Friday, December 05, 2014

Google’s Top Engineers say: “Renewable Energy Simply Won’t Work”

Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that renewables will never permit the human race to cut CO2 emissions to the levels demanded by climate activists. Whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

Both men are Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein having trained in aerospace engineering and David Fork in applied physics. These aren’t guys who fiddle about with websites or data analytics or “technology” of that sort: they are real engineers who understand difficult maths and physics, and top-bracket even among that distinguished company. The duo were employed at Google on the RE~C project, which sought to enhance renewable technology to the point where it could produce energy more cheaply than coal.

RE~C was a failure, and Google closed it down after four years. Now, Koningstein and Fork have explained the conclusions they came to after a lengthy period of applying their considerable technological expertise to renewables, in an article posted at IEEE Spectrum.

The two men write:

    "At the start of RE~C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope …  Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach."

One should note that RE~C didn’t restrict itself to conventional renewable ideas like solar PV, windfarms, tidal, hydro etc. It also looked extensively into more radical notions such as solar-thermal, geothermal, “self-assembling” wind towers and so on and so forth. There’s no get-out clause for renewables believers here.

Koningstein and Fork aren’t alone. Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible. Merely generating the relatively small proportion of our energy that we consume today in the form of electricity is already an insuperably difficult task for renewables: generating huge amounts more on top to carry out the tasks we do today using fossil-fuelled heat isn’t even vaguely plausible.

Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

In reality, well before any such stage was reached, energy would become horrifyingly expensive – which means that everything would become horrifyingly expensive (even the present well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK has pushed up utility bills very considerably). This in turn means that everyone would become miserably poor and economic growth would cease (the more honest hardline greens admit this openly). That, however, means that such expensive luxuries as welfare states and pensioners, proper healthcare (watch out for that pandemic), reasonable public services, affordable manufactured goods and transport, decent personal hygiene, space programmes (watch out for the meteor!) etc etc would all have to go – none of those things are sustainable without economic growth.

So nobody’s up for that. And yet, stalwart environmentalists like Koningstein and Fork – and many others – remain convinced that the dangers of carbon-driven warming are real and massive. Indeed the pair reference the famous NASA boffin Dr James Hansen, who is more or less the daddy of modern global warming fears, and say like him that we must move rapidly not just to lessened but to zero carbon emissions (and on top of that, suck a whole lot of CO2 out of the air by such means as planting forests).

So, how is this to be done?

Koningstein and Fork say that humanity’s only hope is a new method of energy generation which can provide power – ideally “dispatchable” (can be turned on and off) and/or “distributed” (produced near where it’s wanted) – at costs well below those of coal or gas. They write:

    "What’s needed are zero-carbon energy sources so cheap that the operators of power plants and industrial facilities alike have an economic rationale for switching over within the next 40 years...      Incremental improvements to existing technologies aren’t enough; we need something truly disruptive."

Unfortunately the two men don’t know what that is, or if they do they aren’t saying. James Hansen does, though: it’s nuclear power.

As applied at the moment, of course, nuclear power isn’t cheap enough to provide a strong economic rationale. That’s because its costs have been forced enormously higher than they would otherwise be by the imposition of cripplingly high health and safety standards (in its three “disasters” so far – Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima – the scientifically verified death tolls from all causes have been and will be zero, 56 and zero: a record which other power industries including renewables can only envy*).

Nuclear costs have also been artificially driven up by the non-issue of “waste”. In the UK for instance, all “higher activity nuclear waste” must be kept expensively stored in a secure specialist facility and can only ever – perhaps – be finally disposed of in a wildly expensive geological vault. No less than 99.7 per cent of this “waste” is actually intermediate-level, meaning that it basically isn’t radioactive at all: you could theoretically make half a tonne of ordinary dirt into such “intermediate level nuclear waste” by burying a completely legal luminous wristwatch in it. (If you did that inside the boundaries of a licensed nuclear facility, the dirt really would then become ridiculously costly “waste”.)

