Obama anti-energy nominee thwarted
The Natural Resources Defense Council will gain a new president and the Obama administration will lose Rhea Sun Suh, controversial anti-oil and gas nominee for head of the huge bureaucracy that runs the national parks and fish and wildlife service in the Department of the Interior.
That announcement last week culminated a bruising confirmation process that Suh, an experienced and savvy lower-level Interior official, seemed to sail through. However, press revelations wounded her reputation because her history caught up with her: for four years, Suh was a program manager for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation ($7.4 billion assets), directing millions of dollars to green groups nationwide for projects to stop oil and gas production.
She told the Hewlett Foundation newsletter in 2007: “natural gas development is easily the single greatest threat to the ecological integrity of the West.”
A large placard with that quote was held up during Suh’s December 2013 confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso said to Suh, “I would like to read from an op-ed by the Washington Examiner on your nomination, by Ron Arnold, titled, ‘Another Big Green power player moved up in Obama’s Washington.’”
Deep research into foundation influence uncovered the details of Suh’s anti-energy career and her loyal membership in the Environmental Grantmakers Association – a group of more than 200 Big Green foundations dedicated to stopping development of America’s abundant natural resources.
“If confirmed,” Barrasso continued, “it will allow you to essentially stop natural gas production. And even after you joined the Interior Department, you stated to the Environmental Grantmakers Association’s 25th anniversary, ‘I look forward to working with you, my colleagues, mentors and friends, to utilize the skills and talents of the EGA community to advance a more resilient world and a resilient movement.’ So I question whether this is really the right position for you, given your deeply held views.”
Every Democrat on the committee voted for Suh’s confirmation, including Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, to the surprise of some. It was Landrieu’s first hearing as the new committee chairman. Coming from a strongly oil and gas-dependent state and facing a tough re-election battle, some guessed she would reflect her constituency. But party loyalty gave Suh her nod.
However, with mid-term elections challenging Democratic control of the Senate, powers that have not been explained arranged for Suh to slip safely out of contention for the big Interior job. She will replace the influential Frances Beinecke (2012 compensation $427,688), NRDC officer for over 30 years and president since 2006. Beinecke is heiress of the Sperry and Hutchinson Green Stamp fortune, a Yale graduate and daughter of Yale benefactor and S&H president, William Beinecke. She is a former regent of Yale University.
I asked Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, for his take on Suh’s departure. He told me, “Ms. Suh’s transition into the political, private sector route to shut down energy development is unsurprising. However, I am sure that after so much rushing through the nomination process earlier this year, a handful of my colleagues on the Energy Committee must be deeply disappointed to lose Ms. Suh to the NRDC.”
I can just see Senator Vitter’s winning smile.
Flood Wall Street Climate Change Protest was a Washout
Imposing equality is the goal; climate change is the excuse
"Stop Capitalism. End the Climate Crisis." That's the motto for the Flood Wall Street demonstration that aimed to "take to the streets of New York's Financial District" and "carry out a massive sit-in to disrupt business as usual" in order to "highlight the role of Wall Street in fueling the climate crisis." The would-be Flooders rallied at the World War II Memorial in Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan. In contrast to the huge turnout for the People's Climate March on Sunday, Flood Wall Street attracted a hardcore group of about 1,000 protestors, many of whom were clearly nostalgic Occupy Wall Street veterans. Participants were asked to wear blue so that their sit-in would signify how rising ocean tides fueled by man-made global warming will eventually inundate the inner sanctum of global capitalism.
Since I had somehow missed Occupy Wall Street events, this was my first time enjoying the human "microphone" in which participants nearer the speakers repeat by shouting what they are saying so that others further back can benefit from their insights. I will say that the rhythmic call-and-response aspect of the "microphone" did make it easy to take notes. The first speaker at the Battery Park pre-Flood rally was Canadian activist Naomi Klein, author of the new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
Klein began by reminiscing that the Occupy Wall Street movement had originated three years ago, almost to the same day as the Flood Wall Street protest. Occupy Wall Street "put corporate capitalism on trial," said Klein. "The entire world listened and the debate on inequality opened up." Klein continued, "We are oppressed by the knowledge that the system of short term profits and deregulated greed that deepens inequality and forecloses on our homes is the very same system that is foreclosing on our collective home." Klein ended, "We demand to Change Everything." Nice how she worked the title of her just released book into her exhortation. Listening to Klein it was pretty hard not to conclude that the real goal is imposing equality, and climate change is the excuse.
