Friday, June 22, 2018

Judge's ruling against Minnesota wind farm causes alarm for advocates: They say judge's opposition to proposal could threaten future of the industry

A judge’s recommendation that a proposed Minnesota wind farm be nixed over turbine noise has drawn a flurry of opposition from the wind-power industry, which fears a chilling effect on development.

In a rare move, Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter last month recommended that the Freeborn Wind farm be denied an operating permit, saying the southern Minnesota project failed to show it can meet state noise standards.

Freeborn Wind’s developer, Invenergy, has objected, saying Schlatter’s interpretation of state noise rules would be “impossible” to meet. Last week, two wind-industry trade groups and three of Invenergy’s competitors also filed objections to Schlatter’s recommendation, as did four clean-energy and environmental groups.

The judge’s “interpretation of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) noise standards would have a detrimental impact on other current and future wind-energy projects throughout the state,” the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy wrote in its objection.

Administrative law judges like Schlatter are appointed to contested cases before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which will eventually vote whether to approve the project. The proposed Freeborn Wind farm is the first contested PUC case involving a wind farm. The project southeast of Albert Lea has drawn opposition from some local residents over fears of excessive noise and other quality-of-life issues.

The $300 million Freeborn Wind project would include 42 turbines in Freeborn County and another 82 turbines across the state border in Worth County, Iowa. The project was initially supposed to be solely in Minnesota, but Chicago-based Invenergy moved a big chunk of it due to opposition from the Association of Freeborn County Landowners.

There’s no specific Minnesota rule for wind-farm noise, though there are general MPCA noise standards. Schlatter concluded the MPCA standard applies to total noise: background noise — like roadway traffic — combined with any wind-turbine sounds. Invenergy and the wind industry contend that the MPCA standard applies to wind-turbine sounds alone and say that’s how the PUC has historically viewed the issue.

“If the (PUC) adopted a ‘total noise’ standard, such an interpretation would effectively ban future wind development in Minnesota, and potentially provide anti-wind activists a tool to attempt to adversely affect the operation of existing projects,” the American Wind Energy Association wrote.

But the Association of Freeborn County Landowners said in a filing that “there is no evidence that profitable wind projects” can’t be sited in Minnesota with existing standards. “Wind developers are up in arms, wringing their hands, and quaking, arguing for continuance of prior lax rule interpretations, improper siting procedures and ineffective regulatory oversight.”

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, which represents the public interest before the PUC, said in a recent filing that it’s trying to stake out a “middle ground,” recommending that the PUC “limit a wind project’s total turbine-only noise” to a certain decibel level.

Still, the commerce department concluded that “interpreting the [state’s] noise standard as a limit on total noise that applies to all sources is not an impractical or novel regulatory scheme.”

Other parties that have filed PUC briefs opposing Schlatter’s decision include: wind-energy developers Apex Clean Energy, RES Group and EDF Renewables; wind-turbine manufacturer and Freeborn Wind supplier Vestas; the Minnesota Conservative Energy Forum; and Wind on the Wires, a Minnesota nonprofit that represents wind and solar developers as well as clean-energy advocacy groups


Billions in U.S. solar projects shelved after Trump panel tariff

President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels has led U.S. renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of more than $2.5 billion in large installation projects, along with thousands of jobs, the developers told Reuters.

That's more than double the about $1 billion in new spending plans announced by firms building or expanding U.S. solar panel factories to take advantage of the tax on imports.

The tariff’s bifurcated impact on the solar industry underscores how protectionist trade measures almost invariably hurt one or more domestic industries for every one they shield from foreign competition. Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, for instance, have hurt manufacturers of U.S. farm equipment made with steel, such as tractors and grain bins, along with the farmers buying them at higher prices.

White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump announced the tariff in January over protests from most of the solar industry that the move would chill one of America's fastest-growing sectors.

Solar developers completed utility-scale installations costing a total of $6.8 billion last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Those investments were driven by U.S. tax incentives and the falling costs of imported panels, mostly from China, which together made solar power competitive with natural gas and coal.

The U.S. solar industry employs more than 250,000 people - about three times more than the coal industry - with about 40 percent of those people in installation and 20 percent in manufacturing, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"Solar was really on the cusp of being able to completely take off," said Zoe Hanes, chief executive of Charlotte, North Carolina solar developer Pine Gate Renewables.

GTM Research, a clean energy research firm, recently lowered its 2019 and 2020 utility-scale solar installation forecasts in the United States by 20 percent and 17 percent, respectively, citing the levies.

Officials at Suniva - a Chinese-owned, U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer whose bankruptcy prompted the Trump administration to consider a tariff - did not respond to requests for comment.

Companies with domestic panel factories are divided on the policy. Solar giant SunPower Corp (SPWR.O) opposes the tariff that will help its U.S. panel factories because it will also hurt its domestic installation and development business, along with its overseas manufacturing operations.

"There could be substantially more employment without a tariff," said Chief Executive Tom Werner.


The 30 percent tariff is scheduled to last four years, decreasing by 5 percent per year during that time. Solar developers say the levy will initially raise the cost of major installations by 10 percent.

Leading utility-scale developer Cypress Creek Renewables LLC said it had been forced to cancel or freeze $1.5 billion in projects - mostly in the Carolinas, Texas and Colorado - because the tariff raised costs beyond the level where it could compete, spokesman Jeff McKay said.

That amounted to about 150 projects at various stages of development that would have employed three thousand or more workers during installation, he said. The projects accounted for a fifth of the company's overall pipeline.

Developer Southern Current has made similar decisions on about $1 billion of projects, mainly in South Carolina, said Bret Sowers, the company’s vice president of development and strategy.

"Either you make the decision to default or you bite the bullet and you make less money," Sowers said.

Neither Cypress Creek nor Southern Current would disclose exactly which projects they intend to cancel. They said those details could help their competitors and make it harder to pursue those projects if they become financially viable later.

Both are among a group of solar developers that have asked trade officials to exclude panels used in their utility-scale projects from the tariffs. The office of the U.S. Trade Representative said it is still evaluating the requests.

Other companies are having similar problems.

Scott Canada, senior vice president of renewable energy at solar project builder McCarthy Building Companies, said his company had planned to employ about 1,200 people on solar projects this year but slashed that number by half because of the tariff.

Pine Gate, meanwhile, will complete about half of the 400 megawatts of solar installations it had planned this year and has ditched plans to hire 30 permanent employees, Hanes said.

The company also withdrew an 80-megawatt project that would have cost up to $150 million from consideration in a bidding process held by Southern Co (SO.N) utility Georgia Power. It pulled the proposal late last year when it learned the Trump administration was contemplating the tariff.

For some developers, the tariff has meant abandoning nascent markets in the American heartland that last year posted the strongest growth in installations. That growth was concentrated in states where voters supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

South Bend, Indiana-based developer Inovateus Solar LLC, for example, had decided three years ago to focus on emerging Midwest solar markets such as Indiana and Michigan. But the tariff sparked a shift to Massachusetts, where state renewable energy incentives make it more profitable, chairman T.J. Kanczuzewski said.

Other developers are forging ahead, keen to take advantage of the remaining years of a 30-percent federal tax credit for solar installation that is scheduled to start phasing out in 2020.

Some firms saw the tariff coming and stockpiled panels before Trump’s announcement. 174 Power Global, the development arm of Korea's Hanwha warehoused 190 megawatts of solar panels at the end of last year for a Texas project that broke ground in January.

The company is paying more for panels for two Nevada projects that start operating this year and next, but is moving forward on construction, according to Larry Greene, who heads the firm's development in the U.S. West.

Intersect Power, a developer that cut a deal last year with Austin Energy to provide low-cost power to the Texas capital city, is also pushing ahead, said CEO Sheldon Kimber. But the tariff is forcing delays in buying solar panels.

The 150-megawatt project is due to start producing power in 2020. Waiting until the last minute to purchase modules will allow the company to take advantage of the tariff’s 5-percent annual reductions, he said.

Trump’s tariff has boosted the domestic manufacturing sector as intended, which over time could significantly raise U.S. panel production and reduce prices.

Panel manufacturers First Solar (FSLR.O) and JinkoSolar (JKS.N), for example, have announced plans to spend $800 million on projects to increase panel construction in the United States since the tariff, creating about 700 new jobs in Ohio and Florida. Just last week, Korea’s Hanwha Q CELLS (HQCL.O) joined them, saying it will open a solar module factory in Georgia next year, though it did not detail job creation.

SunPower Corp, meanwhile, purchased U.S. manufacturer SolarWorld's Oregon factory after the tariff was announced, saving that facility’s 280 jobs. The company said it plans to hire more people at the plant to expand operations, without specifying how many.

