Sunday, September 21, 2014
Brainless braying bimbo changes nothing with her latest book
BOOK REVIEW of "This Changes Everything" by Naomi Klein.
The laws of nature do not mandate a progressive paradise
Naomi Klein keeps coming up with fresh new ideas about how to spark an elusive mass social movement against capitalism and corporations. In her 2000 bestseller No Logo, the progressive journalist attempted to harness the nascent anti-globalization movement to unleash "a vast wave of opposition squarely targeting transnational corporations." In 2007, her book The Shock Doctrine bogusly asserted that free market institutions spread only by taking advantage of coups, wars, and natural calamities. The book debuted at the beginning of a massive recession and featured economist Milton Friedman as its chief villain. But still no dice.
Now comes Klein's newest screed, This Changes Everything. "Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war," she asserts. Climate science, Klein claims, has given progressives "the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism" ever. If the stresses of globalization and a massive financial crisis cannot mobilize the masses, then the prospect of catastrophic climate change must.
Canonical Marxism predicted that capitalism would collapse under the weight of its class "contradictions," in which the bourgeoisie profit from the proletariat's labor until we reach a social breaking point. In Klein's progressive update, capitalism will collapse because the pollution produced by its heedless overconsumption will build to an ecological breaking point. "Only mass social movements can save us now," she declares.
Is she onto something? Man-made climate change, if unaddressed, may well become a significant problem for humanity as the 21st century advances. But is Klein right that progressive values and policies are "currently being vindicated, rather than refuted, by the laws of nature"?
First, a quick review of the state of the climate. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is indeed increasing because humanity is cutting down forests and burning coal, oil, and natural gas. As a result, the world has warmed, glaciers are melting, and the seas are rising. Since 1951, average global temperature has been increasing at a rate of 0.12°C (0.22°F) per decade. "It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th Century," states the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2013 Physical Sciences report. The vast majority of climate researchers agree that man-made global warming is now underway. It bears mentioning, however, that the global average atmospheric temperature has not significantly increased for the past 17 years, a "pause" not predicted by the computer climate models.
Klein acknowledges that not all weather disasters can be attributed to climate change. But she doesn't let that stop her from trotting out tragic stories of hurricanes, typhoons, and droughts to shore up her thesis. She quotes the Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann: "There's no question that climate change has increased the frequency of certain types of extreme weather events, including drought, intense hurricanes, and super typhoons, the frequency and intensity and duration of heat waves, and potentially other types of extreme weather though the details are still being debated within the scientific community."
Yes, those details are still being debated among climate scientists. The United Nations' Special Report for Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (2012) projects that global warming will generate more heat waves, coastal floods, and droughts as the century unfolds. The researchers, however, could not draw firm conclusions about its effects on current trends in hurricanes, typhoons, hailstorms, or tornadoes. Given projected carbon dioxide emissions, the report notes that weather extremes will likely remain within the normal range of nature's own inherent variation during the next several decades.
What's more, while the world has experienced greater economic losses as a result of extreme weather, that's due primarily to the fact that the world has gotten richer and more populous: There are more people with more stuff of more value to destroy. A 2011 review of 22 weather damage studies in The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society reported, "The studies show no trends in the losses, corrected for change (increases) in population and capital at risk that could be attributed to anthropogenic climate change. Therefore, it can be concluded that anthropogenic climate change so far has not had a significant impact on losses from natural disasters."
Even more happily, a 2011 Reason Foundation report found that deaths from all "extreme weather events globally has declined by more than 90 percent since the 1920s, in spite of a four-fold rise in population and much more complete reporting of such events." This is mostly good news, despite This Changes Everything's scaremongering.
Klein's list of remedies is more alarming than her exaggerations of climate change's present-day effects. She wants to ban fracking, nuclear power, genetically modified crops, geoengineering, carbon sequestration, and carbon markets, thus turning her back on some of the climate-friendliest solutions currently on offer. She wants to block the Keystone pipeline, which would transport petroleum from Canadian oil sands to U.S. refineries; she would pressure pension funds and endowments to divest from fossil fuel companies; and she thinks we should transfer trillions of dollars to poor countries to pay off the rich countries' debt for dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
"We need a Marshall Plan for the Earth," Klein declares, updating one of the most tired historical metaphors for her purposes. "It is entirely possible to rapidly switch our energy systems to 100 percent renewables," she asserts. As an example of "one of several credible studies" showing how such a vast energy transformation could be achieved, she breezily cites a 2009 Energy Policy paper by two researchers, Mark Jacobson of Stanford and Mark Delucchi of the University of California, Davis. Jacobson and Delucchi think we can replace all coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power by 2030 with wind, solar, and hydropower while fueling a fleet of electric cars. How? By deploying 3.8 million 5-megawatt wind turbines, 5,350 100-megawatt geothermal plants, 500,000 1-megawatt tidal turbines, 720,000 0.75-megawatt wave power generators, 1.7 billion 3-kilowatt rooftop solar panels, 40,000 300-megawatt solar panel farms, and 49,000 300-megawatt concentrated solar power plants.