Next up followed a slate of speakers from around the globe representing "frontline communities" that are supposedly bearing the brunt of climate change caused by corporate greed. "A typical example of criminal acts caused by corporations is climate change that is already causing damages," declared socio-economist Mamadou Goita from the West African country of Mali. Specifically corporate climate change "is causing major losses in food production." Perhaps so. But World Bank data on cereal yields per hectare suggest a somewhat different story. While Malian grain yields do bounce around a bit, there is pretty clearly a long-term rising trend. In 2000, yields were 1,006 kilograms per hectare; by 2013 they had risen to 1,667 kilograms per hectare. "Corporations took power; devastated our nature; are destroying lives; and are dismantling all people's power," asserted Goita. He concluded, "Now it is the time to take back our power."
Brazilian anti-dam activist Elisa Estronioli is quite right that the rights of poor and indigenous people are all too often disregarded when it comes to constructing big hydroelectric dams in developing countries. She cogently asked at the Flood Wall Street rally how can electricity from such projects "be clean energy when it is produced inside a model that violates human rights?" Estronioli is an organizer against the giant Belo Monte dam largely being built and paid for by the Brazilian government in the Amazon region. "We are the victims of the same global model in which energy plays a central role," concluded Estronioli. "There is no clean energy in the capitalist system." Say what?
One other frontline community speaker was Miriam Miranda from Honduras. "The planet is collapsing and the time has come to act," said Miranda. Why is action necessary? Because we must fight "against the culture of death that we are being condemned to by the grand corporations of death and transnational capital," Miranda finished.
Once the featured speakers were done, it was time to configure the Flood. The protestors were instructed to arrange themselves into three cohorts depending on their willingness to be arrested: The most eager to be arrested in the front and the more hesitant at the back. However, one of the organizers whose name I didn't catch did knowingly assure participants, "We believe that if you've never been arrested before, this is the perfect action to join."
So off streamed the Flood festooned with a variety of anti-capitalist placards, buttons, posters, and so forth. One of the main attractions were a couple of giant mylar balloons symbolizing the fossil fuel industries' "carbon bubble" that activists argue is about to burst. The bubble supposedly exists because fossil fuel companies are overvalued because their worth is calculated using carbon energy reserves that they won't be able to sell in the future as the world turns toward renewables.
The Flood was firmly channeled by barricades up Broadway backed by police ornamented with garlands of white plastic flexi-cuffs. Expecting the Flood to eventually flow onto Wall Street itself, I took a back route and waited for the Flood to arrive in front of the New York Stock Exchange. While waiting, a single middle-aged demonstrator unmolested by the police waved around a poster reading "Global Warming Burns Me Up." A younger protestor climbed the steps of Federal Hall and yelled something like, "What are you going to do Wall Street when the oceans drown your kids?" He was quickly shooed off by two portly Park Service guards.
Some 30 to 40 minutes passed, so I went in search of the missing Flood and found that the police had halted the tide on Broadway. The protestors had ended up "flooding" just a couple of blocks of lower Broadway around Arturo Di Modica's Charging Bull sculpture. Some were sitting-in, others milling randomly, and an occasional chant rose from the stymied flow: "1-2-3-4, climate change is class war." Sometime around 2 p.m., a single demonstrator tried to run past the police line and was immediately caught and handcuffed in the view of several score cameras. After all that excitement, I left.
Later, when the police ordered the Flood to disperse, about a hundred refused and were arrested and booked. Wall Street was not Flooded.
Google Kills Birds
Our headline has the virtue of being true—as we will explain—unlike Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt's assertion this week that people who oppose government subsidies for green energy are liars. The real charlatans are businesses like Google that use climate change as a pretext for corporate welfare.
