Monday, December 15, 2014
Obama’s Possible Paris Climate Agreement End Run Around the Senate
Foreign negotiators, activists, and journalists are very worried about Senate Republicans
Lima, Peru – The United States Senate approved the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by a rare division vote with two-thirds concurring on October 7, 1993 and President Bill Clinton ratified the treaty by signing it on October 13, 1993. By agreeing to that treaty the United States committed to the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."
In 1997, on behalf of the United States, Vice-President Al Gore signed the Kyoto Protocol which was the follow-on treaty to the UNFCCC. That treaty would have obligated the United States reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 7 percent below their 1990 levels by 2012. However, in July, 1997 the Byrd-Hagel sense of the Senate resolution had passed 95 to 0 specifically stating that the U.S. should not be a signatory to any agreement pursuant to the UNFCCC that the exempted developing countries from taking on obligations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the resolution declared that any such agreement would require the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification. Consequently, President Clinton never submitted the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for a vote. In March, 2001, President George W. Bush sent a letter to members of the Senate explaining why he opposed the Kyoto Protocol and he, too, never submitted it to the Senate for a vote.
Among the tents at the Lima venue for the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP-20) of the UNFCCC, it is clear that negotiators from other countries, activists and journalists are very worried about how any new U.N. climate agreement reached next year in Paris would fare if it had to be submitted for consideration by a Senate soon to be dominated by Republicans. But there are hints that members of the Obama administration believe that that unpleasantness perhaps can be avoided. How?
Next year's Paris agreement could be interpreted by the Obama administration as not being an actual treaty requiring the Senate's advice and consent before ratification. It may instead simply be construed as an elaboration of our already existing obligations to stabilize greenhouse gases under the UNFCCC. If the Paris agreement were more procedural in form, perhaps it could be taken as being merely an extension of the UNFCCC, speculated former Clinton White House environmental aide Elliot Diringer in response to a question during a session at the U.S. Center at the Lima COP-20. In such a case, President Obama might argue that he could implement such a Paris climate agreement as an executive agreement.
In response to an anxious question at a press conference on Monday, U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern explained that whether or not the Paris agreement would need to be submitted to the Senate for consideration "will depend entirely on how the agreement is written." In a somewhat circular manner, Stern noted, "We will submit any kind of agreement that requires that kind of submission." Stern did observe that neither the Copenhagen Accord under which the Obama administration set the goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below their 2005 levels by 2020 nor the Cancun Agreements that set out procedures for making emissions reduction pledges have been submitted to Congress for consideration. Why not? Because adherence to both is entirely voluntary.
A 2010 Congressional Research Service (CRS) legal analysis of climate agreements put it bluntly, "The United States is not legally bound by the Copenhagen Accord." The CRS analysis added, "The Copenhagen Accord cannot be used as an independent basis for agency regulations imposing emissions restrictions on industry." The CRS analysis also observes that nothing prevents the president from attempting to fulfill the voluntary Copenhagen Accord pledges by seeking domestic climate change legislation or promulgating regulations pursuant to existing statutes such as the Clean Air Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act. In fact, this is what President Obama has done by increasing corporate average fuel economy standards and seeking to reduce electric power plant emissions of carbon dioxide by 30 percent.
Another journalist asked Stern if a Paris agreement with some kind of legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets would have to be submitted to Congress. Stern diplomatically replied, "We are very mindful that agreements could be structured in such a way that some would need to go to the Congress and some would not." So what kind of climate agreement reached in Paris next year might need Congressional approval?
The 2010 CRS legal memorandum speaks to that question directly. It notes that a 1992 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report dealing with the ratification of the UNFCCC flatly stated that a "decision by the Conference of the Parties to adopt targets and timetables would have to be submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent before the United States could deposit its instruments of ratification for such an agreement." The 1992 Senate report also explicitly added that any presidential attempt "to reinterpret the Convention to apply legally binding targets and timetables for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to the United States" would also require the Senate's prior advice and consent.
The State Department's own Foreign Affairs Manual notes that presidents may conclude executive agreements in three cases, e.g., pursuant to a treaty already authorized by the Senate; on the basis of existing legislation; and pursuant to his authority as Chief Executive when such an agreement is not inconsistent with legislation enacted by the Congress. Consequently, President Obama might assert that he has the authority to bind the U.S. to take on international obligations under the Paris climate agreement because it is pursuant to the already authorized UNFCCC and is consistent with existing federal environmental legislation.