The remaining 0.003 of “nuclear waste” actually is dangerous, but it can almost all be reprocessed into fuel and used again. So waste really doesn’t need to be an issue at all.

There can’t be any doubt that if nuclear power had been allowed to be as dangerous per unit of energy generated as, say, the gas industry* – let alone the terribly dangerous coal business – it truly would be too cheap to meter and Messrs Koningstein and Fork’s problem would have been solved for them decades ago: by now, nobody with access to uranium would be bothering with fossil fuels except for specialist purposes – and there’s no reason why nations “of concern” couldn’t be kept safely supplied. Would we run out of uranium? Not until the year 5000AD.

Cheap power solves a lot more problems than just carbon emissions, too. If power is cheap, so is fresh water (the fact is we’re really at that point already, though a lot of people refuse to admit it and prefer to treat fresh water as some sort of scarce and finite resource). If fresh water is cheap, an awful lot more of the planet is habitable and/or arable than is the case if it’s expensive: and that is truly game-changing stuff for the human race.

And as a side benefit we’d by now have actual useful spacecraft which could actually go to places in reasonable amounts of time carrying reasonable amounts of stuff at reasonable costs. We’d be able to establish viable bases on other planets – for instance to mine uranium there, should we ever find ourselves running low.

Even if you aren’t terribly convinced about the looming menace of carbon-driven warming, the fact that we have decided of our own free will not to have cheap, abundant energy and all the miracles it would bring with it … that’s a terrible human tragedy. Nobody knows how much misery might result from climate change in the future, but one can say with certainty that a lot of misery has been caused by the absence of cheap energy, water, food and decent places to live over the last sixty-plus years.

Anyway the truth is that the disruptive new technology which Koningstein and Fork are dreaming of already exists: but it’s been stolen from us by our foolish fears, inflated in many cases by dishonest activists. Even if someone could come up with some other way of making terrifically cheap energy, there’s no guarantee that the ignorant fearmongers of the world wouldn’t manage to suppress that too. There would almost certainly be a powerful application in weapons, just as there is in nuclear; this is, after all, energy we’re talking about.

Koningstein and Fork believe that the answer to the carbon menace is a reallocation of R&D spending, to seek out high-risk disruptive technologies. But the fact is it would probably make more sense to spend money on making sure that people don’t reach voting age without understanding basic mathematics and facts about risk and energy.

You wouldn’t need to take that money from R&D. You could instead repurpose some of the huge and growing amounts of money that are currently being diverted into the purchase of tiny amounts of ridiculously expensive renewable energy.

After all, no matter the wider issues, we now have it on the best and unimpeachably environmentalist of authorities that renewable energy can’t achieve its stated purpose. So – no matter what – there can’t be any point in continuing with it.

None of this is new, of course. These realities have been wilfully ignored by the British governing class and others for many years. But the British/American governing classes, so fatally committed to renewables, often seem willing to listen to Google even if they won’t listen to anyone else.  So, just maybe, this time the message will have some impact.


*The Piper Alpha gas rig explosion of 1988 on its own caused three times as many deaths as the nuclear power industry has in its entire history. Bizarrely though, no nations ceased using gas.


European Government Support for Wind Power Collapses

Lured by subsidies, the power companies went green. But to keep the lights on they have to burn coal

Sixty miles northeast of Düsseldorf, outside the town of Hamm in northwest Germany, workers are giving a final tune-up to a glittering new power station.

Germany is the biggest proponent of the green electricity revolution, but this plant won’t be powered by the sun, wind or woodchips — it will burn dirty old coal.

Built by German energy giant RWE at a cost of €2bn (£1.6bn), the plant is no aberration. This year the company, which owns Npower in Britain, and its rivals have poured billions of euros into a fleet of new coal-fired plants, the most polluting form of power generation. When finished they will be capable of supplying more than 8m households.

The boom runs entirely counter to the European Union’s mission, led by Germany and Britain, to replace the old fossil fuel-based energy system with a cleaner alternative. Indeed, the Germans source a quarter of their power from solar, wind and other renewables. Yet last year, carbon dioxide emissions actually rose 1.2%, partly due to the resurgence of coal.

