French rationality trumps German romanticism
President Nicolas Sarkozy says France will invest 1billion euro (£900million) in nuclear energy despite a rise in concern about atomic safety following Japan's nuclear disaster. Sarkozy says a moratorium on new nuclear reactors, as some countries have declared since the Fukushima Daiichi accident, ‘makes no sense.’ He said today that ‘there is no alternative to nuclear energy today.’
France is more dependent on nuclear energy than any other country, with 74 per cent of electricity coming from its 58 atomic reactors.
Sarkozy, at a news conference about government investments in the economy, said France will stick to a plan to invest 1billion euros in future nuclear reactors. He also promised 1.35billion euros in investment in renewable energy.
In contrast, neighbour Germany will be shutting every one of its 17 nuclear reactors by 2022 and embarking on a large-scale introduction of renewable energy.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said last month: ‘We want to end the use of nuclear energy and reach the age of renewable energy as fast as possible.’
Switzerland has opted to follow a similar path to that of Germany, phasing out its five nuclear power stations by 2034, when the last one expires. This gives officials plenty of time to bring alternative energy sources online.
Despite the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plants in Japan, following March 11’s earthquake and tsunami, Sarkozy is confident that the atomic path is the right one for France, arguing that their technology and safety know-how is superior to that found elsewhere. ‘Our power stations are more expensive because they are safer,’ he boasted.
The French aren’t being complacent, though. Prime Minister Francois Fillon has demanded that all the country’s nuclear plants are to be given ‘open and transparent’ safety assessments.
In fact, all 143 atomic plants in the EU will be examined and tested to see if floods and earthquakes pose any sort of threat.
Environmentalists vs. Renewable Energy
It’s become a truism that environmentalists want alternative energy—from wind, sun, water—to replace our reliance on fossil fuels. The trouble with this truism is that it isn’t true. Yes, in the abstract, environmentalists are all for so-called “renewable” sources of energy. But when it comes to specific projects it’s another story. It’s rare to find a renewable energy project of any significance that has not been challenged by environmental groups.
Take Brightsource Energy’s massive Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert, which will cover 5.6 square miles with mirrors to produce 370 megawatts of energy. (This is the amount of energy produced by a small coal plant, underscoring just how small solar energy is in the overall national energy mix, a mere one tenth of one percent.) California’s Governor Schwarzenegger endorsed it enthusiastically.
In September 2010 the California Energy Commission unanimously approved the project and federal approval by the Obama administration—along with a $1.6 billion federal loan for the $2 billion project—followed. Seven months later Google, that star of the progressive corporation firmament, announced it would invest $168 million in the plant. It even seemed environmentalists were on board since several of the largest outfits were invited to give their input and had not vetoed it.
But this seeming bulldozer of a coalition of green right-thinkers was challenged by a southern California group called the Wildlands Conservancy which opposed the plans on the usual assortment of grounds: it would threaten endangered species, destroy rare plants, use vast amounts of water, require unsightly transmission lines and destroy native American religious sites. David Myers, the Wildlands Conservancy’s executive director, summed up the objections:
“It would destroy the entire Mojave Desert ecosystem.” Endangered species did the trick, at least in the short term. In April 2011 the Obama administration halted the building of two-thirds of the project when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management found more than 600 desert tortoises could die as a result of construction. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have to determine if finishing the project puts the species in jeopardy.
Can anyone doubt the environmentalist storm Boone Pickens would have unleashed if his proposal to build wind farms through the great plains from Texas to the Canadian border had gotten so far as the drawing board? If in doubt look at the furor Cape Wind, in Nantucket Sound, has produced. The $2.5 billion Cape Wind project, the first offshore wind farm in U.S. coastal waters, took a decade (and $45 million) to run the legal gauntlet and line up local, state and federal approvals. A slew of environmental groups have filed lawsuits charging Cape Wind with violating the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act. Then there’s the suit filed by the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes claiming Cape Wind violates tribal protections laws because they need an unobstructed view of Nantucket Sound to carry out spiritual sun greetings and the turbines would disturb the seabed which contains sacred ancestral land.
