppose it is equally or more likely your interpretation is correct. It all depends upon whether the quotation was used in proper order as a quotation of Chu or improper order as a header for Dingell’s statements.

          It’s a pity the C-SPAN video was botched and incomplete, or can someone else access a full version of it?

          In any case, please consider my comment about the quotation as retracted for lack of a unambiguous attribution to the speaker.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 7, 2009 at 10:58 AM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#177),

          Following up…I spoke with the folks at the House Energy & Commerce Committee Minority office, and they confirmed the quotation “A Glorious Mess” was intended to be a heading for the quotations of Mr. Dingell’s testimony. The heading was supposed to have been bolded, and it has now been corrected.

        • curious
          Posted May 7, 2009 at 11:38 AM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#194), Hi D – Thanks for following up, it’s good the record is being improved. I hope for the public good they will also improve the accuracy and completeness of their transcript of Congressman Barton and Dr Chu’s exchange.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 7, 2009 at 11:51 AM | Permalink

          Re: curious (#195),

          Have you tried to stream and download the C-SPAN video of the Panel 1 committee hearing in which Sec. Chu gave his testimony?

          The download and streaming copy on Mr. Waxman’s full committee Website appears to be defective and incomplete. It begins with a very long empty period and abruptly ends before the Chair even finishes the introductory statement. Being unable to see the testimony of Sec. Chu makes it impossible to compare to the other sources and obtain an independent transcript.

        • curious
          Posted May 7, 2009 at 12:00 PM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#196), No. I’m not sure if we are talking about the same thing but the .wmv of the first session showed as 222Mb and I don’t want to do that over wireless. I’ll set it going at the weekend on a cable. I tried the YouTubes, which all worked ok for me, briefly checking the end of each clip but didn’t find it. I’ll report anything of interest – could it be the moonlandings all over again?! :)

        • curious
          Posted May 7, 2009 at 3:21 PM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#196), Hi D – decided to try it tonight. And I concur – same thing for me. I hope the tech. administrators sort it out soon with an amend to that effect – I can’t face running the YouTube clips all the way through.

          I’m confident that, with the transcript of the linked YouTube clip I made in 69, which John M confirmed in 136, and with the House Energy & Commerce Committee Minority office’s clarification of their format error in your 194, we have the whole picture. It would be nice if all the accounts could be reconciled accurately but I don’t think anything significant turns on this, so for my part, I’m happy to leave it there. We’ll get the official transcript in due course. If you find out anything different I trust you’ll post it.

        • John M
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:29 PM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#164),

          D.

          The way I read it was that “A glorious mess” is the heading of the next section of the press release. Look at the last sentence in your long block quote. I think they extracted Dingell’s comment and made it the heading. Dingell’s comment appears to me to be from an unrelated hearing.

          BTW, I grew up in Dingell’s district. I remember thinking as a kid “that’s a funny name!”. He first went to Congress the year I was born! (You’ll have to look that up for yourself.)

  69. Harry Eagar
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:16 PM | Permalink

    You’re moving the goalposts, John. Barton’s point was that it was warmer there before.

    The next question would be, how come?

    If there wasn’t a MWP, or a warm Cretaceous at high latitudes, then a whole lot of questions don’t need to be asked or answered. But if there were . . .

    That’s why we’re all here, isn’t it? Except maybe BCL>

    • John M
      Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:28 PM | Permalink

      Re: Harry Eagar (#114),

      Harry, I agree with you that Chu would have been better off admitting that the temperature was warmer in the past. IMO, he felt he couldn’t afford to admit to that point, and this accounts for his “incomplete” answer.

      But my point still stands with regard to the media and the general public.

  70. Heath
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:41 PM | Permalink

    snip – please don’t introduce speculative theories that neither Chu nor Barton had in mind

  71. Curt
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 7:29 PM | Permalink

    For me, this isn’t the biggest of Chu’s climate gaffes. The interview he gave the LA Times in February was jaw-dropping:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb/04/local/me-warming4

    Chu warned of water shortages plaguing the West and Upper Midwest and particularly dire consequences for California, his home state, the nation’s leading agricultural producer.

    In a worst case, Chu said, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture.

    “I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” he said. “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.” And, he added, “I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going” either.

    This had Roger Pielke Jr. scratching his head at his Prometheus blog:

    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/can-someone-point-to-the-science-4930

    and this is what I commented there:

    It seems that Chu believes that a “90% reduction in Sierra snowpack” would lead to comparable reductions in water available to California’s supply system. If this were true, such an eventuality could easily be catastrophic for both agriculture and urban areas.

    The projections of 90% reduction in snowpack are cited in sources like this:

    http://www.calclim.dri.edu/climatewatch.html

    ultimately deriving from the IPCC AR4 report using the upper limit of their projected 21st-century warming (~5C).

    A couple of interesting things to note in these projections: First, the quoted reduction is for April snowpack — the snowpack essentially disappears entirely every year as there are very few glaciers in California. Second, the above link that shows these reductions states, “No significant change in precipitation is projected for California by any of the emission scenarios.”

    So really what we are talking about is more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow and snow melting earlier in the year. What are the implications of this for California’s water system? Potentially, the increased earlier runoff could not all be captured. How bad a problem would this be?

    Here’s an interesting analysis of the problem out of UC Davis (actually cited to me by an alarmist):

    http://cee.engr.ucdavis.edu/faculty/lund/papers/Zhu2005.pdf

    They look at a dozen different scenarios of temperature and precipitation for their impacts on the California water supply system. I looked in particular at the +5C temperature increase with 0% precipitation change case, which corresponds to the 90% reduction in April snowpack projection. For this scenario, they project a 16% decrease in water available to the supply system (see Table 3 in the link). This would certainly be problematic, but catastrophic?

    Let’s look at the assumptions they used. First, of course, they are looking at the present supply system of dams and aqueducts — fair enough. Second, though, they assume that NONE of the additional runoff occurring before April 1 will be capturable by the water system, as it would all have to be released for flood-control purposes.

    They then admit that “since there is likely to be more wet season storage flexibility than is assumed here, the resulting estimates are likely to be more dire than more realistic results from operations modeling.” So the likely reduction in available water will be significantly less.

    So a reasonable conclusion is that a 90% reduction in April Sierra snowpack would lead to about a 10% reduction in available water to the present supply system. And we only have 100 years to improve the supply system…

    (Looking back 3 months later, I especially like the part about “water shortages plaguing the … Upper Midwest”.)

  72. Gene Nemetz
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 10:39 PM | Permalink

    Mark T: #22, stephen richards: #72,

    Comments about Chu and his Nobel Prize are peppered throughout this thread. Sure it’s possible that it can give you a big head. I get the impression you have to cope with not only a possible inflated image of yourself, but the fame, the loss of privacy, etc. It must take time. Maybe Steven Chu is coming back down to earth now. Reading this thread would actually be good for him, IMO.
    Richard Feynman talks a little more about the effect of the Nobel on him from 12:58 to 14:21 in this video.

    This is not the same interview of Feynman on the Nobel that I posted in comment #14 above.

    • Gene Nemetz
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:20 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gene Nemetz (#121),

      Link to video didnt get through spam filter.

      The title of the video is “Richard Phillips Feynman – The Last Journey Of A Genius[1988]”
      Search it in Google Video. Look from 12:58 to 14:21 for Feynman on his Nobel.

    • Mark T
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:26 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gene Nemetz (#123),

      Sure it’s possible that it can give you a big head. I get the impression you have to cope with not only a possible inflated image of yourself, but the fame, the loss of privacy, etc. It must take time.

      ANY significant achievement will do this to an extent, I think, and this one (the Nobel) in particular carries some hefty weight. I don’t think it carries as much weight today as it did 50 years ago, however, as intellectual achievement has seemingly taken a back seat in favor of sports and Hollywood in the public eye. Nobody cares about smart people anymore. :)

      Mark

  73. page48
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 10:55 PM | Permalink

    It’s a shame that Richard Feynman is no longer with us; I would love to hear his take on Chu.

  74. Tim McHenry
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:19 AM | Permalink

    As several have noted, Chu did not want to admit to a much higher temp in northern latitudes in the past, and he wouldn’t admit ignorance either. However, most don’t talk about WHY he doesn’t want to make such an admission. One suggested it’s the same reason they wish to dismiss MWP and LIA as localized events. The real philosophical problem is the belief in extreme uniformitarianism as opposed to catastrophism. That is, the earth shows signs of LARGLY variable temperature, terrain, etc. over time. However, since this cuts down on our ability to say “Y was definitely happening X years ago”, people don’t want to admit that anything was ever different in the past. There is perhaps a little of that with Steve as well when he squelched the discussion of not all oil coming from biomass. The truth is that we just don’t know about many of these things and Chu couldn’t go down that road because it ends with: “Well then, we just don’t know if man is contributing significantly to the present warming or not.” And Chu could never admit to even a possibility of that. In his mind and in many others, they KNOW what was going on in the past and they KNOW that the present conditions are not “natural”.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:49 AM | Permalink

      Re: Tim McHenry (#123),

      There is perhaps a little of that with Steve as well when he squelched the discussion of not all oil coming from biomass.

      The Alaskan oil under discussion is definitely levro biotic oil and not abiotic oil, so a discussion of the highly speculative and typically emotional subject of abiotic oil is entirely off-topic and distracting in this discussion thread regarding Andrew Revkin’s reaction to Chu’s testimony in a Congressional hearing.

    • DaveR
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:03 AM | Permalink

      Re: Tim McHenry (#125),

      As several have noted, Chu did not want to admit to a much higher temp in northern latitudes in the past, and he wouldn’t admit ignorance either.

      I don’t see how you could possibly know what Chu wanted to do or didn’t want to do. Can you read his mind? Even by the rather mean-spirited standards of many CA threads, this one is q

      • John M
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:29 AM | Permalink

        Re: DaveR (#131),

        Can you read his mind?

        Good point. No more so than anyone who tries to over-interpret what Barton meant by “so it just drifted up there?”, which I must confess, I was guilty of as well.

        In fact, I guess I’m guilty on both counts, since it is indeed my opinion that Chu couldn’t bring himself to publically admit the climate was once much warmer.

  75. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:40 AM | Permalink

    Scott Brim, No. 89
    Early on I asked about the integrity of the Scotese maps. We already know that attempts were made by you know who to revise Medieval Hisory, and so I think it is plausible that
    attempts could be made to do the same with Tertiary and Cretaceous History. After all, here we’re talking about awfully rough proxy data that could be (mis)interpreted – any way you want it.

    Again, let this be a wake-up call for real science and scientists, which I feel are in the cross-hairs.

  76. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:47 AM | Permalink

    D. Patterson,
    Thanks for the excellent reply!

  77. DaveR
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:04 AM | Permalink

    …quite extraordinary.

  78. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:51 AM | Permalink

    I also disagree with attempts to read Chu’s mind here. There is no basis for accusing him of trying to conceal his knowledge of prior warmth in the north, but there is considerable evidence of ignorance on his part.

    I get tired of readers pointlessly imputing motives, when there’s no need to.

    All we know is what’s on the record. Chu’s own words demonstrate his belief that the relevant Alaska North Slope source rocks did not form at or near to their present latitude, but were formed in the tropics and “drifted” to their present position over hundreds of millions of years. That is an incorrect statement for relevant Alaska source rocks based on considerable geological evidence and one that is not held by any reputable geologist.

    It doesn’t mean that Chu is not a competent laser physicist, merely that he is ignorant of geological knowledge relevant to his present appointment.

    • John M
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:37 AM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#134),

      Chu’s own words demonstrate his belief that the relevant Alaska North Slope source rocks did not form at or near to their present latitude, but were formed in the tropics and “drifted” to their present position over hundreds of millions of years

      Steve,

      Be careful here. Chu did not refer to the tropics, and his answer is “not inconsistent” (if I may) with part of Alaska drifting up from lower latitudes. Note that Barton did not specifically restrict his question to the North Slope, but rather to “Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?”

      Another point, Chu responds “No…” to three questions. Who knows which he was responding to? If indeed he was responding to any one of them in particular.

      I’ve read, re-read, and re-re-read transcript provided by Curious, and I even printed it out and listened again to the video to confirm its accuracy.

      I hate to parse, but as you say, we only have what’s on record.

      This really is a swamp, and it is impossible to conclude what either man really meant in this brief exchange, all though as I said, I have my opinions.

      • Gunnar
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

        Re: John M (#136),

        I have to concur with John M.

        As long time readers know, I cannot be outdone in anti AGWness, but one thing I oppose even more is the use of invalid arguments to advance the cause.

        Chu was not caught BSing. He said that it was a complicated question. He started saying something, and then Barton cut him off. What he had said at that point is technically correct.

        Now, he may have been inadvertantly correct, but we cannot accuse him of being ignorant, based on this exchange.