Sound easy? Well, if the world were to begin deploying these renewable energy technologies next year that would mean erecting approximately 250,000 wind turbines each year for the next 15 years. As of the end of 2012, there were a total of 225,000 wind turbines operating around the world.
Similarly, the world would have to install 113 million rooftop solar panel systems per year in order to meet the 2030 goal of 1.7 billion. In 2013, the U.S. installed a record 4,751 megawatts of solar panels, which would be roughly equivalent to 1.6 million 3-kilowatt rooftop solar panels. As of 2013, the entire world had installed 100 gigawatts (100 million kilowatts) of solar photovoltaic panels. Combining the rooftop and solar panel proposals, this hyper-solarization would mean deploying more than 10 times the current installed capacity of photovoltaic panels, not just once but every year for the next 15 years. And never mind that there are virtually no commercial wave or tidal energy production systems currently operating.
Klein never ever discusses how much her solutions to the climate crisis will cost. But Delucchi and Jacobson estimate a price tag of about $100 trillion for their program. That entails spending about $6.6 trillion per year from now until 2030, more than 11 percent of the entire world's 2013 output of $75 trillion. Such a crash plan for global energy transformation might be possible, but it would be a massive shift from our current course. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected in July 2014 that $7.7 trillion total will be invested in building new power plants between now and 2030, of which renewables will get around two-thirds. And Klein accuses the proponents of free markets of "magical thinking"?
Klein is giddy over the renewable energy schemes in Germany and Denmark, which she lionizes as "two of the countries with the largest commitment to decentralized, community-controlled renewable power." Specifically, she adores Germany's national program of feed-in-tariffs (FITs), which have subsidized huge numbers of solar panels and wind turbines. Klein rhapsodizes that "roughly half of Germany's renewable energy facilities are in the hands of farmers, citizens groups, and almost nine hundred energy cooperatives." She adds that they are "offered a guaranteed price so the risk of losing money is low."
In fact, owners of new renewable energy plants are paid a guaranteed fixed rate for every kilowatt-hour they generate, at administratively set prices far higher than conventional generation. Utilities must take the energy generated and consumers must pay the fixed fee for the energy. Somehow, Klein concludes that these government-set prices "make renewable energy affordable."
But a July 2014 report by the Swiss economics consultancy Finadvice, commissioned by the U.S.–based Electric Power Research Institute, found that the cost of Germany's FIT program has been more than $412 billion so far and will rise to a total of $884 billion by 2022. As a result, German household electricity rates have more than doubled, increasing from $0.18 per kilowatt-hour in 2000 to $0.38 per kilowatt-hour today. Households in Denmark pay even more: $0.39 per kilowatt-hour. Meanwhile U.S. electricity prices have remained stable, at an average of around $0.13 per kilowatt-hour.
The installation of solar and wind energy systems has contributed to reducing Germany's carbon dioxide emissions, but at an estimated cost of more than $1,000 per ton avoided by solar power and $80 per ton avoided by wind power. The average price for carbon dioxide emissions permits in Europe hover at about $20 per ton. Electricity rates this high might well be the price for protecting the climate, but Klein is keeping her readers in the dark about what her proposals would cost them.
Even as Klein claims that it's a delusion to think we can rely on market forces and technological progress to solve our climate problems, a consensus to the contrary is emerging. Groups such as Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the Breakthrough Institute, and the Brookings Institution favor a policy platform that rejects energy puritanism and embraces technology.
This new coalition spurns schemes to restrict energy use, such as the International Energy Agency's anemic recommendation that annual access to 100 kilowatt hours of electricity per person will be enough. (That's the amount of electricity that the average American burns in three days.) Instead, proponents of the new consensus tend to support more government spending on research and development aiming to make clean energy sources cheaper than fossil fuels.
Given pervasive and massive government meddling in energy markets, subsidizing low-carbon energy R&D is arguably the least bad feasible policy option for addressing climate change. The new consensus also embraces fracking. In fact, the U.N.'s Physical Sciences report identifies power generation using natural gas as a "bridge technology" that can be deployed now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; burning natural gas releases about half the carbon dioxide that burning coal does. Coal-fired electric power plants are largely being shut down in the United States because they are being outcompeted by natural gas–powered plants that emit far less carbon dioxide.