Google, whose motto is "Don't Be Evil," announced on Monday that it is quitting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of the conservative outfit's putative denial of climate change. "Everyone understands climate change is occurring," said Mr. Schmidt. "And the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people—they're just, they're just literally lying."
In fact, ALEC takes no position on the substance of climate change. ALEC provides a forum for sundry businesses to discuss free-market reforms with state lawmakers. Two of its policy targets are renewable-energy mandates and subsidies, which are being exploited by big businesses like Google at the expense of low- and middle-income taxpayers. Google's real problem with ALEC is a conflict of pecuniary interests.
Consider Google's pledge to fund over $1.5 billion in non fossil-fuel energy. Yet Google derives most of its energy from non-renewables on the grid because it says that "while our data centers operate 24/7, most renewable energy sources don't." Data centers consume a lot of power, and renewables can cost three times as much as fossil fuels. It's no coincidence that Google's server in Iowa is located near one of the cheapest sources of coal-fired power in the Midwest.
Also not a coincidence is that nearly all of Google's solar and wind farms are located in states with renewable-energy mandates, which create opportunities for politically mediated profit-making. For instance, California requires that renewables make up a third of electricity by 2020. Google has invested about $600 million in California's solar plants such as the Ivanpah system in California's Mojave Desert. Ivanpah is the world's largest solar-thermal project, which is the target of environmentalists.
Dozens of federally protected desert tortoises have been displaced or killed. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that Ivanpah's "power towers"—which burn natural gas—incinerate about 28,000 birds annually. The death toll is disputed by others, but Google has made taxpayers complicit in its avian-cide. The $2.2 billion bird fryer was funded with a $1.6 billion federal loan, which Google and its business partners plan to repay by applying for a federal grant.
The do-no-evil company has invested $157 million in a wind farm in California's Tehachapi Mountains, which has killed thousands of birds including federally protected golden eagles. Google's renewable portfolio includes a $275 million investment in two wind farms in Texas that are partly responsible for the construction of $7 billion in new transmission lines. The Texas Public Utility Commission estimates the lines will cost ratepayers on average $72 per year. Google has about $60 billion in cash and short-term investments sitting on its balance sheet.
Most of Google's renewable investments qualify for a federal investment tax credit that covers 30% of the cost. Its $450 million investment in rooftop solar-systems also benefits from state incentives such as "net-metering" laws. This hidden subsidy compensates ratepayers for power they remit to the grid at the retail rate, which can be three times as much as the wholesale price of electricity. Net-metering allows solar companies to charge higher rates to homeowners who lease their panels, and thus for investors like Google to reap larger profits.
ALEC as well as the right-wing radicals at the Natural Resources Defense Council and National Black Caucus of State Legislators have encouraged states to ensure that all ratepayers under net metering pay their share for maintaining the grid.
The point is that Google behaves like all other self-interested businesses—which also means that it bends to the political winds. Unions and progressive groups have been bullying corporations for years to abandon ALEC so the left has less political and intellectual opposition in the 50 state capitals. Earlier this month they wrote to Google denouncing ALEC's "extreme views," which "include denying climate change."
Perhaps Google figured it could gain political benefit by joining the liberal smear campaign against ALEC. But Mr. Schmidt shouldn't disguise his company's mercenary motives behind false and trendy appeals to green political virtue.
Danish Wind Farm Company Sued for Spoiling View
Europe’s troubled wind turbine industry has a new predicament, with a householder in Denmark successfully suing Vestas, a Danish wind turbine manufacturer. Vestas was sued by the householder with the help of International Law Office and awarded 500,000 Danish kroner (£53,000) in compensation for the loss of property values due to visual interference, inconvenience caused by the noise of the blades and light reflection. Eight turbines are visible from the owner’s house.
The Danes passed the Promoting Renewable Energy Act in 2011, which established a compensation scheme for homes affected by wind farms. It seems the Danes suffer from the a similar condition to Brits, not in my back yard (nimbyism), where there is a consensus in favour of wind farms but not near their homes.