        I can elaborate on Unthreaded if anyone is interested.

      • curious
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

        Re: John M (#136), John – thanks for checking. Up at 121 D. Patterson: May 4th, 2009 at 8:11 pm has a different account. Is there an alternative clip about? I don’t recall Dr Chu referring to a complete mess, nor do I recall the opening remark quoted in 121 but I don’t have my notes to hand.

        Re: you, Hank and Gunnar’s position – agreed.

        • John M
          Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:26 PM | Permalink

          Re: curious (#139),

          The “glorious mess” appears to have come from this press release.

          Link

          It refers to the quote in the Press Release following the transcript of the Chu video, which was actually made by Democratic congressman John Dingell from Michigan.

          The only video clip I know of is the one we’ve all seen.

          Thanks again for transcribing it.

        • curious
          Posted May 5, 2009 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

          Re: John M (#147), Hi John – thanks for the link. Sad editing IMO. And confusing presentation using quotation marks like that. Maybe something worthy of a journalist picking up on before people think Dr Chu said it.

          No problem re: transcript – audit is what its all about; keeps us all honest! :) Kind regards C

      • Gene Nemetz
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:49 PM | Permalink

        Re: John M (#136),

        I think it’s safe to conclude that Steven Chu meant that gas and oil are in Alaska and under the Artic Ocean because of continental drift.

        • John M
          Posted May 5, 2009 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

          Re: Gene Nemetz (#151),

          I think it’s safe to conclude that Steven Chu meant that gas and oil are in Alaska and under the Artic Ocean because of continental drift.

          Gene,

          I tend to agree with you, I’m also of the opinion that that’s a subtlety (a “nuance” if you’ll pardon the expression), that will escape the general public. In fact, it’s most likely to escape those who pride themselves on nuanced thought.

          Link

        • Posted May 5, 2009 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

          Re: John M (#152),

          Your tone is reasonable, Chairman Chu blew it though. There is no question what he meant, all he can do is say it depends on your definition of what ‘is’ is. Trying to find a loophole for him is IMO a waste of time.

          He didn’t have a grasp of the material or he was unwilling to admit that it was warmer on earth in the past. He’s a politician now after all but the former is more likely IMO. I read the link you provided, it was full of leftist advocates saying people who agree with Bolton are anti-science deniers. – I noticed the comments were apparently closed after only twenty some, I guess there must have been too much dissent to censor. It’s too bad cause I was happy to provide them with an anti-science CA link to digest in their spare time. They did just what Steve claimed they would, declare Chu the obvious winner.

          People are ignorant.

        • John M
          Posted May 5, 2009 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

          Re: Jeff Id (#154),

          Go Red Wings!

          (Those @#$%&*!@ West Coast series.)

        • Gene Nemetz
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 1:42 AM | Permalink

          Re: John M (#152),

          I didn’t think what Chu was saying was nuanced. His answer was 100’s of millions of years, and plate tectonics (“….the plates.. of.. ah.. have moved around.”) are the reason. No nuance. That was his answer. Did I miss something?

          I do get your point, that people see what they want to see, and also speak before thinking sometimes.

        • John M
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:13 PM | Permalink

          Re: Gene Nemetz (#163),

          Gene,

          I didn’t mean to imply that I thought Chu was nuanced in his reply. He didn’t have time. I think the details of how much of Alaska did or did not get moved by continental drift, and what portion of Alaska’s oil was formed in the Triassic period and what portion was formed in the Cretaceous period is the nuance that will be missed by most (including me, until I read this post and these comments.)

          BTW, I know this will drive you guys crazy, but what the heck.:)

          Link

          (You’ll have to wait for the annoying ad.)

        • curious
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

          Re: John M (#173), Thanks John – great link; concise and informative. I couldn’t find a date of posting?

  79. bender
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

    Chu appears to be in a state of denial over how warm the Arctic might have been in the past, especially relative to today’s temperatures. Barton was trying to catch him on that point – and he did. If Chu wanted to suggest that there is ambiguity over the magnitude of past temperatures in the Arctic (plates are always moving) this would hardly favor his proposition that current temperatures are certainly unprecedented.

    • ianl
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:12 PM | Permalink

      Re: bender (#140),

      “Chu appears to be in a state of denial over how warm the Arctic might have been in the past”

      I’ve been trying and trying not to come to this conclusion, since my experience tells me that ignorance of geological knowledge is wilful and based on the notion that events from a unimaginably long-ago past cannot possibly be relevant today.

      So my view of Chu’s inaccurate response is simply that he reflected this common attitude.

      But you may be right – perhaps.

  80. Hank
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

    It’s all illustrative of how polarized the science has become due to this rather tangential scientific question of whether the earth is warming in an alarming and dire way. Not to minimize the importance of that question to us, but scientifically it looks to me like it’s just one of thousands of things that need unraveling before achieving an honest judgment on the proposition that the earth is warming in a way that should concern us.

    • bender
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:41 PM | Permalink

      Re: Hank (#141),

      it’s just one of thousands of things that need unraveling

      No. NAS already unraveled it. Data suggest current temperatures are unprecedented in 400-600 years. Beyond that there is too much uncertainty to make any such claim, e.g. regarding the MWP ~1000 years ago.

      • Hank
        Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:27 PM | Permalink

        Re: bender (#150),

        Suggest?

        • bender
          Posted May 5, 2009 at 8:41 PM | Permalink

          Re: Hank (#158),
          Prove.

        • Hank Henry
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 12:43 AM | Permalink

          Re: bender (#159),

          Now I am wondering what exactly you mean by unprecedented but no point getting into a quibble fest- I think I understand where you are coming from. Your mind is made up based on the authority of the NAS. For me, skepticism is a road to learning and understanding. The thing I was wondering about in the original post that you replied to, is whether it is good for a field of science to be dominated by this one grand thesis … the globe is warming. I am thinking there are thousands of things to wonder about in earth sciences that have nothing to do with this thing that Chu tap danced his way through. Perhaps it would have been better if I had said that there are thousands of things to be unraveled along the way to the shake out of the great global warming prophecy – some needed by it, some not.
          If you were a young scientist hoping to make a significant contribution to understanding, would it be smart to take up on the topic of global warming or let your interests develop in other ways? I believe the road forward in science is rarely straight.

        • Mark T
          Posted May 6, 2009 at 9:35 AM | Permalink

          Re: Hank Henry (#163),

          Now I am wondering what exactly you mean by unprecedented but no point getting into a quibble fest- I think I understand where you are coming from. Your mind is made up based on the authority of the NAS.

          I don’t think you understand the context in which bender is commenting, and hence, your characterization of his intent/meaning is likely incorrect.

          Mark

  81. Tom C
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:59 PM | Permalink

    I initially had a jaundiced view of this episode, but after re-thinking it have decided to embrace the argument from authority and throw my vote to Chu. After all, he does have a Nobel prize, and he is probably advised by Al Gore, who also has a Nobel prize…Oh, um… never mind.

  82. DaveR
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    Re: bender (#140), Chu appears to be in a state of denial over how warm the Arctic might have been in the past, especially relative to today’s temperatures.

    Another mind reader. Why try and read so much into a few seconds of unprepared exchage? Do you really, really think that Chu would dispute that the Arctic has been warmer in the past?

    • Mark T
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 3:23 PM | Permalink

      Re: DaveR (#144),

      Do you really, really think that Chu would dispute that the Arctic has been warmer in the past?

      I’m guessing he really, really thinks that Chu would attempt to avoid answering such a question, which seems to be what he has done here.

      Mark

    • bender
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:35 PM | Permalink

      Re: DaveR (#144),
      Why did Chu dodge Barton’s line of enquiry? I promise to stop mind-reading if you promise to get Chu to answer the question. Have a nice day.

    • theduke
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

      Re: DaveR (#144),

      Another mind reader. Why try and read so much into a few seconds of unprepared exchage? Do you really, really think that Chu would dispute that the Arctic has been warmer in the past?

      Perhaps not. But if not, it’s a valid question to ask whether or not he wants the public to be aware of that fact and also whether his testimony was a subtle attempt to misinform the public on that score.

  83. nvw
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

    On the subject of Alaska and terrane drift:
    Yes there are several well established “suspect” terranes in southern Alaska. Terranes such as Wrangellia, or the Peninsular terrane have demonstrable southern provenence and likely have drifted northwards from equatorial regions to their current locations. Deep seismic sections show a well established chronology of accreted crust continuing to the present day (Fuis, 2008 Geology 36:267-270) BUT all of these areas are in the southern portion of the state. The North Slope, home of the US largest onshore oil discovery at Prudoe Bay is not part of this history. As previous posters have pointed out this part of Alaska is well connected to northern lattitudes from Cretaceous onwards. It is very hard to find orthodox geological support for Dr Chu’s explanation that Alaskan North Slope oil-bearing strata drifted from equatorial regions to their current arctic location.

  84. Tim McHenry
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 5:41 PM | Permalink

    Re: Motive

    Perhaps I should have said admit higher temps OR ignorance. However, for Steve M. to speak of “evidence of ignorance” is simply assuming that the latter is the case. I’ll admit we don’t know his exact motive, but my line of reasoning concerning uniformitarianism vs catastrophism in earth history still stands.

  85. nanny_govt_sucks
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

    I wonder how Chu would explain dinosaur bones found in Alaska (http://www.blm.gov/ak/st/en/prog/culture/dinosaurs.html). On the North slope even. Did the bones drift up there too?

    • John Baltutis
      Posted May 5, 2009 at 10:45 PM | Permalink

      Re: nanny_govt_sucks (#160),

      Only when the 3°C temperature change equaled an 11°F temperature change.

  86. Posted May 6, 2009 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    Right. So are YOU a scientist McIntyre? And yet you apparently believe Chu is not, since you put scientist in quotes. And why is Barton asking about the origin of oil in Alaska anyways? Oh yeah, to prove to himself (and others of like mind, such as yourself) that humans are not causing global warming. Whatever.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 6, 2009 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

      Re: Jim Bouldin (#166),

      Chu obviously is a scientist of distinction in his own field. Placing “scientist” in quotes did not contest the obvious – why would I? I used the term because he purported to testify here as a “scientist”.

      Barton was the one who used the term in his question and Chu answered on that basis. He did not say – I’m here in my capacity as Secretary of Energy, my personal scientific expertise is in physics and I am not here as an expert in Alaska oil and gas geology. Had he done so, he could add that, while he was not an expert on this particular topic, he was confident that there were no ancient pipelines taking oil from Texas to Alaska and, if Barton had further interest in the provenance of Alaska oil and gas, he would be delighted to have one of his staff locate a relevant technical report and supply it to Rep Barton.

      As I’ve mentioned above, it was also open to Chu to say to Barton that CO2 levels were much higher during the Cretaceous and that’s precisely one of the reasons why we as an administration are worried about higher CO2 levels. My guess is that Hansen would have answered along those lines.

  87. Posted May 6, 2009 at 9:06 AM | Permalink

    It doesn’t bother me at all that Chu didn’t know the origin of the Alaskan oil, since he isn’t an oil geologist, and his job doesn’t require him to be one.

    However, he could have saved himself a lot of embarrassment if he had just admitted his limitations by saying, “I don’t know the geological details of those particular deposits, but my guess would be that they were formed elsewhere hundreds of millions of years ago, and later drifted north by plate tectonics.”

    Instead he tried to bluff his way through the question with an answer now shown to be false. But even smart people can make mistakes, so he can still save himself by writing Barton immediately, saying that he has since learned, to his surprise, that in fact these deposits were formed more or less in place, during an unusual warm period x million years ago.

    It’s dishonest people who learn their mistakes, and then don’t correct them. Particularly when they’re under oath to a Congressional committee.

    As for the “A glorious mess” comment in the transcript after Chu’s last statement noted by David Patterson #164 and others, it doesn’t show up in the video clip, and is separated from Chu’s last sentence by its own quotation marks, so it seems safe to assume it’s just something someone else said, whose source the recorder couldn’t identify. Let’s focus on Chu’s actual “that’s certainly what happened,” instead of this unattributed (and inconsequential) remark.

    • Mark T
      Posted May 6, 2009 at 9:23 AM | Permalink

      Re: Hu McCulloch (#168),

      It’s dishonest people who learn their mistakes, and then don’t correct them.

      Indeed. Seems eerily familiar, actually.

      Re: Jim Bouldin (#167), Yes, actually, he is. No, actually, the quotes don’t mean he thinks Chu isn’t, they mean he thinks Chu did not behave scientifically in spite of being a scientist. Chu put his beliefs ahead of his scientific knowledge, which is unscientific.