On the other, the Manual offers guidance for deciding when a treaty or when an executive agreement is appropriate. Relevant considerations include (1) the extent to which the agreement involves commitments or risks affecting the nation as a whole, (2) whether the agreement is intended to affect State laws, and (3) the preference of the Congress as to a particular type of agreement. Clearly any international agreement that purports to impose legal limits on the emissions of greenhouse gases would involve risks to the nation as a whole and affect state laws. And, as noted earlier, the Senate has plainly stated that setting any greenhouse gas reduction targets and timetables under the UNFCCC would require its advice and consent.
So if the Paris agreement contains, as the European Union apparently wants, some kind of legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets or timetables, President Obama could have a tough time asserting that he can obligate the U.S. to it by means of an executive agreement. Of course, that doesn't mean that the president won't try to do it.
Debunking John Kerry's Claim That Climate Change Is a Great Investment Opportunity
If renewable, new nuclear, or even fusion energy is actually becoming cheaper than conventional fossil fuels, why would the world need an international treaty at all?
Lima, Peru – Secretary of State John Kerry jetted down today for the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP-20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). His entourage invaded the press conference room and spent an inordinate amount of time adjusting the lectern, fiddling with the microphones, and minutely tweaking and cleaning the teleprompters not once, not twice, but three times before Kerry showed up. Does our diplomatic service demand obsequiousness?
At the beginning of his climate change pep talk, Kerry singled out his "special guest" Al Gore who was installed in the front row. Kerry noted that Gore was "the leader with all of us on this issue, but the first among equals, believe me, in his passion and commitment to this." I suspect that the Nobel Peace prize winner might think himself a bit more than merely a first among equals in the ranks of climate change combatants.
Kerry recalled that he was at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro at which the UNFCCC was negotiated and had participated in numerous subsequent COPs. (I, too, was there, John.) After 22 years of negotiations, Kerry asserted, "The science of climate change is science, and it is screaming at us, warning us, compelling us—hopefully—to act." Because the international community has failed adequately to heed the science, "We are still on a course leading to tragedy."
The blame for two decades of failed international climate policy rests with both rich and poor nations. "If you are a big developed nation and you are not helping to lead, then you are part of the problem," Kerry declared. But he added that since "more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions are now from developing countries. It is imperative that they act, too."
Kerry noted that the U.S. is on track to meet President Obama's commitment that the country would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below their 2005 levels by 2020. He hailed the joint announcement on climate change with China last month as an example of progress toward reining in climate change. But is it really? In the announcement the U.S. intends by 2025 to cut its emissions by as much as 28 percent below their 2005 levels and China intends to peak its emissions by 2030. The announcement creates no obligations of any sort on either nation.
Kerry concluded by arguing that solving climate change is a vast investment opportunity. "The solution to climate change is energy policy," he asserted. Kerry claimed that the trillion dollar infotech boom of 1990s will pale in comparison with the six trillion dollar cleantech boom that an ambitious climate agreement In Paris would spark. In his talk, the Secretary of State somehow overlooked the fact that no vast international treaty specifying quotas, mandates, and taxes was needed to force the creation of infotech markets, innovation and prosperity. If renewable, new nuclear, or even fusion energy is actually becoming cheaper than conventional fossil fuels, why would the world need an international climate change treaty at all?
In any case, will the negotiations here at COP-20 in Lima really set the stage of an ambitious climate agreement in Paris next year? Interestingly, the optimistic atmosphere among the conference tents has dissipated. The old familiar divide between the rich and poor countries has cracked opened again.
On one side, the rich countries, including the U.S., want an agreement in which all countries put forth intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs in diplo-speak) during the first three months of next year. The developed countries largely want to limit INDCs to quantifiable pledges to cut or manage the future emissions of greenhouse gases, e.g. so many millions of tons of carbon dioxide per year. They also want to adopt a set of transparent reporting standards so that it will be easy to compare and evaluate each country's INDC pledges. Additionally, the European Union wants to incorporate a formal process in the Paris agreement for evaluating the adequacy of INDCs, while the U.S. doesn't think that it's absolutely necessary for the new treaty. The EU is also arguing that INDCs should be legally binding for all countries. The U.S. opposes this because that means that Paris agreement would have to gain the assent of the Senate, which is unlikely.
