Monday, June 04, 2012

A "Green" fossil fuel?

Wonders will never cease. How the mighty are fallen!

Energy from gas power stations has been rebranded as a green, low-carbon source of power by a €80bn European Union programme, in a triumph of the deep-pocketed fossil fuel industry lobby over renewable forms of power.

In a secret document seen by the Guardian, a large slice of billions of euros of funds that are supposed to be devoted to research and development into renewables such as solar and wave power are likely to be diverted instead to subsidising the development of the well-established fossil fuel.

The news comes as a report from the respected International Energy Agency predicted a "golden age for gas" with global production of "unconventional" sources of gas (notably shale gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking') tripling by 2035.

The insertion of gas energy as a low-carbon energy into an EU programme follows more 18 months of intensive lobbying by the European gas industry, which is attempting to rebrand itself as a green alternative to nuclear and coal, and as lower cost than renewable forms of power such as wind and sun.

But green groups warned that relying on gas would raise energy prices and fail to tackle climate change, and could fatally stunt the growth of the renewables industry. Gas is a fossil fuel – but because it generates less carbon dioxide when burned than coal, gas industry lobbyists have been touting the fuel as a lower-carbon alternative to coal.

The gains of switching from coal to gas are shortlived – any gas-fired power stations constructed today would be expected to continue in operation for at least 25 years. That would mean decades of carbon poured into the atmosphere – while scientists and industry experts warn that global emissions must peak by 2020 in order to avoid the worst manifestations of climate change. "A golden age for gas is not necessarily a golden age for the climate," warned Birol.

The document seen by the Guardian has been agreed by member states and sets out the framework for Horizon 2020, billed as a €80bn programme for research and innovation for the years 2014 to 2020. Of the funds available, more than €30bn are supposed to flow to "address major concerns shared by all Europeans such as climate change, developing sustainable transport and mobility, making renewable energy more affordable, ensuring food safety and security, or coping with the challenge of an ageing population", according to the European Commission.

As part of this mission, Horizon2020 will dispense billions of euros in funds to research and development projects, and is intended to "support research and innovation activities, strengthen the European scientific and technological base and foster benefits for society". Clean energy is a key part of this, according to the document: "The specific objective is to make the transition to a reliable, sustainable and competitive energy system, in the face of increasingly scarce resources, increasing energy needs and climate change."

But the original document has been altered by officials to include explicit references to funding for gas – despite gas being a fossil fuel and a mature technology.

This reference shows that gas is now being considered in an official EU programme as a "low-carbon" form of energy, equivalent to renewables or nuclear power – despite its status as a fossil fuel.

Finally, the last paragraph of the document shows that the R&D funding programme originally intended only to support renewables has been altered to explicitly include fossil fuels. It reads: "Activities [of the research and development programme] shall focus on research, development and full scale demonstration - of innovative renewables, efficient and flexible fossil power plants (including those using natural gas) and carbon capture and storage technologies." The reference to fossil fuels has been inserted.

Renewables compete with fossil fuels such as gas for investment, and if investors see that gas - which is a mature technology with low risks and high returns on investment - is favoured, they are likely to prioritise gas investment over renewables.


Greenies who want to reduce the population are shooting themselves in the foot with their carbon scare

There have been many suggestions here on this blog, and elsewhere, that the aim of the CAGW hoax is population control.

It is obvious that the poor people of the world produce more babies; witness Africa with a birth rate much higher than the rest of the world but a very low GDP. The Africans would seem to be the model for what the Greens want the world to be: a low carbon footprint. But with their high birth rate and low production, most of Africa teeters on the brink of famine. Unable to afford energy and sanitation, many burn forests and dump their waste untreated into the environment. This would suggest that the “low carbon footprint” model is only a recipe for disaster.

On the other hand, countries with well developed economies have low birth rates but high carbon footprints. If we are to reach a stable population, one that can be sustained far into the future, a world-wide well developed economy will be required.

A well developed economy requires energy. Producing food, goods, keeping people warm or cool, assuring hygiene, and providing transportation for people, food, and products, require energy.