      Mark

  88. Dale S
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 7:36 PM | Permalink

    I think it’s pretty clear that “A glorious mess” is a header that failed to be bolded. All the other unattributed statements in the press release (and also the two other press releases on “Scenes from an Earth Day Hearing”) are headers, and all exchanges have headers. If “A glorious mess” had been a quote from Barton or Chu, it would leave the Dingell/Jackson exchange without a header.

    Here’s the full press release:

    http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/News/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=6946

    And the sequels:

    http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/News/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=6948

    http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/News/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=6956

  89. John M
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

    Dingell seems to like the term.

    Link

  90. Erik Ramberg
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 8:31 PM | Permalink

    I’m pretty confused by this thread. Can someone please explain how Chu’s statement is incorrect, at the most basic level? Wasn’t the majority of the North Slope oil laid down in the Triassic/Jurassic, as he indicated? Hasn’t continental drift moved Alaska to it’s current location, as he explained?

    Various comments here seem to veer off onto some other plane, where questions that weren’t asked, were not answered in the subtle ways that you would like. If Barton wanted to know whether the high latitudes were warmer in the geologic past, then why the hell didn’t he ask that question? I’m sure Chu would have addressed it.

    By the way, if you want to minimize worries about AGW, I wouldn’t go around emphasizing the fact that the Earth was much warmer 100 million years ago than it is now. My guess is that we wouldn’t want that climate.

    Steve- This comment was moved from another thread which made no direct mention of Chu’s statement. There are a number of comments above responding to your question – including my observation that Chu could easily have observed that CO2 levels are believed to have been higher in earlier warm periods and that was a reason why the administration was concerned.

    • Gene Nemetz
      Posted May 6, 2009 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#179),

      [snip - irrelevant in this context]

      The problem with Chu is time frame. This has been made clear. Read the comments more closely.

      • Gene Nemetz
        Posted May 6, 2009 at 11:16 PM | Permalink

        Re: Gene Nemetz (#181),

        I see why you snipped that. But I should have prefaced it with what I was addressing from his comment :

        By the way, if you want to minimize worries about AGW, I wouldn’t go around emphasizing the fact that the Earth was much warmer 100 million years ago than it is now

        It seems that Steven Chu avoiding admitting that it was warmer on earth 100,000,000 years ago would be dicey for his side of the argument. Many people have seen documentaries and also can remember learning in school that it was warmer on earth when dinosaurs where alive. To try to convince people that it is warmer now than even when dinosaurs were on earth would throw up a red flag in many peoples minds.

        Steve: Chu was probably under oath. You have no basis for assuming that Chu was trying to mislead the members of the committee and I personally doubt that he would do so intentionally. In my opinion, the evidence is that he had minimal geological knowledge and was talking about something that he knew next to nothing about.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 7, 2009 at 12:06 AM | Permalink

          Re: Gene Nemetz (#186),

          To try to convince people that it is warmer now than even when dinosaurs were on earth would throw up a red flag in many peoples minds.

          Some of the youngsters I’ve been talking to said they thought the big dinos were only in the hot tropics and the poles were primeval ice houses.

          Here is an example of one of the reactions to the Chu-Barton exchange:

          Perplexed By Science: Joe Barton Wonders If Oil Reached The North Pole From A Secret Texas Pipeline By Brad Johnson on Apr 22nd, 2009 at 2:44 pm
          CZ-1 Says:
          [....]
          Okay, I read his statement again. He seems to be trying to over simplify the science and create the impression that oil and gas deposits formed in Alaska because it was warmer there at one time. However, the science says that this is not the case.
          [....]
          That is certainly what happened. The oil and gas deposits just drifted up there with the drifting plates. Only if one is a science denier, like Barton seems to be, is that answer not enough. Then the answer becomes about as long as a textbook on geology. But the science deniers won’t read that and won’t understand it and won’t believe it.

          http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/04/22/barton-oil-science/

          Chu’s testimony, regardless of his intent, has the above results among the general public. You could excuse Chu for the consequences of the brief exchange in the hearing, if it weren’t for the fact his office has chosen not to respond to inquiries requesting clarifications. As matters stand at the moment, it appears as though Chu chooses to allow the misinformation to stand uncorrected.

    • MrPete
      Posted May 6, 2009 at 9:19 PM | Permalink

      Re: Erik Ramberg (#179),
      1) The oil was laid down up until Cretaceous
      2) Alaska was already at high latitude in that entire period
      3) High latitudes were warm throughout that period

      I.e., the oil was not put in place due to tropical latitude climate, but northern latitude climate, which was warm at the time.

      Plate tectonics applies (in the sense that plates were moving) but has little if anything to do with the question. It’s like my friend who entered a meeting breathless, “just got here from the airport”… when actually he had been sitting outside the room all day. He had flown in a few days before.

  91. Posted May 6, 2009 at 8:59 PM | Permalink

    RE John M #173,
    John’s link is to a video by Mark Rivera, of UA Anchorage Geology Dept, who says that the Alaska oil was formed during the Triassic, some 200 M years ago. Admittedly without explanation, he explains that “plate tectonics explains it all.”

    So it appears that Chu has at least one geologist on his side, sort of. Rivera’s talk is admittedly made for kiddies, but that isn’t much different than Congress. So who’s right?

  92. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 9:33 PM | Permalink

    Andrew Revkin observes at his blog:

    I guess Dr. Chu didn’t read this story of mine — http://bit.ly/nytPoleOil — or the chapter in “The North Pole Was Here” on the Arctic’s warm past. I’ll send them to his office and see what he says.

    The reference in question says

    The ice-cloaked Arctic Ocean was once apparently a warm, biologically brewing basin so rich in sinking organic material that some scientists examining fresh evidence pulled from a submerged ridge near the North Pole say the seabed may now hold significant oil and gas deposits. … Some of the deepest, oldest, most carbon-rich layers, dated to around 55 million years ago, formed during a period called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum,

    Once again, here’s the exchange:

    Barton: How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?
    Chu: [Laughs.] This is a complicated story. Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around and so it’s a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas…
    Barton: Isn’t it obvious that it was a lot warmer in Alaska and the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas …
    Chu: There’s continental plates that have been drifting around through the geological ages…
    Barton: So It just drifted up there?
    Chu: That’s certainly what happened. uh, and it’s a result of things like that.

    Erik asks why Barton didn’t simply ask about the Arctic being warmer in the past. Obviously he did.

    Chu’s explanation for the presence of “warm” fossils in the Arctic is clearly that they were moved there by plate tectonics over the “hundreds of millions” of years involved in oil and gas formation. Chu is wrong on almost every point. As Revkin observed, there is a huge amount of evidence of “warm” fossils from the Cretaceous etc in the Arctic, including Alaska – these were formed in warm climates more or less at present latitudes. And the oil from important Cretaceous source rocks matured over tens of millions of years, not hundreds of millions of years.

    Chu contradicted Barton’s suggestion that Arctic oil and gas source rocks were evidence of past warmth in the Arctic. For the vast Cretaceous and later reserves around the Arctic, that’s clearly wrong.

    In the quote in the head thread, I cited a report identifying source rocks from the Cretaceous and the much older Triassic:

    These marine source rocks, from oldest to youngest, include four intervals: (1) Middle–Upper Triassic Shublik Formation, (2) basal condensed section in the Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous Kingak Shale, (3) Cretaceous pebble shale unit, and (4) Cretaceous Hue Shale.

    For Chu’s point to hold, all of the formations, including the Cretaceous, had to have been moved north by plate tectonics. People trying to spin Chu’s error are focusing on the Triassic source rocks, which together with Cretaceous source rock, contribute to North Slope oil -and ignoring the Cretaceous. However even in the Triassic, Alaska was nearly 60N (see http://www.scotese.com/ltriascl.htm) who describes Late Triassic as follows:

    Global climate was warm during the Late Triassic. There was no ice at either North or South Poles. Warm Temperate conditions extended towards the pole

    The basins in which the sediments are deposited are related to plate tectonics, but that does not imply that the relevant source rocks were laid down in the tropics and moved to the north.

    No geological organization in the world will endorse Chu’s theory that all Arctic “warm” fossils originated in the tropics and were moved north by plate tectonics.

    • Scott Brim
      Posted May 7, 2009 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#183)

      snip – Scott, please stop speculating about motives and bad faith. You can think what you want, but I’ve got a blog policy against making such assertions here.

    • Gunnar
      Posted May 7, 2009 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#184),

      Steve, I’m not getting why you insist that Chu was completely wrong.

      Cretaceous 145.5 ± 4 to 65.5 MYA, which is consistent with “result of hundreds of millions of years of geology”

      Selby and Creaser have dated the oil in nearby Alberta to 112 million years ago. (Science Mag)

      Are you quibbling over the pluralization of hundred?

  93. Posted May 6, 2009 at 9:38 PM | Permalink

    There are a number of comments above responding to your question – including my observation that Chu could easily have observed that CO2 levels are believed to have been higher in earlier warm periods and that was a reason why the administration was concerned.

    Yes, I totally agree. I was surprised at the commentators who thought Chu put Barton in his place, and I even initally thought that Alaska’s complex geology was responsible (at least in part) for the placement of the oil deposits. But it’s not; the oil deposits are Triassic/Jurassic underneath Cretaceous formations, and they were formed pretty much in place; there has obviously been some movement, but most of the effects of that movement have been much more significant south of Alaska.

    So I composed how I think Chu should have answered, had he been given time to think about an appropriate answer. Barton was playing a game of Gotcha, because he wanted Chu to admit that it’s been much warmer in the Alaskan realm in past paleoclimates; had Chu been astute and in grasp of all the relevancies to climate change, he might have been able to parry Barton’s jab with something like this:

    “Representative Barton, the reason that there are oil and gas deposits in Alaska is due to plate tectonics. Because the continental plates move around, during the Mesozoic when marine organisms were deposited on the seafloor, which over millions of years slowly transformed into oil and natural gas, the oceans adjacent to Alaska were warm and tropical. There are two reasons the oceans were warm and tropical: one, the position of the continents was significantly different than in modern times, so the shape of the oceans and their circulation patterns was much different. The other reason is that during the Mesozoic Era, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were much higher than now, ranging between 1000 and 3000 parts per million, nearly 10 times more than present. This is why there was no Arctic ice cap during the Mesozoic Era. Because the continental positions and ocean circulation were so much different, no reasonable comparisons with modern-day climate conditions can be made. However, the fundamental fact that higher CO2 concentrations in past geologic eras caused the Earth’s global temperatures to be considerably higher is related to the present day concern about climate change.”

    The Late Triassic and Early Jurassic was a critical time in Earth history representing a fundamental end member of Earth System states

    Steve: I disagree 100% with your approach here. As I’ve said elsewhere, Chu was not testifying as an expert on Alaskan geology. He should have said that he was testifying as the Secretary of Energy, that his personal scientific expertise was in physics and not in Alaskan geology. He could have added that, even as a non-expert, he was quite confident that there were no ancient pipelines carrying oil from Texas to Alaska for discovery by subsequent generations, and that he would be delighted to have a member of his staff identify relevant literature for Rep Barton on the provenance of Alaskan oil and gas.

  94. D. Patterson
    Posted May 6, 2009 at 11:02 PM | Permalink

    snip – once again, we’re not going to discuss fundamental issues in one paragraph snippets on unrelated threads.

  95. Gunnar
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 9:28 AM | Permalink

    snip – correction added to #63.

  96. Gunnar
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

    Your premise is obviously that kerogen can only be produced in warm climates. I’m not aware of this, but I’m not aware of a whole lot. Can you educate me by providing a link to evidence of that?

    My understanding is that kerogen is made up of the insoluable cell walls of plants and animals. Even now, life is flourishing under the very cold north pole. The two issues (oil and warmth) don’t seem to be connected.

    • Gunnar
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#192),

      Your premise is obviously that kerogen can only be produced in warm climates. I’m not aware of this, but I’m not aware of a whole lot. Can you educate me by providing a link to evidence of that?

      Actually Gunnar, I’ll answer you succinctly, since no one else will. :)

      It looks like although kerogen may be formed in today’s climate, and some small amounts of oil are formed, it’s insignificant, which is what D. Patterson is referring to when he vaguely mentions “commercial deposits”.

      What you really need to create biogenic oil is a large die off or extinction type event. There are several ideas about how this could occur, and one of those is the Ocean anoxic event (OAE). OAEs are when the Earth’s oceans become completely depleted of oxygen below the surface levels. The geological record shows that they happened many times in the past. Anoxic events may have caused mass extinctions.

      It is now widely believed that most of today’s fossil oil reserves formed in several distinct anoxic events in earth’s geologic history.

      This is a recent understanding. This picture was only pieced together during the last three decades. The handful of known and suspected anoxic events have been tied geologically to large-scale production of the world’s oil reserves

      These AOEs are generally associated with warm tempertures, although the connection is sketchy. From this assumption, I can understand why Barton asked the question. Even so, overall, it’s an extremely weak argument.

