Sunday, April 28, 2013

Opposed to Drilling, Fracking, Keystone…and Exports

Paul Driessen

The interminable war on drilling, fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline has taken some bizarre turns. Now it’s getting worse, as opponents grow more desperate, and the moon again grows full.

Deep water drilling, 3-D and 4-D seismic (the ability to visualize 3-D over many years), deep horizon horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and other technological marvels have obliterated environmentalist claims that the United States and world are running out of oil and gas – and therefore we need to switch to subsidized, land-hungry, job-killing wind turbines, solar panels and biofuels.

Thanks to free enterprise innovation on state and public lands – and no thanks to President Obama, who has made nearly the entire federal onshore and offshore estate off limits to leasing and drilling – US oil and natural gas production has hit an all-time record. The world is on the verge of doing so as well.

Long-running geopolitics have been turned upside down, as OPEC, Russia and other oil superpowers wonder what hit them. Plastic and chemical manufacturers, steel makers, bus and fleet vehicle operators, and now long-haul truckers are already cashing in on the natural gas bonanza. So are electric utilities, especially with EPA continuing its war on coal, with more unnecessary heavy-handed air and water rules.

Global warming/climate change hysteria is also floundering on the rocks of reality. Average global temperatures haven’t risen in 16 years, seas aren’t rising any faster than 100 years ago, and storms, floods and droughts are no more frequent or severe than over multi-decade trends during the past century.

Evidence and reality simply are not cooperating with IPCC and Mann-made climate models. “Trust the computer models!” the alarmists plead. “If reality doesn’t comport with our predictions, reality is wrong.”

The U.S. State Department has (yet again) said the Keystone XL pipeline poses few environmental problems and should be approved, to bring Canadian oil sands petroleum to Texas refineries – creating thousands of construction and permanent jobs, and billions in economic growth and government revenue.

Unacceptable! …Rants the Environmental Protection Agency. “State underestimated KXL’s potential impact on global warming and needs to do its studies all over again,” says EPA. Never mind that oil sands production would add a minuscule 0.06% to US greenhouse gas emissions and an undetectable 0.00001 degrees C per year to computer-modeled global warming, according to the Congressional Research Service. Do it over, until you get the answers we want, demand EPA and environmentalist ideologues.

Some 70% of Americans and 60% of Canadians support Keystone – and energy security (and jobs) outrank greenhouse gas reduction as a national priority by a 2-1 margin among Americans – says Canadian pollster Nik Nanos.

However, the haters of hydrocarbons, modern living standards, free enterprise and personal liberty are not ready to surrender. They’ve launched a blitzkrieg flanking attack. This time they are outraged that some Keystone oil could be refined into diesel and other products and exported! to Europe or Asia – while some frack-based natural gas might be converted to LNG and likewise exported! around the globe.

Well, yes. When US refiners transform crude oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, asphalt, waxes and petrochemicals, they ship some of these products overseas. Since Americans use less diesel than refineries manufacture (some parts of each barrel of crude can be converted only into diesel), refiners also export their excess diesel to Europe, which uses more diesel than gasoline, and Europeans ship their surplus gasoline to the USA, mostly to East Coast consumers. It’s a win-win arrangement that will be buttressed and safeguarded by Keystone pipeline transport of Canadian oil.

And yes, Cheniere Energy and other companies want to ship liquefied natural gas to foreign markets. It’s hardly surprising that anti-fracking activists would seize on this as yet another excuse for opposing this game-changing technology. It is hardly remarkable that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) and other far-Left legislators would sponsor bills to block LNG exports.

What is shocking is that Dow and Huntsman Chemical, Alcoa Aluminum, Nucor Steel and other companies are joining the no-export campaign. They have convinced themselves that such exports will hurt their own selfish economic interests – and for PR have packaged that notion into assertions that exporting any US natural gas is against America’s and the public’s economic interests. Nonsense.

America has barely begun to tap its vast shale gas and conventional natural gas deposits. It has not yet touched its methane hydrates. Together, these deposits will likely last a century or more. In addition, other countries are racing to develop their own conventional, shale and hydrate deposits – while other nations will eventually recognize the folly of keeping their own deposits off limits. All this will gradually reduce demand for US natural gas exports, slow and prolong them, and keep gas prices low.

This interplay will also help ensure that more factories and power plants in more countries burn natural gas, thereby replacing coal and providing the economic wherewithal to enable China, India and other nations to install modern pollution abatement technologies on their now dirty power plants. That will greatly improve air quality and human health in countless cities, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing consternation among steadily dwindling numbers of climate alarmists.