But SunPower has also said it must cut up to 250 jobs in other parts of its organization because of the tariffs.

Jobs in panel manufacturing are also limited due to increasing automation, industry experts said.

Heliene - a Canadian company in the process of opening a U.S. facility capable of producing 150 megawatts worth of panels per year - said it will employ between 130 and 140 workers in Minnesota.

"The factories are highly automated," said Martin Pochtaruk, president of Heliene. "You don't employ too many humans. There are a lot of robots."


Effort to turn weathermen into climate activists fraught with bad science

By: Marc Morano

NBC News is hyping a report that claims meteorologists are supporting the George Mason and Climate Central effort to promote climate change fears on your nightly weather forecast. See: ‘Global warming,’ now brought to you by local TV weathercaster

The climate information being promoted by the activist meteorologists is highly suspect and the groups behind the effort have supported shutting down any scientific debate by supporting RICO statures against skeptics and they have benefited greatly from federal funding of their efforts.

The information the meteorologists are peddling is pure propaganda, as the video accompanying the article shows a montage of weather forecasters using a 1970 start date to claim warming temperatures. Ever wonder why they chose 1970 as the start date?

Here is why:

Cheating For Dollars At Climate Central: ‘The 1970 cherry picking scam has become a centerpiece of the global warming fraud. The 1970s was one of the coldest decades in US history’ – By Tony Heller – ‘By starting in 1970, Climate Central is intentionally defrauding their readers. Had they started in 1950, there would be almost no warming shown Also important to remember that all recent temperatures are jacked up by 0.5F Bottom line is there has been little or no long term warming in the US’

But just who is behind this effort to turn your local TV weatherman into an Al Gore spouting climate fear promoter?

Climate Depot and the new book ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change,’ reveal the answers to these questions.

NBC News describes thusly the effort to turn your local weatherman into a mini Al Gore: “Key to the shift has been Climate Central, the nonprofit that helped school LaPointe. The Princeton, New Jersey-based organization sponsors classes and webinars for meteorologists and also shares real-time data and graphics with TV stations. The group has reached more than 500 local TV weathercasters — about a quarter of those working in the U.S. — since it started its “Climate Matters” education program in 2012, and it is expanding this week to a wider group of journalists.”

Who is Climate Central? A climate activist group funded by the federal tax dollars that helps promote climate fears.

‘There is evidently heavy funding as well from Federal organizations. So taxpayers are having to pay Climate Central to produce what is often grossly inaccurate and misleading propaganda, which in turn supports the Federal Government’s agenda.’

NBC News touts George Mason professor Ed Maibach as “the climate change center’s director” at the University. Who is Ed Maibach and just who is behind the effort to turn your weather forecast into nightly climate propaganda?

Excerpt: “Maibach, you may be surprised to learn, is no climate scientist but has a BA in social psychology from University of California, and a PhD in communication research from Stanford University.” According to the Centre’s blurb: “Ed joined the George Mason University faculty in 2007 to create the Center for Climate Change Communication. Trained in public health and communication…”

Maibach was also a signatory of the infamous letter to President Obama urging the use of RICO statutes against climate skeptics.

"Twenty climate scientists, including Top UN scientist Dr. Kevin Trenberth, & George Mason’s Ed Maibach, call for RICO investigation of climate skeptics in letter to Obama – Via Politico: ‘Twenty climate scientists called for RICO investigation in a letter to Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.”

Maibach’s funding also raises questions:

Excerpt: “This is one hell of a high powered effort to push out global warming propaganda, and heaven knows what it all costs. Amongst its providers of major funding are listed NASA, the National Science Foundation and private foundations such as Grantham Foundation and Rockefeller Family Fund. It could hardly be a more incestuous relationship. NASA pumps funding into the Center in order to persuade the public of the terrors of global warming, which in turn will help to maintain their own funding, which can then be used to further ramp up the scare. It is no wonder Mr Maibach is so keen to sign the (RICO) letter, and silence skeptics”

Maibach has a long history of climate propaganda.

See: Climate spin: Behind-the-scenes emails show warmist prof Ed Maibach evading questions – By Maxim Lott – June 01, 2016 – – Newly released internal e-mails show George Mason University climate professors plotting a petition calling on the government to prosecute skeptics of global warming using RICO laws designed to go after the mob. They got 20 scientists to sign their petition and sent it to government officials before withdrawing in the face of controversy. The new emails show GMU professors Jagadish Shukla and Edward Maibach discussing everything from how to craft their petition to appeal to conservatives, to getting warnings from others that the petition would go over poorly, to evading media questions.

In the emails, the professors decided to ignore questions from about why the lead petition author, Jagadish Shukla, used government grants to give himself and his family some $500,000 in salary and benefits in 2014 — which reported in October. The professors decided to reach out to the Washington Post instead. “They were running a well-used page in their playbook … get the legacy media to play defense for them,” Chris Horner, who forced the public release of the emails by filing a “Freedom of Information Act” request, told


Magical Wind Power: Illusions versus Reality

The number-one challenge of our times is to separate the wheat from the chaff.  To assist in this task, we are blessed with more information than ever before – but we are also simultaneously burdened with more misinformation than any prior generation has ever had to deal with.

We look back and wonder how trusting citizens were so easily victimized by snake oil salesmen, but today, in the golden age of cons, we are being duped on a daily basis.

As a representative matter (and a national issue of great significance), let’s look at what’s happening with industrial wind energy.

The primary reason why wind energy has been a success has nothing to do with wind energy!  Instead, its success is 100% due to the fact that wind energy proponents are masterful lobbyists.

If one reads The Business of America Is Lobbying, it’s apparent that the wind industry has used every trick in the book, and then written some of its own.

For example: Wind lobbyists have successfully infiltrated our language with totally inaccurate and misleading terminology, such as “wind farms” and “clean energy.”  Neither exists.

For example: Wind marketers have successfully portrayed their product as “Free, Clean, and Green” – despite it being none of those.  The reason they have coined these malapropisms is simple: those who control the words control the narrative.

For example: Wind salespeople have successfully convinced financially distressed communities that hosting a wind project will be an economic windfall – even though numerous studies from independent experts indicate that the net local economic impact could well be negative.

For example: Wind-peddlers have successfully sold technically challenged local representatives that the wind-developer is their friend and business partner – even though these sophisticated and aggressive entrepreneurs typically look at these rural people as rubes and marks, and their number-one focus is to make as much money as possible, at the rubes’ expense.

For example: Wind developers have successfully persuaded much of the public that wind energy is an inevitable matter, so fighting it is a lost cause.  The reality is that in many cases, local communities can effectively defend themselves by simply passing a proper wind ordinance.

For example: Wind-supporters have successfully imparted the belief that a certain wind project will power 20,000 homes – even though that project will not actually power a single home 24/7/365.

For example: Wind advocates employ a sleight-of-hand tactic to dismiss noise complaints by claiming that “wind turbines don’t make any more noise than a refrigerator.”  The fact is that the main acoustical concern with wind turbines is the infrasound generated (which is below our level of hearing).  So discussing the audible part of turbine noise purposefully distracts from the serious inaudible (but still very much experienced) noise issue.

For example: Wind propagandists say that wind energy is saving the environment – even though the evidence indicates that it is environmentally destructive on multiple fronts.

For example: Wind promoters have successfully conveyed the idea that wind energy is a low-cost option of electricity – even though when all its costs are fully accounted for, wind energy can be three to five times as expensive as traditional electricity sources.

For example: Wind advocates have successfully communicated the notion that using more wind will directly result in the closure of coal plants – even though 10,000 wind turbines could never equal the performance of even a single coal facility.

For example: Wind-boosters have successfully disseminated the impression that wind is a major and essential contributor to preventing climate change – even though there is no empirical scientific proof that wind energy saves any consequential CO2.

For example: Wind champions have successfully relayed the conviction that the DoD Clearinghouse assures us that wind projects will not adversely affect the mission or operational readiness of our military or our national security – even though the DoD Clearinghouse was set up to accommodate wind energy (not the military), and the actual process is much more about promoting political correctness than protecting our national defense.

I could go on and on, as the list of wind lobbyists’ deceptions is distressingly long.  That said, there is an additional major falsehood that needs to be exposed: that there is such a thing as wind energy by itself.  This seemingly innocuous deceit is actually extraordinarily important.

The fact is that there is no such animal on the grid as wind energy by itself.  What actually typically exists is a “Wind+Gas” package.  This is mandated by the inescapable reality of wind energy’s unrelentingly unpredictable and uncontrollable output.  No conventional source of electrical energy has these characteristics, so none need this special augmentation.