      • D. Patterson
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 3:14 PM | Permalink

        Re: Gunnar (#246),

        What you really need to create biogenic oil is a large die off or extinction type event…These AOEs are generally associated with warm tempertures, although the connection is sketchy.

        Contrary to the oft repeated theme of the AGW proponents that a mass extinction event is caused by warmer temperatures such as the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, it can be seen that a mass or minor extinction event often occurs at the time of a major or minor ice age. Life tends to wax in the warm climates and wane in the cold climates of the major and minor ice ages. Given the fact that there are five mass extinction events and the world’s petroleum systems also originate in more than just the geological periods in which a mass extinction event occurred, you are simply repeating another pseudo-scientific myth.

        Steve: same rules here as for Gunnar. Mass extinctions are an interesting topic but as far as I can tell your views and mass extinction are a personal opinion and simply give rise to debate irrelevant to the point here.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:59 AM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#247),

          No personal opinion is involved. All that is required is a comparison of the 5 major mass extinction events or the twenty mass extinction events to the Scotese and Geocarb timeline charts. Even Wikipedia, controversial as its reliability is at times, has a reasoble representaiton for these purposes. The ultimate causes of mass extinction events are unknown. Nonetheless, it is very clear there are multiple factors for each such extinction, and the AGW argument that CO2 and warm temperatures are the primary or exclusive cause of all or most such extinctions is invalidated and a myth by reference to the timelines in the literature.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted May 10, 2009 at 3:34 PM | Permalink

        Re: Gunnar (#246),

        Gunnar, I’m glad that you’re at least consulting Wikipedia, rather than presenting “logical” possibilities.

        Your reference to anoxic events, which I presume that you located through my offline email to you suggesting that you consider CEnomanian-Turonian source rock, says:

        With a change of mean temperatures of three degrees Celsius, the ice caps melted. This triggered a runaway effect. In the super-greenhouse ecologies—the term meaning average temperature rose to or were beyond six degrees above today—the seas were so warm, it is believed the water temperatures at the two poles[5] were in the lower 80s°F (i.e. above 27 °C)[1].

        Oceanic anoxic events most commonly occurred during periods of very warm climate characterised by high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and mean surface temperatures probably in excess of 25 °C (77 °F). The Quaternary levels, our current period, are just 13 °C (55 °F) in comparison.

        As I indicated above, it was open to Chu to respond to Barton that geologists believe the past warm periods associated with Arctic source rocks were characterized by high CO2 levels and that is a reason for present-day concern about rising CO2 levels – it was not open to Chu to ruminate about plate tectonics in the context of Barton’s question, leaving a very clear impression that he believed that the Arctic source rock was laid down in tropical oceans and moved by plate tectonics to its present northerly position.

  97. Scott Brim
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    .
    Steve, if it wasn’t for my irrepressible sense of humor, one which thoroughly dominates my personality even in the most trying of circumstances, I’d be a little annoyed at all this snipping, given that I’ve been careful to cite what I believe to be observable trends in public sector discourse — as opposed to simply speculating on motives per se.
    .
    That being said, if nothing else is acceptable, how about if I gen up a cartoon as follows: The pre-MBH-98 trend of the Medieval Warm Period and the SCOTESE trend of the earth’s temperature and CO2 levels for the last several hundred million years are both plotted on the same sheet of paper; but in this cartoon, the sheet of paper is being cut up by a pair of scissors which have mirror images of the MBH-99 Hockey Stick as their opposing blades.
    .
    Slick, eh? However, I thought it best to get your input on this concept before I go to the trouble of actually genning up the cartoon.
    .

  98. Tamara
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

    Gunnar,
    I’m not sure that 145.5 million years really is consistent with hundreds of millions of years. If I had 150 eggs would you say I had hundreds of eggs?

  99. Gunnar
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 4:15 PM | Permalink

    Tamara,

    I would say that it’s pretty consistent, considering the context, which is a spur of the moment exchange. And yes, I might say “hundreds of eggs”, just like saying that my teenage son is decades old. It’s more than ONE hundred, so plural is approximately correct. Certainly not “totally wrong”.

    Especially considering that the vague process referred to could have been going on for a while before the 145 MYA point. Remember, we don’t know for sure how it was formed. And that the sentence included “and gas”, which may have been formed far longer ago.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 7, 2009 at 7:59 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#201),

      May 7th, 2009 at 4:15 pm
      Tamara,

      I would say that it’s pretty consistent, considering the context, which is a spur of the moment exchange. And yes, I might say “hundreds of eggs”, just like saying that my teenage son is decades old. It’s more than ONE hundred, so plural is approximately correct. Certainly not “totally wrong”.

      If you choose to believe your “teenage son is decades old,” have I got a deal for you! How about a deal where I offer to sell you two hyrbrid fueled automobiles at full retail prices, but I only deliver one hybrid fueled automobile and the chassis and a few odd assorted parts from a second gasoline fueled automobile? Isn’t that fair, I mean it’s “Certainly not ‘totally wrong'”?

      Especially considering that the vague process referred to could have been going on for a while before the 145 MYA point. Remember, we don’t know for sure how it was formed. And that the sentence included “and gas”, which may have been formed far longer ago.

      Some of the natural gas is a mixture coming from young and old deposits. Some of the oldest components of this mixture comes from the Lisburne Group aged from the Carboniferous some 280 to 360 million years ago. Yes, this is millions of years ago, meaning more than 199 million years. Unfortunately for Dr. Chu’s testimony, however, these deposits were also typically formed in the extratropical latitudes nearby and/or north of the Tropic of Cancer. The Lisburne Group is a part of the oldest stratigraphic rock sequences known to contain oil and natural gas deposits in Alaska. There simply are no known deposits old enough to have been formed all or in greater part while this Alaskan terrane was located within the tropical latitudes (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn). Consequently, Dr. Chu’s testimony is erroneous to whatever extent it may have explicitly or implicitly represented the origin of Alaskan oil and gas to have been in the Earth’s warmer equatorial and tropical latitudes and transported by continental drift to the cooler extratropical and Arctic latitudes.

      Someone can come along and attempt to argue Dr. Chu did not mean to say or imply the oil and gas deposits were formed in the warmer equatorial latitudes and transported to the extratropical latitudes. The problem with such an argument is the absence of any disavowal from Dr. Chu when his supporters and advocates are clearly and unambiguously arguing and insulting Mr. Barton by saying things like:

      He seems to be trying to over simplify the science and create the impression that oil and gas deposits formed in Alaska because it was warmer there at one time. However, the science says that this is not the case.
      [....]
      That is certainly what happened. The oil and gas deposits just drifted up there with the drifting plates. Only if one is a science denier, like Barton seems to be, is that answer not enough.

      So, this takes us back to the question of what the relevance of actual science versus what Dr. Chu’s testimony intended and actually communicated to the audience among the general public. Perhaps Dr. Chu would be interested in your definition of a deal for two hybrid fueled automobiles? Perhaps he can help your “decades old son” register to vote as an adult in the next election? Do you suppose Andy Revkin would agree or disagree with the proposition Dr. Chu was wrong but accurate in accordance with some recently journalistic practices of CBS News and the New York Times? In other words, how wrong does the Congressional testimony have to be before Andy Revkin, ourselves, and the general public objects to the whatever is wrong about the science communicated by a governement Cabinet level science advisor?

  100. Gunnar
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 8:56 PM | Permalink

    >> oil and gas deposits were formed in the warmer equatorial latitudes and transported to the extratropical latitudes.

    The problem with your argument is that he absolutely did NOT even imply that they were formed in equatorial waters, let alone say it. That’s people in this thread putting words and implications into his mouth.

    >> The problem with such an argument is the absence of any disavowal from Dr. Chu when his supporters

    That’s not a problem, because I’m sure Chu doesn’t know, nor does he care what people are saying on obscure blogs. With this position secured, and in this administration, he doesn’t need to argue about such things. They are so far past that.

    This is all much ado about nothing. And actually, my decades old son can already register to vote. Scientists don’t usually limit themselves to integers. More than one is plural.

    snip

    Does the “hundreds” pass the D. Patterson precision test? No, but I notice that you aren’t consistent with that standard. You don’t use the same standard for the whole text. If you did, you wouldn’t be claiming that Chu said that it came from equatorial waters.

    It all depends on #192.

    • Michael Smith
      Posted May 8, 2009 at 4:27 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#203),

      The problem with your argument is that he absolutely did NOT even imply that they were formed in equatorial waters, let alone say it. That’s people in this thread putting words and implications into his mouth.

      Look, again, at the exchange:

      Barton: How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?”

      Chu: [Laughs.] This is a complicated story. Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around and so it’s a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas…

      Barton: Isn’t it obvious that it was a lot warmer in Alaska and the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas …

      Chu: There’s continental plates that have been drifting around through the geological ages…

      Barton: So It just drifted up there?

      Chu: That’s certainly what happened.

      — End.

      When Chu says it certainly “drifted up there”, isn’t it pretty clear that he means it drifted from north to south? And isn’t it equally clear that Chu dismissed the possibility that the oil and gas formed when Alaska was at (or close to) its present location?

      How are we putting any “words and implications” into Chu’s mouth?

      • D. Patterson
        Posted May 8, 2009 at 6:23 AM | Permalink

        Re: Michael Smith (#208),

        typo alert…from south to north

        • Gunnar
          Posted May 8, 2009 at 6:36 AM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#209),

          That’s a perfect illustration of my point. What if the political enemies of Michael Smith started a big tirade about how Mr. Smith is crazy because he believes that the Alaska is moving south?

          Reasonable people can understand what he meant. If we have a susbtantive disagreement with Mr. Smith or Dr Chu, let’s focus on that, and not this semantic nit picking.

        • Michael Smith
          Posted May 8, 2009 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#209),

          typo alert…from south to north

          Thank you, D. Patterson, for correcting my typo. And thank you also for your many highly informative and interesting comments. One can learn a lot just reading what you post here.

  101. Gunnar
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 9:18 PM | Permalink

    snip – no food fights please

  102. Posted May 7, 2009 at 10:29 PM | Permalink

    I disagree 100% with your approach here. As I’ve said elsewhere, Chu was not testifying as an expert on Alaskan geology. He should have said that he was testifying as the Secretary of Energy, that his personal scientific expertise was in physics and not in Alaskan geology. He could have added that, even as a non-expert, he was quite confident that there were no ancient pipelines carrying oil from Texas to Alaska for discovery by subsequent generations, and that he would be delighted to have a member of his staff identify relevant literature for Rep Barton on the provenance of Alaskan oil and gas.

    As I noted, Barton was playing Gotcha, and he Got Secretary Chu; even if the public and Secretary Chu didn’t realize it! Has Barton explained why he asked the question on his Web site or anything like that? We seem to know why — but I think that the lack of time made his attempt backfire, because Chu sounded “smart”. The question was off-base and the answer was dumb (and as you’ve noted, inaccurate).

    So my rephrase was based on hindsight and our knowledge of what was going on while sitting on the sidelines; we know Barton wanted to make the point that it has “naturally” been warmer in Alaska in paleoperiods past, and had Chu recognized what Barton was doing (he may in fact have actually done so and tried a different tactic), I would’ve suggested he answer as I wrote.

    And here I was all ready to discuss Paleozoic atmospheric CO2 concentrations and their relationship to plate tectonics. When’s the next open thread?

    In my opinion, the evidence is that he had minimal geological knowledge and was talking about something that he knew next to nothing about.

    I agree. Sometimes its smarter to admit when you don’t know the answer than to act like you do. Credibility-wise, it makes sense. Unfortunately I think Secretary Chu didn’t want to look like he couldn’t answer a question from Representative Barton.

  103. MrPete
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 3:58 AM | Permalink

    Gunnar, what your argument does ignore is that Chu was talking about time span, not date. He could have said “…result of geology N years ago” which would be a date. Instead, he said “…result of N years of geology”.

    Doesn’t matter what date you pin it at. Chu wasn’t talking about a date.

    But that’s a relatively minor thing. The real key is that Chu denied Barton’s statement about warmth in Alaska. Instead of agreeing with Barton, he went back to continental plates. The result is visible all over the blogosphere: people agreeing with Chu’s statement, and calling Barton a ‘science denier.’ Yet Barton was correct, Chu was wrong.

    Chu: Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around and so it’s a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas…
    Barton: Isn’t it obvious that it was a lot warmer in Alaska and the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas …
    Chu: There’s continental plates that have been drifting around through the geological ages…

  104. MrPete
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 4:13 AM | Permalink

    Oh and re: Gunnar (#203),

    The problem with your argument is that he absolutely did NOT even imply that they were formed in equatorial waters, let alone say it.