American oil and gas development – and exports – will also provide an opportunity for our nation to “give back” to the world community for all the petroleum that our anti-leasing, anti-drilling policies have caused us to take from other nations and the world at large for decades. All this activity will also spur further innovation in technologies to unlock still more energy. It will spur job creation, economic growth and government tax and royalty revenue collection here in the United States…and abroad.

More than 23 million Americans are still unemployed or underemployed; 47 million are on food stamps, 128 million dependent on various government programs; the United States is more than $16 trillion in debt. Unemployment in the construction trades is 14.7 percent. Black unemployment was 12.7% when President Bush left office; it soared to 16.7% by September 2011 under President Obama, and remains stuck at 14% today for black adults – and an astronomical 43% for black teenagers!

Drilling, fracking and exports can reverse these horrendous, intolerable, unnecessary statistics.

Misguided industrialists should stop railing against exports. They would do themselves and our nation far more good by putting their lobbyists and public relations staffs to work demanding an end to leasing, drilling and fracking bans that continue to dominate “progressive” thinking, US energy policy (especially under the current administration), and attitudes in California, New York and too many other states.

Of 1.8 billion acres on our nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, only 36-43 million are under lease. That’s barely 2% of the OCS. Offshore territory equal to 78% of the entire US landmass (Alaska plus the Lower 48) is off limits! Even the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill cannot justify that.

Onshore, it’s just as bad. As of 1994, over 410 million federally controlled acres were effectively off limits to exploration and development. That’s 62% of the nation’s public lands – an area nearly equal to Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined. The situation has gotten progressively worse, with millions more acres – and vast energy, mineral and economic bounties – locked up in wilderness, park, preserve, wildlife refuge, wilderness study, Antiquities Act and other restrictive land use designations, or simply made unavailable by bureaucratic fiat or foot-dragging.

Drilling opponents claim to be protecting the environment, but in reality simply detest hydrocarbons, modern living standards, free enterprise and personal liberty. Commonsense policies will rejuvenate our economy, put Americans back to work, and help fund government programs that Messrs. Obama and Reid profess to care so much about – while safeguarding ecological values we all cherish.


No lonely planet

There won't be an overstuffed world, after all

Malthusians can breathe a sigh of relief: If current trends hold, human beings won't fulfill doomsday predictions by making like rabbits after all. Thanks to the success of incessant fear-mongering, the world's population is expected to peak soon and then begin a long slide downward. That's fewer of us "defacing" the planet.

A research team from the Autonomous University of Madrid and CEU-San Pablo University in Spain predicts the global population will begin to decline by the middle of the 21st century. Their study, published in the scientific journal "Simulation," used computer models to project population based on current fertility and death rates. It predicts that global population will reach its high-water mark around the middle of the century, then decline. By 2100, there will be only about 6.2 billion of us, about the same number as in 2000.

Only yesterday, on Oct. 31, 2011 (Halloween, as a matter of fact), the United Nations announced the birth of the 7 billionth baby - not in celebration, but in alarm. The U.N. called it the "Day of 7 Billion," and sounded "a call to action to world leaders to meet the challenges that a growing population poses." The U.N. Population Fund marked the occasion with a report that included a graph projecting a steep increase in the rate of human growth, and asked the scary question: "Will my grandchildren live in a world of 10 billion?"

The U.N. has spent decades and billions of dollars to bend the rate of childbirth downward, particularly in Third World nations, where large families are often considered essential to work the fields and hence survival. The new population study confirms the global body's success in persuading humans that less is more. "Overpopulation was a specter in the 1960s and '70s, but historically the U.N.'s low fertility-variant forecasts have been fulfilled," writes Felix F. Munoz, researcher and co-author of the project.

Behind population-control schemes lurk the pessimistic belief that one human being is a consumer; a billion is an environmental disaster. Thomas Malthus, an 18th-century Anglican clergyman, taught that population growth would eventually reach a tipping point and that famine and disease would kill numbers that threatened sustainability: "The increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence."

Malthus could not have predicted the miracles of the 21st century. Stephen Hawking, a famous theoretical physicist, has lived his 71 years with Lou Gehrig's disease, which has left him a quadriplegic. Modern medicine has redefined "the means of subsistence," allowing Mr. Hawking to project influence from his motorized wheelchair. He is living proof that efforts to limit human growth are foolhardy when a universe of God-given potential lives to be tapped within each person.

An empty world would represent failure for the human race, not success. Better to face the future with courage than be taken in by the doomsayers. Human ingenuity is the ultimate resource.


