Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Another attack on refrigeration and airconditioning

Banning CFCs because of their alleged effect on the Ozone hole meant that other more difficult-to-use chemicals had to be used in refrigeration, bumping up costs.  One of the alternatives was HFCs.  Now the nutters want that banned too.  There are of course still other approved alternatives -- such as propane -- but again converting to them will bump up the costs of refrigeration and air conditioning.  And here's a thing:  The remaining approved alternatives are derivatives of fossil fuels!  Horror!  How long before they are banned too?

The proposal below is also sneaky.  They want to ban HFCs under the Montreal protocol, even though it does NOT affect the ozone layer.  They want to do that because it is in theory a greenhouse gas.  But they are not game to expose it to climate change negotiations

The article below is written by an Australian refrigeration guy.  He is no doubt looking forward to the extra work he would get from a requirement for new refrigeration gases

The Montreal Protocol is famous for being perhaps the most successful environmental treaty anywhere.  It has assisted countries in phasing out CFCs and other ozone depleting substances (which are also very strong greenhouse gases).  With current controls on track, the ozone hole is closing and will be largely repaired by the 2040s.

The Montreal Protocol and action to control CFCs has spectacularly successful in reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the CSIRO, emissions in Australia were reduced from the equivalent of more than 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in the early 1990s to less than 10 million tonnes today.

Given its positive experience in managing down CFCs and HCFCs (similar gases) five countries have proposed that the Montreal Protocol manage the phase down of HFCs.  HFCs are potent greenhouse gases and primarily used as replacements for ozone depleting substances.  The first of these draft amendments was forwarded six years ago.

The proposals discuss a phase down that could reduce emissions by a further 85%.

There is broad support for this phase down: the US, EU, the Pacific countries, China, India, every African country, other developed countries and more support it.  Australia has pledged its commitment as well.

While often seen as a side issue, HFCs have become of significant interest to major countries.  Efforts to control HFCs have been part of several G8 communiqués and bilateral meetings between President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and their international counterparts.  Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop proclaimed Australia’s support at the UN climate summit last year.

Why are leaders focused on this now? Two reasons: firstly, emissions of HFCs can be managed cost effectively and comparatively quickly and easily through a global phase down. It is also hoped that an agreement could be struck at the major negotiations in early November in Dubai.  Agreement on this issue would provide a useful fillip to the Paris climate talks only a few weeks later.

Industry and environmental NGOs also think a phasedown is good policy as it provides both guaranteed environmental protection and economic certainty, and past experiences with CFCs and HCFCs.

While it is surprising to some at first blush that HFCs are being considered in the Montreal Protocol – after all they are not ozone depleters – the subject is both too technical and quirky for consideration in the climate negotiations.  The practicality of addressing this issue in the Montreal Protocol is simply overwhelming.

The Montreal Protocol has not been able to commence negotiations on a how a phase down would work however.  There are a few countries – mostly from the Middle East – who are yet to be convinced that negotiating a phase down is a good idea.

The rationale for their reluctance is unclear, but likely includes concern that there may not be alternatives that meet the requirements for countries with extremely high temperatures, concern about whether adequate funding will be available, and the precedent that making commitments to protect the climate would set.

The last meeting of the Montreal Protocol’s Open Ended Working Group ended – well adjourned – very late on a Friday evening 2 weeks ago without agreement to start negotiations on an HFC phase down.

After six years, high powered political engagement and extremely long negotiating hours the sense of frustration from most is palpable.

So what happens now?  In scenes reminiscent of the UNFCCC and COP 6 bis meeting, the Open Ended Working Group will again be gaveled into session for a last gasp effort to reach agreement so that negotiations can actually start in November.

Fingers crossed that further urgent discussions will let the real negotiations finally commence and allow a comparatively easy win for the climate.


The sea otters and the case for conservative optimism


I was in Alaska last week with several hundred clever and patriotic National Review readers. It's a wonderful place, Alaska. We saw whales and bears and bald eagles and sea otters; and I couldn't help noticing that, despite the mandatory pessimism of the environmental movement, all these species are becoming more numerous.

Who'd have thought it? Alaska is the state with the lowest rate of personal taxation in the Union, a Republican redoubt, and a place synonymous with Big Oil. Yet it turns out to be a remarkably good steward of rare animals.