For their part, most poor countries don't want to limit INDCs in the Paris agreement to just efforts aimed at cutting and controlling greenhouse gas emissions. They want to include provisions dealing with climate finance, efforts at adaptation, and so forth. Such INDCs would specifically obligate rich countries to provide funds to developing countries to help them reduce their emissions.
The U.S. and the E.U. respond that the atmosphere is warming because of the accumulation of greenhouse gases and that that should be the chief way to measure success in the effort to reduce future warming. Including finance and adaptation would make it harder to compare INDCs to see how much they are furthering the goal of slowing global warming. Some poor countries are still insisting on the UNFCCC principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" which they interpret as imposing legally binding targets on developed countries while exempting poor countries from such a requirement. Both China and India argue that a formal process for evaluating INDCs would violate their national sovereignties.
The conference is supposed to wrap up by this evening. The current negotiating text is a Chinese menu list of options indicating that no hard decisions have been agreed to at this point. In a press statement, the charity Oxfam warned, "Unless the text improves, whatever options negotiators choose over the next day will leave many very difficult issues unresolved and keep the world headed down a treacherous road towards extreme warming." Evidently, the climate negotiators here in Lima are treating Kerry's hectoring as so much hot air.
While Kerry Backs Global Green Fund in Peru, House GOP Says No to $3B US Pledge
Secretary of State John Kerry lent his weight to U.N. climate talks in Peru Thursday and lauded the achievement of an initial $10 billion target in pledges for a global fund designed to help poorer countries cope with climate change.
Back in Washington, however, congressional Republicans are taking aim at the U.S. contribution to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which accounts for almost one third of the total amount pledged to date.
A provision in the omnibus spending bill currently before the House of Representatives states that “no funds may be made available for the Green Climate Fund, for which no funds were requested in fiscal year 2015.”
President Obama last month pledged $3 billion for the GCF, by far the largest contribution promised from the more than 20 governments that have done so. Total pledges passed the $10 billion mark this week.
“I understand we now have enough pledges from the international community to meet and exceed the initial Climate Green Fund target of 10 billion,” Kerry told the climate conference in the Peruvian capital, Lima, on Thursday. “And the United States is very proud to be contributing three billion.”
He reiterated his well-known positions on climate change:
--that “97 percent” of peer-reviewed climate studies have confirmed that climate change is happening and humans are responsible.
--that the science “is screaming at us, warning us, compelling us – hopefully – to act.”
--that climate change is at least as serious as other major global threats, including “terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty, nuclear proliferation.”
Kerry also targeted those who challenge global warming dogma.
“What happens if the climate skeptics are wrong? Catastrophe. And we have a responsibility to put in place the precautionary principle when you’re given certain evidence and you’re a public official.”
He urged those listening in Lima and around the world “to demand resolve from your leaders. Speak out. Make climate change an issue that no public official can ignore for even one more day, let alone for one more election.”
With Kerry at the forefront, Obama’s second-term administration is seeking to exert world leadership on climate change ahead of the next U.N. climate megaconference, in Paris in a year’s time, when negotiators hope to produce a new global agreement on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” blamed for climate change.
In Copenhagen five years ago, President Obama joined other leaders in agreeing to set up the GCF. The ambitious aim: to raise $100 billion a year from public and private sources by 2020, to help developing countries’ efforts to combat climate change by providing grants and concessional funding. Now fully up and running, the fund sought initial pledges of $10 billion this year.
After Obama last month offered $3 billion, Republicans heading for leadership positions in the new Senate quickly signaled he could run into trouble.
“President Obama’s pledge to give unelected bureaucrats at the U.N. $3 billion for climate change initiatives is an unfortunate decision to not listen to voters in this most recent election cycle,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a climate change skeptic who from January will return to the helm of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
“The president’s climate change agenda has only siphoned precious taxpayer dollars away from the real problems facing the American people,” he said. “In a new Congress, I will be working with my colleagues to reset the misguided priorities of Washington in the past six years.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who will chair the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on State and foreign operations next year, was quoted by Politico as predicting the authorization for the GCF would be difficult “given what’s going on in the world right now.”
A Congressional Research Service report published shortly after Obama made the pledge summarized some of the challenges ahead for the administration.
“Members of Congress hold mixed views about the value of international financial assistance to address climate change,” it said. “While some Members are convinced that human-induced climate change is a high-priority risk that must be addressed through federal actions and international cooperation, others are not as convinced.”
“Some are wary, as well, of international processes that could impose costs on the United States, redirect funds from domestic budget priorities, undermine national sovereignty, or lead to competitive advantages for other countries,” the CRS report said.