And nuclear power is back on the table, after a long decline. In 2013, climate researchers James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira, and Tom Wigley—people not known for soft-pedaling the threat of global warming—issued an open letter challenging the broad environmental movement to stop fighting nuclear power and embrace it as a crucial technology for averting the possibility of a climate catastrophe through its supply of zero-carbon energy. The letter states that "continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity's ability to avoid dangerous climate change." They add, "While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power."
Klein acidly dismisses reliance on science, technology, and markets to address the problems of climate change as embodying the attitude that "We will triumph in the end because triumphing is what we do." Well, yes. And that's a much better bet than imagining the laws of nature mandate a post-capitalist utopia.
"Fossil Free UK": divesting from reality
Fossil Free UK, a campaign group that encourages organisations to divest of financial products tied to the fossil-fuel industry, announced victory this week following the promise of Oxford City Council to follow an ‘ethical investment’ policy.
The council decided that it will ‘not knowingly invest directly in businesses whose activities and practices pose a risk of serious harm to individuals or groups’. These restrictions apply to companies which engage in ‘human-rights abuse’, ‘socially harmful activities’ and ‘environmentally harmful activities’.
Campaigning for a divestment in fossil fuels is ridiculous, considering how interrelated the modern industrial economy is with energy production. There is no economic activity or money in existence that doesn’t bare the supposed stain of fossil fuels. Not only is every social and economic activity in modern society powered by burning fossil fuels - these things rely on one another for their existence.
The great gains in productivity and the goods and services surpluses society has enjoyed since the Industrial Revolution have been generated by burning fossil fuels to power economic life. Food is much cheaper today due to technologies that are powered by fossil fuels; the electricity that powers the Fossil Free UK website exists because burning fossil-fuel-generated energy is so abundant that it can be used for non-essential social and economic activities. Theatres, art galleries and even ‘ethical businesses’ live off the energy surplus and profit made from an economy powered by the highly effective burning of fossil fuels. Renewable energy, on the other hand, is not yet feasible on a mass scale, and may never be.
Fossil fuels are central to our economies not because they hold shadowy sway in the corridors of power, but because we, the people (pejoratively known as the market), want and need the energy they produce. Shifting millions from an oil company into an ‘ethical’ business does not remove that money’s use or reliance on fossil-fuel energy. In the end, the only thing Oxford City Council is divesting from is reality.
Weather Channel Founder Explains the History of the Global Warming Hoax
John Coleman, an award-winning meteorologist and weatherman with sixty years of experience and founder of the Weather Channel, produced a video explaining the history of the man-made global warming hoax.
Coleman, a former broadcast meteorologist of the year of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), explains that after being a member for several years, he quit the AMS after it became very clear to him that “the politics had gotten in the way of the science.” Coleman explains that there is no man-made global warming, and he’s sure of it.
Coleman says that if there were evidence of man-made global warming, he would have been dedicated his life to stopping it: “I love our wonderful planet Earth. If I thought it was threatened by global warming, I would devote my life to stopping the warming!”
Now they call it “climate change” instead of global warming, because the warming has stopped, says Coleman, and that $4.7 billion in taxpayer money is funding “bogus reports” and “bogus research.”
Coleman explains that any warming or “climate change” is extremely negligible from a long-term perspective and certainly nothing unusual or alarming, and points out that Antarctic sea ice is close to an all-time high, and the polar bear population is as high as it’s been in recorded history.
In regards to rising sea levels, Coleman says that:
“It’s rising at about the rate of about six inches per hundred years, as part of this inter-glacial period. When North America was covered in a 400 foot thick ice core at the end of the last ice age, the oceans were low, and then as that ice melted, of course the oceans have risen. That rise has been gentle and is not important.”
More HERE (See the original for video)
Is the Shale Revolution a 'Ponzi Scheme' or the End of Peak Oil?
A lot of folks are fervently forecasting that shale gas and oil production is a bubble about to pop, possibly producing an economic collapse similar to the one in 2008. Earlier this week, the left-leaning Center for Research on Globalization in Montreal dismissed the shale revolution as a "Ponzi scheme" and "this decade's version of the Dotcom bubble." In a column last year for The Guardian, Nafeez Ahmed of the Institute for Policy Research and Development cited studies predicting that U.S. shale gas production will likely peak in 2015 and oil production in 2017. In a July 2013 report for the Club of Rome—the same folks who brought us 1972's doom-mongering classic, The Limits to Growth—the University of Florence chemist Ugo Bardi declared that the "idea that a 'gas revolution' that will bring for us an age of abundance is rapidly fading" because "the data show that the gas bubble may be already bursting." A month later, Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute said, "It turns out there are only a few 'plays' or geological formations in the US from which shale gas is being produced; in virtually all of them, except the Marcellus (in Pennsylvania and West Virginia), production rates are already either in plateau or decline."