Sea otters, in particular, had been hunted almost to extinction. It was their fur - "soft gold" - that had pulled Russian adventurers across the vastness of Siberia in the first place. A single pelt could fetch the equivalent of two years' wages in the entrepôts of northern China. A century ago, there were barely a thousand sea otters left. Now there are hundreds of thousands, cutely holding hands as they lie face-up in the water so as not to drift apart in their sleep.

Capitalism turns out to be as good for the natural world as for people. Karl Marx taught that nature was a resource to be exploited, a doctrine which found brutal realization in the smokestack industries of the U.S.S.R. But private ownership incentivizes us to treat flora and fauna as renewable resources.

It's not that free markets make us kinder; but they make us richer, which means we can afford to do things that our ancestors couldn't, such as leaving whales alone. The global recovery in whale numbers is one of the untold miracles of recent years.

Species which were recently endangered are becoming so abundant that they are having an impact on fish stocks. Much the same applies to bears. Where our poorer ancestors shot them with rifles, we can afford to shoot them with cameras.

It's true across the developed world. Where I live in the southern counties of England, red kites occupy the ecological niche that bald eagles do in Alaska. I had never seen one in the wild until my thirties. Now, like the Alaskan eagles, they are almost as common as pigeons. Salmon have returned to the Thames and, extraordinarily, otters have followed the salmon.

Conservatives, in general, are prepared to believe good news on the environmental front. We recall the ludicrous predictions of overpopulation and energy shortages from the 1970s. We see that technology - above all, the ability to get more food out of a fixed quantity of soil - is freeing up more space as farmland is "rewilded." We allow ourselves the occasional chuckle at the doom and gloom of the greenies.


Obama’s Clean Power Plan: Solar Companies Win, Taxpayer’s Lose

The solar industry is jubilant over President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, released in its final form on Monday, August 3. The same day, however, some other news reminded the public of what happens when government policy mandates and incentivizes a favored energy source: Taxpayer dollars are gobbled up and investors lose out.

“The fundamental objective of the Clean Power Plan,” according to Solar Industry Magazine, “is the phasing out of coal-fired power plants in favor of low- or zero-emission sources…” It does this through three “building blocks,” one of which is: “increase electricity generation from non-emitting renewable sources, such as solar and wind.”

The International Business Times (IBT) reports: “The proposed regulations to combat climate change will likely spur an exponential amount of additional solar deployment.”

In a post titled: “How Obama’s Clean Power Plan will fuel the solar industry’s rapid growth,” contributor Lyndsey Gilpin, quotes Shayle Kann, senior vice president of GTM Research: “It could be a major catalyst for solar nationwide.” Gilpin points out: “Apart from the Solar Investment Tax Credit, the federal tax credit for solar, the Clean Power Plan is the first national policy for renewable energy.”

While the excitement from solar proponents is palpable, it is surprising how shameless they are about sucking the government teat while bemoaning the low price of natural gas—which Solar Industry Magazine calls “a fly in the ointment” and “inconvenient.” It blames “new technologies for oil and gas extraction” (no wonder they keep trying to kill hydraulic fracturing). Gilpin states: “in all its 1,560 pages, the Clean Power Plan doesn’t directly address the actual deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. It does, however, give states and utilities an incentive to create and enhance mechanisms that will increase deployment of solar.” (Italics added)

The IBT coverage acknowledges that subsidies and regulation are driving the “uptick” in solar deployment. It states: “exactly how much of an increase will be determined by subsidies …while new regulations encourage families and business to invest in solar power.” It continues: “Proponents for the plan and the move toward solar said the government is working hard to create incentives to help families strapped for cash make the switch to renewable energy, such as solar panels.” Though, as Gilpin points out: “The Clean Power Plan is geared toward centralized utility scale solar, meaning electricity sold to wholesale utility buyers, not end customers.”

One such “utility scale solar” company is Abengoa. The Spanish solar company was the single largest recipient of taxpayer funding through Obama’s 2009 Stimulus Bill—$2.8 billion—but has been beset with corruption and allegations that it routinely violates U.S. immigration, environmental, and workplace safety laws. The company is currently under investigation by U.S. Customs and Immigration Service and the Department of Labor. Abengoa creates spinoffs that enable it to move funds from one to the other, apparently hiding money and falsifying records.

In November 2014, Abengoa bonds were “hammered on accounting concerns,” Reuters reported. It added: “The company has so many different buckets of debt and management has cleverly used this to report reductions in reported net leverage.”