Calls to Vestas’ office for comment were not returned.
Danish wind farms have already come in for serious criticism. Breitbart London reported in June how a mink farm saw how a recently built turbine seemed to lead to still births, birth deformities and had begun attacking in each other, costing the farmer millions.
The Danish situation is mirrored in the UK. In November 2013, the London School of Economics amd the Spatial Economics Research Centre published a report with lead author Professor Stephen Gibbons finding that “A wind farm with 20+ turbines within 2km reduces prices by some 11 percent on average.” In all scenarios even of less density, “Wind farms reduce house prices where the turbines are visible.”
Professor Gibbons has further evidence from when in June 2008 Mr. and Mrs. Julian Davis in Lincoln applied to the Valuation Tribunal for a reduction in their Council Tax, due to a wind turbine. Citing “Change in physical state. Noise pollution externally and internal low frequency. Noise pollution from new wind farm 930m (away),” they won and their house was downgraded to Band A status.
Meanwhile, a report into two wind turbines collapsing in Devon and Cornwall has just been released. The Western Mail reports the towers had basic defects and flaw in the construction process. These incidents were over a year ago and the report’s publication was aided by a Freedom of Information request. Also worryingly is that “ten units with existing defects” out of the company’s 70 or 80 turbines and the “makers of the E3120 turbine which fell in Devon, identified a further 29 turbines that might have been affected by a problem with the foundations.”
It seems that European governments' race to be green has had some expensive unexpected consequences. Not only is it substantially more expensive to industry and the public, the extra costs of erecting wind farms are growing too. One can only imagine the furore if a turbine comes down on a house, seriously injuring someone or even killing them. These are troubles timed for the government and the wind industry.
An unsettled climate
by Judith Curry
In a press conference last week, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon stated: “Action on climate change is urgent. The more we delay, the more we will pay in lives and in money.” The recently appointed UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio stated “The debate is over. Climate change is happening now.”
These statements reflect a misunderstanding of the state of climate science and the extent to which we can blame adverse consequences such as extreme weather events on human caused climate change. The climate has always changed and will continue to change. Humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have a warming effect on the climate. However, there is enduring uncertainty beyond these basic issues, and the most consequential aspects of climate science are the subject of vigorous scientific debate: whether the warming since 1950 has been dominated by human causes, and how the climate will evolve in the 21st century due to both natural and human causes. Societal uncertainties further cloud the issues as to whether warming is ‘dangerous’ and whether we can afford to radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
At the heart of the recent scientific debate on climate change is the ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in global warming – the period since 1998 during which global average surface temperatures have not increased. This observed warming hiatus contrasts with the expectation from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report that warming would proceed at a rate of 0.2oC/per decade in the early decades of the 21st century. The warming hiatus raises serious questions as to whether the climate model projections of 21st century have much utility for decision making, given uncertainties in climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide, future volcanic eruptions and solar activity, and the multidecadal and century scale oscillations in ocean circulation patterns.
A key argument in favor of emission reductions is concern over the accelerating cost of weather disasters. The accelerating cost is associated with increasing population and wealth in vulnerable regions, and not with any increase in extreme weather events, let alone any increase that can be attributed to human caused climate change. The IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation found little evidence that supports an increase in extreme weather events that can be attributed to humans. There seems to be a collective ‘weather amnesia’, where the more extreme weather of the 1930’s and 1950’s seems to have been forgotten.
Climate science is no more ‘settled’ than anthropogenic global warming is a ‘hoax’. I am concerned that the climate change problem and its solution have been vastly oversimplified. Deep uncertainty beyond the basics is endemic to the climate change problem, which is arguably characterized as a ‘wicked mess.’ A ‘wicked’ problem is complex with dimensions that are difficult to define and changing with time. A ‘mess’ is characterized by the complexity of interrelated issues, with suboptimal solutions that create additional problems.