The importance of understanding this reality is that when we are talking about wind energy economics or environmental consequences, the only truthful analysis is objectively and comprehensively looking at the results of the Wind+Gas package.*

For example, it should be apparent that wind energy (i.e., the Wind+Gas package) is not a CO2 zero-emitter.  In fact, due to other technicalities (never acknowledged by wind lobbyists), some studies have concluded that gas (combined cycle) by itself produces less CO2 than the Wind+Gas package.

Let me restate that extraordinary finding: gas can produce less CO2 than wind energy does!

Is the success of wind energy due to the sophistication of the con artists they’ve engaged or to our gullibility?  In either case, the takeaway is that lobbyists are not reliable sources of information, especially when it involves significant money, our health, or our national security.  The bottom line is that wind energy is palliative pabulum, not suitable for prime time.


Former PM steps up attack on Australian climate plan

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told Liberal and Nationals MPs that Australia must do its part to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as his predecessor Tony Abbott led another attack on the issue in the Coalition party room.

Mr Turnbull held the line on the government’s pledge to cut emissions by 26 per cent by 2030 under the National Energy Guarantee, against vocal concerns from six Liberal MPs, including Mr Abbott.

At one point Mr Abbott claimed he was “misled by bureaucrats” over the cost of the emissions cut he helped decide as Prime Minister in 2015, which was taken to the United Nations climate talks in Paris that year.

The skirmish is another stage in the federal government’s painful internal debate on energy and climate change, in the face of objections from conservative MPs including Mr Abbott, backbencher Craig Kelly and former ministers Eric Abetz and Ian Macdonald.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg defended the National Energy Guarantee against the criticisms and cited support from industry executives to assure backbenchers the plan would succeed.

Labor is attacking the guarantee for cementing cuts that it regards as too weak while Mr Abbott and his colleagues argue the targets are too ambitious, adding to the obstacles to an agreement in Federal Parliament.

Mr Abbott challenged Mr Frydenberg to address concerns aired by Tomago Aluminium chief Matt Howell about the unreliability of renewable energy sources and the fact that its battery system would only last minutes when the smelter in NSW needed power for hours.

Mr Frydenberg replied by telling the meeting he had spoken to Mr Howell before the Coalition party room meeting and could assure MPs the Tomago chief supported the guarantee.

Mr Frydenberg also cited support for the guarantee from steelmaker BlueScope and mining giant BHP Billiton, according to government MPs in the room.

In a revival of earlier disputes within the Coalition, Mr Abbott expressed concern about the 26 per cent target despite the fact his government signed off on the commitment in 2015 in a decision cleared with the Coalition party room at the time.

Mr Abbott argued in the meeting that the target was “aspirational” but Mr Frydenberg said this was not the case, quoting the former prime minister’s own words from three years ago.

In September 2015, Mr Abbott said: “Unlike some other countries which make these pledges and don’t deliver, Australia does deliver when we make a pledge.”

Fairfax Media was told that Mr Abbott warned about the cost of meeting the target and said he may have been “misled by the bureaucracy” about the full implications of the Paris commitment.

When Senator Macdonald questioned why Australia had to reduce any emissions, Mr Turnbull responded by emphasising the need to ensure the guarantee delivered on the targets agreed in 2015.

Mr Turnbull told the meeting that Australia had to “do our bit” to reach the target.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Michigan Dems Call New Curriculum ‘Far-Right’ Over Climate Change Exclusion

Now even something you DON'T say is “far-right”

Michigan Democrats are petitioning against a “far-right” school curriculum revision over its removal of references to climate change, the LGBT community and Islam.

The recently proposed social studies standards, drafted largely by Republican state senator Patrick Colbeck, have plucked out climate change information from the 6th grade geography unit and dropped references to various minority groups, according to MLive. The phrase “core democratic values” was also eliminated.

A petition — seeming launched by Ann Arbor school board secretary Jeff Gaynor — claims the revisions are “far-right” and “endanger not only our past, but our future.”

“By altering the standards for teaching history in Michigan, they cut many people out of history – and silence the work of those who have worked to fulfill the American promise of liberty and justice for all,” the petition states, seeking 5,000 signatures.

The curriculum would be applied to K-12 students throughout Michigan.

State senator David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) claimed it’s “mind-numbing” how the proposed curriculum describes the KKK as an anti-Republican group and not anti-black.

“Five references to the NAACP and the role that they played in desegregation, eliminated. Every reference to the LGBT community, eliminated. Every reference to Roe v. Wade, eliminated,” Knezek argued during a speech last Tuesday, adding that Republicans are “quite literally attempting to rewrite history.”

Knezek also accused Colbeck of misinterpreting the “core democratic values” phrase as a reference to the Democratic Party.

The petition authors created a “Defend MI History” Facebook page calling the conservatives “extremists.”

Michigan’s education board in August will review public comments on the matter, but a final vote on the curriculum is not yet scheduled, Bridge Magazine reports.

Colbeck, representing Wayne County north of Detroit, is currently running for governor.


Solar 'Incentives' Are Busting Out All Over

Ever wonder why installations of household solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and utility-scale solar power have surged since 2014? The declining cost of solar technology is part of the reason. But a bigger factor may be the profusion of state and federal “incentive” programs, i.e. subsidies.

A new report by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) examines solar power incentive programs in 25 states. The report considers five categories of “direct” incentives: federal tax incentives, state tax credits, state rebates, utility programs (such as net metering), and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

Amazingly, in eight states (Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Minnesota), incentives exceed 100 percent of the costs of installing solar PV systems. Massachusetts leads the pack, with incentives equaling 218 percent of installation costs. Subsidies equal or exceed 77 percent of costs in all but five of the states surveyed.

“Residential solar PV systems receive, on average, between 104 percent and 140 percent of total system costs in incentives,” CEA finds. In contrast, utility-scale solar installations receive “about 45 percent of total system costs in incentives.”

Of course, solar subsidies do not fall like manna from heaven. Governments cannot give to some without taking from others. Taxpayers and consumers foot the bill for solar incentives.

“Through the 30 percent federal tax credit, various state tax credits and state rebates ranging between 10 percent and 65 percent, and the additional tax deductions provided by the depreciation of the solar assets for third-party-owned systems, taxpayers as a whole are covering a significant portion of the cost of an individual’s residential solar PV system in the United States,” according to the CEA report.

Similarly, through “utility programs and utility purchases in REC markets, utility customers in all customer classes share the cost of residential solar PV systems,” with general ratepayers contributing directly in about half the states analyzed and paying about 30 percent of costs in at least five states.

Plus, in a majority of jurisdictions, net metering programs, which allow solar PV owners to sell power back to the grid, pay none of the “capital expenditures for the poles, conductor, transformers, switches, and metering devices, as well as additional operation and maintenance expense to operate the system safely and reliably.”

CEA acknowledges that net metering programs may “shift fixed infrastructure costs onto non-solar customers” and even “shift costs onto less affluent customers.” However, the report does not suggest that a retrenchment would be desirable for reasons of either equity or efficiency.


This Obama-Era UN-EPA Agreement Has To Go

As the Trump White House continues its cleanup of the mess — foreign and domestic — left behind by the Obama administration, it should toss out a little-noticed document that entangles the U.S. in some of the worst schemes ever cooked up by U.N. bureaucrats and their cronies in the global environmental movement.

On September 16, 2016, the Obama EPA entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Concluded just a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election, the MOU bears the signature for the U.S. of then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. In the document, UNEP and the Obama EPA vow to “consolidate, further develop and intensify their cooperation and effectiveness to achieve their common goals and objectives in the field of the environment.”

And therein lies the problem. For the “common goals and objectives” shared by the U.N. body and the Obama administration are specifically crafted to hamstring American fossil-fuel energy development, promote an assortment of politically fashionable, but otherwise uncompetitive, green technologies and products, and perpetuate the deplorable living conditions in the world’s poorest countries.

An Instrument of the Paris Climate Accord

The document was signed nine months after the adoption of the U.N.-sponsored Paris climate accord, and the wording of the MOU leaves little doubt that it was seen as an instrument to underscore America’s commitment to curtail its production and use of energy in the name of combatting climate change. Thus, UNEP and the Obama EPA agreed to “cooperate on responses to climate change,” including mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, reducing short-lived climate forcers and supporting adaptation and resilience to climate change.

Taking these and similar steps, the MOU says, will enable the advance “toward green economies and resource-efficient societies through collaborative activities to promote and support sustainable consumption and production.” In truth, “green economies” are those with taxpayer-subsidized and government-mandated renewable energy (primarily wind and solar). And what constitutes “sustainable consumption and production” is in the eyes of the beholding bureaucrat, empowered either by the administrative regulatory state or by legislation adopted at the behest of deep-pocketed special interests.

