Saturday, August 27, 2016

EPA: The Ethanol Protection Agency

Maybe the initials “EPA” should stand for the Ethanol Protection Agency, as environmental protection seems just too costly and time consuming for the agency. The EPA recently admitted that it has not been in compliance with the 2007 law that requires the agency to study the environmental impact of the ethanol mandate and report its findings to Congress every three years. So far, envirofascist bureaucrats have only met the law’s requirements once in 2011. The EPA’s excuse is that it just doesn’t have enough funding or time and therefore has simply ignored the law.

According to the EPA’s inspector general, because the agency hasn’t been conducting the impact study, it hasn’t been able “to identify, consider, mitigate and make policymakers aware of any adverse impacts of renewable fuels.” The EPA now says it won’t have a fully completed study until at least 2024. Well, that’s good news if you’re a corn farmer, but not such good news for the environment or even other corn-dependent industries, as price of corn has increased.

Several recent independent environmental studies conclude that ethanol biofuels have had an overall negative effect on the environment from an increase of smog in cities to the amount of land, water and energy needed to produce ethanol when compared to that of gasoline. Combined with worse mileage and damage to small engines, ethanol has had the exact opposite effect of what it was touted to accomplish when it was initially mandated back in 2005. Yet there is no push by either Congress or the Obama administration to repeal or even question the ethanol mandate. And the agency tasked with protecting the environment seems too busy figuring out how to clean up its own environmental messes to care. Cronyism at its best.


The few, the loud, the anti-fossil fuel crowd

If you get your news from the mainstream media, you likely think the views expressed by the environmental activists represent the majority of Americans. After all, their highly visible protests against the Keystone pipeline — sit-ins in front of the White House, locking themselves to the White House fence and then being arrested for it, and parading down the National Mall carrying a huge inflated tube emblazoned with the words: “Just say no to Keystone” — were effective. Despite repeated polling that showed a majority of Americans supported the pipeline, with a small minority opposed, the loud theatrics of the anti-fossil fuel crowd eventually won out. After years of stall tactics, President Obama finally bowed to their demands and said no to the job-creating infrastructure project.

Earlier this year, the usual group of suspects, led by well-known anti-fracking activist Bill McKibben, planned a “global wave of resistance” called BreakFree2016 — scheduled to take place from May 3-15  — on six continents. The event’s website announced the various activities, including an appearance and speech by McKibben, a Vermont resident, at the Colorado rally that promised: the “largest mass mobilizations for climate action in the history of Colorado.” It confirmed that there would be “civil disobedience.”

Did you hear about it? Probably not.

A news report of the planned Colorado activities said: “And on May 14, 350 Colorado is planning a day of speeches, live music and activities protesting oil and gas developments close to neighborhoods and schools in Thornton. The goal is to draw 1,000 people to the upcoming events.” The website, post-event, states: “about 800 people joined the action throughout the day” with “about 30-40 people” still there at the end of the day for the dramatic “frack-site” invasion. Yet, as even their own Facebook page photos indicate, not even 100 were present for the big McKibben speech. Without vendors and media, he may have had no audience at all.

After flying in to Denver, and then being driven to the protest site in a limousine, McKibben jetted off to Los Angeles, California, where he was joined by the greens’ “Daddy Warbucks,” billionaire political campaign donor Tom Steyer — with much the same results: a few hundred protesting fossil fuels and, as Energy In Depth reported, “the very social and economic underpinnings of liberal democracy.” The typical anti-everything protestors were present — but only a few.

In Iowa, as I addressed last week, a meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition — which according to the organizer includes those with “concerns about the impact it could have on the environment, farmers who worry about their cropland and religious groups who view expanding use of fossil fuels as a moral issue because of climate change” — expected a crowd of 200. Instead, according to the Ottumwa Courier, “only 40 or so were seated when the meeting began. Others trickled in as the meeting progressed.”

Now, Colorado is ground zero for “one of the biggest environmental fights in the country this year,” as Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain region director for Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based group advocating for safety in food production and oil and gas production, called it. Two ballot initiatives, 75 and 78, have the potential to, according to Colorado regulators, “effectively halt new oil and gas development in as much as 90 percent of the state.” In order to get the initiatives on the ballot, 98,492 valid signatures needed to be turned into the Colorado Secretary of State by August 8 — no later than 3:00 p.m.

In June, The Tribune reported that Tricia Olson, who has pumped in most of the funding for a group backing initiatives 75 and 78, hoped to “collect 160,000 signatures to account for the invalid signatures that inevitably pop up.” (Politico just announced: “recent campaign finance reports were filed with the Colorado secretary of state, the Sierra Club gave $150,000, making it the largest single reported contributor to the anti-fracking effort.”)