Japan turns back to coal-fired power plants

The Japanese government is moving to speed up the environmental assessment process for new coal-fired power plants as its power sector struggles with a surging energy bill in the wake of the forced idling of much of the country's nuclear power plants following the Fukushima power plant meltdown in 2011.

At present, it can take up to four years for approvals for new plants to be processed.

According to Japanese media reports, the government intends to make 12 months the maximum period for assessing and approving new coal-fired power plants as its utilities seek to develop more power stations to stem surging energy supply bills.

The closure of much of the country's nuclear power capacity following Fukushima has forced the utilities to restart idled oil-fired power plants, which has pushed up energy bills significantly since oil is the most expensive fuel source.

And with the government considering the closure of much of the installed nuclear capacity over the medium term, the spotlight is back on coal as the cheapest energy source, notwithstanding plans to cut carbon emissions.

A commitment to slice 2020 carbon emissions by 25 per cent from their 1990 level will be revised by October, according to Japanese newspaper reports.

Tokyo Electric, which operated the Fukushima complex, is adding an estimated 2.6 gigawatts a year of coal-fired generation capacity from two new plants that started operation this month.

It is also sourcing electricity from two coal-fired plants operated by Tohoku Electric Power Co that have been restarted after being repaired following the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The No.2 unit at Tokyo Electric's Hitachinaka plant, with 1000 megawatts of capacity, began operating this month, along with the 600MW No. 6 unit at its Hirono power station. The utility is also purchasing half of the output from the No. 1 and No. 2 units at Tohoku Electric's Haramachi plant in northern Japan, each of which can generate 1000MW.

In total, these coal-fired power plants are expected to consume about 11.5 million tonnes of coal in a full year of operation.

The government's move to speed up the assessment process coincides with Tokyo Electric's call for tenders for the construction of new coal-fired power stations with 2600MW of capacity, which it wants to have in operation by the end of the decade, to replace lost nuclear capacity.

Of Japan's 50 nuclear power plants, just two are in operation at the moment. All were shut for a review of operating procedures after the Fukushima accident.


Americans Bothered By The Way The Government Spends Taxes

Every year, April 15 is tax day. The morning's news shows featured last minute tax tips and other tax-related information. A new poll was discussed. When asked: "Thinking about paying taxes, which one of the following bothers you the most?" Surprisingly, "What you pay" received the lowest response, while the "Way the government spends taxes" was the highest. "Feeling that some don't pay fair share" was near the top and "Complexity of system and forms" was near the bottom." So people understand that it takes money to run the government and generally don't object to paying their taxes. It is what the government does with that money that frustrates us.

When asked about the way government spends taxes, responders were likely thinking of the green-energy crony-corruption spending on flawed ventures like Solyndra and the, now, fifty-plus other green-energy embarrassments that received taxpayer dollars as a result of President Obama's 2009 Stimulus Bill (as well as other green-energy funds) that poured nearly $100 billion into the pet projects of his donors.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September 2011. It was just the bellwether; the first of many to come.

A year later Christine Lakatos and I profiled nearly 20 green-energy stimulus-funded companies that had gone bankrupt. The next week, we highlighted the other bookend: "companies/projects that received funding from various loan guarantee programs (LGP), grants, and tax incentives. These are projects that are still functioning, but are facing difficulties." One of those troubled companies was A123 Systems. One week after our report, A123 filed for bankruptcy. Nearly two months later, A123 was purchased by a large Chinese auto parts maker that has renamed the lithium-ion battery company B456. (Note: A123/B456's biggest customer is another company on our troubled list: Fisker Automotive-manufacturer of the $100,000+ electric sports car made in Finland-is now facing bankruptcy itself after efforts to find a Chinese investor "stalled.")

Wait. In his 2008 campaign, didn't Obama promise to "create five million new energy jobs over the next decade--jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced"? But our tax-payer dollars created jobs in Finland and have benefitted a Chinese company-Obamanomics outsourced. No wonder the "way the government spends taxes" tops the list. And most have no idea that the Obama administration is responsible for steering billions of our tax dollars from the stimulus and other clean energy programs to foreign-owned entities, of which big chunk was doled out in the form of free cash via the 1603 stimulus grant program.

But there's more-new news the poll respondents probably didn't even know about.