What are the relationships between population growth, energy consumption, and production? First, here’s a chart of electricity consumed versus GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per person for 202 countries.

It is clear from Figure 1 that to have a well developed economy with a high GDP, energy consumption must also be high. A rough trend can be seen: each KW hour produces about $10 GDP per person. The average GDP per kilowatt-hour for all countries is $8.31. The ten highest electrical power users per person are: Iceland, Norway, Kuwait, Canada, Finland, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, United States, and Australia. Oil production in Africa and the Middle East distort some of the GDP numbers.

What does a high GDP do to birth rate?

In Figure 2, a fertility rate of 2 is the replacement level. Fertility rates below 2 indicate a declining population. Above 2 there is an increasing population. As you can see, most of Africa is poor and pregnant. African countries that are not poor are oil producers like Libya and Nigeria. Most European populations are in decline. The exceptions are Andorra and Gibraltar. Asian countries with thriving economies are below the replacement value. Singapore is the bottom point on fertility with a rate of 0.78 children per woman. South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau are just above that number.

There is a third leg to our stool: the relationship between fertility rate and electrical power.

Again, most of Africa, and some of Asia, is pregnant and powerless. It should be clear by now that there is an optimum electrical power and GDP necessary to result in a sustainable, stable population. Those numbers would appear to be about 3,000 KW hours and a GDP of about $30,000 annually per person. The total population is about seven billion. Therefore: 7 billion X 3,000 KWh = 21 trillion KWh.

21 trillion kilowatt-hours would seem to be a reasonable target. The world currently produces 19 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity. It appears that about 10% more electrical energy, with the accompanying improvement in GDP, primarily in Africa and some parts of Asia, would go a long way toward improving the quality of life and stabilizing population in those areas.

Energy drives civilization. This fundamental should be obvious to all, but apparently has not penetrated the consciousness of Greens, Progressives, and warmist zealots. Man builds cities to concentrate people, jobs, markets, and energy use into more efficient areas. Energy allows more efficient production, including food, technology, housing, and transportation. Cities and energy encourage creativity and innovation. More energy means a higher Gross Domestic Product.

Figure 4 shows a clear relationship between GDP and electrical power consumption. If less electricity is generated, the cost of electricity will go up (due to the economic law of supply and demand), less will be used, and GDP will go down. The converse is, of course, more desirable: more power and reducing the cost, will result in a higher GDP. High priced wind and solar is not the answer. Let the market decide how to generate more power efficiently.

For those that are screaming “what about carbon footprint!”, the market will very soon take care of that non-problem. We are currently passing the “peak oil” point. Fossil fuels, in the long term, will be a declining portion of our power production. Barring governmental stupidity, nuclear power will be an increasing percentage of energy production.

Due to the fact that carbon dioxide is a vital plant food, as well as a minor greenhouse gas, sometime in the not too distant future we will be developing schemes to keep the atmospheric CO2 level above 400 ppm or higher.

SOURCE (See the original for links and graphics)

Another EPA power grab

The Environmental Protection Agency has just taken its first abrupt step in the most dangerous power grab of our time. And it did so in direct defiance of instructions from the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The menace is hidden in a study called “An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska.” While the draft study seems ordinary, it was released in haste on May 18 – despite the prohibition of Congress – and is widely assumed to be the first step toward an unprecedented preemptive veto of the proposed Pebble Mine, a project which has not yet requested a single permit, but promises $7 billion of new infrastructure in a place without a diverse economy if EPA doesn’t kill it.

The Oversight Committee has asked the EPA to answer a long list of questions about its first-time assertion of such preemptive veto power, which the agency claims is authorized by the Clean Water Act, Section 404(c), but the committee says is illegal.

The EPA claims its study’s “narrow scope” does not indicate that the agency has already decided to preemptively veto the mine. However, the evidence says that’s a flat-out lie.

The Agency’s quick release of its hideously negative watershed assessment – against congressional instructions – can only be seen as a deliberate and malicious end-run to rapidly poison public opinion against Pebble Mine before anyone could come out for it.