Nevertheless, the premise of dangerous anthropogenic climate change is the foundation for a far-reaching plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Elements of this plan may be argued as important for associated energy policy reasons, economics, and/or public health and safety. However, claiming an overwhelming scientific justification for the plan based upon anthropogenic global warming does a disservice both to climate science and to the policy process. Science doesn’t dictate to society what choices to make, but science can assess which policies won’t work and can provide information about uncertainty that is critical for the decision making process.
Can we make good decisions under conditions of deep uncertainty about climate change? Uncertainty in itself is not a reason for inaction. Research to develop low-emission energy technologies and energy efficiency measures are examples of ‘robust’ policies that have little downside, while at the same time have ancillary benefits beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, attempts to modify the climate through reducing CO2 emissions may turn out to be futile. The hiatus in warming observed over the past 16 years demonstrates that CO2 is not a control knob on climate variability on decadal time scales. Even if CO2 mitigation strategies are successful and climate model projections are correct, an impact on the climate would not be expected until the latter part of the 21st century. Solar variability, volcanic eruptions and long-term ocean oscillations will continue to be sources of unpredictable climate surprises.
Whether or not anthropogenic climate change is exacerbating extreme weather events, vulnerability to extreme weather events will continue owing to increasing population and wealth in vulnerable regions. Climate change (regardless of whether the primary cause is natural or anthropogenic) may be less important in driving vulnerability in most regions than increasing population, land use practices, and ecosystem degradation. Regions that find solutions to current problems of climate variability and extreme weather events and address challenges associated with an increasing population are likely to be well prepared to cope with any additional stresses from climate change.
Oversimplification, claiming ‘settled science’ and ignoring uncertainties not only undercuts the political process and dialogue necessary for real solutions in a highly complex world, but acts to retards scientific progress. It’s time to recognize the complexity and wicked nature of the climate problem, so that we can have a more meaningful dialogue on how to address the complex challenges of climate variability and change.
Climate alarmists are overlooking scientific facts
Some letters to the editor below that appeared in "The Australian" on 27th
ALARMISTS such as Fred Cehak and Chris Roylance (Letters, 26/9) criticise acclaimed scientists such as Dan Wood and Steven Koonin for their sceptical views, yet continue to peddle the fiction that the “science is settled” in the climate debate.
Those aboard the ship stuck in Antarctic ice early this year believed their own shoddy science that said the poles were melting. Today, the Antarctic ice sheet is at an all-time record high, and Arctic ice is now refreezing as normal.
The junk models used by the alarmists to frighten the world are in a state of disarray as more than 50 excuses are circulating trying to explain, unsuccessfully, the 17-year halt to global warming, even with rising carbon dioxide emissions.
Despite its shortcomings, even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared there is no relationship between emissions and hurricanes, Atlantic storms, drought and wildfires, and any other catastrophe served up as fact by the alarmists, whose arguments are always based on appeals to authority rather than the tenets of true science as embraced by sceptics.
G. M. Derrick, Sherwood, Qld
THE informative and balanced article by Steven Koonin (“A degree of uncertainty”, 23/9) brings me to the following conclusion. Much of the vast sums of taxpayers’ money being spent on researching and controlling man-made climate change should be directed to researching the magnitude and causes of natural climate change.
We would all then be in a better position to determine how significant is man-made climate change in comparison to natural climate change, and develop appropriate policy.
Charles Stanger, Manuka, ACT
FRED Cehak criticises those who doubt the accuracy of climate models and says the majority of scientists support the views of the IPCC. Yet doesn’t the IPCC’s fifth assessment report state that the rate of warming over the past 15 years, a 20th of a degree per decade, is smaller than the trend since 1951, an eighth of a degree per decade? This despite an unabated increase in the alleged driver, atmospheric carbon dioxide. Surely that’s justification for critical review of some of the more alarming predictions.
And we never see any criticism from Cehak or others of the failed predictions by Tim Flannery that Sydney and Brisbane’s dams would now be dry never to fill again, or of the equally ludicrous suggestion by Greens leader Christine Milne that repeal of the Renewable Energy Target would lead to only a billion people being left alive by 2100.
Peter Troy, Kingston, Tas
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