While, remarkably, Cape Wind has thus far survived the onslaught, it is by no means out of the legal thicket. In March 2011 Western Watersheds, a conservancy group, and a Native American cultural group sued on the grounds that federal officials had illegally “rushed” approval because they wanted the project to meet the funding deadline for multibillion dollar federal credits due to expire at the end of 2010. Moreover, thus far it is having trouble finding customers for its energy output, projected to begin in 2013. Because a 2008 Massachusetts law mandates that at least 15% of energy be produced by renewable sources by 2020, Cape Wind has been able to sell half the power it expects to produce to the utility company National Grid at more than twice the price of conventional power. It is counting on the state mandate to force other utilities to the table (if it surmounts the endless legal challenges).
As for hydropower, which unlike solar and wind is economically viable, environmentalists have long disliked it. More than a dozen environmental groups in Ohio banned together to block the development of a hydroelectric dam on the Cuyahoga River to replace the existing dam, built in 1912. Although it’s a “green energy project” complete with fish-migration assistance, the environmental groups want the existing dam torn down with no replacement. And indeed, under environmentalist pressure, quite a few dams are being torn down, letting the rivers run free, but with no hydroelectric power to replace what is lost.
Frustrated by the endless opposition to new energy projects, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched Project No Project, a web site that reports on thwarted energy infrastructure projects. Of roughly 300 projects delayed or outright killed over the last few years, 65 were for renewables. Delay is often synonymous for death since over time the projects run out of financing and expire.
Environmental groups continue to aver their strong commitment to renewable energy—somewhere else. Where is a slippery issue. For example, the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and National Audubon released a Google Earth map of the western United States showing areas they believed should be off limits for renewable energy development. Three weeks later the NRDC issued a clarification—it did not mean to green-light the remaining areas for energy development.
Scientist-writer Peter Metzger was prophetic when, in the 1970s, he said that environmentalists are enthusiastic about energy sources as long as they do not exist and predicted the same hostility to solar energy should it become viable.
That environmentalists seek to block “green energy” projects is not necessarily bad news since wind and solar projects are hugely expensive, require massive taxpayer subsidies, and for all the hoopla about “green energy jobs” are in fact net job killers. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration solar power requires over $24 in subsidies per megawatt hour of electricity compared to less than 50 cents for coal. Wind power comes in about the same as solar, requiring over $23 in subsidies per megawatt hour. As for jobs, the American Wind Energy Association (the lobby for wind energy) reports no increase in overall U.S. wind industry jobs despite the fact that $2 billion in stimulus money was assigned for wind power job creation. Most of the money went to foreign companies.
Europe, which led the way on green energy, is now backing off. Verso Economics, a British economic consulting firm, found that renewable energy destroyed 3.7 jobs for every job it created in the United Kingdom and the government’s mandates on renewables cost consumers $1.8 billion in 2009-10. Studies in Spain concluded that 2.2 jobs were lost for every job created. In Germany subsidies in the solar industry run as high as $240,000 per worker. The Danes pay subsidies of about $400 million a year to wind producers and unsurprisingly pay the highest electricity rates in the EU. Seeing the economic handwriting on the wall, Holland has become the first country in Europe to abandon the European Union’s renewable energy targets.
As we noted, much as they may oppose concrete projects, environmentalists have boundless enthusiasm for renewables in the abstract, the category into which government mandates fall. Under pressure from environmentalists, twenty nine states have enacted mandates, generally requiring that renewables (with hydropower specifically excluded in some definitions) provide between 15-20% of all energy by 2020. The Institute for Energy Research has found that electricity prices are almost 40% higher in states with mandates (in New York they are double) and although mandates may not be the only reason, they clearly contribute. In New Mexico in 2010 consumers were fighting a 21.2% increase in electric rates as a result of a 2009 law that set renewable mandates at 10% for 2011 (and 15% by 2015). In Montana the legislature is already considering repealing its mandate after a study by American Tradition Institute and the Montana Policy Institute found Montana’s mandate would result in the loss of 1,874 jobs by 2015 and an additional $225 million in electricity bills for consumers.
