Sunday, May 04, 2014

Meet the Billionaire Obama and Reid Listen To

Tom Steyer, co-founder of Advanced Energy Economy, speaks to the delegates on the second night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention

You’ve got to hand it to billionaire Tom Steyer. He tells Barack Obama and Harry Reid to jump, and they obediently reply: How high?

Mr. Steyer pulled off the policy coup of the year last week when the White House announced it would place the Keystone XL pipeline in regulatory purgatory for another six months at least. Mr. Steyer has promised $100 million to Democrats to beat back Republicans in the midterm elections this fall, and the campaign funds have already paid off in the scuttling of this $3 billion pipeline project. (Remember when Democrats were pro-infrastructure?) President Obama says we have to determine whether it is “in the national interest.”

Mr. Steyer protested this week that he is not the Democratic party’s version of the Koch brothers, who fund efforts to promote liberty and free enterprise. Mr. Steyer says that “there are real distinctions between the Koch brothers and us,” because the Kochs personally benefit from their political advocacy, while he is donating to save the planet. Never mind that he’s a major investor in solar-energy projects that compete with fossil fuels. Let’s just say that Steyer got more than just a lousy T-shirt for his political pay-to-play investment.

But Steyer, like most fanatical greens, really does have an intense hatred of this pipeline — and thus a motive that goes beyond any personal gain. To the far left, Keystone has become the symbol of the North American shale-oil-and-gas revolution that is crushing the brief and ill-fated renewable-energy fad. So anything that would efficiently transport these fossil fuels to market is evil.

For his part, Obama repeated the Big Green mantra that we shouldn’t build the pipeline if it would contribute to “carbon pollution.” By this logic, the U.S. government should shut down the existing 100,000 miles of pipeline in North America and stop all domestic fossil-fuel production.

But all of this is a sideshow to the really big question here, which is whether the GOP leaders are smart enough to capitalize on this Keystone blunder. The controversy exposes a widening fault line within the Democratic coalition that could split the party in two. It’s an intra-party blood feud between the blues and the greens: Blue-collar union Democrats (those who work in the private sector) desperately want the jobs associated with drilling, mining, and building the infrastructure to make those things happen. Many of the big unions, from the Teamsters to the welders and pipefitters, support the project and have furiously objected to Obama’s decision. The project creates 10,000 jobs that would pay between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. This isn’t minimum-wage stuff we are talking about.

Obama has made the laughable claim recently that the pipeline would lead to “only 50 permanent jobs.” So a $3 billion multistate pipeline that stretches more than 1,000 miles shouldn’t go forward, because it won’t boost employment permanently? Someone might want to explain to the president that in the private sector there is no such thing as a permanent job. (Those are to be found only in the government.)

We will surely see more of these blue-versus-green economic-development battles emerge in the months and years ahead. Already West Virginia has flipped from Democratic blue to Republican red in recent years because of the Left’s war on coal, while other resource states — including Colorado, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Virginia, and, who knows, maybe even New York — could shift into the red column once the old blue-collar Reagan Democrats realize that the greens who run and now finance the Democratic party have become unhinged, and constitute a clear and present danger to the jobs and livelihoods of middle-class America.

Hollywood elites, and billionaire hedge-fund managers like Tom Steyer, can live with that result. A Pew Research poll has found that Keystone is unpopular with only two demographic groups: Democrats who earn more than $100,000 and Democrats with postgraduate degrees.

But the working class in America that cares a lot more about a paycheck than about stopping the rise of the oceans is tiring of being the frontline victim of this green menace. Barack Obama won the 2012 election because he persuaded middle-class voters that he cares more about them than do the Republicans. The latest Keystone XL pipeline travesty is the most recent evidence that this is a lot of bunk.


Will: ‘Global Warming Is Socialism by the Back Door’

George Will said recently “global warming is socialism by the back door.”

In an interview with The Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein, Will points out that progressives use warming to rationalize “more and more power in Washington” to “micromanage the lives of the American people—our shower heads, our toilets, our bathtubs, our garden hoses.” Watch:


Renewable Energy in Decline, Less than 1% of Global Energy

The global energy outlook has changed radically in just six years. President Obama was elected in 2008 by voters who believed we were running out of oil and gas, that climate change needed to be halted, and that renewables were the energy source of the near future.

But an unexpected transformation of energy markets and politics may instead make 2014 the year of peak renewables.