Although – as the omnibus spending bill states – the administration has not requested funding for the GCF in the current fiscal year, it has requested funds elsewhere to help poorer countries deal with climate change.
The State Department’s FY2015 request includes $401 million for international organizations working on climate change and renewable energy programs in developing nations, a six percent increase from FY2014 levels.
The department further asks for $316.9 million in bilateral assistance in the climate change field.
“Global climate change threatens the livelihoods of millions in developing countries, and, if not addressed, will stall or even reverse the gains of many development efforts,” the administration said in its budget justification.
To 'Beat' Climate Change, the U.S. Will Pick Up the World's Tab
U.S. Pushes Voluntary Climate Standards Abroad, Strict Mandates at Home
Representatives from the U.S. and 195 other countries are meeting in Lima, Peru for the 20th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hoping to lay the foundation for a major treaty to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. But evidence shows this is the wrong approach to address climate change and negotiators would be better off focusing on market competition and innovation, which have proven able to reduce emissions intensity and promote economic growth.
The U.S. is seeking an agreement based on voluntary reductions in carbon dioxide emissions by each nation. In an attempt to kick start that process, it recently announced a bilateral agreement with China in which the U.S pledged to slash its own greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent by 2025 (compared with 2005 levels). China is under no obligation to cut emissions until 2030.
While the U.S. is promoting voluntarism internationally, at home it is foisting new, heavy-handed regulations on business sectors to meet its stated commitments. But these regulations are probably not necessary and they are almost certain to drive up costs.
U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have declined in five of the past eight years, led by emissions reductions in the electric power sector. In 2013, carbon dioxide emissions in that sector were 15 percent below the 2005 level, despite increased electricity consumption. The reduction is mainly the result of greater efficiency and increasing use of natural gas-changes which have been driven by competition. That trend will likely continue, absent new regulations, because of market driven innovations like hydraulic fracturing for natural gas development and efficiency improvements. Market success and innovation coincide. Efficiency improvements improve companies' bottom lines while reducing emissions. At the same time, energy efficiency tools like light emitting diodes (LED) lamps are reducing consumer energy use. Smart motors reduce the amount of consumption in industry and homes, further reducing emissions. Voluntary programs like "green pricing" allow consumers to pay a premium for renewable generation.
According to the Energy Information Administration, while U.S. total carbon dioxide emissions are the second highest in the world behind China, U.S. emissions intensity (emissions per unit of production) ranks better than most other countries, especially some of the large industrializing countries, including India and China. The Energy Information Administration estimates U.S businesses use a fraction of the energy that companies in other countries use when producing a dollar's worth of goods. For example, American companies use just 40 percent of the energy used by Indian businesses and less than 30 percent of the energy used by Chinese businesses to produce a dollar of goods.
If the U.S. proceeds with its planned domestic emissions restrictions-which include regulation of emissions at power plants-it will drive up the costs of production in the U.S. by driving up energy costs. Since most countries, with the exception of some in the European Union, are unlikely to impose similar restrictions in the short-term, more energy-intensive U.S. businesses may relocate to countries where energy costs are lower but emission intensities higher. Thus, despite emissions reductions in the U.S., the net result could be an increase in global emissions as domestic reductions are offset by increases elsewhere. Similarly troubling, reduced U.S. economic growth would have globally negative effects, reducing the ability of people and societies to adapt to whatever climate they face.
A far better approach would be for negotiators in Lima, and ultimately next year in Paris, to embrace voluntarism more fully-all the way to the individual level. That means opening markets such as natural resource development and electricity generation and introducing competition in global markets. These are the forces that have been demonstrated to increase efficiency, enhance growth and reduce emissions intensity in electric power generation, agriculture and transportation in the United States. It makes more sense to pursue such a tried and tested win-win approach than it does to attempt to impose a centrally-planned energy diet on American businesses that could produce adverse consequences for nearly everyone.
Cheap gas is akin to a $60 billion tax cut
Mainly due to fracking
Americans are getting quite the gift this year: Cheap gas. A gallon of regular now costs $2.64 on average, according to AAA. In some places, it's fallen below $2 a gallon.
The dramatic drop in the price at the pump is giving a big boost to the U.S. economy. It's akin to a tax cut or stimulus program, economists say.
Every penny that gas prices decline puts about a billion dollars into Americans' pockets, according to Stephen Stanley, Chief Economist of Amherst Pierpont.