The comment period, open now and ending July 23, has been irretrievably biased by EPA’s defiant early release of its study. With overwhelming public disapproval – rigged by the EPA and its Big Green allies – EPA will be fully justified in vetoing the Pebble Mine before its first permit is requested.

Very clever. Very ruthless. Very vicious. Very illegal.

The EPA used a similar tactic by yanking a West Virginia mining permit after the mine had been running for years, instead of before as in the Pebble Mine. The West Virginia mine owner took EPA to court and won. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled:

“EPA’s position is that section 404(c) grants it plenary authority to unilaterally modify or revoke a permit that has been duly issued by the Corps [the Army Corps of Engineers] – the only permitting agency identified in the statute – and to do so at any time.

“This is a stunning power for an agency to arrogate to itself when there is absolutely no mention of it in the statute. It is not conferred by section 404(c), and is contrary to the language, structure, and legislative history of section 404 as a whole.”

The case is Mingo Logan v. EPA, decided March 23, 2012.

The Oversight Committee told EPA in a May 10 letter that, just as EPA has no authority to yank a permit retroactively, Section 404(c) gives EPA no authority to deny one preemptively.

Now we can see the Pebble tactic: Kill it before it starts. (It’s like arresting speeders before they get in the car!)

If the EPA gets away with the Pebble tactic in Alaska, the Agency will have a precedent to kill any project anywhere in America. The Obama Administration will then possess the perfect political poison pill.

This is not about the mine. This is about the Pebble tactic. Once again, this fight is not about the Pebble Mine — it is much, much bigger than that — it is about power; specifically, power over permits. Something the EPA does not and should not have.


There are no winners in the war on coal

Recently the Seattle City Council unanimously passed Resolution 31379, opposing the development of coal-export terminals in Washington State. These terminals would use local railroads for transporting coal to the shore to be shipped overseas, mainly to Asian markets.

However, according to the Associated Press, “mining and burning more coal isn’t consistent with the city’s goal to fight climate change,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, sponsor of the Seattle resolution. So the council voted the resolution down. After all, we wouldn’t want any coal dust or pollution to hit the air of Seattle would we?

The coal mined in Wyoming and Montana, specifically in the Powder River Basin, which is the coal that would be transported to Asia, is considered low-sulfur and low-ash coal. Meaning, often times this coal doesn’t have to go through a rigorous process to comply with the Clean Air Act. It doesn’t emit near as much carbon or sulfur as other types of coal mined elsewhere in the U.S. and world.

Funny how sometimes those of the radical environmentalist mindset forget the world includes more than just the U.S. The coal burned in Asia is going into the air Americans breathe as well. Wouldn’t a true environmentalist want all nations to have healthy, clean air?

The World Coal Association highlights that about 80 percent of electricity generated in China comes from coal. If the U.S. decides, as the Seattle City Council did, that coal will not be exported through its state to another nation, it will not have an impact on China’s coal use. The country will simply import it from somewhere else.

Again, from an environmental standpoint, wouldn’t it be better for China, a country more dependent on coal than the U.S., to burn a cleaner variety of American-based coal than one that emits much more carbon and sulfur? Either way, China will burn the coal, and Wyoming and Montana will find customers.

This battle has nothing to do with the environment but everything to do with a gutting a vital domestic industry, despite what Seattle City Council Member O’Brien says.

Should the U.S. become adamant about not exporting coal from Wyoming and Montana to other nations, and if the government continues its war on coal here in the U.S., then no one wins.

“The City Council is full of hot air. To fight what it calls the ‘serious impacts’ of the discredited man-made climate change hoax, the City Council has seen fit to pass a resolution condemning the Rocky Mountain coal industry and the railroads that deliver the coal to the Pacific for overseas export,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “They are declaring war in effect on these coal-producing states, as well as the workers who would be employed at the port to ship the coal. All this in a misguided attempt stop the burning of coal that will take place anyway.”

If the U.S. government follows in the footsteps of the Seattle City Council soon we will lose what was once a vibrant, productive industry. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will continue to burn coal. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone — the environmentalist, American workers and the world.


All (Green) Thumbs

It was interesting while it lasted. But it looks like the "green revolution" has entered the long slide into "What was all that about?"