In December of 2007, former Vice President Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for work on man-made climate change, leading an international crusade to halt global warming. In June, 2008 after securing a majority of primary delegates, candidate Barack Obama stated, “…this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…” Climate activists looked to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference as the next major step to control greenhouse gas emissions.

The price of crude oil hit $145 per barrel in June, 2008. The International Energy Agency and other organizations declared that we were at peak oil, forecasting a decline in global production. Many claimed that the world was running out of hydrocarbon energy.

Driven by the twin demons of global warming and peak oil, world governments clamored to support renewables. Twenty years of subsidies, tax-breaks, feed-in tariffs, and mandates resulted in an explosion of renewable energy installations. The Renewable Energy Index (RENIXX) of the world’s 30 top renewable energy companies soared to over 1,800.

Tens of thousands of wind turbine towers were installed, totaling more than 200,000 windmills worldwide by the end of 2012. Germany led the world with more than one million rooftop solar installations. Forty percent of the US corn crop was converted to ethanol vehicle fuel.

But at the same time, an unexpected energy revolution was underway. Using good old Yankee ingenuity, the US oil and gas industry discovered how to produce oil and natural gas from shale. With hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, vast quantities of hydrocarbon resources became available from shale fields in Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.

From 2008 to 2013, US petroleum production soared 50 percent. US natural gas production rose 34 percent from a 2005 low. Russia, China, Ukraine, Turkey, and more than ten nations in Europe began issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing. The dragon of peak oil and gas was slain.

In 2009, the ideology of Climatism, the belief that humans were causing dangerous global warming, came under serious attack. In November, emails were released from top climate scientists at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, an incident christened Climategate. The communications showed bias, manipulation of data, avoidance of freedom of information requests, and efforts to subvert the peer-review process, all to further the cause of man-made climate change.

One month later, the Copenhagen Climate Conference failed to agree on a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Failures at United Nations conferences at Cancun (2010), Durban (2011), Doha (2012), and Warsaw (2013) followed. Canada, Japan, Russia, and the United States announced that they would not participate in an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

Major climate legislation faltered across the world. Cap and trade failed in Congress in 2009, with growing opposition from the Republican Party. The price of carbon permits in the European Emissions Trading System crashed in April 2013 when the European Union voted not to support the permit price. Australia elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the fall of 2013 on a platform of scrapping the nation’s carbon tax.

Europeans discovered that subsidy support for renewables was unsustainable. Subsidy obligations soared in Germany to over $140 billion and in Spain to over $34 billion by 2013. Renewable subsidies produced the world’s highest electricity rates in Denmark and Germany. Electricity and natural gas prices in Europe rose to double those of the United States.

Worried about bloated budgets, declining industrial competitiveness, and citizen backlash, European nations have been retreating from green energy for the last four years. Spain slashed solar subsidies in 2009 and photovoltaic sales fell 80 percent in a single year. Germany cut subsidies in 2011 and 2012 and the number of jobs in the German solar industry dropped by 50 percent. Renewable subsidy cuts in the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom added to the cascade. The RENIXX Renewable Energy Index fell below 200 in 2012, down 90 percent from the 2008 peak.

Once a climate change leader, Germany turned to coal after the 2012 decision to close nuclear power plants. Coal now provides more than 50 percent of Germany’s electricity and 23 new coal-fired power plants are planned. Global energy from coal has grown by 4.4 percent per year over the last ten years.

Spending on renewables is in decline. From a record $318 billion in 2011, world renewable energy spending fell to $280 billion in 2012 and then fell again to $254 billion in 2013, according to Bloomberg. The biggest drop occurred in Europe, where investment plummeted 41 percent last year. The 2013 expiration of the US Production Tax Credit for wind energy will continue the downward momentum.

Today, wind and solar provide less than one percent of global energy. While these sources will continue to grow, it’s likely they will deliver only a tiny amount of the world’s energy for decades to come. Renewable energy output may have peaked, at least as a percentage of global energy production.


Vermont GMO Labeling Law Will Set Back America’s Food Supply

Look under the hood of every movement to forestall the use of genetically-modified grains and you’ll find a preponderance of folks in the organic food industry. They are celebrating today the passage of a law in Vermont making it the first state to require the labeling of foods made with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), and they’re pretending this law will actually protect people.

