Friday, July 01, 2011

Copper and the Hybrid Hypocrites

Joseph Moser at The Daily Caller highlights the one of the bigest condundrums for environmentatlists. The technology they're counting on to rid us of our on foreign oil requires a lot of copper - a veritable crapload of the stuff.
Recently, the EPA declared a new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard of 34.1 mpg by 2016. Going a step further, the NRDC is demanding Obama administration officials set even stronger global warming pollution and fuel-efficiency standards to ensure cars and trucks average at least 60 mpg by 2025. The hope is that higher standards and government "incentives" will encourage automakers to produce more fuel-efficient hybrid and electric cars.

One problem: the more electric a vehicle is, the more copper it contains. Each hybrid contains about 100 pounds of copper -- most of that is in the electrical cables and the electric motor. A conventional car only contains about 50 pounds of copper.

Other "green" technologies also contain lots of copper. A five-megawatt wind turbine is made of nearly five tons of copper and solar panels are up to 60 percent copper. Blocking future mine construction effectively jeopardizes the very technology greens want to power their vision of a "clean-energy future."

Turns out there's a major discovery of said copper (and gold) near Bristol Bay, Alaska, about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, that if unearthed, would produce over 80 billion tons of copper. Even though it's still in the planning stages, the Pebble Mine appears to hold some of the largest natural reserves of copper and gold in the world.

Environmental groups are fiercely opposing the proposed mine. As noted at Resourceful Earth, environmentalists want to massively scale up development of electric vehicles, solar panels, windmills, etc but don't want to approve of projects that will extract these minerals need to build these new green products from the earth. They'd much rather that the messy business of producing "green" be done overseas...


Future of federal solar programs in doubt

The solar power industry is facing a double threat from a Congress that may turn off the flow of federal subsidies and take a pass on mandating renewable-energy standards that would increase demand.

The Republican-led House, focused on cutting spending and philosophically opposed to subsidizing solar power and clean energy, has targeted federal grant and loan guarantee programs to reduce or eliminate.

One is a U.S. Treasury grant program, set to expire at the end of this year, that solar companies say has kept them alive through the recession. The other is an Energy Department loan guarantee program, part of which would end Oct. 1, that has provided nearly $35 billion in loan guarantees for solar, wind, geothermal and other clean energy projects that have generated more than 68,000 U.S. jobs, according to the department.

Meanwhile, hopes for a national clean energy standard that could boost demand for solar power also are dimming in a Congress that doesn't support government mandates about what kind of energy Americans should use.

"Is the solar industry going to die if we lose these programs? No, but we're going to stall," said Roger Efird, managing director of Suntech America. Its parent company, Suntech Power, which has offices in San Francisco, China and Europe and a manufacturing plant in Arizona, is the world's largest producer of solar panels. "We'll certainly lose a lot of jobs. There's no doubt about that," Efird said.

The solar power industry grew 67% last year — faster than any other U.S. industry — and employs about 100,000 people nationwide, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Critics say it's time for the industry to stand on its own and compete in the free market without any help from struggling American taxpayers. "If you take a gun and force taxpayers to hand over their earnings to a solar company, that solar company is going to do very well, but the taxpayers end up getting screwed with nothing to show for it at the end of the day," said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif. He has led efforts by House conservatives to end loan guarantees and grants for the solar industry and other renewable energy industries. "We've spent billions on technology and research and subsidies, and it's still the most expensive way of generating electricity."

Solar power and offshore wind power are the costliest methods of generating electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, solar's cost is dropping as the technology becomes more efficient and the industry expands, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The average price of an installed solar system in a home, business or power plant fell more than 20% nationwide from the beginning of 2010 to the end of the year, the association said.

Solar advocates say it's unfair to talk of solar standing on its own, as the federal government has been subsidizing oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries for decades. Those subsidies include tax incentives to drill for oil, federally financed dams to generate hydroelectric power, and research funding for nuclear power and clean-coal technologies.

"The government has always played a role in the energy mix through providing incentives to certain technologies or making it easier to use certain technologies," said Richard Caperton, an energy analyst with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "Transmission lines to coal-fired power plants were built with taxpayer subsidies. If we stop spending money on some very cost-effective programs for clean energy, all it's going to do is put clean energy at an even bigger competitive disadvantage."

A better solution may be to get rid of all federal energy subsidies, said Nicolas Loris, an energy analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "Given the financial situation of our government, energy subsidies is not an area where we need to be spending money," he said.

Solar advocates argue that the government's investment is paying off in new jobs. "We need to be fiscally disciplined as a country, but we shouldn't be foolhardy by eliminating programs that create jobs," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The solar industry has an ally in President Obama, who has called for a national clean energy standard that sets the goal of the nation generating 80% of its electricity from clean sources by 2035. Although it's unlikely Congress will approve that ambitious goal, the administration could take steps to help the solar industry by allowing federal agencies to enter into long-term agreements to buy solar power, Resch said.