All of this is to be pursued through jointly held symposia, seminars, workshops, study tours, collaborative research and development projects, exchanges and training programs and other forms of cooperation that strengthen the bonds between UNEP and the U.S. Under the MOU, each side is to name a “Senior Coordinator” to oversee the holding of “regular joint meetings on matters of common interest.” To make sure the two sides stay in touch, “such meetings are to take place at least once every six months in accordance with an agenda approved by them in advance of every meeting.”

The outfit the Obama administration teamed up within the MOU, UNEP, was founded in 1972 by wealthy Canadian businessman Maurice Strong; it is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and has an office conveniently located in Washington, D.C. Strong (1929–2015) was Under-Secretary-General of the U.N. when he founded UNEP and was an early advocate for combatting what he said was human-induced climate change, then known as global warming.

In keeping with Strong’s vision, UNEP has worked closely with the Bonn-based United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). For its part, UNFCCC has enthusiastically spread climate alarmism and gone to extraordinary lengths to deny the residents of the world’s poorest access to reliable and affordable electricity and transportation fuel, thereby perpetuating their poverty.

Anti-American Agenda

Given UNEP’s pedigree and the Obama administration’s unbridled hostility to fossil fuels, President Trump should scrap the UNEP-EPA MOU. Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt inherited the MOU from their predecessors and are under no obligation to adhere to its content. The White House has already withdrawn from the Paris climate accord, and President Trump chose to skip the climate-change session at the recent G7 meeting in Quebec.

Continued fealty to the Obama-era MOU runs counter to the president’s goal of American global energy dominance, which is anchored to our abundance of oil, natural gas, and coal. The ties that bound the UN and the Obama administration should not be allowed to constrain the choices of everyday Americans.

Even if the MOU is “non-binding,” so, too, are the commitments all parties agreed to under the Paris climate accord.  But recognizing the threat the Paris accord posed to U.S. energy security, the Trump White House wisely walked away from it. The UNEP-EPA memorandum is little more than an implementation tool of the Paris agreement and should suffer the same fate.

Both are part of what is, at its core, a decidedly anti-American agenda.


Florida Utility Becomes US Leader In Renewables Thanks To Taxpayers

NextEra Energy has successfully leveraged government mandates and taxpayer-funded subsidies to become an international powerhouse in the renewable energy market.

NextEra — a major U.S. company that boasts a large wind energy portfolio — has served as a model of unprecedented growth over the years. The Florida-based utility company was ranked the 30th largest American power company in 2011 and carried a $10.2-billion valuation. The company currently touts a market capitalization of $74 billion and is heralded as the world’s biggest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun. Fortune Magazine ranked the company in 2018 as one of the most admired among gas and electric utilities, earning the distinction for the 11th time in 12 years.

NextEra has been able to experience rapid growth, with its expansion even more impressive considering demand for power has mostly flatlined. Credit is given to its executive leadership members — including chief executive James Robo — who have carefully managed longterm contracts and avoided debt. (RELATED: Germany Won’t Meet Its Global Warming Targets Despite Spending $200 Billion On Green Energy)

However, there is another entity that deserves major credit for the company’s rise: the U.S. government.

NextEra has been able to capitalize off federal subsidies and state mandates implemented over the years to promote wind and solar technology, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Congress began handing out tax credits in earnest for renewables in the 1990s. At the time, the wind and solar industry was minuscule, and no one anticipated the industry to take off. As the sector grew, so did the number of companies wanting credits. NextEra has been especially aggressive at obtaining them. For example, wind farms in 2008 produced around $600 million in tax credits. They are estimated to produce $4.8 billion in 2018. NextEra has been able to use $401 million of these tax credits in the past three years to offset taxes.

State governments have also served as a major contributor to the proliferation of renewables. Almost no state governments enforced a renewable energy mandate at the turn of the 21st century — a requirement that utilities obtain a certain amount of their electricity from renewable sources. Nearly 30 states have some form of a renewable energy mandate in 2018. This total will only rise as states, such as Michigan and Arizona, have experienced environmentalist-lead campaigns to increase their renewable portfolios.

Unable to produce enough energy from wind turbines, many utilities sought to purchase electricity from companies that could. NextEra, a top producer of wind energy, has been able to gobble up many of these contracts, providing renewable energy to companies that are facing higher and higher standards.

NextEra’s renewable energy arm raked in nearly $3 billion in net income in 2017.

As for the future, the company aims to keep expanding. NextEra expects to boost the number of wind and solar projects that are in different stages of the leasing and permitting process.


Fake Support for a Free Market in Energy

All of a sudden, everyone on the Left wants “free markets in energy policy.” As someone who’s advocated for that for, oh, about three decades, this riff should be music to my ears. But is laissez faire energy policy really what liberals are seeking?

First, some context. A few weeks ago, liberal activists leaked a draft of a Trump administration directive that would order utilities to purchase coal and nuclear power as part of their energy mix in supplying electricity to homes and businesses. There are good arguments for and against this policy — I’m fairly neutral — but what was fascinating was the indignant response from those on the Left who hate fossil fuels. “Crony capitalism!” they shrieked in unison. Catherine Rampell, an economic columnist at The Washington Post, moaned that President Donald Trump “is wielding the power of the state to keep uncompetitive companies in business, and costing taxpayers and consumers lots of money in the process.” “If that doesn’t count as ‘picking winners and losers,’ it’s hard to say what would,” Rampell wrote.

The Los Angeles Times slammed the Trump plan as “a preposterous idea”: “Continuing to operate financially nonviable power plants and forcing grid operators to buy power they don’t need or want is an unacceptable governmental intrusion into the power market that, by one analysis, would needlessly cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

This could cost hundreds of millions of dollars? That’s bad, for sure, but have you ever heard the Los Angeles Times rail against subsidies for wind and solar power? I haven’t. The Obama administration’s policy was to try to bankrupt coal, oil and other fossil fuels through regulation, while enriching their renewable energy pals in Silicon Valley with lavish subsidies.

Remember Solyndra? That was the company that was going to revolutionize solar power, and it went bankrupt after the Obama administration gave the firm hundreds of millions of dollars. All told, $150 billion was pipelined into the green empire under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and most of the money funded such fiascoes. But now Trump is the one who is accused of “picking winners and losers”?

An even bigger farce is the idea that Adam Smith’s invisible hand of free-market forces is what is driving certain nuclear power and coal plants into bankruptcy. (Coal still provides five times more electric power than wind and solar combined.) Rampell of The Washington Post explains: “The reason these [coal and nuclear] plants are struggling, after all, is that they can’t compete with cheaper natural gas and renewables.” That’s half-true. Yes, $3 natural gas prices have revolutionized the electric power markets and driven down costs.

But the idea that renewables are “cheap” is a lie, and those on the Left know it. Let’s be clear about an economic reality that environmentalists have spent four decades trying to hide: Without massive government subsidies, there would be no wind or solar energy to speak of. They are complete creatures of government favoritism, and after 30 years, we still can’t cut the umbilical cord.

Consider how gargantuan the green-energy subsidies are. First, wind and solar receive a tax credit that is basically a 35 percent-off coupon for the energy they supply, with taxpayers picking up the tab. If coal or nuclear power got a 35 percent taxpayer subsidy for every kilowatt of electricity they supplied, they would be basking in profits. I helped write and negotiate the just-passed Trump tax bill. When we tried to get rid of the renewable energy tax credit (i.e., create a “free market in energy”), the green lobby went ballistic and told Republicans this would put much of the industry out of business.

For every dollar of subsidy that coal and nuclear power receive, wind power gets almost $5 and solar receives about $20. This does not even include the biggest subsidy of all: About half the states have renewable-energy standards requiring utilities to buy 20 percent to 30 percent of their power from wind and solar, regardless of the price. What other industry in America has that kind of golden parachute?

In terms of assessing the merits of energy alternatives, we ought to have an insurance policy against brownouts and blackouts. Other nations and California have suffered from these because of overdependence on intermittent power sources such as wind and solar. We may regret shutting down reliable nuclear or coal plants, which can’t be easily powered up again, during storms, cold winters or hot summer days when we need electricity the most.

In the meantime, enough hypocrisy from liberals who lecture us about bailouts and subsidies as if they were Milton Friedman disciples. There is nothing more horrifying to proponents of renewable energy than a genuine free market in energy.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

On the Impossibility of the Ultimate Climate Catasrophe

This week’s good news is that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), by far the world’s biggest ice mass, was largely intact during the entire Pliocene epoch.  The Pliocene was slightly less than three million years in length, and preceded the Pleistocene, the epoch of the ice ages.