The costs would be even more devastating were the assorted mandates to be fulfilled—which they are most unlikely to be. For example, Washington State set a deadline of June 2009 for biofuels to provide 20% of the fuel used by state owned vehicles—the date came and went with biofuels providing a mere 2%. In a rare glimmering of sanity the California legislature failed to pass a bill upping the mandate for renewables from 20% to 33%. All of this has not deterred Congressional Democrats from proposing legislation to create a national 15% mandate for renewables.
If environmentalists succeed in halting renewable projects, making fulfillment of mandates even more unlikely, inadvertently they will be doing the taxpayer a good turn. The problem is that environmentalists are also seeking to stop cold what the Wall Street Journal calls the real energy revolution—the potential of natural gas from shale to transform U.S. energy production. As the Journal notes, as recently as 2000 shale gas was 1% of U.S. gas supplies; today it is 25%.
And it is a real job producer—72,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone in less than two years. Environmentalists are throwing everything they can come up with at it, hoping something sticks . Fracking (i.e. hydraulic fracturing of rock, the method by which the gas is released) contaminates drinking water, releases toxic chemicals, causes cancer, causes earthquakes, adds to pollution (via the trucks hauling materials to the sites).
The New York Times, in its lead article of June 26, came up with a novel means of attack—shale gas is doomed because it is a money loser, with gas too cheap in relation to the costs of production. (It doesn’t seem to occur to the Times that if the supply of gas falls off because it is uneconomical to produce at current prices, prices will rise and gas has a huge way to go before it approaches the cost of wind or solar energy.)
The general public, supportive of the hazy goal of “preserving the environment” on which environmental organizations raise funds, finds it hard to credit that cutting edge environmentalism is, and has been for decades, about cutting the supply of energy, not finding alternative sources. Indeed, John Holdren, Obama’s energy czar, in 1973 declared that the goal must be to “de-develop the United States.”
Future generations will surely look back in amazement at the process by which the most powerful country on earth denied itself the one essential for its continued dominance. Obsessed with scenarios of doom worthy of Chicken Little (a world rendered uninhabitable by pollution or global warming), it took refuge in fantasies of a pre-modern utopia before, in the words of David Brower, director of the Sierra Club and then of Friends of the Earth, “we began applying energy in vast amounts to tools with which we began tearing the environment apart.”
Are Midwest Floods Caused by Global Warming or Radical Environmentalists?
Many Global Warming Alarmists are pointing to the floods in the Midwest as the latest proof of global warming. But a powerful piece at AmericanThinker.com provides an alternative suggestion as to the real cause of the flooding: the perhaps unintended consequences of radical environmentalist policies regarding the system of dams on the Missouri River.
Al Gore gave a speech in New York last week in which he linked the flooding in the Midwest and the fires in Arizona to global warming: “Today, the biggest fire in the history of the state of Arizona is spreading to New Mexico. Today, the biggest flood in the history of the Mississippi River Valley is under way right now,” Gore said. “At what point is there a moment where we say, ‘Oh, we ought to do something about this?’”
One of Gore’s dimmer acolytes, Bill Maher, took up the issue on his show on HBO, “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Maher seemed to be hooked up to a machine that gave him a shock every time he uttered the words “global warming,” which he repeatedly did, before, in each case, correcting himself to say “climate change.” He said, "I don't call it global warming anymore because that is bad. It is climate change." Maher finally got it out, sort of, and asked, “Why doesn't he [Obama] point to this and say this is all because of climate change. He doesn't seem to use what he has to make a case.”
But in the article, “The Purposeful Flooding of America's Heartland,” in American Thinker, Joe Herring makes a very strong, well documented case, that the system of dams built in the area to tame the Missouri River and prevent this sort of thing from happening was well conceived and executed: “Some sixty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began the process of taming the Missouri by constructing a series of six dams. The idea was simple: massive dams at the top moderating flow to the smaller dams below, generating electricity while providing desperately needed control of the river’s devastating floods.”
But in the 1990s the plan was hijacked by radical environmentalists with a different agenda: “The Clinton administration threw its support behind the change, officially shifting the priorities of the Missouri River dam system from flood control, facilitation of commercial traffic, and recreation to habitat restoration, wetlands preservation, and culturally sensitive and sustainable biodiversity.”