Solar programs also remain popular in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., fought off House efforts early this year to end the loan guarantee program that helps solar companies secure financing for their projects. Reid last month announced that the Energy Department will provide conditional guarantees for the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Tonopah, Nev., creating nearly 5,000 jobs in his struggling state, which has the nation's highest jobless rate.

Solar lobbyists said they believe the loan guarantee program will survive, although it's not yet clear how much funding it will get this year.


Dim bulbs and Congress

Quotes of the Day:

"I'm deeply, deeply disappointed with CFL bulbs. I replaced pretty much every regular bulb in the house with CFLs, but they've been failing at about the same rate as ordinary long-life bulbs, despite the promises of multiyear service. And I can't tell any difference in my electric bill." - Glenn Reynolds

"And the dim fluorescent lighting is meant to emphasize the general absence of hope." - New Yorker Cartoon (Hat tip: Sam Kazman)

The federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 would have effectively banned the sale of 100-watt incandescent bulbs on Jan 1, 2012, and phased out incandescents between 40 and 100 watts by 2014.

We understand concerns about energy consumption and the environment which motivated this ban. But as the letter below shows, this ban will do more harm than good.

That's why we're glad that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton has agreed to support a bill that would repeal this ban.

Please tell Congress to pass a repeal bill using's Reduce Regulations campaign. You may borrow from or copy this letter . . .

"Regulations may have good intentions. But doesn't it seem like they always produce unintended consequences?

This is true of the ban on incandescent light bulbs that will begin on January 1. Please support legislation to repeal this ban.

I share the concern about air pollution or carbon-dioxide emissions. But, as Virginia Postrel notes, "banning light bulbs is one of the least efficient ways imaginable to attack those problems" and "gives electricity producers no incentive to reduce emissions."

Sam Kazman tells the story of an Iowa town that persuaded residents to trade in their incandescents for free fluorescents -- and electricity use increased by nearly 10 percent! For whatever reason, they kept the lights on longer.

Kazman also points out, CFL's . . .

* often burn out long before their much-touted 10,000-hour lifetime

* may take a minute or more to reach full brightness

* can't be used with timers or outdoors in cold weather or in recessed downlight fixtures

* can't fit in some of the most ordinary of fixtures, such as the three-bulb sockets on many household ceilings with glass fixtures

* are simply not very bright and are hated by many people, who find CFL light "depressing, color-draining, sickly, headache-inducing"

Even more disconcerting, CFL's appear to be a health hazard . . .

* They contain minute amounts of mercury which raises disposal concerns

* The EPA advises that the first step in cleaning up a broken CFL is to "Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more."

And finally, there's the perception that CFL's are a rip-off. Virginia Postrel notes that "a basic CFL runs about three times the initial price of the equivalent incandescent" and that only 25% of Americans so far have switched to them.

Plus, as Henry Payne notes, CFLs are at this point almost entirely produced in China.

We can't afford regulations that destroy jobs, create health hazards, that gouge and inconvenience consumers, and that do nothing for the environment. Repeal the incandescent light bulb ban!"


Pupils banned from British school playground after seagull builds nest in the middle of it

Pupils have been banned from their school playground after a seagull built a nest in the middle of it. The bird has moved into the yard at Millom Infant School, Cumbria - and after previous experiences with aggressive gulls, staff have declared the playground out of bounds.

A schoolboy spotted the nest during a lunch hour last week and told his parents, who in turn notified the school. The nesting area has now been fenced off to allow the bird to raise any chicks unharmed.

Jan Procter, reception teacher, said: 'We have a little outcrop in our playground and the seagull has spotted this and decided to make a nest and has laid two eggs. 'One of the parents told us after a pupil told them about it. 'We rang the RSPB for advice and they told us seagulls are protected.

'We've not been able to use the playground and so we have to use our grassy area instead.' Mrs Procter said the children have not been too disappointed as they are still able to play outside.

However, their play equipment cannot be used for at least one month while the bird eggs hatch. She added: 'We have had seagulls at our school before and we're now waiting with interest to see what happens next.

'The children can still go outside but we are keeping them out of the playground. 'Because the children are not anywhere near the nest, the seagull hasn't been too bad but I'm sure it wouldn't have been if we let them loose in the playground.'

A spokeswoman for the RSPB said: 'All nesting birds are protected by law and some do pick weird and wonderful places to nest. 'A playground might not be the obvious choice but we have heard of birds under car bonnets and on Ministry of Defence tanks so they can't use them. 'It's lovely to hear the school sought advice and haven't disturbed it.