Because the Colorado Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on May 2, declared local fracking limits “invalid and unenforceable,” as state law trumps local ordinances, Olson sees the ballot initiatives as their “last ditch effort.”

On Monday, August 8, exercising stagecraft, at 2:30 p.m., dozens of supporters emptied a U-Haul truck and delivered box after box of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. They celebrated their “victory.” 350 Colorado, one of the groups behind the measures, proclaimed: “We did it! Over 100,000 signatures delivered on initiatives to limit fracking!” — not the 160,000 originally hoped for, and likely not enough to get on the ballot in November.

By CBS Denver’s accounting about 105,000 signatures were turned in — most in half empty boxes. Lynn Bartels, Colorado Secretary of State Communications Director, tweeted: “Proponents of fracking measures turned in lots of boxes with very few petitions in them.” Once the petitions were consolidated, there were roughly 50 empty boxes. Simon Lomax, an associate energy policy analyst with the conservative Independence Institute in Denver and a consultant who advises pro-business groups, said: “To make it look more impressive they added a bunch of empty boxes, or boxes with very few petitions. It just sort of shows, these groups don’t do substance, they just do deceptive publicity stunts.”

On CBS Denver, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler explained that you need about 98,000 signatures to get on the ballot because, for a variety of reasons, at least 30 percent are rejected, you need to submit at least 140,000. He says that for the 105,000 signatures turned in to qualify would be “unprecedented,” something that “has never occurred in Colorado for a ballot initiative.” According to Gessler, the effort is “doomed” — though we will not know for sure until next month when the final counts are released.

Noted election reporter and national affairs columnist for the National Review, John Fund, told me: “If there is enough public support for an issue to get the votes needed to pass, getting a surplus of signatures to get it on the ballot is an easy task.”

Many Democrats, including Governor John Hickenlooper, support hydraulic fracturing and have come out against the ballot initiatives. Politico posits that because mainstream environmentalists “fear that their movement will suffer a demoralizing defeat if the two proposals make it in front of the voters,” they “hope the ballot initiatives will die instead.”  Additionally, “A decisive referendum on oil and gas production would increase calls for [Hillary] Clinton to explicitly take a side.” She’s previously aligned with 75 and 78 — which could spoil her attempts to attract moderate Republicans she’ll need to win the state.

Despite their drama and declared “victory,” it doesn’t seem that the Colorado anti-fossil fuel crowd has enough signatures, or support, to make it onto the November ballot. They may be loud, but, alas, they are few.


Gov’t Is Moving In on Your Appliances – Expect Higher Prices, Fewer Choices

The Obama administration’s Department of Energy has churned through a list of energy efficiency regulations before the next administration. Just since June, the DOE has set or initiated standards for dehumidifiers, ceiling fans, battery chargers, and wine coolers.

At issue isn’t health or safety, or even unfair business practices. Through the DOE, the federal government is busying itself regulating how much energy the appliances Americans buy are allowed to use. Our recent backgrounder, “The Energy Efficiency Free Market Act: A Step Toward Real Energy Efficiency,” goes into more detail.

Take a look around your kitchen. Many of the appliances are also regulated by the federal government, from the oven and refrigerator, down to the standby light on the microwave. Step outside to other rooms and even outdoors. TVs, showers, air conditioners and heaters, washers and dryers, backyard swimming pools, toilets—these are just some of the other things regulated by the federal government.

Energy efficiency isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s an important factor in many Americans’ purchasing decisions. But there are a number of reasons why the federal government should not be mandating it:

Energy efficiency regulations reduce choices. Regulations prioritize efficiency over other preferences like safety, size, performance, durability, and cost. Americans weren’t without energy-efficient appliances before. The Department of Energy is essentially trying to make “better” decisions for people by limiting their options to “acceptable,” energy-efficient ones.

Regulations have very little impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Regardless of one’s opinion on global warming, these regulations have almost no impact. The DOE’s projected benefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions total a paltry 1 percent.

Savings benefit the rich, often at the expense of the poor. According to Sofie Miller at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, DOE cost-benefit calculations best describe households making $160,844 or more. In reality, energy-efficiency costs and benefits vary widely depending on income, education, and race. Higher energy costs impact poor families the most.

Mandates hinder innovation. Announcing the Energy Efficiency Free Market Act, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, explained that “when the government sets the efficiency standard for a product, that often becomes the ceiling … when the market drives the standard, there’s no limit to how fast and how aggressive manufacturers will be when consumers demand more efficient and better made products.”