At the time, ratings firm Fitch posted the following: “Fitch will closely monitor management’s response to the current market turmoil and the company’s access to capital markets in the coming days for any further deterioration in the credit profile.”

In another November account, Reuters explains: “Abengoa, an engineering company that expanded massively into renewables, has been struggling with a heavy debt burden since a decade-long economic boom in Spain ended abruptly in 2008.” It must have seen Obama’s push for solar as the answer to its problems. It moved into the U.S. with its hand out and high-profile players—such as former Vice President Al Gore and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson—on its team.

I’ve written extensively on Abengoa, as a part of my “Obama’s green-energy, crony-corruption” series, and done a detailed report published by The Daily Caller. I’ve interviewed many former employees and followed its shenanigans. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when, on August 3—the same day Obama’s Clean Power Plan was touted, headlines announced, once again, that Abengoa shares “plunged.”

Bloomberg reports that the August 3 drop—75.70 percent from its high on September 3, 2014, is because the “company’s plan to shore up capital failed to reassure investors that it can stop burning cash.” Reuters adds: “some analysts are concerned the company is over committing to cash-intensive projects in countries like Brazil and Mexico rather than focusing on cutting debt.”

Abengoa, which went public (NASDAQ) on October 17, 2013, at an opening share price of $12.37, once enjoyed a “top pick” and “safest” moniker, hit a high of $28.88 on September 3, 2014 but has now nosedived to $6.50. The law firm Levi & Korinsky—which claims it has “extensive expertise in prosecuting securities litigation involving financial fraud, representing investors throughout the nation in securities lawsuits, and has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for aggrieved shareholders”—is now investigating Abengoa and its Board of Directors for possible violations of federal securities laws.

Now, after the Clean Power Plan was announced, Abengoa is trying revive a project that previously failed to pass permitting in time to qualify for subsidies. With more money available, it likely wants the additional funding the Palen Solar Power Project would provide.

A former human resources director at one of Abengoa’s subsidiaries, who served as my “deep throat” in my earlier reporting, said: “What I came to realize, and it took me a while because I didn’t want to realize it, is that they understood. They knew the law. They didn’t care. I really came to believe that they’re so politically connected that it’s just hubris and arrogance.”

Today, this “top pick” has a 76.9 percent “probability of bankruptcy.” And, it is our tax dollars that won’t be paid back.

So, when you hear the solar power proponents chirping about regulations that encourage investment in solar, incentives to help families, and mechanisms to increase deployment, remember they are taking our tax dollars and giving them to companies like Abengoa that get the funding because of connections. They win, while we lose.


Naomi Klein Admits that ‘Global Warming’ is All About Anti-Capitalist Polemics, And Has Nothing to Do, Really, With Science

Liberal writer Naomi Klein’s magnum opus on the environment, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, is a must-read for conservatives and libertarians.  The mask is off. Klein admits progressive policies on the environment are really about what Marx and Lenin said the communist revolution desired 100 years ago — the overthrow of capitalism. This is not about science, or health, at all.  “Our economic model is at war with the Earth,” writes Klein. “We cannot change the laws of nature. But we can change our economy. Climate change is our best chance to demand and build a better world.”

Not that it is an easy read. Making it through even the first chapter of this screed was a shock to the system for me, and probably for any other reasonable person. The turgid, dialectical writing style of Das Kapital is refreshing compared to this book.

Klein, who jets around on airplanes from one clandestine progressive confab to another, cavorting with indigenous people, rock stars, and U.N. minions, had her epiphany on the environment when her airplane was stuck a few years back on the tarmac at an airport. The wheels were caught in melted asphalt, and the plane had to be towed down the runway.

For the author, this completely boring, run-of-the-mill flight delay became a flight of fancy, inspiring her new work. This flight delay, she reasoned, was evidence of climate change. Who cares, she added, if we know that the solar cycles impact the planet, even more than CO2 emissions ever could. Science is not the point, but it makes for a great alibi. “The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better,” she writes.

Another motivational moment for Klein, a single mother, happened when she was reading a children’s book to her son. The story was about a moose. She worried that the young lad would “never seen a moose” in his life. Then, reading another children’s book, this one about bats, she worried that the boy would “never see a bat.” Her overly emotional reactions to everyday things — plane delays, reading bed time stories to junior — are something that she feels must motivate us all to give up our way of life.

This is one goofy gospel.