This is just one of the surprising and unintended consequences of Europe’s troubled effort to lead the world into the low-carbon era. And the fallout is set to become even more extreme.

Governments from Berlin to Madrid — and London — are dramatically scaling back the huge subsidy programmes introduced over the past decade to underwrite the revolution.

All are struggling to come to grips with an industry transformed by America’s shale gas boom.

In July, Germany — Europe’s biggest power market — passed a new renewable energy act that slashed taxpayer support by a quarter for solar and wind energy.

The reduction is partly a reaction to plummeting costs. Ben Warren, head of environmental finance at the consultants EY, said: “Policymakers underestimated how quickly costs would fall. Five years ago it cost €6m to install a megawatt of solar. That same megawatt today could cost as little as €700,000.”

That drop is what led the Department of Energy and Climate Change to slash subsidies for solar generators in Britain two years ago. A less dramatic drop in costs has meant cuts to aid for wind farms, both onshore and at sea.

In Germany, however, the trend has been much more dramatic. Since 2004 the share of energy generated from renewable sources has jumped sixfold to 27% — nearly double the ratio in Britain.

The boom was much bigger than Berlin bargained for, which means the country is now saddled with a huge supply surplus.

One might reasonably expect a big drop in household bills to follow. That hasn’t happened. Over the decade when renewables exploded onto the scene, Germany’s annual household bills increased by nearly two-thirds to €1,020 (£815).

Indeed, even though the wholesale power price has fallen by nearly 40% in the past five years, German consumer rates have risen steadily. Why? Because more than half the bill is now made up of taxes and ever-rising green charges.

Peter Crampton of the investment bank Macquarie said: “As renewables in Germany are remunerated under regulated tariffs, with the requirement for network operators to preferentially feed-in this power over other generation sources under the Renewable Energy Act, other more expensive power plants are crowded out, thereby depressing power prices.”

Paradoxically, the plunging coal price has made matters worse for some utilities — and not just in Germany. In 2012, RWE commissioned a new gas-fired plant in Maastricht, Holland. This summer it mothballed the €1.1bn facility.

The explanation can be traced back to the desiccated plains of Texas. Since 2011, the coal price has almost halved to $70 (£45) a ton. The fall is a direct consequence of the “fracking” revolution in America’s south and east, which has unleashed the wave of cheap gas now being fed into US power stations — leaving plenty of coal left over for export.

Angela Merkel’s snap decision in 2011 to ban new nuclear power stations shifted even more of the burden for Germany’s round-the-clock “baseload” power to its coal fleet. Yet the drop in the commodity’s price and the pressure of the renewables oversupply have led to a huge dip in the wholesale electricity price. Even new plants, such as at Hamm, struggle to make money.

So they export their power to their neighbours’ grids in the Netherlands and Czech Republic. The influx has wreaked havoc, rendering the Maastricht plant and others like it uneconomic.

Germany isn’t the only country on the Continent grappling with the legacy of policies that were conceived before the recession and, with the benefit of hindsight, were clearly poorly understood.

Spain’s energy industry is on the cusp of a shake-up akin to the one its banking industry went through after the financial crisis.

According to Warren of EY, banks injected more than €50bn over the past decade into project financing for Spain’s burgeoning renewables industry. As in Britain and Germany, the surge was a response to the promise of decades of subsidies.

This summer, just as Germany was haggling over its new renewable energy scheme, Madrid went one better. It slashed support not only for future projects, but pledged to claw back returns retroactively through new taxes.

The move turned many of the associated bonds from sure-fire bets to giant liabilities. Already under pressure to clean up their balance sheets, the banks are now looking for ways out.

This summer the Wall Street giant Blackstone hired a restructuring team from rival Rothschild and opened a Madrid office. So-called vulture investment funds have begun running the rule over deals where banks are desperate to move the problem loans off their books.