In January, the Spanish government removed absurdly lavish subsidies for its renewable energy industry, and the renewable energy industry all but imploded. You could say it was never a renewable energy industry at all. It was a government subsidy industry where in exchange for creating conscience-soothing but otherwise inefficient windmills and solar panels, the government gave the makers piles of cash consumers never would.

"They destroyed the Spanish market overnight with the moratorium (on subsidies)," European Wind Energy Association CEO Christian Kjaer told Bloomberg News.

The reason the Spanish example is so important is that it demonstrates how the whole green energy "revolution" was really an ideologically driven green boondoggle from the start.

At the beginning of his administration, President Obama insisted that if we didn't follow their lead, we would surrender the hugely profitable renewable energy sector to those sagacious Spaniards. In 2009, researchers at King Juan Carlos University found that Spain had destroyed 2.2 jobs in other industries for every green job it created. It also calculated that the Spanish government has spent more than half a million euros for each green job created since 2000, while wind industry jobs cost more than 1 million euros apiece.

When asked about the study, then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded that he hadn't read it, but, "It seems weird that we're importing wind turbine parts from Spain in order to build -- to meet renewable energy demand here if that were even remotely the case."

Let's cut Gibbs & Co. some slack. These were the days before the White House learned there were no shovel-ready jobs, before they discovered that their "investments" in companies like Solyndra were little better than shoveling taxpayer dollars into an industrial mulcher. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Gibbs would find it "weird" that our own domestic phylum of subsidy-seeking sucker fish might want to buy Spain's artificially cheap products in a scheme to feed off domestic subsidies here at home.

The evidence that this administration put cronyism and ideology ahead of reality is all around us. "Since 2009," reports the Wall Street Journal, "the Obama administration has awarded more than $1 billion to American companies to make advanced batteries for electric vehicles. Halfway to a six-year goal of producing one million electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, auto makers are barely at 50,000 cars." Well, that leaves just 950,000 cars to go.

Obama believed he was smart enough to start whole new industries simply by sluicing taxpayer dollars into the right maws. Any suggestion that the transition to inefficient energy sources might come at a cost to taxpayers or economic growth was derided as a "false choice."

It seems like Obama at least understands the tough choices he faces. In 2009, the president's Earth Day message was stridently dedicated to climate change. In 2012, it didn't even mention the word "climate." The administration wants everyone to believe it supports "fracking" and natural gas development. When Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he prefers high gasoline prices, the administration all but defenestrated the guy. Much to the chagrin of the green lobby, Obama will not be attending this year's Earth Summit. Heck, the current picture on the White House's energy and environment page even shows Obama happily walking past a stack of oil pipes. Subtle.

Yes, Obama threw a bone to the greens on the Keystone pipeline, but he more quietly opened up the Alaskan Arctic to new oil development, granting Shell permits to drill offshore.

"We never would have expected a Democratic president -- let alone one seeking to be 'transformative' -- to open up the Arctic Ocean for drilling," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told The New York Times.

Now, I have no doubt that Obama's course correction is entirely political. For instance, if he hadn't approved the Arctic drilling, Shell almost surely would have sued the administration for the billions it's spent developing its Arctic leases. That's not the kind of lawsuit Obama would want in an election year.

But saying Obama has caved to political reality doesn't change the fact that political reality is largely a function of economic reality. In Europe and America alike, voters increasingly recognize that the benefits of the green revolution aren't worth the costs, particularly when the revolutionaries don't have a clue what they're doing. The only question for voters is whether Obama has really learned his lesson, or whether he plans on reverting to type if re-elected.


Australia: Death threats just par for the course for climate skeptics

The wimps of the Green/Left claim that various criticisms of their mental ossification are "death threats" (See here). It's just projection. The skeptics are the ones that get the threats -- from Green/Left thugs

DEATH threats and vile abuse are real. They infect the daily lives of key players in the debate over climate change. But it's not what you think: the main recipients of this torrent of abuse are not climate scientists.

They are the journalists and broadcasters whose job requires them to test the received wisdom on this and many other subjects.