Gas prices were 62 cents higher this time last year, so the U.S. is basically getting a $62 billion stimulus injection. To put it another way, each household is saving roughly $500. That's money people can use to buy other things or to save.
Retailers are rejoicing. In recent earnings reports, Walmart (WMT) and other stores specifically singled out low gas prices as a likely driver of sales this year. "This is obviously a critical time for them, and any extra money households have to spend is in their mind money that will flow to their register," said Stanley.
Overall, he estimates that depressed gas prices will add about half a percent to annual GDP.
The American shale energy boom, which has been a huge driver of the economy since the recession, is expected to take a breather as a result.
On Monday, ConocoPhillips (COP) revealed that it is slashing spending for 2015. BP (BP) made a similar announcement Wednesday. Thousands of employees are expected to lose their jobs. The pain will be especially harsh for smaller energy firms that have taken on heavy debt to finance their operations.
Steven Wieting, Global Chief Investment Strategist at Citi Private Bank, thinks the impact of oil's slump on the economy is being underestimated, since people who work to service the oil sector in such areas as marketing, sales, and finance will also be affected, even though they're not always counted as part of the energy field.
"There is a big growing energy industry that's going to see investment and employment slow sharply," he said.
Still, Wieting believes the benefits of low gas prices for the consumer outweigh the costs of a shale deceleration. "This is a double edged sword," he noted. "You'll see stress in the energy industry, but you'll also get a consumer windfall."
How low is too low? There's some fear out there among investors that should oil fall too far, it could signal that the global economy is in dire shape.
If oil tanks to $40 per barrel, "something is very wrong with the world," claimed DoubleLine's Jeffrey Gundlach in a webcast Tuesday (It's currently trading around $61).
But Wieting disputes the notion that overly weak demand is sending oil tumbling. Rather, he points to the dramatic increase in supply in recent years, mainly coming from the U.S.
And if history is any guide, plummeting oil prices won't lead to a recession, he said. He mentioned that oil fell 60% over the course of a year in 1986, and the economy still chugged along just fine.
Ultimately, the benefit to consumers wins out. "Even people who work in the energy industry don't get free gasoline," he quipped.
GREENIE ROUNDUP FROM AUSTRALIA
Five current articles below
Greens hunt academic ‘witches’
A dragon: South Australian Greens senator Penny Wright. She wants to know: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of a free-market organization?"
THE notorious US anti-communism campaigner Joe McCarthy would be proud — the Australian Senate has adopted his tactics in pursuit of independent think tanks. [NOTE: The "Are you now ..." question was actually asked in the HUAC hearings, not by Joe McCarthy. McCarthy was a Senator so had nothing to do with HUAC. HUAC was a Democrat outfit]
Instead of “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?”, a Senate estimates committee is asking whether particular academics and specialists are “connected” with the Institute of Public Affairs or the Centre for Independent Studies.
The federal Education Department has emailed a dozen or more subject specialists who contributed to the national curriculum review.
The correspondence begins: “The department has received a number of questions from Senate estimates. The specific question is: ‘If any of the reviewers who were appointed are connected with the Institute of Public Affairs or the Centre for Independent Studies?’ ”
It says it “would be appreciated if you could respond to this question” by Monday. Some of the recipients and both organisations have lashed out at what they see as an insulting intrusion.
“This is outright McCarthyism,” IPA deputy director James Paterson said. “It is pretty much ‘Are you now or have you even been a member of the IPA?’ ”
University of Wollongong historian Greg Melleuish said he was happy to answer the question because he had “nothing to hide”.
The issue was the “motives of the people asking the questions” rather than the department following up. The person who asked the question was South Australian Greens senator Penny Wright, who raised it at an October hearing.
“I am interested to know if any of the reviewers who were appointed are connected with the Institute of Public Affairs or the Centre for Independent Studies?” she asked.
The Weekend Australian contacted the senator’s office yesterday seeking comment on why the organisations were singled out and whether she was investigating connections to any other organisations.
Senator Wright’s adviser said the senator was too busy to respond, having “back-to-back meetings” and “two human rights events” to attend.
Associate Professor Melleuish said he was selected for the review because of his extensive curriculum work for Liberal and Labor governments.
“It is an attempt to taint people by association,” he said. “There is a strange idea around, especially online, that the IPA somehow has a pernicious effect on the government.”
Other academics confirmed they had received the request and decided not to respond.