Many of the most prominent renewable energy developers have already written down their equity investments in these projects to zero. Warren said: “Now it is the banks’ turn to take some of the medicine.”

Tony Ward, head of power and utilities at EY, said: “This just highlights that the policies under which many of these long-term investment decisions are made often end up getting changed much quicker than promised, and it is very destructive. Governments need to be mindful.”

Britain’s energy policy is not that different. The government has enticed developers to build a new generation of clean energy sources underwritten by decades of inflated rates. It is working: the share of renewables is on the rise and coal plants are shutting down.

But it is far from perfect. Next month the energy department will hold an auction at which it will offer a guaranteed annual income for gas-fired power stations it needs to back up the growing army of wind farms. Even if one of these plants doesn’t fire up all year, its owner will get paid a handsome fee.

The German parliament is looking at implementing a similar system.


It’s time for tough love on tax credits for the mature wind industry

Is the lame duck Congress oblivious to the message voters sent to Washington last month? Or, are they intentionally ignoring it in favor of special interests? A pending vote on a tax-extenders package — that would have a slim chance of passage in the new Congress — will reveal whether or not they learned anything from the 2014 midterms.

Throughout 2014, since the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for the wind energy industry expired on December 31, 2013, lobbyists from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) have pushed Congress to vote to retroactively revive the PTC. So far, sound fiscal thinking has prevailed. The lame duck session provides their last opportunity to hand over hard-earned American tax dollars to big business, and pile national debt on future generations.

The PTC provides one of the best examples of the worst kind of taxpayer waste being considered in a tax-extenders deal. The largest benefactors of the credit (underwritten by U.S. taxpayers) are wind energy turbine manufacturers like General Electric (which purchased Enron’s wind turbine business in 2002), and investors like Warren Buffet, who, without apology, recently admitted: “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

The U.S. wind energy business started as a gleam in Enron’s eye, enjoyed an entitled childhood at taxpayer expense, and, by now, should have blossomed into an adult. Instead, now, at the tail end of this Congressional session, the industry — by way of AWEA lobbyists — has its hand out for a ninth round of “free” taxpayer money. These dollars, which get transferred from hard-working taxpayers to big corporations and billionaires, are borrowed from our children, with the paper being sold overseas in what is known as “national debt.”

For this lame duck Congress, AWEA’s panhandling should be as welcome as grown children returning home for financial support — “just one more time.”  Like parents, possessing the kind of wisdom that often only crystalizes in our fifties, Congress must now realize the inevitable:  sometimes seeing our dependents grow up to be independent requires tough love and a line in the sand. Though it is hard, most parents know saying “no” is part of the process of having children that grow into mature, responsible adults.

When the PTC was conceived in 1992, America’s energy paradigm differed totally from today. At that time Americans had a constant concern: growing imports of foreign oil from the Middle East left us vulnerable to global market forces that were driving prices higher at work, at the pump, and at home. We inherently knew then, as now, low-cost abundant energy is essential to America’s leadership on the global stage. Wind was touted as one of the answers. Despite the fact that wind produces electricity (albeit inefficiently, ineffectively, uneconomically), and electricity has nothing to do with foreign oil, Washington, throwing caution to the wind, embraced it.

The Energy Policy Act (H.R.775.ENR, or “EPACT92”) was signed into law and quickly set the wind industry up across countless countrysides, with offensive turbines towering above tens of thousands of homes.

Washington declared victory and left it at that, hoping our money, given to the wind industry, had been well spent, would lead to a mature wind industry that found its footing, and that it would pay handsome dividends to taxpayers down the road. Unfortunately, EPACT92 was long on hope, but short on encouraging the habits necessary for self-sufficiency. No one should be surprised that the industry’s immaturity has persisted for more than twenty years.

The wind PTC has been the industry’s biggest single source — though unearned — of support. Each new wind energy complex earns the tax credits for a full ten years. The machines only last an estimated twenty years — though the White House has authorized thirty-year bird-kill permits that allow, without punishment, protected bald and golden eagles to be chopped up mid-flight. The two-point-three-cent-per kWh bonus has a pre-tax value as high as three-and-a-half cents — which creates a big benefit to billionaires like Buffett.