'Hopefully the children can learn from it and track the progress - they will get to see some lovely fluffy seagull chicks. 'We'd urge everybody to keep their eyes open for nesting birds and hopefully everyone would be as considerate as the school.'


UK needs new nuclear plants says Liberal minister as he completes U-turn on power stations

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne completed his spectacular U-turn yesterday when he backed a new generation of nuclear power stations. The Liberal Democrat minister said new nuclear plants were needed to keep Britain’s lights on and would have an essential role in tackling climate change and curbing soaring fuel bills.

Mr Huhne, who once described nuclear power as a ‘failed technology’, now says it is an essential part of getting Britain ‘off the oil hook’.

Speaking ahead of the launch of new electricity market reforms which will make nuclear power more attractive for business investors, he praised the example of France, where 77 per cent of electricity is generated by nuclear power stations, arguing that it provides the French with both better energy security and lower bills.

And, putting himself on a potential collision course with the rest of his party, he warned that Britain is in danger of falling behind if it delays the dash for new nuclear power stations.

Mr Huhne said: ‘Some countries already have a head start. ‘Electricity prices in France are set to rise by around three per cent this year; compare and contrast with Britain, where prices are rising by three times as much. ‘It is no surprise that less than ten per cent of France’s electricity comes from fossil fuels.’

Mr Huhne’s new enthusiasm for nuclear power leaves him open to charges of hypocrisy. In 2007 he described it as a ‘tried, tested and failed technology’ and said it had no future. He has since claimed that these comments were ‘misunderstood’ and that he was not opposed to nuclear power provided it did not involve large state subsidies.

The Lib Dem manifesto pledged to ‘reject’ plans for new nuclear plants. Mr Huhne’s comments will infuriate MPs in his party who want the Coalition to follow the lead of Germany and Italy and scrap nuclear in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The Coalition Agreement allows Lib Dem MPs to abstain on the issue but many are now expected to vote against. Some 19 Lib Dem MPs – one third of the Parliamentary party – have signed a Commons motion warning that events in Fukushima ‘underline the extreme dangers inherent in nuclear power’, and calling for it to be abandoned. Signatories include former leader Charles Kennedy and party president Tim Farron.

Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood accused ministers of pushing through secret subsidies for the nuclear industry – in breach of the Coalition agreement.

He called for a windfall tax on the nuclear industry to claw the money back. Mr Horwood said: ‘There are going to be some pretty frank discussions about nuclear. ‘There is growing unhappiness at the level of subsidies creeping in for the nuclear industry – they are being given millions of pounds for no change in behaviour whatsoever.’


Australian Greenie leader's economic xenophobia will cost Australia dearly

FOR a man who so warmly embraces every foreigner seeking asylum in Australia, Bob Brown is strangely xenophobic when it comes to foreigners who want to lend us money or invest here.

Yesterday, at the National Press Club, Brown did his best to stoke up anger against investors from "Switzerland, London, Calcutta, Beijing" and foreigners who, according to a study commissioned by the Greens and released yesterday, own 83 per cent of Australian mining companies. It was not a pretty sight.

Economic debate in Australia will take a turn for the worse once the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate. Brown may have good intentions but he is economically illiterate. That illiteracy is likely to cost ordinary Australians dearly; many will lose their jobs and their standard of living is likely to fall. It is surprising given their well-developed economic policies that the Greens have managed to avoid careful scrutiny of their party platform. Their industry policy should worry many Australians.

The Greens have long run a campaign against the mining industry and particularly the coal industry. In fact their stated party policy is no new coalmines and no expansion of existing mines. They fully intend to close down the Australian coal industry. Sooner rather than later.

Brown makes two arguments in defence of this policy. First, that renewables would replace coal. Second, that the Australian mining industry is largely foreign owned. Presumably that means the Australian government can destroy foreign investments with impunity.

Economic illiterates make several mistakes in their analysis. Because of his anti-foreign bias, Brown overlooks the benefits of interaction with foreigners. Unfortunately, he is not alone in exhibiting "capital xenophobia".

Australia has long had to borrow money from the rest of the world to finance our economic prosperity. The local economy has grown and foreign investors got their money back. This arrangement has benefited everybody; Australian savings are simply too small to finance our economic growth and standard of living. Foreigners invest in those economies with good prospects and low levels of sovereign risk.

Australia has a good reputation as an investment destination. But Brown is placing that hard-earned reputation at risk. Suggestions by a major political party, in a formal partnership with government and holding the balance of power in the Senate, that foreign investment can be taxed with impunity, or even shut down, raises perceptions of sovereign risk. What's worse, he is not alone. The ill-fated resource super-profits tax also raised serious concerns about sovereign risk.