    He absolutely did imply that Barton was incorrect; he did not simply agree with Barton, whose statement was 100% correct. Thus, if their formation was NOT related to a time/place when “it was a lot warmer in Alaska and the North Pole”… what was he implying? I can make no other inference than what so many others have: Chu was saying they were not formed in the high latitudes.

    I agree with one thing however. It’s amazing how much discussion can ensue over a one minute exchange. Then again, I remember a previous segment, 18 1/2 minutes of nothing but buzz, that generated even more discussion :)

  105. Gunnar
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 6:31 AM | Permalink

    >> Chu was talking about time span, not date.

    Exactly, which makes his indication of plural more correct.

    >> Chu denied Barton’s statement about warmth in Alaska. Instead of agreeing with Barton, he went back to continental plates.

    Maybe you see it that way, because of the point in #192. Because I don’t share your premise, I think that Barton’s interjection is tangential and off point. I believe that Chu just ignored that, because it didn’t fit. Rather than the plate movement trying to explain that it was warmer, it was directly answering the question, “how did it get there?”.

    >> He absolutely did imply that Barton was incorrect; he did not simply agree with Barton, whose statement was 100% correct. Thus, if their formation was NOT related to a time/place when “it was a lot warmer in Alaska and the North Pole”… what was he implying?

    No, he just ignored Barton’s interjection of an irrelevant point.

    >> When Chu says it certainly “drifted up there”, isn’t it pretty clear that he means it drifted from north to south?

    I assume you mean south to north.

    >> And isn’t it equally clear that Chu dismissed the possibility that the oil and gas formed when Alaska was at (or close to) its present location?

    No, there is nothing in the text that dismisses that idea. The statement is literally true. 112 million years ago, based on 1-4 cm/year, it was between 700 and 3000 miles away from it’s current location, if my math is correct. That is certainly NOT the same location.

    >> How are we putting any “words and implications” into Chu’s mouth?

    By claiming that Chu said that Alaska must have been equatorial waters.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted May 8, 2009 at 7:29 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#210),

      The statement is literally true. 112 million years ago, based on 1-4 cm/year, it was between 700 and 3000 miles away from it’s current location, if my math is correct.

      Gunnar, I suggest that you be guided by maps compiled by geologists e.g. the scotese.com maps linked on numerous occasions, rather than your own dead reckoning. At all the times relevant to the deposition of oil and gas (including even the Triassic), geologists believe that polar regions were much warmer than at present and that Alaska was either in a northerly mid-latitude/subarctic/arctic location.

      You don’t think that I made my point. In my opinion, you’ve not made your point. Editorially, you’re now belaboring the issue, so try to present something new or move on to something else, OK?

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted May 8, 2009 at 7:49 AM | Permalink

        Re: Steve McIntyre (#214),

        If a substantial portion of the Alaska oil comes from the Triassic rocks, which drifted up from northerly mid-latitudes if not the tropics, then he is at least part right. (Chu just said it drifted up, not that it drifted up from the tropics.) But if it’s 99% Cretaceous, he’s 99% wrong.

        FWIW the question was “Alaska and the Arctic”. I saw one estimate (I don’t recall where) that 59% of North Slope was Triassic. My guess (and it’s only a somewhat educated guess) is that this is an unusual proportion of northerly latitude oil and gas and that the vast majority is Jurassic/Cretaceous.

        While I can’t prove it on this record, my personal opinion is that Chu’s remarks are not based on actual knowledge of Triassic versus Cretaceous provenance. The Triassic source rocks, like other oil and gas source rocks, are believed by geologists to have originated in a time of global warmth. In my opinion, Chu’s invocation of plate tectonics in the context of the provenance of the source rocks shows a total lack of geological understanding.

    • Michael Smith
      Posted May 8, 2009 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#210), Re: Gunnar (#220),

      >> How are we putting any “words and implications” into Chu’s mouth?

      By claiming that Chu said that Alaska must have been equatorial waters.

      I must have missed the comment where someone said that Chu made such a claim. Can you tell me which comment contains that assertion?

      • Gunnar
        Posted May 8, 2009 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

        Re: Michael Smith (#229),

        sure, nvw (#156) and D. Patterson (#202).

        • Michael Smith
          Posted May 9, 2009 at 6:39 AM | Permalink

          Re: Gunnar (#230),

          sure, nvw (#156) and D. Patterson (#202).

          I’m afraid your examples are unconvincing. Both comments — as this layman understands them — simply state that the parts of Alaska that geological evidence indicates did drift northward from the tropics, are not part of the oil-bearing regions of the North Slope.

          D. Patterson’s comment 202 explicitly states that if Dr. Chu did not mean to imply that the oil had drifted north from the tropics, he has had plenty of opportunity to clarify that point — and has refused to do so.

          I don’t see that any words or implications have been “put into Chu’s mouth”. He clearly stated that the Alaskan oil formed elsewhere and drifted to its current location. It is a perfectly reasonable assumption that he was referring to those parts of Alaska which geology tells us did drift to their current locations — and if he wasn’t referring to that, why doesn’t he clarify that point?

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 9, 2009 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

          Re: Michael Smith (#229),

          The oldest known deposits of oil and natural gas in Alaska were formed in the Lisburne Group of the North American craton stratigraphy of the Ellesmerian Sequence about 280 to 360 million years ago in the Carbonifereous Period, while Alaska and its contemporaneous and earlier accreted terranes were located in the mid-latitudes of the Northen Hemisphere at or nearby the Tropic of Cancer. None of the stratigraphy of the North American craton or the terranes predating the Carboniferous Period are known to have any commercial deposits of oil and natural gas.

          There is something known as the oil window and the gas window. Kerogen, the organic matter which is a source of commercially significant geologic hydrocarbons, must reach a minimum pressure and temperature during burial for the organic material to be transformed and yield solid, liquid, and gaseous hydrocarbon byproducts we can commercially exploit. Likewise, there is also a maximum subterranean pressure and temperature after which the hydrocarbon deposits are destroyed. These windows of pressures and temperatures determine which rock groups in the stratigraphy of sedimentary rock can and cannot contain deposits of oil and natural gas. Sedimentary stratigraphy of too great an age are often buried too deeply where the pressures and temperatures have already destroyed any oil and gas hydrocarbon depoits which may have been trapped there once upon a time.

          Alaska has three known formations of sedimentary rock sequences which have commercial oil and natural gas deposits. All of the three formations were formed while Alaska’s North American craton and accreted terranes were located in the mid-latitudes and/or high latitudes. These three sedimentary formations have existed in only two geological periods during which ice ages have occurred.

          The Karoo Ice Age occurred 360 to 260 million years ago. Consequently, only the oldest of Alaska’s oil and gas deposits were in existence during the Karoo Ice Age, and they were unaffected by any cold climates during that ice age. Alaska and its accreted terrranes were in the high mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and experienced an arid to cool temperate climate during the Karoo Ice Age. Only a small portion of Siberia experienced a cold climate and ice cap conditions during that ice age.

          The second ice age is the presently occurring Holarctic-Antarctic Ice Age. Alaska began to experience a cold climate only in its northernmost coastal areas about 23 million years ago during the Miocene Epoch, with the vast majority of its region remaing a cool termperate climate with boreal forests. Only during the maximem extent of the ice age during the Pleistocene Epoch did Alaska finally succumb to a cold climate throughout most of its region. Some 10,000 years ago with the beginning of the present Holocene Epoch, an inter-glacial period of time, Alaska began to warm again and see a return of the boreal forest through much of its region.

          Consequently, most of Alaska’s oil and gas was formed in sedimentary rock formations dating from the Mesozoic Eon with some from the Paleozoic Eon while they were located in the mid-latitudes to high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. All of the oil and gas deposits were formed in climates which ranged from arid to warm temperate to cold temperate conditions. None of Alaska’s oil and gas deposits were formed in cold climate conditions. All of Alaska’s oil and gas deposits were formed in arid and temperate climate conditons while located in the mid-latitudes and upper mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere within the last 360 million years, with most in less than the last 199 million years.

          Statments saying Alaska’s oil and gas originated “hundreds of millions of years ago,” before most of Alaska’s oil and gas had even been formed are misleading, incorrect, and deceptive to the extent the statements exclude most of the younger oil and gas. Statements saying Alaska’s oil and gas “drifted up there” are misleading, incorrect, and deceptive to the extent the statements lead the audience to erroneously believe the places Alaska drifted from in the Southern Hemisphere and through the tropical equaorial latitudes could have been the locatons where Alaska’s oil and gas originated. Alaska’s oil and gas orginated where Alaska drifted upwards to in the mid and upper latitudes of the Northen Hemisphere and not where Alaska drifted from in the high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere and through the equatorial latitudes of the Tropics.

        • Michael Smith
          Posted May 10, 2009 at 4:03 AM | Permalink

          Re: D. Patterson (#231),

          D. Patterson, thank you for the clarifying information in 231.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:01 AM | Permalink

          Re: Michael Smith (#241),

          Thank you. Please note my correction to a typo error:

          All of the oil and gas deposits were formed in climates which ranged from arid to warm temperate to cool temperate climate conditions . None of Alaska’s oil and gas deposits were formed in cold climate conditions.

  106. Gunnar
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 6:39 AM | Permalink

    My view is tha my guy Barton was playing gotcha politics, and my political enemy was playing it straight.

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted May 8, 2009 at 8:33 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#212),

      My view is tha my guy Barton was playing gotcha politics, and my political enemy was playing it straight.

      That would be correct perhaps if Chu comes forth with a more complete explantion of what he actually meant and how that might weigh on the issue of AGW. One could, I think, say that Chu has been a quick study in gotcha politics himself.

      In my view this incident, to this point anyway, is more an example of what can happen when scientists take on the role of politician. It would appear that Chu’s gotcha was the more effective political tool in much of the blogosphere never minding the truth of the matter or the providing of useful information.

    • bender
      Posted May 10, 2009 at 9:12 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#212),
      Care to retract that view yet? LOL

  107. Posted May 8, 2009 at 7:26 AM | Permalink

    RE Gunnar, #212,

    My view is tha my guy Barton was playing gotcha politics,

    Gotcha is fair enough in politics, but to what extent was Chu gotched? If a substantial portion of the Alaska oil comes from the Triassic rocks, which drifted up from northerly mid-latitudes if not the tropics, then he is at least part right. (Chu just said it drifted up, not that it drifted up from the tropics.) But if it’s 99% Cretaceous, he’s 99% wrong.

    Here is an interesting and relevant graph from Scotese’s website at http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm:

    (Click on graph for perhaps better view. If not, visit his page, download and zoom in.)

  108. Brian M
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    This is not the first of the mistakes that have been made by Secretary Chu. Earlier this year, when being questioned by Senator McCain about the decision that was made to abandon significant support for the Yucca Mountain Repository (another highly political issue), Chu made some rather bizarre statements about nuclear technology, referring to the need to “solidify” the spent nuclear fuel at the power plants.

    This is strange, because spent nuclear fuel in the US is essentially a collection of ceramic pellets sealed in thin metal tubes that are held together in an assembly by metallic supports. In other words, it is already solid!

    This is pretty basic stuff for anybody who has spent any time at all familiarizing themselves with how nuclear power works. It was surprising that the Secretary of Energy did not know this or have a better understanding of the issues involved, particularly after having already made the decision to abandon real work on the repository.

  109. Gunnar
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 9:03 AM | Permalink

    >> But if it’s 99% Cretaceous, he’s 99% wrong

    Certainly not wrong. The oil was most likely formed in the Cretaceous, but that’s not inconsistent with what he said. See Gunnar (#191).

    >> geologists believe that polar regions were much warmer than at present and that Alaska was either in a northerly mid-latitude/subarctic/arctic location

    I agree, but it doesn’t matter if it was warmer. The question is “how did the oil get there” (exasperated). See Gunnar (#192).

    I agree that there is much belaboring of points here, but if someone would show that kerogen is only produced when the surface temperature is warm, then I could understand your point, and gladly move on. Whales migrate to northern waters to feed.

    Steve: the issue of cold water plankton was raised by an earlier poster. Geologists do not merely rely on the existence of plankton to deduce warmth in earlier times, but on various lines of evidence, some of which was alluded to in earlier posts. I suggest that you familiarize yourself with the geological literature before being quite so certain in your opinions.

  110. Gunnar
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 9:08 AM | Permalink

    Point originally made: thefordprefect (#59), never answered. Steve McIntyre (#61) doesn’t answer the point, because it’s saying “we know it was warm for other reasons”. Ok, but that confirms the point that the two are logically DISCONNECTED. Therefore, the presence of oil DOES NOT imply warm surface temperatures, like Barton claimed. It is Barton who is wrong.