So was President Barack Obama wrong in 2012, when he claimed, "We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years"? Perhaps not.
The renaissance of oil and gas production in the United States has largely been the result of applying the technique of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which releases vast quantities of hydrocarbons trapped in tight shale formations. The bubble theorists make much of the fact that production tends to drop more rapidly in fracked wells than in conventional ones, forcing the frackers to drill more holes just to keep up. They overlook the fact that drillers are working ever faster and cheaper and that newer wells tend to be more productive than earlier wells. How do we know this? Because the number of drill rigs has not increased in most shale fields, yet production continues to go up.
So what about Heinberg's claim that "production rates are already either in plateau or decline"? He's just wrong. The September drilling productivity report from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that since 2013, that gas production is up in every one of the "plays" cited by Heinberg. Production in the Bakken region of North Dakota grew 8 percent; the Eagle Ford, Permian, and Haynesville regions in Texas increased 15, 7, and 97 percent, respectively; the Niobrara region in Wyoming and Colorado rose by 29 percent; and the Utica and Marcellus regions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia surged 142 and 47 percent. "We've been tracking this for 10 years, and recovery rates have gone up dramatically," says EIA forecaster Philip Budzik.
Meanwhile, the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2014 shows the potential U.S. oil and gas resource bases are increasing, not decreasing. Bubble forecasters insist those estimates are way off-base. They point to the EIA's recent big flub when it came to estimating how much petroleum might be pumped from the Monterey shale formations in California. The agency initially prognosticated that as much as 13.7 billion barrels of oil might be produced, but it cut its estimate by 96 percent, to 600 million barrels, once it recognized the extraction challenges posed by the complicated geology of southern California. Whoops!
That's bad, but in the scope of estimates it's a blip, not a fatal error.
Back in 2000, the EIA Outlook report estimated that the U.S.'s technically recoverable petroleum resources were 124 billion barrels; it put natural gas resources at 1,111 trillion cubic feet (tcf). ("Technically recoverable" basically means that the resource can be extracted using current technology if the price is right.) Proved oil and natural gas reserves amounted to 22 billion barrels and 176 tcf, respectively. ("Proved" generally means the amount of resources that can be recovered from the deposit with a reasonable level of certainty.) When it came to shale and other tight rock formations, the 2000 report estimated that only 2 billion barrels of oil and 50 tcf of natural gas were technically recoverable. "Basically, in 2000 no one was even thinking that you could produce this stuff," says Budzik.
How time and technological progress make fools of all prognosticators! The 2014 EIA Outlook estimates that the U.S.'s technically recoverable oil resources are 238 billion barrels and natural gas resources are 2,266 tcf. Proved U.S. petroleum reserves have increased from their 2009 nadir of 19 billion barrels to over 30 billion barrels, and proved natural gas reserves are at 334 tcf now. In other words, estimates of technically recoverable U.S. resources of both oil and gas have nearly doubled in the past 15 years. Proved oil reserves have increased 50 percent, while proved gas reserves have also nearly doubled. Technically recoverable resources from shale and other tight rocks is now estimated to be 59 billion barrels of crude and 903 tcf of gas—a 30-fold and 18-fold increase, respectively, over the 2000 assessments.
Take the figure of 2,266 tcf of natural gas. Last year, Americans burned through 26 tcf of natural gas. At that rate, the estimated resource would last 87 years. Not the 100 years claimed by the president, but close enough for government work.
While EIA reserve and resource estimates have been trending steeply upward over the past decade and half, the agency tries to take into account uncertainties by sketching out scenarios to 2040 in which domestic oil and gas supplies are either 50 percent higher or lower than its reference case. Production of shale gas and oil is the key difference in the scenarios. In the high supply case, technically recoverable crude and gas plus proved reserves amount to 431 billion barrels and 3,683 tcf. Consequently, domestic oil production rises to 13 million barrels per day before 2035 and imports decline to near zero. Tight oil production peaks at 8.5 million barrels per day in 2035 compared to the reference case peak of 4.8 million barrels in 2021. Cumulative tight oil production reaches 75 billion barrels, up from 44 billion in the reference case.