Remarkably, Brown admits that Australia gets "jobs, export income, royalties and company tax" from mining. But that is not enough; he wants it all. He seems to object to foreigners, in return for their loans and investments, getting "profits, dividends, [and] capital appreciation". There is also a bit of double counting going on; dividends and capital appreciation amount to profits. Or perhaps Brown doesn't know that.

Brown is worried that foreign investors will earn $265 billion from their Australian investments over the next five years and, of that, $50bn will leave the country and $205bn will be reinvested.

Putting those figures into context, the Australian Taxation Office reports for the 2008-09 financial year that the mining industry paid $13.3bn in corporate tax. Of that amount coalmining paid nearly $3.6bn. So the industry paid more in tax in one year than the $10bn Brown suspects will leave the country in dividends each year.

What Brown imagines is that all that money going to foreigners could be diverted into a Norwegian-style sovereign wealth fund. It's not clear what he thinks will happen to the jobs and export income once foreign investment has been withdrawn because it no longer earns any profits, but Brown imagines that Australia could then be like Norway. However, unlike the Norwegian government, the Australian government does not hold large ownership stakes in the minerals industry. So the establishment of a minerals sovereign fund would not mean the diversion of existing government revenue into a fund but rather higher levels of taxation, discouraging work, saving and investment. After all, why do these things if the government is just going to tax away your money?

Economic illiterates believe that with some tweaking the world can be made a better place. In Brown's case the existence of a carbon tax and the demise of the coal industry would make the world a much better place. Yet he has given little thought to how that world would be powered. It's all very well talking about "renewables", but which renewables and how much would they cost?

As the Productivity Commission recently flagged, renewables are expensive; wind power costs $150-$214 a megawatt hour, solar costs $400-$473 a megawatt hour. By contrast, coal-fired electricity costs less than $100 a megawatt hour.

A coal-free Australia would be a lot more expensive, with lower standards of living.

Brown quoted the UN statistic that for every year of delay on climate change $1 trillion of costs will be incurred. What he hasn't explained is how undermining the Australian economy would reduce that cost and why Australians should bear that cost when the UN hasn't managed to convince its members to act in concert on climate change.

The biggest problem Brown faces is that you can't intervene in the economy on the scale he desires without a massive reduction in our economic wellbeing. The problem Australia faces is that Brown doesn't understand that point.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here



geeyore said...

I posted this response about the Bristol Bay copper mine on The Daily Caller web site:

Not opposed to mining generally or to mining in Alaska, but it’s important to remember that the ultimate destination of the extracted Bristol Bay copper will be China, not the USA.

The bizarre logic of this article is that green tech requires a lot of copper, which we in the USA don’t currently have, and as a result all future green tech manufacturing will be done in Asia (aka China). Hence this mine should proceed so that the USA can manufacture the future green tech.

But that’s wrong on at least two counts: (1) the USA has a declining manufacturing capability and thus WILL NOT be consuming the extracted copper, and (2) China currently (in 2011) consumes 55 percent of global copper production, with its own domestic production in sharp decline, requiring evermore imports (e.g., from the above Bristol Bay mine).

It doesn’t take much thinking to realize that this mine will simply be another raw materials resource for China, just as Peru, Chile, and Zambia currently are. In this case it will be done through The Pebble Partnership (aka Bristol Bay) which is jointly owned by Anglo American plc (Brit), Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (Canada), and Rio Tinto plc (Brit). Northern Dynasty currently owns 40 percent of the project and Rio Tinto 10 percent, Anglo American the other 50 percent. However, Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen in April stated that its entire interest could be sold to Rio Tinto or to “an Asian metals trading-slash-smelting company, like a Mitsubishi, Mitsui or Sumitomo, or even one of the Chinese groups.”

In either case (be it Rio Tinto or “one of the Chinese groups”), the Pebble (Bristol Bay) copper is going to China, not to the USA.

Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese stated in Shanghai last year:

“China is important to Rio Tinto in many ways, which is why we see the relationship as one between partners rather then simply supplier and customer. Yes, China is our biggest customer, but it is also … home of our largest shareholder, as well as the domicile of our major joint venture partners and 170 Rio Tinto employees.”

Nevermind the potential environmental impacts. Bristol Bay (Pebble) is at essence a scheme to supply China with raw copper, to the benefit of a couple Brit mining conglomerates and probably “even one of the Chinese groups” as CEO Ron Theissen mentioned above. There is very little benefit to the United States.

Peter T said...

RE Light Bulbs
Further irony regarding Fred Upton:

His homestate Michigan is launching a local repeal of the federal light bulb regulations
Freedom Light Bulb

Updates on local freedom bills in US States, and on Canada
Government 2 year ban delay proposal