They found the questions insulting, seemingly suggesting that publishing with these highly regarded organisations devalued their expertise.
CIS executive director Greg Lindsay said: “We are an organisation of the highest standards that publishes Nobel laureates, leading academics from Australia and around the world, as well as high-level politicians from all major parties. I’ve never heard of Senator Wright — who is she?”
Both the IPA and CIS support free markets, individual liberty and limited government.
Mr Paterson said Senator Wright’s question was a “classic example” of playing the man rather than the ball. “It is deeply revealing about the Greens’ attitude to political disagreement,” he said. “Are the Greens senators hunting down the political affiliation of all those who contributed towards developing the national curriculum, or just those they disagree with?”
The lead author of the original history curriculum was Melbourne University historian Stuart Macintyre. His connections were not pursued by the Greens. Professor Macintyre was once a member of the Communist Party.
Wind Power Really Is Setting the World on FIRE:
As the Australian countryside turns to the golden hues of summer, the attentions of its farming and rural communities also turn: hundreds of eager eyes become fixed on the horizon for tell-tale signs of the smoke that heralds the bushfires that cast fear amongst those that live and work in the bush.
Rules are set to avoid bushfires on high fire danger days – when a Total Fire Ban is called:
You cannot light, maintain or use a fire in the open, or to carry out any activity in the open that causes, or is likely to cause, a fire. No general purpose hot works such as using tractors, slashers and/or welding, grinding or gas cutting can be done in the open either, and this includes incinerators and barbecues which burn solid fuel, eg. wood or charcoal.
Farmers engaged in crop harvesting operations think twice about operating harvesters when the northerly winds pick up and send temperatures into the 40s – the safety conscious leave their headers parked in the shed or the corner of the paddock and spend the day in front of the A/C enjoying the cricket on TV – ready to respond in a heartbeat to the call if a fire does break out. Better to miss a day’s reaping than set the country ablaze.
But such is the seriousness with which country people take the ever-present threat of a bushfire, that can turn a swathe of country black; destroy homes, sheds, equipment, livestock, fences, generations of hard work; and, most savage of all – lives.
The approach taken to the threat of the savagery of an Australian bushfire is about the common sense management of RISK – and, wherever possible, taking steps to minimise or prevent that risk altogether.
But one massive – and utterly unjustified – RISK is the one created by the roll-out of hundreds of giant fans across WA, SA, NSW, Tasmania and Victoria – all in areas highly prone to bushfires.
Turbines represent the perfect bushfire incendiary: around the world, hundreds have blown up in balls of flame – in the process – each one raining molten metal and hundreds of litres of flaming hydraulic oil and burning plastic earthwards.
Wind turbine fires are ten times more common than the wind industry and its parasites claim (see our post here and check out this website: http://turbinesonfire.org).
The Australian Labor Party’s energy policy nothing but wind
GEORGE Orwell once said that political language was designed to “give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.
Step forward exhibit A and the Labor Party’s explanation for refusing to fix the mess that is Australian renewable energy policy. Mark Butler says that Labor will not “stand by and watch” billions of dollars in investment in renewables head overseas.
Back on planet reality there is no investment in renewable energy now because we already have too much of it.
This year the legislated Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target required Australia to produce 16,100 gigawatt hours of renewable energy.
What this effectively means is that businesses have to surrender an equivalent amount of renewable energy certificates or pay a penalty. But Australia has an enormous oversupply of renewable energy certificates. This has nothing to do with the change of government a year ago and everything to do with the overly generous solar subsidies provided by various state and federal governments until recently. These subsidies have correctly been removed but the overhang remains.
Where there is a surplus of a product its price falls and this is what has happened to the price of renewable energy. Renewable energy certificates have been stuck at about $30 a megawatt hour, too low to bridge the gap between cheap fossil fuels and renewables.
Labor’s refusal to even consider reform is condemning the renewable energy industry to greater uncertainty and simply defers a reckoning. The reckoning will come when it becomes apparent that we cannot, by 2020, increase our renewable energy production to 41,000GWh as set by law. To meet that target we need an additional 26,000GWh of renewables.
The most efficient renewable energy wind turbines are capable of producing about 3MW while running. Because there are 8670 hours in a year, each wind turbine has the potential to produce about 26GWh a year.
But turbines don’t run at full capacity because the wind doesn’t always blow. Across Australia the average real output of wind turbines is about one-third of their rated capacity.