The implications for human-caused warming from enhanced carbon dioxide are enormous.  The good news was published in the same issue of Nature that carried an article about the loss of slightly less than three trillion metric tons of Antarctic ice since 1992.

These things are best viewed in a larger perspective.  By itself, that ice loss would raise sea level by about a third of an inch, something probably impossible to detect with land-based tidal gauges.  But it was also likely somewhat balanced by the probability of enhanced snowfall over the continent thanks to a (very) slightly warmed surrounding ocean. But the melting of the EAIS would be apocalyptic, itself raising sea level by 175 feet.

Even though this seemed like a very remote possibility, we can now confidently say that human-induced climate change cannot make it happen.

Here’s why.

Global temperatures during the Pliocene averaged around 2-3⁰C higher than the 20th century average.  But the massive thermal inertia of Antarctica means it probably wasn’t that much warmer there.  Let’s be very conservative and say it was about one degree warmer.

The Pliocene heat load over the EAIS then becomes:

3,000,000 years X 1⁰ = 3,000,000 degree-years.

Now let’s also be conservative about how long human-induced climate change might last, say, 1000 years.  But again, climate change is attenuated over the vast ice-covered continent, so let’s posit we induce a global warming of 5⁰ (which is probably too large), and Antarctica warms half as much.

The maximum heat load over Antarctica then is:

1,000 years X2.5⁰ = 2,500 degree-years.

The Pliocene heat load was 1,200 times what humans could possibly exert on the EAIS, and it still remained largely intact.  Because of that, fears about the ultimate climate catastrophe can no longer even be entertained.


AP Claims That Global Warming ‘Is Making Us Dumb’, Gets Debunked

University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr. called out a lengthy AP story claiming that global warming created “a different world” over the past 30 years — the time frame scientists typically use to account for natural climatic variations.

“We were warned,” is what the AP says about the supposed changes,”large and small,” that have happened in the last 30 years. The story is full of anecdotal evidence, official figures and alarming quotes from scientists.

“The statistics tracking climate change since 1988 are almost numbing,” the AP reported in its story.

Pielke points to the article’s illogical claim that climate “change has been so sweeping that it is easy to lose sight of effects large and small,” focusing on the AP’s citing of hurricane damage data to insinuate that storms were becoming more intense.

The AP’s article makes several claims that are misleading. The Daily Caller News Foundation has listed the three most misleading claims made in the AP’s article on “numbing” global warming statistics.

1. Hurricanes

The AP’s story notes that “[t]he 14 costliest hurricanes in American history, adjusted for inflation, have hit since 1988, reflecting both growing coastal development and a span that included the most intense Atlantic storms on record.”

Pielke, however, took issue with AP’s use of hurricane damage statistics to imply storms had become more intense in the last 30 years. Pielke noted that hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. have changed little over time, meaning increased damages come from inflation and economic growth.

2. Wildfires

The AP reports that “wildfires in the United States now consume more than twice the acreage they did 30 years ago.”

While this is true, the AP’s narrowing of its analysis to just the past 30 years leaves presents a misleading picture. Wildfires may be burning more acreage today than the 1980s, but that pales in comparison to the great fires of the early 20th Century.

The scale of U.S. wildfires has decreased dramatically since 1930, according to government estimates. That year, wildfires burned more than four times the amount of acreage burned in 2012.

In 1930, for example, wildfires consumed more than 50 million acres of land, but in 2012 wildfires only burnt up 9.2 million acres.

3. Record Heat

Again, the AP’s use of a 30-year timeline presents a skewed picture on heat records set across the U.S.

“[D]aily heat records have been broken more than 2.3 million times at weather stations across the nation, half a million times more than cold records were broken,” the AP reported, but a longer view of the century puts record heat in perspective.

“The Dust Bowl era of the 1930s remains the peak period for extreme heat,” reads the National Climate Assessment special report released in late 2017.

“In fact, all eastern regions experienced a net decrease, most notably the Midwest (about 2.2°F [1.2°C]) and the Southeast (roughly 1.5°F [0.8°C])” that are “mainly tied to the unprecedented summer heat of the 1930s Dust Bowl era,” according to the special report.


Streamlining Infrastructure Environmental Review


Many roads, bridges, sewers, pipelines, and other infrastructure need repair. New facilities should also be built where economic and social conditions warrant. Yet even where money is not an obstacle, the reviews that are required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) can be a significant source of delay. The average time to complete a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), for example, was 5.1 years in 2016. Only 16% of them were completed in two years or less.

Lengthy reviews introduce uncertainty, add to the costs, and threaten the viability of infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, existing facilities continue to deteriorate as proposed upgrades or replacements wind their way through federal and state regulatory bodies. The problem is long-standing, and Congress has taken a number of steps over the last several years to streamline the process.

This paper assesses their effectiveness and proposes some additional changes, including:

Updating rules and procedures at the agency level to exempt additional infrastructure projects from lengthy and complex review requirements.

Expanding eligibility and giving agencies more flexibility to make use of NEPA’s “categorical exclusion” provisions.

Assigning more environmental review duties to states. For more than a decade, a program called NEPA Assignment has allowed states to take the lead on shepherding certain highway and transit projects through environmental review. The states that have done so report reduced time required to complete environmental reviews. More states should be encouraged to participate. The federal government should expand the number of projects and actions that are eligible under existing authority, and Congress should expand the program to cover more kinds of infrastructure.

With the implementation of these recommendations, federal agency resources would be freed to deal with the complex projects that require more comprehensive review, reducing the time for projects that pass muster to begin.


Dumb Energy

Wind and solar electricity are renewable energy.  How nice to pluck energy out of the air and the sky.

It's a scam.  Big money men and screwball dreamers, otherwise called environmentalists, are behind the scam.

Apparently, it has not dawned on the believers in the scam that solar does not work at night, and wind works only when the wind is blowing.  The core characteristic of wind and solar is that they are erratic sources of electricity.  The supply is randomly intermittent.  Who in Hell thinks this dumb energy is a good way to supply electricity?

The wind and solar promoters, in order to accommodate their dumb energy, demand that the electric grid be re-engineered to become a "smart" grid.  Perhaps the idea is that if the grid is smart enough, the dumb energy will be canceled by the smart grid.  That's actually what the smart grid people have in mind.  The smart grid is supposed to be agile enough to fill in the gaps when the wind or solar is playing hooky.

The intellectual mind values an elegant theory over a messy reality.  The result is tension between ivory tower thinkers and practical men working in the trenches of the economy.  The practical men easily see the weaknesses in abstract theories, weaknesses that are invisible to the ivory tower thinkers.  But the practical men are not equipped to assert or defend their reality in political, media, or academic circles.  If they try, they are patronized and ignored.  A seductive theory trumps pedestrian and annoying facts in the intellectual mind.  For this reason, ridiculously impracticable renewable energy finds wide support in academic, environmental, and government circles – circles populated by thinkers accustomed to mobilizing the power of the state to promote impractical ideas with the taxpayers' money.  For these thinkers, evidence that contradicts their beliefs must be bad evidence.

In the supposedly hard-headed Wall Street Journal, Russell Gold writes that "global investment in wind and solar energy is outshining fossil fuels."  He claims that Alberta is getting subsidy-free wind electricity for $37 a megawatt-hour.  That's $28 U.S.  Since real subsidy-free wind electricity costs about $10 Canadian, something is wrong here.  What's wrong is that the media have lost their minds.  Five minutes with Google is enough to discover that Albertan electricity is indeed subsidized.  What we have here is a mania and a suspension of critical judgment.  No lie about renewable energy is too big to be believed, even by the Wall Street Journal.  There are 600 comments to the Journal article.  The commentators, evidently practical men, point out the errors and fallacies in the article.

In the U.S., it is hard to keep track of all the subsidies for renewable energy.  I'd be surprised if it is very different in Canada.  Some subsidies are blatant, like a $24-per-megawatt-hour payment from the federal treasury for the production of wind electricity, or a 30% tax credit for the construction of a solar energy farm.  Some subsidies are buried in accounting complexities like rapid depreciation that allows for complicated tax gimmicks that effectively take money from the federal treasury and give it to renewable energy investors.  Then there are renewable portfolio laws in 30 states setting goals for renewable energy.  The result is that wind and solar installations get long-term guaranteed markets at high prices for their electricity.  Grid operators are required to accept all wind and solar electricity offered unless they, more or less, declare an emergency.