Savings promised by standards are misleading. Considering the costs and benefits, Americans are essentially paying to have their choices restricted. There have also been problems with how the DOE estimates upfront costs, payback horizons, overstated energy savings, and future energy prices. For example, the DOE assumed in a washing machine proposed rule that households used washers 392 times per year—more than seven times per week—meaning most families would never reap the benefits of more efficient, but more expensive, washers.

Standards easily play into corporate welfare. Companies lobby for regulations and subsidies that most benefit them, in an attempt to squeeze out competition from smaller companies. If these products save customers as much as advertised, they should not be subsidized by the taxpayer.

But if the government didn’t set mandates, wouldn’t companies stop producing energy-efficient products? Refrigerators, which the DOE points to as a success story, are just one example of why there’s no reason to worry:

“The Standards Program has driven remarkable gains in the energy efficiency of household appliances and equipment, resulting in large energy bill savings. For example, today, the typical new refrigerator uses one-quarter the energy than in 1973—despite offering 20 percent more storage capacity and being available at half the retail cost.”

One problem: The first federal efficiency standards for refrigerators did not go into effect until 1990. Refrigerator manufacturers were improving energy use and design for nearly two decades before the government got involved.

As customers, Americans put importance on energy efficiency without the government nudging. And the free market is only too willing to supply.

Over the years, the DOE—empowered by Congress through the Energy Policy Conservation Act of 1975—has quietly expanded the list of products it regulates for energy efficiency. Congress should eliminate all mandatory efficiency regulations and leave these decisions to state governments and American consumers.


Supposed ‘Ground Breaking’ Study Only Proves Warming Proponents Have Jumped The Shark

They called it a “ground breaking study,” I call it rubbish. This new study claims that global warming began in 1830 just when the industrial revolution began to pick up steam (no pun intended). What they didn’t take into account was just around the same time the Earth was coming out of an unusually cold 40-year period caused by low sunspot activity called the Dalton Minimum (no relation to Timothy Dalton).

An international team of scientists, led by Associate Professor Nerilie Abram from the Australian National University, have analysed detailed reconstructions of climate going back 500 years. To their surprise, they’ve found that the current global warming trend began in the 1830s, further confirming that it is an anthropogenic, or human-induced, phenomenon. The study was published today in Nature.

Co-researcher Dr Helen McGregor, an earth sciences expert from the University of Wollongong, tells SBS Science the findings have a major impact on our understanding of how climate change works. “If we know when global warming started, we know what the actual rates of warming are and we know when our climate is emerging above natural variability,” McGregor explains.

The scientists go on to explain they created a climate model (which have proven to be very flawed–for example none of these models have figured why the earth hasn’t warmed in over 18 years.).  So to create this model they took into account other account climate model simulations and experiments (that’s right a flawed climate model using data from a flawed climate model–almost like a double negative), major volcanic eruptions and, most importantly, natural markers of climate variation found in places like corals, tree rings, and ice cores obtained from glaciers.

Dr McGregor says the study provides new, independent proof that climate change is indeed caused by human activity.

“One thing that our study provides is that it’s an alternative line of evidence,” she explains. “We’re not using thermometers and satellite records, we’re using natural archives of climate, so it’s a completely independent source of information that shows that climate change and warming is occurring.

“The central tenet of climate change, that the planet is warming, doesn’t change.”

Well not necessarily, because nowhere in their analysis do the scientists take into account sunspot activity.

Note: The sun goes through a natural cycle approximately every 11 years. The greatest number of sunspots in any given solar cycle is designated as the “solar maximum” and the lowest number is referred to as the “solar minimum” phase.

What scientists have observed is that when sun spot activity is low so is the earth’s temperatures. The time period of low sunspot activity below called the Maunder Minimum is also known as “The Little Ice Age.” not because glaciers covered the Earth, but because it was a long period of abnormally cold weather throughout the world. The period of low sunspot activity between 1790-1830 is known as the Dalton Minimum, again the weather was colder than normal.

In the late 1950s sun spot activity peaked at a much higher level than normal and was called the Modern Maxim, this was reflected in the global warming scare show global temperature growth accelerating.

It seems as if the scientists behind this”ground breaking study,” picked the result they wanted and selected the elements that would give them that result.

Now here’s the good news they might have ignored.  It seems that solar activity is slowing down. The in the chart above it seems that activity started to decrease toward the end of the 1990s. Similarly the satellite temperature data shows the Earth hasn’t warmed since 1998.

Vencore  a company that has worked closely with a number of government agencies on weather-related projects, including NASA, NOAA, Naval Meteorological and Oceanographic Command, Naval Postgraduate School and the Intelligence Community. It is now suggesting that the extreme lack of sunspot activity now may be an indication of a major cooling period for the Earth.