Herring cites Greg Pavelka, a wildlife biologist with the Corps of Engineers in Yankton, SD, who told the Seattle Times that “this event will leave the river in a ‘much more natural state than it has seen in decades,’ describing the epic flooding as a ‘prolonged headache for small towns and farmers along its path, but a boon for endangered species.’”
Herring also documents that, through a series of emails last February, “Ft. Pierre SD Director of Public Works Brad Lawrence sounded the alarm loud and clear,” but the alarm of this “flood of biblical proportions” was not heeded. Why don’t the mainstream media follow up on Mr. Herring’s findings?
For people looking for some straight talk about global warming from some actual scientists who aren’t part of that consensus we’re always hearing about, I recommend The Heartland Institute’s conference this Thursday and Friday, which will be webcast here. This will demonstrate why Maher, and Gore and the other alarmists prefer to call it “climate change,” and not “global warming.” The evidence doesn’t support the warming theory. One of the participants will be Australian scientist Bob Carter, who recently pointed out that “Between 2001 and 2010 global average temperature decreased by 0.05 degrees, over the same time that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased by 5 per cent. Ergo, carbon dioxide emissions are not driving dangerous warming.”
If Greenpeace Can Lie This Easily, Why Should we Believe It On Any Subject?
Ruth Davis, the senior policy adviser at Greenpeace UK, is quoted in The Guardian about the deferral of a vote in the European Parliament on whether to increase the EU’s emissions reduction target from 20 to 30 per cent. Here is what she says:
This vote was postponed after the prime minister personally intervened so that those opposing a higher climate target could no longer count on the support of his party. The politicians backing dirty industries realised they would lose in their bid to scupper moves towards a greener Europe, and they had no option but delay.
Her statement is – there is no way of putting this gently – a lie. The reason the vote was delayed is that the voting session had overrun, and some MEPs [MEP = “Member of the European Parliament”] wanted their lunch. The postponement was approved on a free vote. From where I was sitting, it looked as though just over half the British Tories voted to carry on with the session. Frankly, though, MEPs didn’t vote on Left-Right lines so much as on the basis of whether they were in danger of missing their flights.
My point isn’t really about the emissions target. As far as I’m aware, and contrary to what Ms Davis says, Conservative MEPs still oppose the change. Martin Callanan, our leader, believes it would outsource jobs from the EU to parts of the world with lower environmental standards, and is thus ecologically as well as economically unsound. There are, though, decent and sincere people on both sides of the argument, many with far greater technical knowledge than mine.
No, my point has to do with the sheer flagrancy of Greenpeace’s deceit. Alright, in the scheme of things, it’s a trivial fib. Still, this is the first time that I’ve been able to check one of the pressure group’s claims against my first-hand knowledge and, on this basis, Greenpeace has a 100 per cent record of falsehood. Extrapolating from my experience, I shall henceforth assume that its spokesmen are equally unreliable in their claims about deforestation, ocean pollution, nuclear power, sustainable agriculture and climate change.
Super-epic fail, dudes.
Frogs, Scorpions, Greens, Lies…
Thanks to the miracles of modern technology etc this post comes to you courtesy of an American Airlines flight 30,000 odd feet over the U.S. on my journey to the Soviet Socialist Republic of California. I’m going there to address some of the few remaining sane people there who haven’t yet been driven out by the state’s bonkers fiscal and regulatory regime, or been driven to destitution by measures to protect the Snail Darter de nos jours – an obscure fish called the California Delta Smelt.
I’ll try to keep this a short post because laptops play havoc with my neck. And because of where I’m headed, I thought I’d pay tribute in this one to LA resident Phelim McAleer co-author – with Ann McElhinney – of the Not Evil Just Wrong documentary debunking CAGW.
McAleer is kind of the anti-Michael Moore: using similar guerilla video techniques but against the liberal-left rather than in support of it.
His most recent coup was to ambush Josh Fox the documentary-maker responsible for an eco-propaganda movie called Gasland, whose key scene is the one where a man in Colorado turns on his tap, strikes a match, and – lo! – it catches fire. We are invited by the film to believe that this is an unfortunate side-effect of the shale gas process known as “fracking.” It is visual short hand for: shale gas is evil. Problem is, the scene is misleading in the extreme.