Assuming a windy or a sunny place, wind or solar electricity costs around $70 a megawatt-hour to produce.  Even though no fuel is used, the capital cost spread over the electricity produced makes the renewable energy more expensive than using fossil fuel.  With natural gas, you can produce electricity for around $50 per megawatt-hour.  Those numbers are the cost at the plant fence – not a fair comparison.  It's not a fair comparison because when you build a wind or solar plant, you don't get to take away the natural gas plant.  It's still there to back up the wind or solar.  Wind or solar is an add-on to the grid, not a real part of the grid.  All the wind or solar does that is useful is to save some fuel at the backup plant, usually a natural gas plant, during moments when the wind or solar is actually generating electricity.  That fuel for a gas plant costs about $20 per megawatt-hour.  So wind or solar costs $70 per megawatt-hour in order to save $20's worth of fuel per megawatt-hour.  The net loss to the economy is $70 minus $20, or $50 for every megawatt-hour of wind or solar electricity produced.  That $50 has to come from someplace.  That loss to the economy is a subsidy.  Someone has to pay for it.  It comes from blatant subsidies, sneaky subsidies, and higher prices for electricity.

Some advocates of renewable energy claim that the extra cost is worth it, because wind and solar don't emit CO2, thus helping in the fight against global warming.  There are numerous holes in that argument.  The bulk of the CO2 emissions are from Asia, where they burn an ever increasing amount of carbon-rich coal to generate electricity.  U.S. CO2 emissions have been declining due to the substitution of natural gas for coal.  Spending fantastic sums to decrease U.S. emissions will have a very minor effect unless something is done about Asia.  The bigger picture is that there has been little global warming during the last 20 years in the face of rapidly increasing CO2 emissions.  The obvious conclusion is that the global warming scare is more propaganda than substance.  Of course, the scientific organizations with huge budgets based on the scary prospect of global warming can't let it go because they would lose the justification for their big budgets.  Did you ever hear of a scientific organization shrinking because the problem it was formed to solve does not, after all, exist?  If you really want to seriously reduce CO2 emissions, the solution is nuclear power.  The sincerest believers in global warming, like James Hansen and Stewart Brand, are advocating nuclear power.

Environmental groups, particularly the Sierra Club, run scare campaigns against fossil fuels.  Everything they don't like either causes cancer or does something bad to children.  They don't like coal; they don't like nuclear.  They even don't like hydro if a dam is involved.  The environmental outfits relentlessly spread scare propaganda.  They promote the basically useless wind and solar.  They pretend and perhaps actually believe that wind and solar represent some sort of energy salvation.  They are modern-day crackpots and snake oil salesmen.


Australia: renewables have beaten common sense

This may sound strange but the renewable energy industry — I prefer to call it the unreliable energy industry — is overjoyed by the public discussion about the need for new coal-fired electricity plants to be built here.

The rent-seekers — the owners of wind farms and solar installations — know there will be no investment in coal-fired electricity, certainly not in terms of new plants. Even investment in maintaining or extending the lives of existing coal-fired plants is rationed.

New coal-fired plants are unbankable, given the policy settings. They cost a lot, their economic lives are too long and the risks are too high.

The only scenario in which a new high-efficiency, low-emissions plant can be built — and plenty are overseas — is government ownership. Even then, the delay before commissioning would be three to five years. There are no circumstances under which the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull will agree to the government building, owning and operating a HELE plant.

As for Labor, it doesn’t even know what a HELE plant is; its intention is to head in the nonsensical direction of 50 per cent renewables (globally, wind and solar account for 8 per cent of electricity generation) and a higher emissions reduction target.

So why are the renewables players so excited about the ongoing discussion of investment in new coal-fired plants that will never happen? It diverts attention from the main game, which is the definition of reliability that will apply in the new policy framework, the national energy ­guarantee.

They also are seeking to have other features of the final design favour renewable energy, including the restrictions on the use of carbon offsets, both local and international, to meet the emissions reduction target. There is even a possibility that there will be no allowance for offsets in the final version.

While Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg feels pleased with himself that he has secured reasonably broad support for the national energy guarantee — there are a few exceptions — everyone knows that it will come down to the detail. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the latest iteration of the guarantee was released last Friday at 5pm.

Let me outline three key weaknesses in it. They are: the lack of a defensible definition of reliability; the way the emissions reduction target is put into effect; and the use of offsets. (I apologise for the technical nature of some of this discussion — it’s unavoidable.)

The most appropriate way of defining reliability — supply meeting demand when and where it is required — is to map out scenarios in which renewable energy sources plus other sources will not be able to meet the needs of the market and to identify the back-up arrangements that can be relied on. It can’t be an averaging process; extremes must be considered.

Note, for example, that extended wind droughts can occur; witness Germany and Britain recently. It also can be cloudy for extended periods. These back-up options include battery, pumped hydro, gas peaking or even diesel generators.

They may be uncommon events, but because Australia’s electricity grid is self-contained (we can’t import electricity from other countries, as is the case in Europe) we must plan for them.

One of the papers released last Friday simply states that “a reliable system is one with enough energy (generation and demand side participation) and network capacity to supply consumers — this implies that there should be enough energy to meet demand, with a buffer known as reserves”. A key carve-out is “demand side participation”.

The game that the renewable energy sector is playing is to define the scenario for which back-up is required on terms that suit it. Instead of meeting demand when and where it is required, its preferred alternative is to assume that demand is managed down (all big industrial users are expected to reduce their use of power as well as some households) before there is any need to provide back-up.

In this way, the renewable energy industry will be able to point to a motley collection of diesel generators and a few batteries (which provide power for a few hours at most), which will allow the retailers to meet the reliability requirement under the terms of the national energy guarantee. It’s a neat trick because it avoids the expensive exercise of providing or contracting for true back-up

This sort of demand management is Third World stuff and the clear danger is that these big users will just power down forever, particularly as they are also being told they have to provide back-up themselves. They have made it very clear that they cannot rely on renewable energy. So when contracts expire, they will simply shut up shop and relocate overseas.

When it comes to how the national energy guarantee will work, demand forecasts will be made out to 2030. The renewable energy industry will seek to have these forecasts low-balled because this will accelerate the exit of older baseload coal-fired plants as well as reduce the need for back-up.

These demand forecasts will then translate into an abatement number by 2030 (the reduction in tonnes of CO2) and from this an emissions intensity target will be calculated. It will be of the order of 0.4 per megawatt hour, which knocks out all coal, and gas will be used only as a peaker. The national energy guarantee is effectively an emissions intensity scheme.

An abatement trajectory will have to be set for the decade, but the minister already has ruled out back-ending the emissions reduction task even though it would be very sensible to wait to see what the rest of the world does. Note that last year global emissions rose by 1.6 per cent. There may be some scope for small overs and unders from year to year, but this doesn’t really address the problem.

Having made our commitment to the Paris climate agreement and fallen into the trap of not subtracting the emissions of energy-intensive exporters as other nations have — the target would be 21 per cent to 23 per cent, rather than 26 per cent to 28 per cent, if we had done this — the best way forward is to allow retailers to acquit their emissions reduction requirements by buying carbon offsets.

These can be local — Australian carbon credit units (think local carbon farming) — and international. Either way, it is a far cheaper way of making our contribution to emissions reduction than through the labyrinthine national energy guarantee. (We will have to stop calling it the National Electricity Market; it simply won’t meet any definition of a market given the heavy-handed regulation, excessive direction and high penalties.)

The bottom line is the renewable energy industry has won. And this includes the big three vertically integrated players since they are heavily invested in renewables but will be able to milk their baseload assets in the ­interim.

Prices may be plateauing at the moment, but they will continue their upward path soon. Liddell will close in 2022, but it is in such a shocking state of disrepair its output will be unreliable in the meantime. The grid is regularly close to breaking point now. Large-scale, energy-intensive plants will close across time, leaving an economy dominated by the service sector and government. We will have thrown away one of our greatest sources of comparative advantage: cheap, reliable electricity.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Global warming may have ‘devastating’ effects on rice

This is a lulu of a study.  They didn't actually study warming at all.  They just studied CO2 levels.  They thus ignored that warming would produce more rice per acre.  In warm Indonesia, they get two crops a year. The extra CO2 also produced more rice, of course.  But the average nutrient content of the rice grains decreased -- which is what you would expect from  bigger crops using the same amount of land.

So the only interesting question was the TOTAL amount of nutrients captured from the given acreage by the expanded crops.  It was most unlikely to be less and was probably more.  In summary, this eccentric study tells us nothing about the total amount of nutrients that would be provided by a crop under natural conditions

The change could be particularly dire in southeast Asia where rice is a major part of the daily diet, said the report in the journal Science Advances. “We are showing that global warming, climate change and particularly greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide — can have an impact on the nutrient content of plants we eat,” said co-author Adam Drewnowski, a professor at the University of Washington.

“This can have devastating effects on the rice-consuming countries where about 70% of the calories and most of the nutrients come from rice.” Protein and vitamin deficiencies can lead to growth-stunting, birth defects, diarrhoea, infections and early death.