In the low supply scenario, crude oil totals 210 barrels and gas totals 1,814 tcf; oil production reaches 9.1 million barrels per day in 2017 and then slowly falls to 6.6 million barrels per day in 2040. Tight oil production peaks in 2016 at 4.3 million barrels per day with a cumulative production of 34 billion barrels. Interestingly, the difference in price in the high and low supply scenarios is only $20 per barrel—$125 versus $145 (using 2012 dollars) in 2040.
The shale bubble proponents essentially are betting on the EIA low production scenario. They will be proven right if shale oil production does peak in the next year or two. We shall soon see. "The history of the industry is that we are always running out," says Budzik. "So long as we have a well functioning economic system that allows the price mechanism to adjust and encourages innovation we will see the resource base grow rather than diminish." Rising prices at the beginning of the 21st century did, in fact, promote more exploration and faster technological progress, resulting in the shale revolution the U.S. is currently enjoying. If this dynamic is not unduly hampered, it's a good bet that the prophets of bubble-bursting doom are wrong yet again.
Onshore gas find tipped as Western Australia's biggest in decades
"Peak gas" not in sight
Local oil and gas player AWE has claimed what may be Western Australia's largest onshore gas discovery since the 1960s, sending its shares up as much as 16 per cent.
Gas from the field, 50:50 owned by AWE and Origin Energy, is targeted for users in WA.
The news comes after the Senecio-3 well drilled by AWE and partner Origin Energy found gas deeper down in its Senecio gas field in the Perth Basin.
Together, the Senecio and deeper Waitsia fields could hold 360 billion cubic feet of gas, and potentially as much as 1.17 trillion cubic feet of gas, AWE said on Thursday.
AWE said that could make it the biggest onshore find in the state since the Dongara field.
The resources, which were foreshadowed by AWE when initial results from the Senecio-3 well came in early this month, lie close to existing gas processing plants and pipelines.
That meant the resources could be brought into production relatively quickly, AWE managing director Bruce Clement said.
The gas is classified as "tight", meaning it would require artificial stimulation to flow to the surface.
Even so, BBY analyst Scott Ashton noted the "big" size of the field and Mr Clement's positive comments about potential commercial prospects.
Mr Clement also said there was "substantial upside" to potential resources in the reservoir from unconventional gas in some levels of shale and coal at the site.
"We are now focusing on flow testing of Senecio-3 to establish commercial viability and the potential early, low-cost development of the Senecio and Waitsia fields," he said.
Obama Executive Actions: Fight Climate Change With Vets, Regulate Building and Energy Sector
In executive actions issued on Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that millions of federal dollars are being distributed by multiple government agencies to fund “renewable energy and energy efficiency” projects, including solar energy jobs for military veterans and solar energy installation in government buildings.
The lengthy announcement detailed the Department of Energy’s proposed new standard on building codes, limiting the use of “electric or fossil fuel to humidify or dehumidify,” and roofing insulation requirements.
“The Obama Administration is committed to taking action to combat climate change,” the announcement states. “As part of that effort, today, the White House is announcing a series of public and private sector commitments and executive actions to advance solar deployment and promote energy efficiency.
“The executive announcements today altogether will cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030 – equivalent to taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year – and will save homes and businesses more than $10 billion on their energy bills,” the announcement states.
The announcement included a list of those executive actions as follows:
* Partnering with up to three military bases to create a veterans solar job training pilot;
* Investing $68 million (in grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture) in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas across the country, including 240 solar projects;
* Proposing an energy conservation standard for commercial unit air conditioners that has the potential to save more energy than any previously issued standard;
* Supporting funding for clean energy and energy efficiency for affordable housing;
* Strengthening commercial and residential buildings codes; and
* Harmonizing the power of national service and volunteerism to tackle climate change and its effects.
The announcement also states: “50 companies, states, communities and multifamily housing leaders from across the country are announcing commitments to deploy onsite solar energy and improve energy efficiency.”
It also says that to “build a skilled solar workforce, DOE’s Solar Instructor Training Network is launching a veterans’ job training pilot project” that will “assist at least 50,000 highly-qualified new solar installers to enter the industry by 2020.”
The “commercial sector leaders, low-income housing authorities and communities” taking part in the “president’s call to action” to increase the use of renewable sources and solar power include Cisco Systems, Becton, Dickinson and Company, Public Housing Authorities in Massachusetts, the District of Columbia Housing Authority, the City of Beaverton, Ore., Montgomery County, Md., the city of Charlottesville, Va., and the Jackson Family Wines in California.
Another contingency of states, cities, multifamily housing developments, retailers, commercial properties and manufacturers are pledging to increase energy efficiency, according to the announcement.
Obama’s executive actions “will create jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and improve energy efficiency,” the announcement states.
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