But there is no such thing as contamination of an organic crop by GMOs. Organic farmers are certainly not allowed to make use of GMO technology according to rules written, edited and finalized by organic industry stakeholders over 10 years ago. But not a single organic farmer has ever been de-certified anywhere in the United States due to pollen drift from, or commingling with, a GMO crop.

There have been many legal suits, meanwhile, against conventional farmers for allegedly contaminating organic fields with prohibited pesticide spray. But none for alleged contamination by GMOs. Not one.

And it’s not a mere technicality in the law that prevents such a lawsuit. It’s the fact that such cross-pollination and commingling between an organic and GMO crop simply does not qualify, either from a scientific or regulatory perspective, as actual contamination.

Think of it like a bunch of Dixiecrat racists trying to keep African Americans out of their favorite lunch counter back in the 1960s. They might claim that African Americans are “impure” and that they “contaminate” their otherwise “pure” white surroundings. But science, and the law, both say we’re all equal. And this is what the USDA’s National Organic Program says unambiguously when it comes to GMOs. As long as organic farmers do not themselves use them, they are a non-issue where organic production is concerned.

Racism still exists. Likewise there are those who insist on a 100 percent GMO free diet, referred to proudly as “zero tolerance.” One supposes this is their right, but they can’t very well impose their views on others. So why, one must ask, are organic activists trying so hard to get GMOs labelled or banned if they pose no threat to organic farms, or to anyone or anything else?

It’s precisely because GMOs pose no threat that activists have embarked upon a nationwide campaign to discredit this new, perfectly safe field of science which, ironically enough, already delivers on many of the organic movement’s goals of reducing environmental toxicity and minimizing modern farming’s footprint on the landscape.

This is the real reason why GMOs pose a “threat” in the eyes of anti-GMO organic activists; they could one day replace organics in the hearts of the American public.

After choosing to reject GMOs during the Clinton Administration, the collective aim of the organic industry has been to get foods containing GMOs banned or labelled like a package of cigarettes, thereby scaring American consumers into buying more certified-organic food.

Once a patchwork of GMO-labeling laws such as Vermont’s is achieved, even in just a handful of states, food manufacturers will find themselves forced to label all of their products with a GMO label because it will be too costly to label food for states that have mandatory labeling, but not for the majority of states that don’t. The tail will wag the dog.

The fact that roughly 70 percent of processed foods now contain GMOs should testify to their safety. But once a few more state labeling laws are passed, it’s yet another reason we’ll see all foods labeled — all foods except for organic ones.


Climate science isn’t necessarily ‘settled’

By John R. Christy

Why do we argue about climate change?

The reason there is so much contention regarding “global warming” is relatively simple to understand: In climate change science we basically cannot prove anything about how the climate will change as a result of adding extra greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

So we are left to argue about unprovable claims.

We can measure and prove that greenhouse gases are increasing. And, in the laboratory, we can measure and prove that adding greenhouse gases to a jar of air will lead to further warming.

But when it comes to how the actual climate system might respond to extra greenhouse gases, we’re out of luck in terms of “proof” because the climate’s complexities are innumerable and poorly understood.

Climate science is a murky science. When dealing with temperature variations and trends, we do not have an instrument that tells us how much change is due to humans and how much to Mother Nature. Measuring the temperature change over long time periods is difficult enough, but we do not have a thermometer that says why these changes occur.

We cannot appeal to direct evidence for the cause of change, so we argue.

The real climate system is so massively complex we do not have the ability to test global-size theories in a laboratory. Without this ability, we tend to travel all sorts of other avenues to confirm what are essentially our unprovable views about climate. These avenues tend to comfort our souls because we crave certainty over ambiguity.

It is a fundamental characteristic of the scientific method and, therefore, of the confidence we have in our theories, that when we finally understand a system, we are able to predict its behavior.

One avenue of inquiry is computer simulation. If a system’s important details can be represented properly in a computer model, predictions can be accurate and therefore valuable.

My local supermarket can predict with great skill what I am going to buy, thanks to the information-gathering system now utilized and my boring eating habits. Unfortunately, even the most advanced set of climate-model simulations does not deliver much in the way of certainty.

For example, I analyzed the tropical atmospheric temperature change in 102 of the latest climate-model simulations covering the past 35 years. The temperature of this region is a key target variable because it is tied directly to the response to extra greenhouse gases in models. If greenhouse gases are warming the Earth, this is the first place to look.