The largest U.S. grid market’s wholesale energy clearing price averaged just $0.038 last year, according to industry sources. As a result, wind projects can bid their energy into electricity auctions far below its costs — and beneath the bids of conventional sources. We, taxpayers, make up the loss for them each April 15. In exchange, the grid receives the fickle wind-fueled electricity only when the weather cooperates. Indispensible and dependable coal- and gas-fueled power plants pay the price — as do consumers through higher electricity rates. Traditional power sources produce less electricity but have to work harder and for less pay. (Sounds like our conventional power plants need to form a labor union.)

Wholesale market revenues and the wind PTC make up only about 2/3 of total proceeds flowing to wind development owners. The other third comes from the value of additional federal subsidies combined with the financial incentives inherent in state-level tax breaks and mandates. In the end, wind investor proceeds depend on roughly 1/3 sales revenue and 2/3 handouts.

No wonder they take another round of free money for granted. We’ve taught them well: “Ask and you shall receive.”

While the wind industry has been promising to grow up for years, many elected officials, intent on protecting the taxpayers’ dime, have felt voter pushback. Some legislators have openly questioned wind energy’s value. Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett wrote a scathing review in a 2011 newsletter, recognizing that big business was benefitting at tax and ratepayer expense, while claiming the support was needed for an “infant wind industry.” A year earlier, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) penned an astute paper comparing grid-scale wind energy to the notion that “sailboats” should power our military naval fleet.

AWEA continues to carefully navigate its message, always claiming its costs are falling and “almost competitive,” but fails to answer the most important question: competitive with what? Last week a New York Times (NYT) headline proclaimed: “Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels,” yet, within the text, the article states: “Those prices were made possible by generous subsidies that could soon diminish or expire.” Just days before the NYT piece was published, two of America’s brightest minds admitted, that after four years of trying to prove that it was possible “to produce a gigawatt of renewable power more cheaply than a coal-fired plant,” renewable energy simply “won’t work.”

The wind PR machine never brings up dependability and responsiveness to demand — attributes its fuel cannot, by definition, ever deliver. Without the ability to convert wind currents into electricity at all the right times, wind energy facilities cannot replace the existing dependable power plants that keep our lights on. Wind’s fuel may be free, but having to build and maintain two sets of power plants instead of one costs far more than wind’s fuel-cost advantage can save.

In its own way, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also helping fill the sails of the wind industry. It has proposed “renewable sources” as one of four “building blocks” available to states for complying with its proposed carbon dioxide emissions rules. Like the National Academies of Science, the EPA knows that even if atmospheric CO2 imposed a proven danger, using wind energy to reduce it, at over $200 per ton avoided, is roughly four times as expensive as other practical methods. EPA doesn’t even consider the lowest-cost long-term zero-CO2-emitting option: new emissions-free and dependable nuclear power stations.

A month ago voters sent a message to Washington. Were they listening? While negotiations are underway in Washington on the last minute tax-break “deal,” it isn’t clear which is more important to our elected representatives: voters or corporate cronies and lobbyists. A tax-extenders bill that incorporates pork for special interests would be the equivalent of Congress thumbing its nose at voters, while coddling industries that refuse to become self-sufficient — all the while piling more national debt service and repayment obligations on our children and grandchildren.

Hopefully, with twenty-plus years of history, our leaders recognize their poor parenting practices that best prepared their “offspring” to persuasively argue for perpetual access to money they didn’t earn. Voters should ask: can this lame duck Congress find the courage to finally stop enabling the wind industry and force it to grow up? Congress must say to them: “We’ve been supporting you for 22 years. Enough is enough!”