One day after the poll was taken, CNN Money reports: "China's Suntech Power has put its largest subsidiary into bankruptcy." What they don't mention is that China's Suntech Power benefitted from Obama's 2009 Stimulus Bill-receiving a $2.1 million credit from the Energy Department's stimulus-funded Advanced Energy Manufacturing (48C) Tax Credit. (Suntech was included in our 2012 "troubled" list.) In her blog, The Green Corruption Files, Lakatos states: "according to the Heritage Foundation, in November 2012, Suntech shed some employees, claiming that it was the 'U.S. International Trade Commission's 35.95% tariff on Chinese solar panels that was partially responsible for the 50 impending layoffs at its Arizona production facilities.'" Suntech was even blamed for the Solyndra debacle. In December 2011, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported: "China's major solar panel companies-whose low-cost products led some American factories to close, helped create the Solyndra controversy, and spawned talk of a trade war-were bankrolled in the United States by the world's largest investment banks." Those "investment banks" include some the same ones we have profiled in our previous reports that have deep ties to the Obama campaign and administration, and many green-energy projects that received loans, grants, and special tax breaks representing billions in stimulus money.

Suntech has more interconnections. Arizona's Mesquite Solar Project, which received $337 million in taxpayer money despite its non-investment grade rating by Fitch, was to be built with Suntech's solar panels and the power was to be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric-which has strong political presence in Washington, DC, and connections to billions in stimulus funds. California's PG&E, a company with "an extensive network of former high-ranking employees holding influential positions in government agencies at the federal and state level, has benefitted handsomely from government financing of green energy projects." The most controversial former PG&E employee to hold an influential government post is Cathy Zoi, a former energy analyst for the company, who we profiled in our report on George Soros.

There is much more that can be found in Lakato's Suntech report.

Another sparsely reported solar-power embarrassment was covered by Fox News on the same day the aforementioned poll was taken. "SoloPower, which makes thin-film solar panels at a new plant in Portland, OR, opened September 27 with an upbeat ribbon-cutting ceremony. Local and state politicians gushed about the company eventually operating four production lines and creating 450 well-paid green jobs." After its grand opening just months ago, SoloPower's power is waning: "The first production line was never completed," and "in January, the company had a round of layoffs."

This is not a surprise to those of us who watch the green-energy crony-corruption scandal. SoloPower was one of the worst-rated loans. One month before it received a $197 million loan guarantee to "support the retrofit of an existing building to operate a thin-film solar panel manufacturing facility in Portland, OR," Standard and Poors (S&P) gave SoloPower a credit rating of CCC+.

On March 29, 2012, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report titled "The Department of Energy's Disastrous Management of Loan Guarantee Programs" which states: "S&P predicted that SoloPower will fail to meet its debt obligations." DOE emails, released on October 31, 2012, reveal that James McCrea, Senior Credit Advisor Loan Programs, called SoloPower "a completely uninspiring project."

Yet, in addition to the $197 million of US taxpayer money SoloPower was given from the DOE through the 1705 LGP, this European firm also received $40 million from Oregon taxpayers. Then in December 2012, "despite unfulfilled job and production promises and signs the Portland solar panel factory was sliding even further behind," Oregon officials tripled the "taxpayer's stake," said the Oregonian. Business Oregon approved a $20 million tax credit for SoloPower-which SoloPower then exchanged for $13.5 million in cash. After a management shake-up, Fox News reports, SoloPower is "trying to raise money by selling some of its equipment through a third party and is attempting to restructure its $197 million federal loan guarantee."

With the bad credit rating, the "uninspiring" label, and poor performance, why did SoloPower receive federal, state, and city funding-ultimately paid by the taxpayers? Because as the Oversight Committee report states: "What SoloPower lacked in economic value, it made up for in political connections."

Suntech and SoloPower are just two recent stories, part of a long list of bankrupt and/or "troubled" politically connected green-energy projects.

When President Obama released his FY2014 budget, it included new spending of nearly $1 billion "to support deployment and long-term development in the clean energy industries." Renewable Energy World appears gleeful. "It's been said before and it bears repeating that Obama has done more for solar than any previous US President." And: "The support of the federal government has led to an explosion in the amount of solar across America." Do you think?

In contrast, Tom Pyle, President of the American Energy Alliance, pointed out that the budget "represents the administration's desire to double down on bad energy policy." And, "calls for fast-track permitting for renewables" while never mentioning the Keystone pipeline. Pyle concludes his comments by saying: the President "hopes that the American people will forget the failures of the past four years, higher gasoline prices, skyrocketing electricity rates, bankrupt renewable firms, and billions in wasted taxpayer money on politically connected industries."

No wonder the "way the government spends taxes" tops the list of taxpayer's frustrations. Perhaps if "government's inability to learn from its mistakes" had been on the list, it would have been the number one choice.