They are the inheritors of that great tradition in which Western civilisation has encouraged criticism of the orthodoxy in order to expose its flaws.

That tradition, which thrives on dissent, is very much alive in parts of the media. But it is under threat.

The intolerance of those who support the orthodox view on climate change has reached the point where the physical safety of those who express a contrary view is regularly threatened.

So where is the outraged media coverage? The ABC and like-minded outlets have devoted considerable resources to allegations of death threats against scientists who defend the orthodox view on climate change. Later events have undermined the veracity of those allegations, but you would never know unless you were prepared to wade through the corrections on the ABC's website.

But at the same time, real abuse and real death threats against those on the other side of this debate have been largely ignored.

At the moment, climate change is one of the "hot button" issues that brings out the crazies. But it's not just climate change.

Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt has also had threats of physical violence for criticising Islamism and Anita Heiss's book Am I Black Enough for You?.

He has even been threatened for opposing a national day of mourning for the Black Saturday bushfires.

Bolt puts it down to the morally superior manner of those who play a leading role in setting the tone of public policy debate.

The most startling incident occurred a decade ago when an activist organisation published his home address on its website "along with an exhortation to burn the house down".

Two weeks ago a filmmaker, whom he named, used Twitter to urge his followers: "Let's assassinate Andrew Bolt." It was later removed.

A Greens candidate at the last federal election used Twitter to publish this: "Andrew Bolt is a vile c ... of a man. I openly condone hunting him down and beating him to within an inch of his life."

Sydney Daily Telegraph columnist Tim Blair says he has received "death wishes" rather than death threats. The last one contained the cheery sign-off: "Die painfully, yours sincerely ... ".

Blair says this happens relatively frequently, whenever a "hot button" issue is in the news. And the most popular trigger is "anything to do with climate change".

Most of this material arrives by email and while they are abusive, Blair says they are not real death threats. "They want you to die, rather than saying they are going to kill you," he says.

But he was worried after he published on a private website Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that had triggered death threats against the cartoonist.

The Sydney Morning Herald accompanied its report on this incident with a photograph of Blair, which led to police calling him and suggesting he might wish to move to a more secure location.

Broadcaster Ray Hadley says he usually receives about 600 emails a day on a range of subjects, and 10 per cent are abusive.

In the 11 years he has been with Sydney radio station 2GB he has received about 20 death threats, only one of which seemed serious enough to refer to police. It contained details of his movements but turned out to be the work of an eccentric pensioner with an alcohol problem.

"The rest are in the form of 'I wish you were dead and if I could make you dead I would do it' ", Hadley says. "But some of the people I know in the security industry say that if someone is going to knock you off they are not going to tell you about it."

At The Australian, editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell says he has received hundreds of death threats during his 20 years as an editor and editor-in-chief and has ignored them all.

He says the recent debate about alleged death threats against climate change scientists gave rise to an implication that death threats only came from climate change deniers. But in his experience, that is not the case.

He has received threats from both sides of the climate change debate - from those accusing him of destroying the planet for their grandchildren and from those demanding that the newspaper withdraw its support for a carbon tax. In the past two years, most of the threats from the Right have largely come from Queensland and Western Australia.

He believes there would always have been threats made against those in the media and email has simply made it more convenient.

Climate scientists, like other new players in public policy debates, were clearly shocked by the vile nature of some of the abuse they have received.

But after 20 years of abuse and threats, Mitchell has some advice: "These climate scientists need to harden up."

The abuse directed at climate scientists, bad as it was, needs to be kept in perspective.

Ten years ago, the Brisbane home of The Australian's Hedley Thomas was peppered with bullets late at night, narrowly missing his wife and children.

Thomas, who has five Walkley awards, has received threats but does not take them seriously, "because if someone wants to do you in, they are not going to give you a warning".

He says he has never been scared away from a story because of threats.

More than a decade ago, reporter Tom Dusevic was beaten by two young men with baseball bats who were waiting for him when he returned home at night. This came shortly after Dusevic had written a contentious article. But he believes it was probably just a case of mistaken identity.



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