In the face of intense, last-ditch lobbying by AWEA, Congress needs help breaking its bad habits. But tough love is hard. To do the right thing, Congress needs support in the form of encouragement from voters. Pick up the phone today and tell your representatives: “Our nation’s affordable electricity should not be used by Congress as a bargaining chip in a tax-extenders package for special interests. After 22 years of government support, it is time for the wind industry to grow up. The now-expired wind PTC needs to be buried once and for all.”


Oil Price Plunge Benefits U.S. at Home and Abroad

The UK Telegraph describes the result of America’s increased oil production as “one of the most extraordinary turnarounds in modern economic history.” The Washington Post declares its effect on the world to be the “most important economic story of 2014.” And you can see this story played out at the gas pump in your hometown.

Gone are the days when gas was four or five dollars per gallon. According to the American Automobile Association, the average price for a gallon of regular gas on Dec. 2 is $2.76. Here in East Tennessee, the price of gas is expected to drop below $2 a gallon, just like in Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas.

Thanks to fracking and a boom in the oil production from shale deposits, the price of a barrel of crude oil is $66.88. Increased oil production in the United States hobbles hostile countries abroad while giving the wallets of the middle and lower class a boost. Did we also mention it’s good for education? Educating liberals in the effects of free markets, that is.

For years, America was tied to foreign oil, OPEC controlled the lion’s share of oil, and no matter what the feds tried, none of their schemes could break the dependence of foreign fuels. In 2005, a record 60.3% of the petroleum products consumed in America came from outside the states. The demand for oil – felt by price spikes at the pump – led to new technology for harvesting oil and that led to a boom in American oil extraction.

Today, if Texas were counted as a separate country, it would be the seventh largest oil producer in the world. According to Mark Perry, an economic scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Texas produced 3.17 million barrels of oil per day in July. During the same time, Iran produced 3.23 million barrels – the sixth largest oil producer. But let’s not forget the American contributions of offshore drilling, the Alaskan oil fields and North Dakota.

This was a result of pure American entrepreneurship, the free markets acting on their own. Obama never created an energy policy guiding the energy now pouring out of the shale deposits around the nation. The EPA? It was too busy chasing coal companies and rubbing shoulders with environmentalists that break out in hives when they catch a whiff of industry.

As Perry writes:

“It happened not as a result of government mandates, regulatory pressure or taxpayer subsidies. Rather, it came about primarily due to innovation, entrepreneurial problem-solving and the marketplace, with some early government assistance in developing the technology for fracking and horizontal drilling.

"Lo and behold, the shale revolution is not only driving economic growth and putting millions of Americans to work but also providing elegant and efficient solutions to problems like foreign-oil dependence that policymakers couldn’t solve.”

The result is a price cut that can be felt by anyone with an automobile. Americans can spend more money on clothes and food instead of sinking green into the gas tank. As The Washington Post reports, “Every day, American motorists are saving $630 million on gasoline compared with what they paid at June prices, and they would get a $230 billion windfall if prices were to stay this low for a year.” Obama probably read about this one in the paper. How much did he say ObamaCare was projected to save taxpayers again?

On the world stage, America’s oil production pulls this nation’s economy ahead while stalling countries hostile to America. Last week, OPEC decided it was not going to cut oil production in response to the plummeting cost of a barrel of oil.

That was a mistake, writes the Telegraph: “Opec has misjudged the threat. As late as last year, it was dismissing US shale as a flash in the pan. Abdalla El-Badri, the group’s secretary-general, still insists that half of all US shale output is vulnerable below $85.”

Currently, the world’s oil producers are in a game of chicken with their economies. If the price of oil drops too low, the competing countries will have to stop production because the cost would not be worth it. At the moment, their cost of producing oil is much higher than that of the United States.

The Telegraph again: “The fiscal break-even cost is $161 for Venezuela, $160 for Yemen, $132 for Algeria, $131 for Iran, $126 for Nigeria, and $125 for Bahrain, $111 for Iraq, and $105 for Russia, and even $98 for Saudi Arabia itself, according to Citigroup.”

And how far does the price of oil have to drop before it starts to hurt the U.S. shale fields? $50, according to CNBC.