Who knows what Klein would have written had that plane not been delayed, and if her kid had read some Dr. Seuss classics, rather then the literary garbage she gave him?

“We have been told the market will save us, when in fact the addiction to profit and growth is digging us in deeper every day. We have been told it’s impossible to get off fossil fuels when in fact we know exactly how to do it—it just requires breaking every rule in the ‘free-market’ playbook: reining in corporate power, rebuilding local economies, and reclaiming our democracies,” she writes.

Klein’s marketing team — one homage to capitalism she seems to be okay with — believes this book will “redefine” this era, as they think her earlier work,  No Logo did for globalization, and other tome, The Shock Doctrine changed the way “we think about austerity.” I wouldn’t bet on that. I’m planning to do some market research and open it up on the plane later this month, and see how others react, as I head to Las Vegas with James Taylor to the National Energy Summit. I just hope the flight isn’t delayed.


GMO’s are organic

An interesting article by former organic food farmer and USDA organic food inspector, Mischa Popoff taught me something new. I never thought about it before, but GMO’s are, or at least can be, considered organic foods. Since, contrary to my wife, I’m not an organic food junkie, indeed, I don’t trust the stuff and certainly have never found it to taste better than conventionally grown foods, I also didn’t realize that much of the organic food sold in today’s stores is from foreign countries, with much laxer food health and safety standards.

Popoff article really opened my eyes. He detailed his early support for and participation in the organic food movement, and how he broke with it over its embrace of big government and its castigation of genetically modified foods. His article is worth reading in full, as are other of his pieces but one portion really caught my eye:

Natural substances were experimented with to replace Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, but all proved ineffective, leaving the roots of weeds to regenerate, or proving more toxic than Roundup, turning an organic field into a moonscape devoid of beneficial insects and microorganisms.

Not a single peer-reviewed article was written admitting to the failure. Organic farmers have been forced to till their land as their grandparents did to kill weeds ever since, a practice that requires at least ten-times more fossil fuel per-acre than spraying. And this created market pressure for retailers to shift to dubious imported certified-organic food as fewer American farmers could justify the astronomical fuel cost of converting to organic.

Rather than listen to the concerns of domestic farmers, urban activists who had never worked a day on a farm simply redoubled their attack against the single most-promising innovation in farming since the discovery of the ammonia-synthesis process in 1917: genetically-modified organisms. GMOs not only facilitate no-till farming, but have also allowed almost all American farmers growing corn, soybean and cotton to quit pulverizing their soil.

Moreover, they have never once been taken to task for the fact that non-GMO, government-approved certified-organic food often does not even come from American fields. [And] a whopping 43 percent of certified-organic food now contains synthetic pesticide residue.

In other words, nearly half the food advertised as organic is not. Something to think about.


Why Uranium Is Your Friend

Is the jury still “out” on nuclear power safety? Or is it ready to issue a verdict? Nuclear power, in the popular imagination, is dangerous because of one of its potential applications: Nuclear weapons.

But for nuclear-generated electricity, should we be worried? A review in the U.K. medical journal Lancet, concludes that nuclear electricity is safer for workers than coal mining, for example.

In terms of fatalities, it’s five times safer for workers in the nuclear industry, including miners, than for those in the carbon-based fuel power industries. But for the general public it’s fifty times safer than the safest form of carbon energy- natural gas. How can this be? Don’t uranium miners have accidents comparable to coal miners? They do. But they extract much more usable energy in a day’s work than those extracting fossil fuels.

What about nuclear power plant accidents such as those at Chernobyl and Fukushima? Surely, workers and civilians living nearby were killed or harmed, but their percentages have been small. For conventional power, it is air pollution that is harmful. It is said to harm far more workers and civilians than mining accidents, power plant disasters, and disposal activities combined. So if you’re downwind from a coal plant, you won’t live as long as if you’re upwind. You should be happy. Uranium is your friend.

Then there is plutonium, a byproduct of uranium fission. Other byproducts of fission, usually called nuclear waste, must be considered as well. Plutonium is good if it is “burned” up in a nuclear reactor, but it can ruin your day if it is used by bad actors to make a nuclear weapon. It costs money to process/recycle nuclear waste and there is controversy over its economic benefits. Long term it probably makes sense to reprocess (and burn) the plutonium and use/dispose the remaining waste components in whatever cost-effective processes make sense. To do otherwise invites trouble.



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

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


No comments: