Wednesday, July 31, 2013

As new EPA chief, Gina McCarthy vows to act on climate change

A malediction on the old trollop.  She admits to no concern about job losses from her policies

The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency told an audience at Harvard Law School on Tuesday that cutting carbon pollution will “feed the economic agenda of this country,” and vowed to work with industry leaders on shaping policies aimed at curbing global warming.

“Climate change will not be resolved overnight,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told the 310-person audience. “But it will be engaged over the next three years. That I can promise you.”

McCarthy made a full-throated defense of her agency’s right to address greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, saying that air-quality regulations and environmental cleanup efforts have already produced economic benefits in the United States.

“Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs, please?” she asked, prompting loud applause. “We need to embrace cutting-edge technology as a way to spark business innovation.”

McCarthy, a veteran of Republican administrations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, has spent much of the past four years at the EPA shepherding through air regulations, which have come under attack from business groups for helping shut down power plants. Her nomination to succeed former EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson dragged on for more than four months as several GOP senators used the pick as a way to highlight their problems with Obama’s environmental agenda.

In her Tuesday speech, McCarthy pointed to the EPA’s history of improving the environment in places such as Lowell, Mass., where she watched the river run blue, yellow and other colors depending on what dyes the textile mills dumped in the water.

She said climate change was now the top priority for the agency, which plans to model its efforts on the administration’s earlier agreement with the auto industry on stricter fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.

“EPA cannot dictate solutions,” McCarthy said. “We have to engage.”

McCarthy has already been meeting with utility executives and coal industry officials, some of whom fear that the administration’s plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing plants will close many plants.

McCarthy also said the agency would continue to focus on water quality and environmental justice, a hallmark of her predecessor, which refers to the problems facing poorer communities that bear the brunt of pollution and other environmental risks.

Hal Quinn, president and chief executive of the National Mining Association, said that McCarthy was “keenly interested” in the group’s technical assessments of the impact of EPA rules during a meeting earlier this year.

But Quinn said he remains worried that the agency will press for unrealistic carbon standards. He said a 2011 rule on mercury and air toxins had forced utilities to retire at least 40,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity.

“The investments that have been made in utilities . . . could be jeopardized or stranded because of the rules on greenhouse gas emissions,” Quinn said.

In an interview Tuesday, McCarthy said the utility-closing announcements came far in advance of any EPA rule requirements. “It’s hard for me to think our rule is the driving factor behind these closures,” she said. “This is about the abundance of low-cost natural gas. It’s about how utilities are making decisions, company-wide, about how to invest in the future the way they see it right now.”

On the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, McCarthy said in the interview that the EPA would not weigh in on the issue until the State Department releases a final environmental assessment of the project. While she did not indicate what position the agency would take, McCarthy noted that Obama “sent a very strong signal” during his June climate speech “that climate’s impact would be taken into consideration in this decision, and in others.”

During the question-and-answer portion of Tuesday’s speech, McCarthy jokingly began to cut off the session once a Sierra Club member posed a question about the Keystone pipeline.

But she vowed to “continue to work with the administration as difficult decisions are made,” and compared charting national environmental policy to reconciling interests in a noisy family.

“It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be all the different voices coming together screaming at the top of their lungs like three children,” she said, saying she would work to allow “all those voices to be heard and to listen to them. And it’s my obligation to keep peace in the family, whether it’s my EPA one or my little one.”


US shale threatens Saudi funding crisis and demise of OPEC

Saudi Arabia and the Opec oil states must wean their economies off energy exports immediately or spiral into decline as America’s shale revolution shatters the world order, a top Saudi business leader has warned.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the country’s best-known global investor, said the business model of Middle East oil exporters risks unravelling rich industrial states find ways of cutting demand. “Our country is facing a threat with the continuation of its near-complete reliance on oil: 92pc of the budget for this year depends on oil,” he said in a letter to Saudi oil minister Ali Al-Naimi.

Mr Al-Naimi and Opec leaders have taken a relaxed view of growing US shale output. “This is not the first time new sources of oil are discovered. There was oil from the North Sea and Brazil, so why is there so much talk about shale oil now?” he said last month.

Opec admits that new output from hydraulic “fracking” could chip away its dominant position in the market but secretary general Abdalla El Badri still insists that Opec “will be around after shale oil finishes”. The group is more worried about recession in Europe and a hard landing in China.

Prince Alwaleed said oil demand from OECD rich states is in “continuous decline”, and the Saudis will not be able to ratchet up their output from 12.5m to 15m barrels per day (bpd) to cover growing budget costs. “It is necessary to diversify sources of revenue, establish a clear vision, and start implementing it immediately,” he said.

A report last month by Leonardo Maugeri at Harvard University said US shale oil output could triple to 5m bpd by 2017, turning America into the world’s top producer once again.

The great unknown is how quickly the US technological feat can be replicated in Argentina, Britain, Poland, Russia, and above all China, where there is a chronic shortage of water needed for fracking. France, Germany and several European states have cut themselves off for ecological reasons but this may become untenable if others succeed.

If shale does deliver on its promise and keeps prices low for decades, it will be a mortal threat to OPEC states that rely on oil revenue to cover social spending and placate fast-growing populations. The “break-even cost” for their budgets has doubled over the last decade, reaching $140 (£91) in Iran, $115 in Bahrain, $100 in Iraq, $80 in Saudi Arabia, and $75 even in the lightly-settled Emirates. Russia too has topped $100.


Frack the 'desolate' North East, says Tory peer

Some reasonable comments  fall foul of political correctness.  The Northeast has high unemployment fueled by the difficulty of getting the workers to work

Lord Howell, a Government energy adviser and father-in-law to George Osborne, has described parts of the North East of England as “desolate” and suggested controversial fracking should be concentrated away from the south.

The Conservative peer, who advises William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, on energy and resource security, called for fracking to be concentrated in the North East because it has “large, desolate and uninhabited areas”.

He claimed that it could be a “mistake” to discuss shale gas drilling – known as fracking – in terms “of the whole United Kingdom in one go”.

In comments sure to cause controversy, he seemed to suggest that there are not “beautiful” areas in the North East and that it would be ripe for shale gas exploration.

“There are obviously in beautiful rural areas, worries not just about the drilling and the fracking, which I think are exaggerated, but about the trucks, the delivery and the roads and the disturbance,” Lord Howell said. “And those are quite justified worries.”

“But there are large uninhabited and desolate areas, certainly up in the North East where there’s plenty of room for fracking well away from anyone’s residence where it can be conducted without any kind of threat to the rural environment.”

He added that “a distinction should be made between one area and another rather than lumping them all together”.

A Government spokesman immediately slapped down Lord Howell, saying he "is not a minister and does not speak for the Government".

Downing Street immediately tried to distance itself from Lord Howell, saying he has not been an adviser since April. Lord Howell was until this afternoon still listed as an adviser on the Government's own website.

Lord Howell is father to Frances Osborne, the Chancellor’s wife.

The controversial comments by someone so close to the Chancellor will raise questions about the Government’s energy policies.

The Tories have also repeatedly faced accusations that they ignore the north of England because it is largely dominated by the Labour Party.

David Cameron has said that shale gas drilling could help cut the cost of living for families struggling with average bills of more than £1,300 per year.

Earlier this month Mr Cameron gave some of his strongest ever comments in favour of shale gas.

"In America they are now almost self-sufficient in gas," he said. "Their gas prices to business are now less then half as much as ours are and the reason for this is they have put a lot of investment into unconventional gas.

"The figures are actually quite frightening. Europe as a whole has 75 per cent as much unconventional gas as America. So we’ve got less in Europe as America.

"But whereas they are digging 10,000 wells a year, so far in Europe we’ve dug just 100. So we are way behind, so I’m in favour of fracking, the government is making it easier."

Labour peer Jeremy Beecham, a councillor in Newcastle, said: “Neville Chamberlain spoke of pre-war Czechoslovakia as 'a far away country of which we know nothing'. Lord Howell clearly has a similar view on the North East – and his comments once again highlight the Tories problem with the North.

“Perhaps he’s forecasting the future the North East faces as a result of Government policy – a ‘largely uninhabited and desolate’ place where there’ll be few people to object?”.


The spotted owl’s Who: We won’t get fooled again

By Rick Manning

The Northern Spotted Owl is back in the news, as the U.S. government is moving forward with plans to kill its larger cousin the Barred Owl to help save it from possible extinction.

But why should we care about this news that the biggest threat to the Northern Spotted Owl’s survival is not logging, but instead, is the invasion of its stronger, more adaptable cousin?

The case of the spotted owl should force any thinking person to ask the question, “If the environmental lobby could be so wrong on the Northern Spotted Owl with devastating consequences to local economies, could they also be wrong about their war on available energy production like coal and hydraulic fracturing?”

Starting in the 1980s, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups turned a small owl found in the timberlands of the northwestern United States into a fundraising star.  Saving the spotted owl became the cause of the moment, and the greens rejoiced when the federal government dramatically curtailed logging throughout the region.  The bird had been presumed “saved”, and it did not matter that sawmills and the towns that grew up around them became virtual ghost towns.

Oregon Public Broadcasting spoke with the former president of the Northwest Forestry Association, Jim Geisinger about the broken promise of the Clinton Administration’s Northwest Forest Plan which pledged a balanced approach between logging and Northern Spotted Owl protection efforts.

“The net effect has been about a 90 percent reduction in our federal timber supply. And when you take almost four billion board feet off the market, the economic effects on rural communities is just inescapable.”

Geisinger continued to explain, “It’s interesting that in spite of everything that’s happened to our industry, we’re still the second-biggest industry in the state [of Oregon], behind high tech. But with that being said, our industry is not what it used to be. Hundreds of mills closed, and tens of thousands of people lost their jobs, and those jobs haven’t been replaced.”

Back in the 1990’s, environmentalists argued that the Northern Spotted Owl could only exist in “old growth forests,”  yet now they are forced to admit that the subspecies can live in young forests as is witnessed in California.

Over the years, in spite of various forestry plans designed to save the spotted owl, the bird continues on a precipitous decline, and some question whether the challenges faced by the owl was related to the presence of old growth forests at all?

In fact, research conducted on Green Diamond Company’s timberland in coastal northern California indicated that this theory was untrue. The species not only survived, but also often flourish on commercial timberlands in this region. In fact, Green Diamond’s timberland proved to be one of the most populous spotted owl areas in the Northwest. Since Green Diamond’s owl research began in 1990, they have identified over 1,700 adult and juvenile spotted owls on their property alone.  This is quite a powerful repudiation of the theory that timbering and the Northern Spotted Owl cannot co-exist.

The actions taken by Green Diamond have been so successful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded their timber operations the first ever Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the spotted owl.

California Forestry Association President David Bischel sums up the situation saying, “Ironically, some of the most robust populations of Northern Spotted Owls occupy sustainably managed private forests of Northern California.”

Bischel’s statement is startling in its simplicity, and the massive implications are difficult to miss.

If the Northern Spotted Owl thrives in managed private forests, and yet it continues to decline on federal lands where timbering has been outlawed to save the species, one can logically conclude that the owl would be better off in habitat where sustainable forest management is practiced.

Twenty years later, tens of thousands of good paying jobs have been destroyed, thousands of lives have been ruined, communities shuttered, and it turns out that the entire habitat based premise of the species recovery plan was wrong.

Now, the same characters are engaged in a monumental war on our nation’s real energy resources.  They are evangelic in their attempts to destroy the use of coal, and they are equally fervent against the Keystone XL pipeline as well as the use of hydraulic fracturing to develop shale oil resources.

They claim that the climate is warming and that everyone who is anyone agrees.  Of course, this claim ignores prominent Russian scientists who claim that our world is on the verge of a prolonged cooling period.

They ignore the inconvenient fact that their global warming models have been absurdly wrong as the average global temperatures have been stable for the past fifteen years.