You’ll find a pretty good summary of the story here (ow my neck).
Last week, well-known Irish filmmaker Phelim McAleer showed up to a screening of Gasland in Chicago with a couple of straightforward questions for the film’s star, Josh Fox.
In particular, McAleer was interested in Josh’s take on the by-now famous scene in Gasland of Mike Markham lighting his faucet on fire – you remember the one, right? It’s the scene that enabled Fox to sell his film to HBO in the first place. But it’s also one that has been debunked – flatly and frequently – by regulators in Colorado. Heck, these guys even went so far as to issue an official document on official state letterhead tearing the film to shreds, citing Josh’s distorted representation of the Markham well as exhibit A.
So all McAleer wanted to know is whether Fox is aware of the substance of those rebuttals. Is aware that the vertical shaft of Markham’s water well “penetrated at least four different coal beds” before making contact with potable water. Is aware that a 1976 report from the Colorado Division of Water Resources cites “troublesome amounts” of “hydrogen sulfide, methane, iron, fluoride and sodium” in local water wells in this area, well before oil and gas development commenced. That kind of stuff.
Fox’s response? Sure, he’s aware of all that evidence – how can he not be? So why didn’t he include mention of it anywhere in his film? “I don’t care about the report from 1976,” Fox replied. “There are reports from 1936 that people say they can light their water on fire in New York State. But that [has] no bearing on this situation. At all.” According to Josh, the fact that methane was present in water long before oil and gas activity is “not relevant” to the question at hand.
It also reports on the equally significant aftermath which is that, rather than fess up to his – ahem – error, Fox got his lawyers on the case and did his damnedest to keep footage of McAleer’s ambush off the internet.
And the question I want to ask here is: Why? It’s a “why” that applies equally well to almost everything to do with the modern environmental movement. Why, if the science is so “settled” and the case for putting the global economy on a war footing to “combat climate change” so strong, do they keep needing to tweak and exaggerate their message?
Why, as Greenpeace’s former head Gerd Leipold once famously excused his organization when it was caught out telling porkie pies [lies] on the extent of the Greenland ice sheet melt, do they have to “emotionalise the issue”? After all, surely if the issue is really what they say it is it wouldn’t need “emotionalising” with spin and lies and exaggeration and disingenuous camera footage: it would be plain for all to see and we’d all do something about it.
Let me answer my rhetorical question. In almost every case the facts simply do not support the Green movement’s extravagant claims. When, for example, the Prince of Wales jets in with his entourage to Rioto announce that we have 100 months to save the world from Climate Change, he is talking out of his princely posterior. If no action whatsoever were to be taken to deal with “climate change”, does anyone honestly believe that in 83 months time (if my adding up is correct) the world would not be functioning as well as ever? (Better in fact, because there’d be fewer wind farms and fewer eco-regulations hampering the global economic recovery).
Just recently, in case you missed the good news, carbon prices have tanked on the European exchange: (H/T GWPF)
EU carbon prices have slumped 15% in one week, as a slew of bearish news took its toll on the markets. “It’s just been carnage these last few days,” said a trader at an investment bank in London. “There has been a huge amount of liquidation from funds, banks and utilities.” Mark Lewis, a Paris-based analyst at Deutsche Bank, said he does not expect emissions in the ETS to ever return to their 2008 levels of 2.12 billion tCO2e
And there’s a reason for that: you can fool the public some of the time and you can fool the media an awful lot of the time but what you can’t do for very long is fool the markets. Markets deal, ultimately, with reality. The environmental movement is a religion which deals with anything but.
Saving the planet will destroy the economy
MARGARET Thatcher's one time right-hand man Nigel Lawson is not so much a climate sceptic as sceptical of the necessity for action, let alone the ways we are tackling climate change.
Lawson will be in Sydney in six weeks to expound his views at a public debate on the proposition: "We need a carbon tax to help stop global warming."
The combatants themselves should raise temperatures. The former British chancellor of the exchequer and energy secretary will lead a negative team comprising former Keating government minister Gary Johns and University of Adelaide geologist and author of the sceptic's bible Heaven and Earth, Ian Plimer.