More Environmentalist Confusions

Tibor R. Machan

The New York Observer reported in its April 15, 2013, issue (B 1) that Leonardo DiCaprio is teaming up with Christie's in New York City, to hold a "major philanthropic auction." I am not interested in the details, which appear to me a kind of kiss up to fellow celebrities on the political/cultural Left. But the following statement from the actor is quite instructive:

The Observer reports: ''The world's forests, oceans and biodiversity provide us with innumerable benefits like oxygen to breathe, clean water to drink, and an abundant food supply,' Mr. DiCaprio wrote in a letter to artists asking for donations, on his foundation's stationary, the promotional item mentioned above. 'And yet our planet and these vital ecosystems that sustain life are under enormous pressures from modern civilization'."

Trouble is that from an environmentalist viewpoint the enormous pressure of which DiCaprio speaks is itself part of the environment, not some independent natural force. In short, modern civilization is part of the system! If it causes harm, that means the system itself is causing harm.

This is an inescapable fact. Environmentalists have no justification for removing people, including the people of modern civilization, from the environment. From their viewpoint, we are all in it together. We are all parts of nature, as well.

Interestingly a good many environmentalists are also animal rights champions and their argument includes the idea that human beings aren't different from other animals in crucial respects. Tom Regan has argued that non-human animals possess virtually the same level of consciousness as we do and thus ascribing to them basic rights such as human beings have is justified. The other main advocate of treating animals like humans are treated, which justifies "liberating" them, holds that the feelings and interests of non-human animals differ very little from those of human beings, something that once again warrants ascribing to them basic rights akin to those we ascribe to ourselves.

All this suggests that animal rights advocates who are environmentalists place human beings within the realm of nature. So the enormous pressure from modern civilization-i.e., people-is actually just one additional natural pressure, namely, evolutionary pressure.

The bottom line is that for environmentalists the contributions people make to environmental developments are natural ones and cannot be rejected as something alien. Pollution, technology, modern agriculture, etc., etc., are all part of nature as far as environmentalist are concerned (including Mr. DiCaprio). From his point of view, then, even the environmental movement is but an aspect of nature! Its battles are natural battles, no different in principle from hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.

I point out all this mainly to reduce the rhetorical heat emanating from too many environmentalists whereby what they like about the world counts as natural but what they do not counts as alien. That just will not do.


Wind turbines 'could allow enemy jets to sneak into British airspace'

The Ministry of Defence is fighting plans for two giant wind turbines over fears the towers could mask enemy jets entering British airspace.

Officials at the Ministry of Defence say the 115ft towers are so big they could look like planes on monitoring equipment.

The MOD say radar could classify the turbines as a threat – automatically sending in fighter jets to investigate and allowing real enemies to sneak in.

They say the green energy devices would confuse computer systems designed to protect the UK – and don't want them put up.

Plans for the turbines have been submitted by Richard and Ian Lobb, who want to install the 50kW towers on their neighbouring farms in St Ewe, Cornwall.

But their application prompted a written objection from the MoD which warned the installation would cause "unacceptable interference" to an air traffic control (ATC) radar 30 miles away in Wembury, Devon.

Radar operators have to treat any unidentified object as a genuine threat – and could even have to scramble fighter jets to investigate.

Their objection said: "Wind turbines have been shown to have detrimental effects on the performance of MoD ATC radars.

"These effects include the desensitisation of radar in the vicinity of the turbines, and the creation of 'false' aircraft returns which air traffic controllers must treat as real.

"The desensitisation of radar could result in aircraft not being detected by the radar and therefore not presented to air traffic controllers."

MoD chiefs said controllers relied upon accurate radar readings to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft.

Their letter added: "The creation of 'false' aircraft display on the radar leads to increased workload for both controllers and aircrews and may have a significant operational impact.

"Furthermore, real aircraft returns can be obscured by the turbine's radar returns, making the tracking of conflicting, unknown aircraft much more difficult."

The wind farm proposal has also provoked opposition from locals who say the towers will be a blot on the picturesque Cornish landscape.

Graham Chaplin, who owns a smallholding near the proposed site, has collected signatures of 109 villagers calling on Cornwall Council to reject the plan.

He said: "The turbine will really be right on top of us. It's so close that we are going to suffer from noise pollution. But what's more worrying is that there is a public safety issue with these turbines.

"The MoD clearly says that operators cannot assume that it's just the wind turbine. They have to deal with it as if it was a real problem."

Cornwall Council is due to report back on the application by May 13.

A spokeswoman said the council does not comment on undecided applications.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  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 and here


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