All 102 model runs overshot the actual temperature change on average by a factor of three. Not only does this tell us we don’t have a good grasp on the way climate varies, but the fact that all simulations overcooked the atmosphere means there is probably a warm bias built into the basic theory — the same theory we’ve been told is “settled science.”

To me, being off by a factor of three doesn’t qualify as “settled.”

As important as models can be for problems like this, it is clear we have a long way to go. And it is troubling that current policy is being based on these computer models, none of which has been validated by a formalized, independent Red Team analysis. (Congress, EPA: Are you listening?)

Others might look to certain climate anomalies and convince themselves that humans are the cause. I often hear claims that extreme weather is getting worse. Now, here we do have direct evidence to check. Whether it’s tornadoes (no change over the past 60 years), hurricanes (no changes over the past 120 years) or droughts and heat waves (not as bad as they were during the past 1,000 years), the evidence doesn’t support those claims. So, we argue.

Without direct evidence and with poor model predictability, what other avenues are available to us? This is where things get messy because we are humans, and humans tend to select those avenues that confirm their biases. (It seems to me that the less direct evidence there is for a position, the more passion is applied and the more certainty is claimed.)

One avenue many folks tend to latch onto is the self-selected “authority.” Once selected, this “authority” does the thinking for them, not realizing that this “authority” doesn’t have any more direct evidence than they do.

Other avenues follow a different path: Without direct evidence, folks start with their core beliefs (be they political, social or religious) and extrapolate an answer to climate change from there. That’s scary.

Then, there is that time-honored, media-approved, headline-grabbing source of truth — the opinion poll. The poll can be of scientists, nonscientists, the man on the street, anyone with a smartphone or groundhogs. If no one (not even an esteemed scientific organization) has direct evidence to substantiate any claim of the impact of greenhouse gases on climate, what would an opinion poll provide besides entertainment or (worse) justification for one’s agenda?

This polling tack is relatively clever. Without direct evidence to prove or refute the claims of a climate poll, the poll becomes the popular avenue for supporting whatever claims are being made. With enough attention, a poll’s climate claim morphs into “settled science.”

So we argue even more.

Finally, what to do about climate change is not a scientific question; it is a moral question: Is there value in enhancing the quality and length of human life?

If one believes greenhouse gases will cause terrible climate problems, then stopping their release from sources of carbon-burning energy means energy costs will skyrocket.

However, the length and quality of human life is directly proportional to the availability of affordable energy, which today is about 85 percent carbon-based. The truth is, carbon emissions will continue to rise no matter what the U.S. does, because most of the world has already answered the real question — that argument is settled.

Should we study new sources of energy? Absolutely.

And when they become safe and affordable, they could be ready for deployment. Until then, I’d rather see my five grandchildren have the opportunity to accumulate wealth, enabled by affordable energy, rather than be made poorer and thus less able to face whatever vagaries the world and the climate might throw at them in the future.

This is much more than a murky scientific issue and why the stakes, and thus passions, can be so high — and why we argue.


EPA Chief Hits Warming Skeptics

EPA Chief Gina McCarthy has declared that the science behind global warming is settled. "It's worrisome that our science seems to be under constant assault by a small -- but vocal -- group of critics," McCarthy said. "I bet when those same critics get sick, they run to doctors and hospitals that rely on science from -- guess who -- Harvard University and the American Cancer Society," McCarthy continued, going off on a litany of ways the nanny state protects us from every ill. "People and businesses around the world look to EPA and other federal agencies because our science is reliable, and our scientists are credible," she insisted. And the kicker: "Climate change is not the product of conspiracies or political agendas."

On the contrary, climate change has everything to do with the political agenda of those who want to empower government. It's no coincidence that McCarthy's EPA is the agency that has usurped the most regulatory authority in this area. But shut up, she explained.


Train Derailment and Oil Transport

A train transporting crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia, this week dumping 50,000 gallons of oil. It's the latest in a string of similar train wrecks. "This is another national wake-up call," said Jim Hall, a former NTSB chairman said. "We have these oil trains moving all across the United States through communities and the growth and distribution of this has all occurred, unfortunately, while the federal regulators have been asleep."

We doubt this is a case of too little regulation. What it truly highlights once again is the need for the Keystone pipeline and others like it. Pipelines are far safer than trains for transporting oil, and despite leftists' political weaponization of conservation, stewardship of the environment is a very conservative thing to do.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  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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