That means each wind turbine could produce about 8GW of energy every year. To produce another 26,000GWh we would need an extra 3000-plus wind turbines — more than doubling the population of wind turbines in Australia today. Each of these wind turbines would take up about 1sq km of land — considering the space needed between turbines. That means we would need an area larger than the size of the ACT to produce all this additional wind energy.
Now we technically could blanket the ACT with wind turbines — and some may suggest that would be a more productive use of that land — but that is not going to happen in five years. There is too short a time to build so many wind turbines so fast.
What will actually happen is that we won’t reach the target, but the dirty secret is that those that have already invested in renewables don’t really mind.
In about three years the target will grow to be above the renewable energy we are producing. Under the law that will mean the price of renewable energy certificates will increase to a shortfall charge of about $93 a megawatt hour in post-tax dollars increasing the burden of the RET threefold.
The producers of renewable energy will once again have their pockets lined thanks to the largesse of the families and businesses that consume energy. Irrigators will pay more to water their crops and we will become even less competitive in steel production. Jobs will be lost.
The RET costs the average family about $50 a year now; in a few years that will probably rise to $150 a year, or half a carbon tax but without the compensation. Every time you open the fridge, the little white light will come on to remind that you are paying for rich investors to make money in renewable energy stocks.
Australia’s renewable energy policies could simply be titled “Robin Hood visits Bizarro World” — they steal from the poor and give to the rich.
For all the Labor Party’s fine words in the cause of social justice and redistribution, when the lights go on those words are shown to be about as robust as a bunch of dead leaves blown along by the wind.
Less talk, more action on reef: Greens
The federal government has been accused of bullying other countries instead of taking action to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will use climate change talks in Peru to argue the reef is not under threat. She also plans to lobby members of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee not to list the reef as a site in danger and will argue the organisation is at risk of being duped by activists.
Greens senator Larissa Waters says the government is failing to take action and choosing instead to "lobby and bully" other countries.
"Even though the World Heritage Committee recommended a moratorium on damaging developments, the pace of approvals has continued unabated," she said, adding that a long-term plan for the reef failed to address the impacts of climate change.
Senator Waters highlighted approvals given to build mines in the Galilee Basin and the expansion of the controversial Abbot Point coal port near Bowen.
WWF-Australia chief executive Dermot O'Gorman says the reef should not be used as a political football. "The government's own experts have clearly stated that current management arrangements are not enough to even halt the decline of the reef, let alone reverse the reef's decline," he said.
Queensland opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad says Ms Bishop should put her energy into pressuring Premier Campbell Newman to do more to protect the reef.
Ms Bishop is expected to tell UNESCO an in-danger listing could set a dangerous precedent that could result in World Heritage assets being blacklisted in the countries of committee members.
She will argue Australia has addressed environmental threats to the reef, including those raised by UNESCO such as the dumping of dredge spoil and cutting agricultural runoff.
The World Heritage Committee will meet in June to decide whether to formally declare the reef as an asset in danger.
Greenie academic soft on sharks
Greenies and sharks have a similar regard for morality. And Greenies hate people anyway
A paper published in the Australian Journal of Political Science has described the West Australian government's response to shark attacks as relying on "movie myths" and having "striking similarities" to the 1975 movie Jaws.
The research describes what the author calls the "Jaws Effect", which he describes as "a political device based on three themes from the film: the intentionality of sharks, the perception that all human-shark interactions are fatal and the idea that killing a shark is the only solution".
The author of the research, Dr Christopher Neff is a lecturer in public policy at the University of Sydney's Department of Government and International Relations and has previously been critical of the WA government's approach to sharks.
The paper went on to say "This fiction serves an important political purpose because films allow politicians to rely on familiar narratives following shark bites to blame individual sharks in order to make the events governable and to trump evidence-based science".
When discussing the situation in WA, where eight fatal attacks have occurred since 2000, Dr Neff wrote: "I suggest that politicians used movie myths to support their policies in order to use intent-based narratives that are well known and blame sharks in order to lower thresholds for policy action and favour quick policy solutions."
He said this happened in WA following four shark bite incidents in 2000, 2003, 2011 and 2014, when action was taken in an attempt to kill sharks following encounters with humans.
In regard to his findings Dr Neff said "politicians do not have a right to their own set of scientific facts about sharks, no matter how popular the movie".
In the past Premier Colin Barnett has repeatedly cited "public safety" as the reason for killing sharks.
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Posted by JR at 1:36 AM