Countries at most risk include those that consume the most rice and have the lowest gross domestic product (GDP), such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, Mr. Drewnowksi said.

The findings were based on field studies in Japan and China, simulating the amount of CO2 expected in the atmosphere by the second half of this century — 568 to 590 parts per million. Current levels are just over 400 ppm.

For the experiments, 18 different strains of rice were planted in open fields, surrounded in certain areas by 56-foot wide octagons of plastic piping that released extra CO2.

Researchers found that iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 — which help the body convert food to energy — were all reduced in the rice grown under higher CO2 conditions. “Vitamin B1 (thiamine) levels decreased by 17.1%; average Vitamin B2 by 16.6%,” said the report.


British reliance on French nuclear energy increases by more than quarter

The UK’s reliance on importing French power to keep the lights on has increased by almost a quarter this year in further evidence of Britain’s energy cost crunch.

Energy prices in Britain are now around a fifth higher than they were this time last year on the wholesale market.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, nuclear power plants have flooded France with cheap electricity which is being sold at a tidy profit to struggling British suppliers.

“French nuclear plants have been far more reliable this year to date than last year,” said Jamie Stewart, the ICIS Energy analyst, “which has kept a firm lid on French power prices.”

The stark fundamental differences between the UK and its biggest electricity trade partner have nudged British imports, via twin high-voltage sub-sea cables, to a total of 6.4 terawatt hours so far this year. Last year Britain imported less than 5TWh over the same period. Energy brokers at Marex Spectron told The Sunday Telegraph that the “anomalously strong” imports from France are closer in line with Britain’s winter appetite for foreign energy than typical summer trends. The trend has also re-energised industry debate over Britain’s energy trading future once it leaves the EU next year.

Even with the bumper imports of cheap French nuclear power, Britain’s energy prices remain around 20pc higher than last year in a major threat to energy companies braced for the Government’s price cap to descend on the market at the end of the year.

In response, suppliers have drawn the ire of ministers by raising the price of energy tariffs to survive the cost crunch. Many of the cheapest suppliers have shown signs of existential strain.

Iresa Energy, the energy minnow, slipped into default on the wholesale market for a third time last week, according to Elexon, the market administrator. Meanwhile, Bulb and First Utility, the Shell-owned supplier, have been forced to raise prices in the wake of tariff hikes from the “big six” suppliers.

UK power prices hit 10-year highs in March following the freezing temperatures brought by the “Beast from the East” and show no sign of returning to typical summer prices due to the strong price of gas. The Siberian storm drained gas from storage facilities across Europe in the final weeks of winter, making it more difficult for suppliers to replenish the stocks over the summer.

On the ICIS Power Index, a key benchmark for energy trends, the three-week rolling average price of wholesale power stands at £52.70/MWh after spending much of last year fluctuating between £42 and £48 per megawatt hour.


Global Warming has Stopped And A Cooling Is Beginning”

Written by Henrik Svensmark

The star that keeps us alive has, over the last few years, been almost free of sunspots, which are the usual signs of the Sun’s magnetic activity. Last week [4 September 2009] the scientific team behind the satellite SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) reported, “It is likely that the current year’s number of blank days will be the longest in about 100 years.” Everything indicates that the Sun is going into some kind of hibernation, and the obvious question is what significance that has for us on Earth.

If you ask the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which represents the current consensus on climate change, the answer is a reassuring “nothing”. But history and recent research suggest that is probably completely wrong. Why? Let’s take a closer look.

Solar activity has always varied. Around the year 1000, we had a period of very high solar activity, which coincided with the Medieval Warm Period. It was a time when frosts in May were almost unknown – a matter of great importance for a good harvest. Vikings settled in Greenland and explored the coast of North America. On the whole it was a good time. For example, China’s population doubled in this period.

But after about 1300 solar activity declined and the world began to get colder. It was the beginning of the episode we now call the Little Ice Age. In this cold time, all the Viking settlements in Greenland disappeared. Sweden surprised Denmark by marching across the ice, and in London the Thames froze repeatedly. But more serious were the long periods of crop failures, which resulted in poorly nourished populations, reduced in Europe by about 30 per cent because of disease and hunger.

It’s important to realise that the Little Ice Age was a global event. It ended in the late 19th Century and was followed by increasing solar activity. Over the past 50 years solar activity has been at its highest since the medieval warmth of 1000 years ago. But now it appears that the Sun has changed again, and is returning towards what solar scientists call a “grand minimum” such as we saw in the Little Ice Age.

The match between solar activity and climate through the ages is sometimes explained away as coincidence. Yet it turns out that, almost no matter when you look and not just in the last 1000 years, there is a link. Solar activity has repeatedly fluctuated between high and low during the past 10,000 years. In fact the Sun spent about 17 per cent of those 10,000 years in a sleeping mode, with a cooling Earth the result.

You may wonder why the international climate panel IPCC does not believe that the Sun’s changing activity affects the climate. The reason is that it considers only changes in solar radiation. That would be the simplest way for the Sun to change the climate – a bit like turning up and down the brightness of a light bulb.

Satellite measurements have shown that the variations of solar radiation are too small to explain climate change. But the panel has closed its eyes to another, much more powerful way for the Sun to affect Earth’s climate. In 1996 we discovered a surprising influence of the Sun – its impact on Earth’s cloud cover. High-energy accelerated particles coming from exploded stars, the cosmic rays, help to form clouds.

When the Sun is active, its magnetic field is better at shielding us against the cosmic rays coming from outer space, before they reach our planet. By regulating the Earth’s cloud cover, the Sun can turn the temperature up and down. High solar activity means fewer clouds and and a warmer world. Low solar activity and poorer shielding against cosmic rays result in increased cloud cover and hence a cooling. As the Sun’s magnetism doubled in strength during the 20th century, this natural mechanism may be responsible for a large part of global warming seen then.

That also explains why most climate scientists try to ignore this possibility. It does not favour their idea that the 20th century temperature rise was mainly due to human emissions of CO2. If the Sun provoked a significant part of warming in the 20th Century, then the contribution by CO2 must necessarily be smaller.

Ever since we put forward our theory in 1996, it has been subjected to very sharp criticism, which is normal in science.

First it was said that a link between clouds and solar activity could not be correct, because no physical mechanism was known. But in 2006, after many years of work, we completed experiments at DTU Space that demonstrated the existence of a physical mechanism. The cosmic rays help to form aerosols, which are the seeds for cloud formation.

Then came the criticism that the mechanism we found in the laboratory could not work in the real atmosphere, and therefore had no practical significance. We have just rejected that criticism emphatically.

It turns out that the Sun itself performs what might be called natural experiments. Giant solar eruptions can cause the cosmic ray intensity on earth to dive suddenly over a few days. In the days following an eruption, cloud cover can fall by about 4 per cent. And the amount of liquid water in cloud droplets is reduced by almost 7 per cent. Here is a very large effect – indeed so great that in popular terms the Earth’s clouds originate in space.

So we have watched the Sun’s magnetic activity with increasing concern, since it began to wane in the mid-1990s.

That the Sun might now fall asleep in a deep minimum was suggested by solar scientists at a meeting in Kiruna in Sweden two years ago. So when Nigel Calder and I updated our book The Chilling Stars, we wrote a little provocatively that “we are advising our friends to enjoy global warming while it lasts.”

In fact global warming has stopped and a cooling is beginning. Mojib Latif from the University of Kiel argued at the recent UN World Climate Conference in Geneva that the cooling may continue through the next 10 to 20 years. His explanation was a natural change in the North Atlantic circulation, not in solar activity. But no matter how you interpret them, natural variations in climate are making a comeback.

The outcome may be that the Sun itself will demonstrate its importance for climate and so challenge the theories of global warming. No climate model has predicted a cooling of the Earth – quite the contrary. And this means that the projections of future climate are unreliable. A forecast saying it may be either warmer or colder for 50 years is not very useful, and science is not yet able to predict solar activity.

So in many ways we stand at a crossroads. The near future will be extremely interesting. I think it is important to accept that Nature pays no heed to what we humans think about it. Will the greenhouse theory survive a significant cooling of the Earth? Not in its current dominant form. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s climate challenges will be quite different from the greenhouse theory’s predictions. Perhaps it will become fashionable again to investigate the Sun’s impact on our climate.


Stop Trying to Get Workers Out of Their Cars

"Smart growth" is dumb about commuting.

If you hate urban sprawl, you're probably familiar with the complaints of the "smart growth" movement: Roadways blight cities. Traffic congestion is the worst. Suburbanization harms the environment. Fortunately, say these smart growthers, there is an alternative: By piling on regulations and reallocating transportation-related tax money, we can "densify" our urban communities, allowing virtually everyone to live in a downtown area and forego driving in favor of walking or biking.