This sets the U.S. in the strategic position to win in the economic struggle for oil domination against hostile nations. For example, Russia is now facing serious economic challenges, and as a result will possibly slow exploration for oil and gas in its Arctic seas. According to the Brookings Institute, the Great Bear estimated the global price of oil would be at $97 dollars as it set its 2014 budget. Once the price of oil slid below $80, however, it headed for economic trouble because oil accounts for 14.5% of Russia’s GDP. If oil prices remain low, how will Vladimir Putin fund his shadow war in Ukraine?

It’s a story the late economist Milton Freidman would love: A whole industry rises up under a regulation-happy government and sets the stage for economic security here and abroad. Our analysis? Drill, baby, drill.


The World's Climate Change Mafia Meet in Peru

By Alan Caruba

To understand all the talk of “climate change” you must understand that everything and everyone involved—except for those of us who debunk the lies—are engaged in a criminal enterprise to transfer billions from industrialized nations to those who have failed to provide a thriving economy, often because they are run by dictators or corrupt governments who skim the money for themselves.

The lies being inflicted on Americans include Obama’s “war on coal” that is shutting down coal-fired plants that affordably and efficiently produce the electricity the nation needs, along with the six-year delay of the Keystone XL pipeline. Add in the thousands of Environmental Protection Agency regulations affecting our manufacturing, business and agricultural sectors and the price we are paying is huge.

At its heart, environmentalism hates capitalism.

One of the worst parts of this scam to take from the rich and give to the poor—otherwise known as “redistribution”—is the way the world’s media have played along since 1992 when the first Earth Summit was held in Rio. The perpetrators are headquartered in the United Nations, home to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that sets the agenda.

While the 20th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of Parties meets in Lima, Peru this week, perhaps the most egregious and outrageous example of journalism was the December 2nd Associated Press article, “Hotter, Weirder: How Climate Change and Changed the Earth.” It is not attributed to a specific reporter; perhaps because it is filled with lies from start to finish.

It starts with the biggest lie of all:  “WASHINGTON (AP) -- In the more than two decades since world leaders first got together to try to solve global warming, life on Earth has changed, not just the climate. It's gotten hotter, more polluted with heat-trapping gases, more crowded and just downright wilder.”

The Earth is in the 19th year of a natural cooling cycle, the result of a comparable cycle on the Sun which is producing less radiation to warm the planet. What astounds anyone who knows this is the article’s assertion that “It's almost a sure thing that 2014 will go down as the hottest year in 135 years of record keeping, meteorologists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center say. If so, this will be the sixth time since 1992 that the world set or tied a new annual record for the warmest year.”

Would government agencies that are beholden to the existing administration for their budgets lie to the public? Yes, they would. While all fifty states experienced freezing weather within the past month, we are still being told that 2014 set new records for warmth. To borrow a phrase from Jonathan Gruber, the architect of ObamaCare, the government can tell “stupid” voters and others anything it wants in order to achieve its goals.

For the record, in 2013 and much of 2014, there have been record low numbers of tornadoes and hurricanes. There was a record gain in Arctic and Antarctic ice. There was no change in the rate of sea level rise; something measured in millimeters.  The weather is the weather and that includes dramatic events such as blizzards or droughts, but it is hardly uniform. Depending on where you live on planet Earth, you will experience it differently on any given day.

As representatives of 190 climate mafia meet in Peru, you will be given data about carbon dioxide (CO2). The AP article cites increases of  “60 percent.” If that were true, it would be good news. All vegetation on Earth depends on CO2, just as humans and other living creatures depend on oxygen. More CO2 means healthier forests and greater crop yields, an agricultural bonus in a world that needs to feed seven billion people. But it’s not true. Nor is the claim that the mere 0.04% of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere traps so much heat we’re all going to die. It doesn’t and most of us will die of old age.

As Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research reported in June, “The U.S. already leads the world in CO2 reductions and is a great role model. U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell 12.6 percent between 2005 and 2012, thanks to technology and conservation. Worldwide, CO2 emissions increased by 17.7 percent during the same period.”  That’s a far cry from the AP claim of 60 percent.