The affirmative will be put by two former opposition leaders, John Hewson and Mark Latham, backed by University of NSW climatologist Benjamin McNeil.
Lawson says it is scientifically established that increased carbon dioxide emissions will warm the planet, but adds, "it is uncertain how great any such warming would be and how much harm, if any, it would do". He urges governments "to consider the damaging economic impact of blindly following the climate change agenda".
He dismisses as "complete nonsense" the argument that Australia has a special responsibility as a carbon-intensive economy and big coal producer to show global policy leadership.
"If China wants to develop and wants to increase productivity through, among other things, increasing electricity output rapidly and has been building coal-fired power stations and wants to import the coal to fuel them from Australia, I think you would be mad if you didn't supply it," he tells The Weekend Australian.
Lawson sees continuing strong demand for Australian coal despite promises by China and India to reduce their energy intensity, calling the pledges "cover". "Economic development happens because of increased economic efficiency," he says. "That means increasing labour productivity and that also means increasing the productivity of the other factors of production of which energy is one of the most important."
Lawson adds the development of a less energy-intensive services sector is one of the characteristics of economic development. But he adds: "That doesn't mean energy consumption will decline. Energy consumption will rise. Carbon consumption will rise because economic growth will trump the lesser amount of energy used for each particular unit of output."
He calls energy intensity promises by China and India "convenient cover for their saying, quite rightly, 'no way are we going to impede or in any way slow down our economic development by having restrictions on the use of carbon energy'. They go for carbon intensity rather than carbon emissions, which they can be perfectly confident is bound to decline through a process of development as it has in every country in the world."
Lawson warns our politicians not to hold up his own party's policies as exemplars.
Julia Gillard regularly points to British Prime Minister David Cameron's environmental plans to embarrass the Coalition, but Lawson says Tory backbenchers "are increasingly uncomfortable and indeed hostile to policies [that] are being proposed on the climate change front, which mean higher energy costs, which are bad for consumers ... and bad for British industry".
He points out Cameron and his ministers have a plan B. "The government has said it will review the matter in January 2014 in the light of what other European countries are doing and this is clearly a get-out clause, this is clearly new, and it was clearly put in at the behest of the Treasury as both the Treasury and Treasury ministers are very concerned at the cost of going it alone."
Economics and energy security are at the core of Lawson's critique of the climate policy debate. "The world relies on carbon-based energy simply because it is by far the cheapest available source of energy and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future," he says. "The major developing countries, in particular, are understandably unwilling to hold back their development and condemn their people to avoidable poverty by moving from relatively cheap energy to relatively expensive energy."
Lawson heralds new developments that permit extraction of gas from shale in an economic way as "one of the most remarkable technological developments there has been", saying the shift from coal to gas that is set to follow will cut emissions.
"This is carbon energy but the amount of carbon dioxide produced per terawatt of energy generated from gas is half that from coal," he says. "You don't eliminate carbon emissions but you reduce them quite considerably by moving from coal to gas. Of course the environmentalists are appalled by this because they believe that carbon energy has to be eliminated altogether but that's not going to happen."
Lawson returns once again to the cost of renewable energy. "If renewable energy is cheaper than carbon energy, then that's fine," he says, "but for the present time and in the foreseeable future most forms of renewable energy are massively more expensive."
Lawson dismisses as economic illiteracy claims of a green jobs boom powered by renewables that will mop up unemployment from the structural adjustment to a low-carbon economy, recruiting one of the great classical liberals to back his case.
"The French 19th-century economist Frederic Bastiat said you might as well go round breaking windows saying you're creating jobs for glaziers. The fact is you can't look at just one sector. The government can create jobs by employing large numbers of people to build statues of prominent politicians. You can always create jobs in a particular area.
"What you've got to be concerned about are jobs in the economy as a whole and you don't create jobs in the economy as a whole by promoting something [that] is wholly uneconomic and has to be subsidised."
Lawson has strong views about what decarbonisation means. "The plain fact is the total economy will be harmed. A lot of these green jobs will be in China. The Chinese can see there is a market in the West for solar panels and other things so they are producing them very much more cheaply. In so far as there are jobs they will be there, not in the consuming countries."
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