Smart growth proponents have been gaining influence for decades. They've implemented urban growth boundaries (which greatly restrict the development of land outside a defined area), up-zoning (which tries to increase densities in existing neighborhoods by replacing single-family homes with apartments), and "road diets" (which take away traffic lanes to make room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes).

Alas, there are inherent flaws in the "smart growth" approach—beginning with the idea that it makes sense for everyone to live and work in the same small area. In fact, that idea flies in the face of what economists call urban agglomeration.

Urban agglomeration is why there are more jobs in and around big cities. Job seekers have access to a large number of potential employers, which increases each person's likelihood of finding one that can make the best use of her unique talents and skills. The same is true for business owners, who have a much better chance of finding people in a large populous urban area who match their needs.

Transportation turns out to be a key factor in enabling these wealth-increasing transactions. Imagine drawing a circle around the location of your residence, defined by how far you are willing to commute to get to a satisfying job. The larger the radius of that circle, the more potential work opportunities you have. Likewise, a company's prospective-employee pool is defined by the number of people whose circles contain that company's location.

Most people measure that radius in time rather than distance; studies show they are generally unwilling to spend much more than 30 minutes commuting each way on a long-term basis. That means the size of their opportunity circle is critically dependent on how quickly they can get around.

Despite urban sprawl and ever-increasing congestion levels, economists Peter Gordon and Harry Richardson of the University of Southern California have documented, using census data, that average commute times in various metro areas have hardly changed at all over several decades. More recently, Alex Anas of the University of Buffalo modeled what would happen as a result of a projected 24 percent increase in Chicago's metro area population over three decades. He estimated that auto commute times would increase only 3 percent and transit trip times hardly at all. The reason is that people tend to change where they live or work in order to keep their travel times about the same. But this happy result comes about only if the transportation system expands accordingly.

A recent empirical study from the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University likewise found that, on average, the labor market of an urban area (defined as the number of jobs reachable within a one-hour commute) nearly doubles when the workforce of the metro area doubles. The commute time increases by an average of only about 7 percent, however—assuming an efficient region-wide transportation network. To achieve higher economic productivity, they recommend fostering speedier rather than slower commuting; more rather than less commuting; and longer rather than shorter commutes.

These policies would expand the opportunity circles of employers and employees, enabling a more productive urban economy. But these are exactly the opposite of the policy prescriptions of smart growth, which generally seek to confine people's economic activity to a small portion of a larger metro area.

One early manifestation of this was the attempt by urban and transportation planners in the '80s and '90s to promote "jobs-housing balance," where each county of a large metro area has comparable percentages of the region's jobs and of its housing. The rationale was that this would reduce "excessive" commuting by enabling people to find work close to their homes. But urban agglomeration theory makes it clear that that is a recipe for a low-productivity urban economy. Census data show that many suburban areas are now approaching jobs-housing balance on their own, but this does not necessarily reduce commute distances—to get to the jobs they want, many people still travel across boundaries.

A fascinating example is Arlington County, Virginia. Since 2000, the number of jobs and the number of working residents in the county have been approximately equal. But it turns out that only 52 percent of those working residents have jobs in the county. Out of 582,000 resident workers, 280,000 commute to adjacent counties or the District of Columbia. And out of 574,000 jobs in the county, 272,000 are filled by workers from other places.

A less extreme version of smart growth says that we should discourage car travel and shift resources heavily toward transit. People should be encouraged to live in high-density "villages" where they can easily obtain transit service to jobs elsewhere in the metro area. The problem with this vision is the inability of transit to effectively compete with the auto highway system.

Simply put, cars work better for workers. A 2012 Brookings study analyzing data from 371 transit providers in America's largest 100 metro areas found that over three-fourths of all jobs are in neighborhoods with transit service—but only about a quarter of those jobs can be reached by transit within 90 minutes. That's more than three times the national average commute time.

Another study, by Andrew Owen and David Levinson of the University of Minnesota, looked at job access via transit in 46 of the 50 largest metro areas. Their data combined actual in-vehicle time with estimated walking time at either end of the transit trip, to approximate total door-to-door travel time. Only five of the 46 metro areas have even a few percent of their jobs accessible by transit within half an hour. All the others have 1 percent or less. Within 60 minutes door-to-door, the best cities have 15–22 percent of jobs reachable by transit.

Meanwhile, Owen and Levinson found that in 31 of the 51 largest metro areas in 2010, 100 percent of jobs could be reached by car in 30 minutes or less. Within 40 minutes, all the jobs could be reached by car in 39 of the cities. Within an hour, essentially every job in all 51 places could be reached by car. The roadway network is ubiquitous, connecting every possible origin to every destination. The contrast with access via transit—let alone walking or biking—is profound.


The darkness of the Green/Left

The new movie "First Reformed" is being lauded by critics and described as the magnum opus of director and screenwriter Paul Schrader. He found fame with his screenplay for the 1976 classic Taxi Driver, and his movies often feature alienated protagonists who grapple with the evil in society and in themselves. This film is one of Schrader’s most personal, and charts the disillusionment, despair and apostasy of a pastor from the Dutch Reformed tradition — the style of Protestantism in which Schrader was raised, but later abandoned.

The symbolism of First Reformed is complex and open to interpretation. But if comments made by Schrader are any indication, his latest work is a sobering testament to the dark, increasingly dangerous religion of leftist politics.

Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) lives in quiet agony, preaching to the smattering of parishioners who attend his church on Sunday morning. Throughout the week he gives tours of the austere 18th-century sanctuary, which is derided as “the museum” by the pastor (Cedric Kyles) of the local megachurch that funds him. Toller lives like a lonely monk in his unfurnished rectory, scribbling thoughts of hope and despair in his journal between shots of whiskey. At length we learn he had been a military chaplain, whose marriage collapsed when he lost a son in Iraq, and whose faith is likewise threatening to buckle. Often he wanders the church graveyard and repairs its fallen tombstones — the emblems of a dying faith in which he is losing hope.

“If only I could pray,” he laments to himself.

When a pregnant congregant named Mary (Amanda Seyfried) seeks counsel for her troubled husband Michael (Philip Ettinger), Toller finds an alternative to his decrepit traditional Christianity. Michael introduces him to the catechism of climate change — a faith that addresses the contemporary political issues Schrader cares about, and comes complete with its own prophets of doom, its own activist martyrs and its own unquestioned orthodoxy. Like Schrader, who has claimed he does not believe humanity will survive the century, Michael believes the end is nigh. The original sin incurring this looming judgment is corporate capitalism, which has merged with right-wing American evangelicalism to render them indistinguishable. Against these Schrader uses his film to issue a snarling indictment.

When Toller discovers that his own church is underwritten by a major polluter, he obtains an epiphany. Terminally ill from the pollution he has inflicted upon himself, he embraces the dogma of despair. His great dilemma becomes the choice between suicide and the mass killing of those he deems guilty. Having lost faith in the traditional Christian God, Toller dethrones Him and seeks to install himself as the judge and executioner of those heretics that transgress his new environmentalist gospel. “I have found another form of prayer,” he says, overlooking a ravaged landscape while strapped in a suicide vest. The movie’s cryptic, unsatisfying ending will leave many viewers scratching their heads, wondering if Schrader is actually saying what he seems to be saying.

Is Schrader hiding behind his art a radical political message? It may be telling that his protagonist shares his name with Ernst Toller, a Marxist revolutionary and playwright. Three days after the 2016 presidential election, Schrader posted on Facebook that Trump’s victory was a call to arms. “I felt the call to violence in the 60s and I feel it now again,” he wrote. “This attack on liberty and tolerance will not be solved by appeasement. Obama tried that for eight years. We should finance those who support violence [sic] resistance. We should be willing to take arms.” Schrader closed his comments by commending to his readers the example of John Brown, the radical 19th-century abolitionist whose bloody solutions to social ills helped plunge the nation into civil war. (It is likely not a coincidence that Rev. Toller reflects upon his church’s abolitionist past when plotting his murderous vengeance.)

Further reflection led Schrader to delete his post and blame it on “a couple of cabernets and half an Ambien.” But the dark themes of First Reformed call into question his repentance. On the contrary, it is one of the clearest depictions yet that some on the progressive left have replaced Christianity with a new religion. Fueled by raging despair and an apocalyptic fear of climate change, this radical new faith possesses the same self-assured dogmatism exhibited by the severest strains of the one Schrader fled in his youth. But it is untempered by mercy, hope or the humble reluctance to cast the first stone.

At the very least, First Reformed acknowledges that the end of this new religion is madness and blood.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here