    Steve: Gunnar, you are wildly over-assertive on matters where it appears to me that you have skimpy familiarity with the literature. Geologists have concluded that the source rock for Arctic oil and gas was laid down in warm climates. This is pretty stable knowledge. I agree that plankton also grows in cold water; geologists know this as well, but do not believe that coldwater plankton is the source rock for Arctic oil and gas. If you wish to contest the point, please do so on the basis of primary literature, rather than making bald assertions of incorrectness. I don’t have the time or interest to do a literature search for you, other than to urge you to look for technical reports.

  111. Gunnar
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 9:39 AM | Permalink

    >> Arctic oil and gas was laid down in warm climates

    Yes, but was it BECAUSE it was warm? Is that a NECESSARY precondition? If not, then your whole position collapses. I don’t really have the time to instruct you in logic.

    >> but do not believe that coldwater plankton is the source rock for Arctic oil and

    Since your whole position rests on the premise that warm climates CAUSE oil, it is you who needs to support that assertion with some kind of evidence.

    Steve: Again, please consult the primary literature. If you can provide any geological evidence of coldwater source rock in the Arctic or anywhere else, I’ll review my thoughts on the matter. But if you have no such evidence, please move on to another topic.

  112. sammy k
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 9:42 AM | Permalink

    the implications of mr chu’s obvious ignorance of paleoclimate cannot be understated…an admission of polar warmth, only begins to open the geologic “can of worms” against agw theory…a warm, ice free climate during the cretaceous/jurassic resulted in periods of biological proliferation on both land and in the oceans…other examples include some of the most prolific reef building events occurred during the devonian, a period of significantly warmer global temps and much greater concentrations of co2 than present day…the geologic record is full of such examples…the vast geologic evidence is “warm = good” as well as “co2 concentrations fluctuate on orders of magnitude before mankind showed up”…as a physicist, i wouldnt expect him to know about such geological inconvenient truths…however as head of energy policy, i demand mr chu to explain how he can support economic crippling legislation based on voodoo climate models, when he doesnt know a (self snip) thing about paleoclimate…

  113. Scott Brim
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    .
    Hu McCulloch (#213)
    .
    Committed warmers of my acquaintence either question the general validity of the C.R. Scotese body of work; or if they can’t bring themselves to go quite that far, they question its applicability to high latitude geographic locations.
    .
    How and why? Because this body of work has not been peer reviewed for conformance with the latest conclusions of today’s climate science community, and can therefore be dismissed out of hand as being irrelevant to current climate science issues.
    .
    snip

  114. Scott Brim
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

    Brian M (#225)
    We have now crossed the Neutral Zone into snip territory for going too far off topic. If it happens, I won’t be upset.

    Steve: yep. No more on fuel rods, please.

    • Brian M
      Posted May 8, 2009 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

      Re: Scott Brim (#226), I agree, which is why I have tried to limit my comments to Chu’s statements, with just a slight aside to point out that my criticism does not stem from a serious difference in opinion about policy, but rather a mistake that he made when he should have known better.

  115. Gunnar
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

    Michael Smith (#229), My goodness man, are you daft? At this point, we’re talking about putting words in Chu’s mouth. Read 227 again, if it’s not too much trouble. Quoting directly from nvw (#156):

    Dr Chu’s explanation that Alaskan North Slope oil-bearing strata drifted from equatorial regions to their current arctic location.

    Chu DID NOT say that they drifted from equatorial regions. He also never mentioned “North Slope”. Again, you’re putting words into his mouth to fabricate an error where there is none.

    There is no reason for him to clarify that he didn’t mean words that you folks put in his mouth. It’s like saying “I can’t believe he said that aliens inserted the oil” and “if he didn’t mean to imply that aliens did it, why doesn’t he clarify that.”

    There is no doubt that they did drift. Every thing on earth has shifted in 100 million years.

    and btw, if A is not a necessary cause of B, then the presence of B does not indicate the presence of A. (A = Warmth, B = Oil)

    • Michael Smith
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#230),

      My goodness man, are you daft?

      No, I’m not. But when you start resorting to insults, it is even less persuasive than your weak examples.

      There is no reason for him to clarify that he didn’t mean words that you folks put in his mouth. It’s like saying “I can’t believe he said that aliens inserted the oil” and “if he didn’t mean to imply that aliens did it, why doesn’t he clarify that.”

      Straw man argument.

      If we made a totally nonsensical assumption about what Chu said — such as assuming he meant that aliens put the oil there — then there would be no need for a clarification on his part and nothing at all could be read into a refusal on his part to clarify his remarks. But when he says the explanation for the oil in Alaska is that it drifted up there — and the geological evidence shows that part of Alaska did drift up from the equatorial regions — it is not an unreasonable assumption that Chu was referring to that part — such an assumption is not at all like asserting that Chu said aliens were involved..

      He also never mentioned “North Slope”.

      Oh come now. No, he didn’t use the words “North Slope”. But when one makes an assertion about how THE oil in Alaska got there, one is necessarily including the oil in the region known as “North Slope”. One cannot assert, “The oil that is in Alaska got there by continental drift” — and then later claim, “Oh hold on, I never said any particular oil deposit in Alaska got there by drift because I never used the names of any particular deposit.” Surely you can see that the second claim clearly contradicts the first.

      It is quite clear that Chu offered continental drift — as an alternative to the possiblity that Alaska was much warmer in the past — as an explanation for the presence of all of Alaska’s oil — not merely part of it — and it seems the geological evidence shows Chu’s claim to be false — without me putting a single word into Chu’s mouth.

      • Gunnar
        Posted May 9, 2009 at 2:19 PM | Permalink

        Re: Michael Smith (#231), you are looking at the wrong way. If there is a way to construe the text to be correct, then it cannot be considered definitely wrong. 156 and 202 clearly did put words in his mouth, but enough of that. Here is the heart of the invalid analysis:

        It is quite clear that Chu offered continental drift — as an alternative to the possiblity that Alaska was much warmer in the past — as an explanation for the presence of all of Alaska’s oil

        Only if one has an unsupported premise in mind, namely that warmth is a prerequisite for oil formation.

        Today’s causality lesson: if A is not a necessary cause of B, then the presence of B does not indicate the presence of A. (A = Warmth, B = Oil)

        “cold water sustains vast quantities of phytoplankton and zooplankton.” https://www.seafa.org/old_site/downloads/Warm%20Waters%20article%207.05.pdf

        In the Lanksbury & Eisner study, they find that plankton doesn’t even come close to dropping to zero in outer depths for cold regimes, and is the same as warm regimes in inner depths. It would have to drop to near zero in cold water to conclude that warmth is a necessary cause of oil. Therefore, there is no logical reason to conclude that the presence of oil implies warmer climate.

        It’s been pointed out that we know that it was warm by other means. Exactly the point, we know by other means. We do not conclude it was warm because we found oil there.

        Going strictly from the text, we can only conclude that Chu offered continental drift as a direct answer to the question “how did the oil get there”. I can well relate to this style of thinking, since it’s quite common in geeky scientific minds. We tend to be more literal in our approach to communication. If someone approaches me at a certain place, and asks “how did you get here?” I’ll answer “by car”. “no, I mean…”.

        Steve: Gunnar, the existence of plankton in cold water is not the issue. I asked you to provide some scientific support for your theory of cold water formation of oil-bearing source rock in the Arctic. I am unaware of any geological sources for this beyond your imagination. Until you provide some geological references for this notion, it will have no more standing than abiogenic oil – merely a distraction. If you can support the idea through something other than your own words, fine. But until you can provide geological sources for this conceit, no more on it please.

        • D. Patterson
          Posted May 9, 2009 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

          Re: Gunnar (#234),

          Gunnar, the only continental area affected by a cold climate in the Paleozoic and Mseozoic Periods in which Alaska’s oil and gas deposits were formed is Siberia. Alaska was not subjected to a cold climate at any time during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Periods.

  116. D. Patterson
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

    Corrections:

    Gunnar, Siberia is the only continental area in the Northern Hemisphere to experience a cold climate in any of its region during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Periods in which Alaska’s oil and gas deposits were formed. Alaska had already drifted upwards to the Northern Hemisphere from downwards in the Southern Hemisphere, and Alaska was not subjected to a cold climate at any time during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Periods during which Alaska’s oil and gas deposits were formed in the Northern Hemisphere’s extratropical latitudes.

  117. Gunnar
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 2:59 PM | Permalink

    >> some scientific support for your theory of cold water formation of oil-bearing source rock in the Arctic.

    Steve, you don’t seem to be reading what I’m writing, or understanding the point about the logic. I’m not claiming anything about geology,

    Steve: snip – Gunnar, I asked you not to post on supposed coldwater provenance of oil without some geological references. I’m going to hold you to it.

  118. Gunnar
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 3:32 PM | Permalink

    Oil can form in normal and above average.

    Steve:
    snip – Gunnar, I’ve asked you to provide citations for these theories. I’m not interested in your personal theories about what is “logically” possible and editorially I’m not interested in bandwidth being spent on it. You’ve had your say. If you produce citations, you are of course welcome to pursue the topic.

    • curious
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 3:40 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#237), Hi Gunnar – sorry to niggle but re: today and “normal” – the graphic in Hu’s post (and the site referenced) at 213 suggests today is actually in a cold period. C

  119. Gunnar
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

    snip –
    Even so, since there is evidence that kerogen is being formed in the present day, oil is being formed during present day atmospheric temperatures, therefore, the presence of oil does not necessarily imply above average temperatures at formation time.

    Steve: Gunnar, I’ve asked you repeatedly to provide citations for opinions. Your link merely shows that there is plankton in cold water, not that actual oil and gas source rock is being laid down. Actual oil and gas source rock is quite unusual geologically and is not uniformly distributed through the geological column. If you support the above claim, we can move on, but please support at least one opinion with a geological reference – and the existence of cold water plankton doesn’t cut it here.

  120. Gunnar
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 4:30 PM | Permalink

    It is quite clear that Chu offered continental drift — as an alternative to the possiblity that Alaska was much warmer in the past — as an explanation for the presence of all of Alaska’s oil

    This is clearly wrong, since in the quote from Chu, he says:

    Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around and so it’s a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas…

    At this point, Barton hasn’t yet asked about the warmth, yet Chu was talking about plates moving. So, it’s really a stretch to claim that he was answering a question not yet asked.

  121. Michael Smith
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:47 AM | Permalink

    snip – I’ve been snipping Gunnar for reasons stated in the comments and asked him to support his argument with a reference. In fairness, please don’t argue with him until he’s had an opportunity to support his argument.

  122. D. Patterson
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 6:51 AM | Permalink

    >> oil and gas deposits were formed in the warmer equatorial latitudes and transported to the extratropical latitudes.

    The problem with your argument is that he absolutely did NOT even imply that they were formed in equatorial waters, let alone say it. That’s people in this thread putting words and implications into his mouth.

    Here you are saying Chu “absolutely did NOT even imply that they were formed in equatorial waters, let alone say it.” Yet, we can see and hear for ourselves in the video as Chu says “Ah, that’s certainly what happened.” in response to Mr. Barton’s question, “So it just drifted up there?” In order for Chu to agree “that’s certainly what happened…sources of the oil and gas…it just drifted up there,” the place Chu is saying they drifted from had to be located somewhere down there from the extratropics of the Northern Hemisphere. Alaska and its North American continental plate drifted up there to the extratropics of the Northern Hemisphere from the extratropics of the Southern Hemisphere during the past 1100 million years. The last place Alaska and the North American continent drifted through in the most recent “ hundreds of millions of years of geology” while on their way from the extratropics of the Southern Hemisphere to the extratropics of the Northern Hemisphere were the tropics of the Equatorial latitudes. Consequently, Alaska and the North American continental plate did not just leap over the tropics and their Equatorial latitudes like a Cow jumping over the Moon. Chu most certainly did use statements which indicated Alaska and its “sources of the oil and gas…just drifted up there” while drifting through the Equatorial latitudes on their way from the extratropics of the Southern Hemisphere.

    >> The problem with such an argument is the absence of any disavowal from Dr. Chu when his supporters

    That’s not a problem, because I’m sure Chu doesn’t know, nor does he care what people are saying on obscure blogs. With this position secured, and in this administration, he doesn’t need to argue about such things. They are so far past that.

    Members of Dr. Chu’s staff read Climate Audit and keep him informed about topics of interest to him. So, your overconfidence in your ability and surety regarding what other people think and care about while saying “They are so far past that” was read and regarded by some readers as a rudely presumptuous display of contempt and self-deception to put it mildly. Your comment about Climate Audit and other blogs being “obscure blogs” also didn’t help you with them either. Climate Audit is read and frequently used as a resource by some Members of Congress and their staff. It is also read and studied by members of many foreign governments and industries. So, you may want to consider more carefully what you post in Climate Audit and how you write it, because what you post in Climate Audit is seen and judged by some legislators, executive officers, and other senior members of government, industry, and academia in the United States and around the world. Nuff said on that….

    This is all much ado about nothing. And actually, my decades old son can already register to vote. Scientists don’t usually limit themselves to integers. More than one is plural.

    I’ve shown your above statement around to a few dozen people of all different ages and educational backgrounds for the fun of it. So far, I have yet to find anyone who thinks you have an integer to stand upon. I won’t repeat some of their remarks. Suffice it to say, they do not find that 1.1 is equal to 2.0 when counting integers or anything else, short of rounding up to another whole integer. In other words, they really do not agree that your teenage son is decades old or the proposition that 1.1 of anything = 2.0 of the same thing. Neither do any of them believe 199 million qualifies as being “hundreds of millions.” Every person I have asked when shown Dr. Chu’s statement about “hundreds of millions of years” has said they believed it had to mean not less than 200 million years and most likely 300 to 900 or more millions of years.

    snip

    Does the “hundreds” pass the D. Patterson precision test? No, but I notice that you aren’t consistent with that standard. You don’t use the same standard for the whole text. If you did, you wouldn’t be claiming that Chu said that it came from equatorial waters.

    It all depends on #192.

    You failed to comprehend and misrepresented my statements when you said:

    Your premise is obviously that kerogen can only be produced in warm climates.

    What I did say was that commercial deposits of oil and natural gas are typically not formed in cold climates. There are no commercial deposits of oil and gas in Alaska which were formed during a cold climate for one very simple and easy to understand reason. Alaska never experienced a cold climate since it was near the South Pole during the Stuartian-Varangian Ice Age sometime about 900 to 700 million years ago, until the Late Neogene Period of the present. Even the latest Tertiary oil and gas deposits in Alaska were formed in a cool temperate climate. Alaska could hardly be expected to form oil and gas deposits in a cold climate when there was no cold climate in Alaska for something like 700 million years or more backwards into the Proterozoic Eon. Even if it had been possible to form oil and gas deposits in the cold climate in Alaska during the Stuartian-Varangian Ice Age up to 900 million years ago, the hydrocarbons would already have been destroyed by being depleted during subsequent erosional and tectonic events and by burial below the oil window and gas window. No matter how you approach the question of cold climates for commercial oil and gas deposits in Alaska, you cannot get around the absence of a cold climate in Alaska during the only geological time periods in which the oil window and gas window can be open.

    Steve: while it would be nice to think that members of Chu’s staff read the blog, I have no personal knowledge that they do, I realize that they have many other commitments and make no such assumption. My assumption in this as in other matters is that they hare a responsibility to know relevant things whether or not they read this blog.

  123. Posted May 10, 2009 at 9:37 AM | Permalink

    RE Curious, #238,

    graphic in Hu’s post (and the site referenced) at 213 suggests today is actually in a cold period. C

    Actually, on the scale of that graph, interglacials don’t seem to even show up, so it may be showing “now” as still in the last ice age. But still, I think it shows that even the interglacials are cool by geological standards.

  124. Michael Smith
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    Steve, does this mean I can now repost the questions I had for Gunnar that you snipped in comment 243?

  125. Gunnar
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:03 AM | Permalink

    D. Patterson (#247)

    Well, I would have, but I just learned from D. Patterson that the suspected tenuous connection between warmth, AOEs and Oil is pseudo-scientific.

    So, it’s up to the holders of this view to support the connection with real evidence.

    Steve: snip – I agree that D Patterson inserted a personal opinion and will hold him to the same rules as you.

    Gunnar, if you want to discuss anoxic events, please familiarize yourself with basic geological literature before stating with so much misplaced confidence that present geological understanding is wrong. You’ve told me offline that you have no access to a university library. However, if you want to expound geological theories, please spend some time somehow familiarizing yourself with basic geological literature.

    Blog policy is to discourage monopolization of threads by people promoting personal theories (the Methane Mike syndrome). If you want to post on geology, please provide a citation or link for things that you say – otherwise, you’re running foul of the Methane Mike policy.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:52 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#251),

      Well, I would have, but I just learned from D. Patterson that the suspected tenuous connection between warmth, AOEs and Oil is pseudo-scientific.

      No, you are once again twisting the words to misrepresent what has been said. The Permian-Triassic major mass extinction is frequently cited by AGW proponents as evidence that high CO2 levels are the cause of mass extinction events, implying that such high levels of CO2 are THE cause of such events and an abnormal state for the Earth’s climate, which is of course a partial truth used to create a false myth contrary to reality. In reality, CO2 concentrations in the general range of what existed at the time of the Permian-Triassic mass extinction were the norm and/or near norm for the Earth during the Phanerozoic Eon.

      snip – hold the theorizing on mass extinction events. It’s an interesting topic but far afield here.

      Sec. Chu clearly indicated he believed the sources of Alaska’s present oil and gas got under Alaska by drifting up there to its present location after hundreds of millions of years of continental drifting. It is quite obvious Sec. Chu failed to realize much of Alaska’s “sources of oil and gas” could not possibly have drifted up there over the course of “hundreds of millions of years”, because so much of that Alaskan sources of oil and gas are aged less than 99 million years old and 199 million years old. Worse yet, the misunderstanding of the age of the oil cannot be explained away by suggesting Alaska is a special case. Most of the world’s oil and gas is aged no more than tens of millions of years old and not more than 99 million years old. If anything, Alaska’s very small percentage mixture of Endicott oil and gas originating from the Carbonifereous is atypical among the world’s oil and gas.

      Denying the fact the Earth was normally much warmer and normally had several times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere when the sources of Alaska’s oil and gas were deposited is also nonsensical for two simple reasons. During the geological time periods in which the present day’s oil and gas deposits were created, the Earth usually did not have any cold climates at all, and the atmospheric carbon dioxide was usually several times the present day concentrations. Furthermore, in the very few and limited time periods in which an ice age occurred and there was a cold climate somewhere on the Earth, the continental areas affected were a very small percentage of the Earth’s total area or continental and peri-continental areas. So, there was seldom any area of any great consequence during Dr. Chu’s quoted “hundreds of millons of years” in which any cold climate could have existed in the vicinity of today’s oil and gas deposits. In other words, any suggerstion that the sources of oil and gas got under Alaska by anything other than formation in a warm climate with normally high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere makes no sense to any geologist or student of paleogeoraphy.

      • D. Patterson
        Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:47 AM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#252),

        Steve, tangential as the mass extinctions are with respect to the Barton-Chu exchange, this discussion did bring to my attention something I had not noticed before which relates to the whole Global Warming debate.

        For at least some forty years now it has been my understanding of the state of the science that it was pretty much of a conclusion that mass extinctions were associated with multiple causes, even when one significant event may have been a primary cause or trigger to the event. The Earth’s climactic conditions were always an important factor in any of the scenarios being investigated. These multiple causes were often the subject of debate as recently as the debate over the K/T extinction during the previous decade of the Nineties. Consequently, I am surprised to see the papers of Kellar and Bottjer are being widely reported and cited as a “new” theory of the mass extinctions because they are suggesting multiple causes for the extinctions. My impression is this is a case of something old is being made new again as if it had never occurred to anyone else before by wrapping it in new terminology such as “stress” and “pulses.” Then to make things more interesting, I’m seeing their work being cited as support for the notion that this supports Global Warming theories.

        I don’t mean to digress from the main topic here, but I thought this new development with respect to the Global Warming debate may be worth bringing to your attention for discussion in a new topic at some point in the future?

  126. Gunnar
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:59 AM | Permalink

    For the record, I am NOT promoting a personal theory. In Gunnar (#192), I clearly stated that I’m not aware of a whole lot, so can you please enlighten me. Your continuing lack of response, and the support of the very well informed D. Patterson makes me suspect that it is the central argument of this thread that is promoting an unsupported theory of oil formation. If the idea that ‘climate warmth is a necessary cause of oil’ is such a slam dunk, then it should be easy to provide scientific references for that.

    To prove that I’m not trying to monopolize this thread, I’m happy to not post any further, unless someone asks me a question.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:10 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#254),

      The information is there is you’ll just use it. See for one example the introduction to:

      G. Kellar. Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. Impacts, volcanism, and mass extinction, random coincidence or cause and effect? Australian Journal of Earth Sciences (2005) 52. (725-757)

      http://geoweb.princeton.edu/research/Paleontology/Keller_AJES_05.pdf

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:35 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#254),

      the central argument of this thread that is promoting an unsupported theory of oil formation. If the idea that ‘climate warmth is a necessary cause of oil’

      A relatively small piece of Siberia is the only place in the Northern Hemisphere that was affected for a geologically brief period of time by a cold climate during the time period under discussion, 360 to 99 million years ago. So, how does your above statements have any relevance whatsoever to the topic of this discussion, which is the validity or non-validity of Chu’s testimony, when Alaska experienced no cold climates during the time periods in which the Endicott and other oil and gas deposits older than 99 million years were formed?

    • bender
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:49 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#254),

      If the idea that ‘climate warmth is a necessary cause of oil’ is such a slam dunk, then it should be easy to provide scientific references for that.

      This is not a case of “slam dunk” or not. The question asked in this thread is which theory is most supported by data in the specific case of Alaska: (a) Barton’s in situ warm climate or (b) Chu’s tectonics. If you happen to believe that both of those ideas are equally wrong, that is a separate debate – one which you have failed to argue convincingly.
      .
      You have backed Chu (“playing it straight”) over Barton (“playing gotcha”) – yet you have failed to make that argument as well. Looks to me like you’ve got nothing more to say.

  127. Gunnar
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:02 PM | Permalink

    D. Patterson, obviously, you don’t understand the argument about causality logic that I have been making. Since I can’t make it any clearer, there is no point in repeating it. Just know that the actual temperature in Alaska (known by other means) is completely irrelevant. Since it’s so obvious to me, but not to you and some others on this thread, I can only conclude that we operate on different levels of abstraction.

    I can more explicitly write out the logic, but I don’t think Steve wants me to do that. If I had your e-mail address, we can take this off line.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 10:17 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#258),

      actual temperature in Alaska…is completely irrelevant…we operate on different levels of abstraction

      LOL, why does that look so familiar? “Inaccuate but true (Dan Rather at CBS)…the truth is irrelevant (New York Times)…”Oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology. (Secretary Chu, DOE)”

    • Michael Smith
      Posted May 12, 2009 at 5:25 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#258),

      D. Patterson, obviously, you don’t understand the argument about causality logic that I have been making.

      I’m reasonably sure everyone here understands causality. What I don’t understand why you think it validates Chu’s testimony.

      You’ve tried to establish the possibility that warmer temperatures are not required for the formation of oil. The question is, what do you think that possibility proves about Chu’s testimony?

      Is it your argument that the mere existence of the aforementioned possibility means that we must treat Chu’s testimony as if he had invoked this possibility against Barton’s contention about a warmer Alaska and Arctic in the past — even though Chu never mentioned it?

      You seem to be saying that after the fact, i.e. after the testimony is given, we should re-evaluate all the facts, identify the best possible argument Chu could have used to support his position — and then evaluate his testimony as if he had given that argument, while ignoring what he actually said.

      Why does an unmentioned, unused better argument (if it is better) validate the flawed argument that was actually given? Why does Chu get credit for an argument he did not make while escaping blame for a flawed argument that he did make?

  128. Ryan O
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 7:15 AM | Permalink

    Given Chu’s obvious lack of geological knowledge (not a snark – just stating a fact), does Gunnar really think it’s plausible that he was aware of such an esoteric theory as an anoxic event involving cold-water phytoplankton and zooplankton that resulted in oil formation in Alaska that does not appear in any of the mainstream geological literature?

  129. Gunnar
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 7:19 AM | Permalink

    I think the source of the disconnect is that I’m focusing on Bartons’ questions, rather than Chu’s answers. Sorry about that confusion.

    With respect to the questions, there are two possibilities, 1) that they are two unrelated questions or 2) the 2nd question is based on the first.

    If one assumes the first, then the correct answer to “isn’t it obvious..” would have been “yes”. However, I’ve been assuming the latter.

    Re: Michael Smith (#261), I thank you for at least acknowledging my argument.

    >> You seem to be saying that after the fact, i.e. after the testimony is given, we should re-evaluate all the facts, identify the best possible argument Chu could have used to support his position

    No, I’m saying that if the questions don’t make sense, then we should construe Chu’s answers in the best possible light, in the spirit of a presumption of innocence.

    Only if one assumes that Barton was asking “how did the oil form in AK?” AND that climate warmth is a necessary cause of oil does Chu’s answer “tectonic drift” imply that Alaska must have been in a warmer climate for oil to have formed. Without those two assumptions, it could just be a direct literal answer to the question “how did it get there?”.