Even those who set off the initial climate alarm have been forced to come to terms with this reality, as James Lovelock, the godfather of the global warming movement who previously warned that billions would die before the end of this century admitted, “The problem is that we don’t know what the climate is doing.  We thought we knew 20 years ago.  That led to some alarmist books — mine included — because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened.”

When you compound the growing doubts about the premise that the planet is warming with the even more tenuous theory that man-made carbon dioxide is the culprit in causing the “warming,” you have a very thin reed to stand on.

Yet that is exactly the rationale that the EPA and the environmentalists pin their entire anti-carbon regulatory assault on American industry on.

Twenty years ago, the environmentalists were going to save the Northern Spotted Owl and with the same certainty that they possess today, they convinced the federal government to effectively wipe out timbering in federally controlled forests in the northwest.  Now, we know that the bird thrives on timbered land, while it is struggling in non-managed forests.

The Northern Spotted Owl decisions cost tens of thousands of jobs, a drop in the bucket when compared to the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are likely to be lost should the EPA succeed in implementing their full global warming agenda.

As my father used to tell me, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”


The Cloud Begins With Coal

The computer industry may seem "clean" but it uses vast amounts of electricity -- much of which is provided by burning coal


The information economy is a blue whale economy with its energy uses mostly out of sight. Based on a mid range estimate, the world’s Information Communications Technologies (ICT) ecosystem uses about 1,5 00 TWh of electricity annually, equal to all the electric generation of Japan and Germany combined -- as much electricity as was used for global illumination in 1985. The ICT ecosystem now approaches 10% of world electricity generation . Or in other energy terms – the zettabyte era already uses about 50% more energy than global aviation.

Reduced to personal terms, although charging up a single tablet or smart phone requires a negligible amount of electricity, using either to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year.  And as the world continues to electrify, migrating towards one refrigerator per household, it also evolves towards several smartphones and equivalent per person.

The growth in ICT energy demand will continue to be moderated by efficiency gains. But the historic rate of improvement in the efficiency of underlying ICT technologies started slowing around 2005, followed almost immediately by a new era of rapid growth in global data traffic, and in particular the emergence of wireless broadband for smartphones and tablets. The inherent nature of the mobile Internet, a key feature of the emergent Cloud architecture, requires far more energy than do wired networks. The remarkable and recent changes in technology mean that current estimates of global ICT energy use, most of which use pre iPhone era data, understate reality. Trends now promise faster, not slower, growth in ICT energy use.

Future growth in electricity to power the global ICT ecosystem is anchored in just two variables, demand (how fast traffic grows), and supply (how fast technology efficiency improves):

 *  As costs keep plummeting, how fast do another billion people buy smartphones and join wireless broadband networks where they will use 1,000 times more data per person than they do today ; how fast do a nother billion, or more, join the Internet at all; how fast do a trillion machines and devices join the Internet to fuel the information appetite of Big Data ?

 *  Can engineers invent, and companies deploy, more efficient ICT hardware faster than data traffic grows ?

To estimate the amount of electricity used to fuel everything that produces, stores, transports, processes and displays zettabytes of data, one must account for the energy used by:

*  Data centers that have become warehouse scale supercomputers unlike anything in history ;

*  Ubiquitous b roadband wired and wireless communications networks;

*  The myriad of end use devices from PCs to tablets and smart phones to digital TV, and,

*  The manufacturing facilities producing all the ICT hardware.

Hourly Internet traffic will soon exceed the annual traffic of the year 2000. And demand for data and bandwidth and the associated infrastructure are growing rapidly not just to enable new consumer products and video, but also to drive revolutions in everything from health care to cars, and from factories to farms.

Historically, demand for bits has grown faster than the energy efficiency of using them. In order for world wide ICT electric demand to merely double in a decade, unprecedented improvements in efficiency will be needed now.

Electricity fuels the infrastructure of the world’s ICT ecosystem the Internet, Big Data and the Cloud. Coal is the world’s largest single current and future source of electricity. Hence the title of this paper.