The Peru conference is another effort to impose a global tax on “carbon” and to increase the UN’s “Climate Fund” to which some nations have pledged $9.3 billion. To put this in perspective, the United States just set a new record of $18 TRILLION in debt and cannot afford to be pledging money to that fund or any other fund.

Most of that debt has been incurred during the one and a half terms of Barack Obama who just happens to be telling everyone that “climate change” is the greatest threat to all life on Earth.

“Climate change” is what the 4.5 billion-year-old Earth has been doing during all that time and will continue to do. Humans experience it as the “weather” which is measured in days and weeks while climate is measured in units not less than thirty years and more often in centuries. Today’s weather prediction is good for, at best, five days and is subject to change at any time.

As for all those claims about “global warming” it’s worth keeping in mind that not one of the computer models cited to prove it has been accurate. There isn’t a model or a computer big enough to take in all the many elements that compose the weather anywhere and everywhere on Earth. The weather is always in a state of flux and change, just as the temperatures during any hour of the day are in a stage of change.

Here’s a bit of advice. Do not believe anything that comes out of the UN conference because, scientifically speaking, it will be a lie. And don’t believe anything the Associated Press reports on “climate change” because that too must automatically be regarded as a lie as well.

Whatever Barack Obama has to say about “climate change” (formerly known as “global warming”) is a lie. It would be nice to have a President and a government we could trust.


Australia to Slash Funding for U.N. Environment Program

Already reviled by green groups for repealing its predecessor’s carbon tax, Australia’s center-right government is stoking fresh controversy with plans to slash funding to the U.N.’s top environmental body.

Coming at a time when a U.N. climate conference in Peru is firing up activists, the decision by Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government to cut funding to the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) by more than 80 percent has drawn sharp condemnation.

Critics already view Australia as a “global pariah,” going against the tide of progress in the drive to tackle climate change.

Cutting funding to UNEP also comes amid a growing international campaign to upgrade UNEP from its current status as a U.N. “program” to a more powerful and better-funded “specialized agency.” Some activists even want it empowered to impose sanctions on countries that don’t implement environmental agreements.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported Tuesday that the government will cut A$4 million ($3.4 million) in funding for UNEP over the next four years, reducing this year’s contribution from A$1.2 ($1.01 million) to just A$200,000 ($169,000).

It quoted Environment Minister Greg Hunt as saying UNEP was not a budget priority for the government, and defending the decision by pointing to greater funding being directed at environmental challenges in the region.

“I would imagine that most Australians would think that putting [A]$12 million into coral reef protection within our region, and combating illegal logging of the rainforests of the Asia Pacific would be a pretty good investment, rather than [A]$4 million for bureaucratic support within the U.N. system,” he said.

Set up in 1972, the Nairobi, Kenya-based UNEP describes itself as “the voice for the environment within the United Nations system.”

Since it is a U.N. program and not a specialized agency, UNEP has relied on voluntary donations from member-states rather than “assessed contributions” (the formula that sees the U.S. liable for 22 percent of the budget of agencies like the Worod Health Organization.)

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner told ABC he was disappointed at the decision, as member-states contributions enable the organization “to fulfil its mandate and be of service to the global community.”

Big contributors to UNEP include European countries and the United States. The State Department’s fiscal year 2015 request for UNEP is $7.55 million, although the actual amount U.S. taxpayers will likely account for is higher, as the State Department is only one of several agencies through which funding is channeled.

Abbott’s decision to reduce funding to this body drew sharp condemnation from political opponents.

“This is a program that helps developing countries develop in a way that is environmentally sustainable,” Tanya Plibersek, the Labor Party’s foreign affairs spokesman, told reporters, calling the cuts “petty” and accusing the prime minister of “taking Australia backwards on climate change.”

“Tony Abbott has made Australia an international laughing stock with his backward policies on climate change and the environment,” said Labor’s environment spokesman, Mark Butler.



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.  

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