    If someone were to ask me “how did you get here?”, I would answer “by car”, rather than go into the details of my conception or immigration. To clarify what it looks like to me, if Barton were questioning me:

    Barton: “how did you get here?”
    Gunnar: “drove to New Carrolton and”
    Barton: “isn’t it obvious that that immigration laws are too loose?”
    Gunnar: “took the metro”

    I’m guessing the guy is nuts, all I’m saying is that this seems to be an unfair attack based on a very short exchange.

    • bender
      Posted May 12, 2009 at 7:56 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#263),
      Are you getting tierd yet from all that back-pedalling? LOL.
      .
      Chu’s testimony was fundamentally flawed. He should have consulted his staff instead of relying on his faulty memory. That’s what they’re paid for.

    • RomanM
      Posted May 12, 2009 at 8:01 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#263),

      The Monty Pythonesque “Gunnar” skit continues:

      If someone were to ask me “how did you get here?”, I would answer “by car”, rather than go into the details of my conception or immigration. To clarify what it looks like to me, if Barton were questioning me:

      Barton: “how did you get here?”
      Gunnar: “drove to New Carrolton and”
      Barton: “isn’t it obvious that that immigration laws are too loose?”
      Gunnar: “took the metro”

      So after the first question, Gunnar does not know which of the three stated possibilities might indicate the intent of the question. Not a problem, he chooses the answer with regard to the form of his most recent arrival. The second question clearly indicates that the original question related to his immigration. Now, Gunnar persists in his original answer, because he is either (i) out to lunch in his thinking ability, or (ii) he wishes to evade answering how he was able to immigrate. Either way, it does not reflect positively on Gunnar. Somehow, I see a parallel with the topic of this post.

      I’m guessing the guy is nuts…

      ‘Nuff said.

    • bender
      Posted May 12, 2009 at 8:10 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#263),

      unfair attack based on a very short exchange

      1. It is not an “attack”; it is a critique.
      2. It is not “unfair”; it was earned. And all factual analysis is fair in scientific debate.
      3. That the exchange was “short” was whose fault, exactly? Perhaps Chu should have been slightly less glib.
      .
      Please, you are truly finished with this puppeteering act.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted May 12, 2009 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#263),

      No, I’m saying that if the questions don’t make sense, then we should construe Chu’s answers in the best possible light, in the spirit of a presumption of innocence.

      Yes, and every time you suggest Barton’s “questions don’t make sense,” you illustrate for us how you share the same kind of cluelessness about the erl bidness we heard from Chu. Anyone familiar with the erl bidness instantly understood what Barton was asking and why he asked the questions. This is also why these same people so quickly haw hawed at Chu’s responses. It wasn’t just the way Chu got the answers factually wrong. It was also Chu’s obvious puzzled reaction and failure to instantly get the insider’s joke or common insider’s knowledge familiar to anyone who knows about the business of oil exploration and production. To put it into another perspective, it is something akin to a city fellar who is told to milk the cow in the barn, but he tries to milk the bull when he was sent into a barn where there were no cows. Like so many trades, professions, and industries, there are certain sets of knowledge which are common to people who must work together and trust each other’s judgement and skills. Whenever an outsider comes into the community and obviously lacks the knowledge and skills of their business, a simple question can reveal the ignorance and inexperience. When Sec. Chu tried to bluff his way through that question and many other questions before and after that very short exchange, his judgement was tested and found wanting. In particular, it demonstrated how this new Secretary of Energy proposed to impose draconian governmental programs without even consulting, accepting, or listening to the expertise of a whole industry with better experience and judgement.

      Barton’s questions also make perfect sense when you don’t take the short exchange about the origins of the Alaskan oil and gas out of context with the rest of Sec. Chu’s Earth Day testimonies and previous appearances before Congress. Sec. Chu committed a number of gaffes which prompted Barton’s later exchange with Chu. For one example, Chu had previously made statements saying he recommended forcing the price of gasoline for consumers to rise to $8.00USD a U.S. Gallon as a means of forcing consumers to conserve petroleum. In this Earth Day testimony, Chu directly contradicted his earlier statements by saying he did not support the maintenance of gasoline prices of $4.00 a gallon. When confronted about this contradiction, Chu admitted his statements were certainly “silly.” Likewise with Chu’s doublefaced testimonies about nuclear energy. One time Chu makes statements that nuclear energy must be a part of the mix of solutions to solve America’s needs for energy production, but he appeared before this Congressional Committee with proposed spending appropriations which made no mention of any appropriations for nuclear energy production. In other words, Sec. Chu’s inconsistent statements prompted our elected representatives to question his veracity and trustworthiness in the public forum of the Congressional Committee Hearing. When you don’t know your way around the livestock, you’d best stay outa the barn and listen to people who know what they are doing and why they are doing it. Doing so saves yourself and the people around you a world of hurt.

      • Gunnar
        Posted May 12, 2009 at 9:38 AM | Permalink

        Re: D. Patterson (#272),

        it demonstrated how this new Secretary of Energy proposed to impose draconian governmental programs without even consulting, accepting, or listening to the expertise of a whole industry with better experience and judgement.

        Of course, that’s consistent with this administration in every area. Elections have consequences. A more naive statement I can’t imagine. Don’t put that on Chu, he was picked for this purpose. Talk to the people who voted.

  130. Gunnar
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 8:45 AM | Permalink

    Michael Smith (#261): What I don’t understand why you think it validates Chu’s testimony.

    I’m saying that it invalidates Bartons’ question.

    premise D: Massive Die-Offs are a necessary cause of significant Oil deposits
    premise I: Major meteor impacts cause Die-offs
    premise M: Major magmatic events cause Die-offs
    premise A: OAEs cause of Die-offs
    premise W: Warmth is a necessary cause of OAEs
    premise S: Salinity conditions can cause OAEs

    Conclusion WcO (Warmth causes Oil) = D & !I & !M & A & W & !S

    For Bartons’ questions to make sense, one must accept WcO as true. Yet:

    D is generally true, but is somwhat contradicted.
    I, M and S are true. A is true, but W is not. W simply makes it more likely to have an OAE.

    Regarding premise I, I asked Dr Chatterjee about this, and he sent me a paper entitled “SHIVA STRUCTURE: A POSSIBLE KT BOUNDARY IMPACT CRATER ON THE WESTERN SHELF OF INDIA”.

    Many of the complex impact structures and events at the KT transition such as the Shiva crater, Chicxulub crater, and the Boltysh crater create the most productive hydrocarbon sites on the planet.
    -SANKAR CHATTERJEE, NECIP GUVEN, AARON YOSHINOBU, AND RICHARD DONOFRIO

    • bender
      Posted May 12, 2009 at 8:53 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#267),
      Please stop now this pet theorizing of yours. Chu felt compelled to dodge Barton’s question because he knew what the “correct answer” (i.e. generally accepted explanation) would imply: the Arctic has been warmer in the past. Chu submitted false evidence. Period. The only question is whether there was intent to deceive. Under the Schneider advocacy principle – discussed ad nauseum – there is reason to suspect this is the case. But I will not speculate as to actual motive.

    • bender
      Posted May 12, 2009 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

      Re: Gunnar (#267),
      What caused the rise of life prior to the die-off, in premise D, where your logic chain begins? Warmth. Call it premise “L”, for Life. The necceessity of this one link, premise L, at the start of the logic chain makes it sufficient to “validate” Barton’s line of enquiry. Moreover it shows why Chu was foolishly wrong.
      .
      You are so busted. Please stop over-torquing the framing of the discussion with a tortured logic model.

      • Gunnar
        Posted May 12, 2009 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

        Re: bender (#269), if you don’t want me to respond, stop asking me questions.

        The L premise is a very weak argument. There is plenty of life in normal climate conditions to result in oil. For example, using US agricultural wastes alone, we could theoretically produce 10 million barrells per day (mb/d). That’s half of what the US consumes, so that’s a lot.

  131. Gunnar
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 9:09 AM | Permalink

    Again, for the record, I am not promoting any theory, let alone a “pet” theory. I’m only analyzing the logic, based on the literature. Kellar’s paper supports premise M, which by itself invalidates WcO.

    If you want to ignore the fact that scientists are currently researching and finding evidence for premises I, M and S, that’s up to you. But if so, then it is you who are promoting a “pet theory” that a warm climate somehow magically is a necessary cause for oil formation.

    I’m keeping my promise in Gunnar (#254).

  132. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 9:40 AM | Permalink

    Gunnar has admitted that he has no knowledge of any relevant geological literature – putting him in more or less the same position as, seemingly, Secretary Chu. I’ve asked Gunnar to provide references in geological literature for his points, but he has refused. I see little purpose in maintaining a thread for pointless discussion of theories that have no more relevance than abiogenic oil.

    Let me summarize a little. There is a vast geological literature on source rock for petroleum. Geologists believe that source rock for petroleum on earth was laid down in very warm climate conditions, including the source rocks presently found in the Arctic. Is it “logically possible” that source rocks could be laid down in cold or cool conditions? Almost anything is “logically possible” – pipelines in the Cretaceous carrying oil from Texas to Alaska are “logically possible”, but there’s no evidence for the proposition and many reasons not to believe that such a pipeline was feasible with the technology available to the dinosaurs, even if Gunnar may wish to argue that it was “logically possible” that dinosaurs had such technology.

    The overwhelming view of geologists is that source rock in the Arctic was laid down in very warm climates.

    A superficial knowledge of plate tectonics – e.g. that of Secretary Chu’s – may lead a debater to argue that the source rocks were laid down in the low latitudes and moved north through plate tectonics over hundreds of millions of years. That’s “logically possible”. However,geologists have done considerable work over the years (e.g. maps at scotese.com) reconstructing the location of the continents over time and it is pretty much universally believed by geologists that relevant Arctic source rocks were laid down at very northerly latitudes (Cretaceous and Jurassic formations in Alaska and elsewhere) or high north mid-latitudes (Triassic) during periods when there were high temperatures from pole to pole.

    It is, of course, “logically possible” that all present-day geological understanding on this matter is incorrect, just as it’s “logically possible” that the dinosaurs, anticipating Gunnar’s interest in the matter, built a pipeline to Alaska.

    Geologists believe that Arctic source rocks were laid down at high latitudes under very warm conditions. They do not believe (1) that the relevant source rocks arrived in the north through plate tectonics operating over millions of years; (2) that they were formed under cold or cool Arctic climate conditions.

    Secretary Chu’s invocation of plate tectonics in this context was absurd and betrays an unfortunate lack of geological knowledge. As I mentioned above, there were answers open to him – (1) he could have observed that past very warm climate conditions are also believed to have had very high CO2 levels and were simply one more reason for concern over present day increases in COs levels; (2) he could have observed that he was not testifying as a specialist in Alaska geology, but, even as a non-specialist, he was confident that there was no ancient pipeline taking oil form Texas to Alaska and that, if Rep Barton wished further clarification, he would have one of his staff provide him with references on the provenance of Arctic oil and gas-bearing rocks.

    It showed poor judgement for Secretary Chu to confidently contradict Barton on a topic where Chu had no personal knowledge or expertise. Most people in organizations learn prudence about venturing opinions being relied on expert opinions and it’s a bit disquieting to see such a poor performance from Secretary Chu. As I mentioned above, let’s hope that he raises his game.

    Finally, let me quote from the closing remarks of the Chairman of Chu’s session:

    time has expired.

  133. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 6:16 AM | Permalink

    Re: Allen63 (#35),

    snip – tread carefully on policy discussions.

  134. D. Patterson
    Posted May 4, 2009 at 3:33 PM | Permalink

    Re: BigCityGlib (#95),

    Consider Dr. Chu’s: Synopsis of a Commonwealth Club Speech given on July 21, 2005
    Sunday, July 17, 2005

    What are the predictions of continued Global warming? First, to quote arguably the greatest American Philosopher of the 20th Century, Yogi Berra, “Predictions are hard to make, especially about the future.” With that caveat, here are some of the predictions:

    An increase in average temperature is not the only consequence. The extremes of hot and cold will increase. Average precipitation will increase, and so will storms, floods, and wildfires. There will be property losses from sea-level rise as well as new beach front property. Productivity of farms, forests, & fisheries will be affected. For example, the temperature rise will not be even and most of it will occur on land masses. With a 2x increases in CO2 from the pre-industrial level of 275 ppm of CO2 to 550 ppm (the goal of the Kyoto Protocol) the temperature of the Midwest of the United States, our grain belt is predicted to rise 6-8° F, with a 20 – 30% decrease in soil moisture in the months June to August. The wonderful agricultural engine of the Midwest will be jeopardized.

    His comment, “extremes of hot and cold will increase”, is used to to falsely disregard all temperature trend realities which are contrary to the computer models used to support AGW advocacy. May we most likely expect a future response from Chu to Barton’s criticism in which the warmer climates in the Mesozoic and Cenozoic in Alaska are summarily dismissed as being irrelevant to current climactic events?

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