Carbon credits market is neither free nor worth anything

By Jo Nova, writing from Australia

THE paradox du jour: people who like free markets don't want a carbon market, and the people who don't trust capitalism want emissions trading. So why are socialists fighting for a carbon market? Because this "market" is a bureaucrat's wet dream.

A free market is the voluntary exchange of goods and services. "Free" means being free to choose to buy or to not buy the product. At the end of a free trade, both parties have something they prefer.

A carbon market is a forced market. There is little intrinsic incentive to buy a certificate for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. It says a lot about the voluntary value of a carbon credit that when given the option to pay $2 to offset their flight emissions, 88 per cent of people choose not to. A few do it as a form of green penance to assuage guilt, and others do it for their eco public relations campaign or branding.

To create demand for emissions permits, the government threatens onerous fines to force people to buy a product they otherwise don't need and most of the time would never even have thought of acquiring. Likewise, supply wouldn't exist without government approved agents. Potentially a company could sell fake credits (cheaper than the real ones) and what buyer could spot the difference? Indeed, in terms of penance or eco-branding, fake credits, as long as they were not audited, would "work" just as well as real ones.

Despite being called a commodity market, there is no commodity: the end result is air that belongs to no one in particular that has slightly less of a trace gas. Sometimes it is not even air with slightly less carbon dioxide, it is merely air that might have had more CO2, but doesn't. It depends on the unknowable intentions of factory owners in distant lands.

How strange, then, that this non-commodity was at one time projected to become the largest tradeable commodity in the world - bigger even than the global market for oil. In 2009, Bart Chilton, chairman of energy markets at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, estimated global carbon markets would be worth $2 trillion within five years.

The UN may claim that carbon is "tracked and traded like any other commodity", but if I buy a tonne of tin, I either get a tonne of tin or I get $20,000 because I onsold it. Fraud is easy to spot.

Unfortunately, fraud has been a big, ongoing problem with emissions trading. This market needs auditors, and the auditors need auditing (the top two auditors in the EU emissions trading scheme were suspended in 2009 for irregularities). The EU has already lost €5 billion to carbon-trading value-added tax fraud. The mafia is laundering money in Italy through renewables schemes, and after one tax loophole was closed, market volume in Belgium dropped by up to 90 per cent.

The carbon market also depends on the honesty of people claiming: "We wouldn't have built that dam without that carbon credit." How would we know? The Xiaoxi dam in China was already under construction two years before the owners applied for credits "to build it".

Since an ETS exists by government fiat and has no intrinsic value without it, it is technically a fiat currency rather than a tradeable commodity. Supply and demand is set by bureaucrats in the EU. If the price is too high, politicians will issue more credits, and if it's too low they will delay them (as the EU is planning to do). Bureaucrats can also give exemptions to trade-affected industries (or their friends, and to their fans in marginal seats).

Those who say that a carbon market is "like" other derivatives markets are wrong. Derivatives markets are sometimes quite disconnected from actual products such as pork bellies or gold bars, but eventually the supply and demand for real goods will determine the price. In some places the size of the derivatives market exceeds that of the commodity market, but that's a reason to question those schemes, not to set up a market in an atmospheric nullity or something as frivolous as an "intention" not to build a dam.

So, who profits from the carbon market? The brokers in a carbon market - almost every large investment bank - make money on every trade. The global carbon market turned over $176bn in 2011. These groups have been lobbying for a market, not a tax, and the reasons are obvious.

Most of the key factors in a carbon market are misnamed. The market is not free. An essential plant fertiliser is called pollution. The aim of the market is not to make clean energy but to change global temperatures by an amount that rounded to the nearest degree, equals zero. The US has no market but has reduced emissions (largely thanks to shale gas), while any reductions in EU emissions were largely due to falling gross domestic product. Yet the government wants to join the EU scheme.

Ironically, the reason for having any carbon scheme at all comes from monopolistic research. There are virtually no grants specifically available for sceptical scientists, but funding galore for unsceptical ones.

We need a free market in science before we even discuss the need for a free market in carbon.

But don't hold your breath - the global warmers prove to be mostly global hypocrites.




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 or here


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