Not since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906 has there been a solar cycle with fewer sunspots. We are currently more than six years into Solar Cycle 24 and the current nearly blank sun may signal the end of the solar maximum phase. Solar cycle 24 began after an unusually deep solar minimum that lasted from 2007 to 2009 which included more spotless days on the sun compared to any minimum in almost a century.

It’s not just the fewer number of sunspots…its the pattern of their peaks:

The smoothed sunspot number for solar cycle 24 reached a peak of 81.9 in April 2014 and it is looking increasingly likely that this spike will be considered to be the solar maximum for this cycle. This second peak in the cycle surpassed the level of an earlier peak that reached 66.9 in February 2012. Many solar cycles are double peaked; however, this is the first one in which the second peak in sunspot number was larger than the first peak. Going back to 1755, there have been only a few solar cycles in the previous 23 that have had a lower number of sunspots during its maximum phase.

Now that doesn’t mean it’s definitely staying that way..but chances are it will. And here is where it gets interesting:

It is pretty well understood that solar activity has a direct impact on temperatures at very high altitudes in a part of the Earth’s atmosphere called the thermosphere. This is the biggest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere which lies directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. Thermospheric temperatures increase with altitude due to absorption of highly energetic solar radiation and are highly dependent on solar activity.

Finally, if history is a guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a cooling impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth’s atmosphere – and where we all live.

Vencore’s prediction substantiates paper written by Russian scientists in 2013 who used sunspot activity to predict we are heading for a “Mini Ice Age.”

The German Herald reported on March 31, 2013 regarding Russian scientist Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov from the St. Petersburg Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, “Talking to German media the scientist who first made his prediction in 2005 said that after studying sunspots and their relationship with climate change on Earth, we are now on an ‘unavoidable advance towards a deep temperature drop.’”

There is a simple reason that the scientists that created the “ground breaking study,” ignored solar activity, it would disprove their hypothesis.  Like many scientists trying to push the global warming/climate change hypothesis, these scientists have jumped the sunspots


Ross McKitrick: Wind Power Subsidies Triple Power Prices in Ontario

One of the favourite smoke-and-mirrors lines pulled by the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers is that wind power lowers power prices.

Among the ‘tiny’ little omissions in that pitch are that:

1) they’re only ever talking about spot prices when the wind is blowing; and

2) they skate over the massive subsidies that get tacked on top of the price paid by retailers for the power delivered; and

3) they run a mile from the unnecessary cost of base-load plants holding additional ‘spinning reserve’ and the insane and otherwise unnecessary cost of running highly inefficient Open Cycle Gas Turbines, that are critical to keep a grid up and running when wind power output collapses on a total and totally unpredictable basis.

That little trick lasts about as long as it takes Joe the Power Punter to open his power bill; because all of the above is helpfully collected in the staggering retail cost, as a bottom line that jumps off the page with a heart shuddering reality – crushing households and killing business, growth and employment.

The rocketing bills being dropped on power consumers in Ontario  pick up the price paid for the most bizarre energy policy on the Planet – a power tax called the GA or Global Adjustment levy, used to subsidise wind power. Here’s what it costs and why.

You may be surprised to learn that electricity is now cheaper to generate in Ontario than it has been for decades. The wholesale price, called the Hourly Ontario Electricity Price or HOEP, used to bounce around between five and eight cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), but over the last decade, thanks in large part to the shale gas revolution, it has trended down to below three cents, and on a typical day is now as low as two cents per kWh. Good news, right?

It would be, except that this is Ontario. A hidden tax on Ontario’s electricity has pushed the actual purchase price in the opposite direction, to the highest it’s ever been. The tax, called the Global Adjustment (GA), is levied on electricity purchases to cover a massive provincial slush fund for green energy, conservation programs, nuclear plant repairs and other central planning boondoggles. As these spending commitments soar, so does the GA.

In the latter part of the last decade when the HOEP was around five cents per kWh and the government had not yet begun tinkering, the GA was negligible, so it hardly affected the price. In 2009, when the Green Energy Act kicked in with massive revenue guarantees for wind and solar generators, the GA jumped to about 3.5 cents per kWh, and has been trending up since — now it is regularly above 9.5 cents. In April it even topped 11 cents, triple the average HOEP.

So while the marginal production cost for generation is the lowest in decades, electricity bills have never been higher. And the way the system is structured, costs will keep rising.

The province signed long-term contracts with a handful of lucky firms, guaranteeing them 13.5 cents per kWh for electricity produced from wind, and even more from solar. Obviously, if the wholesale price is around 2.5 cents, and the wind turbines are guaranteed 13.5 cents, someone has to kick in 11 cents to make up the difference. That’s where the GA comes in. The more the wind blows, and the more turbines get built, the bigger the losses and the higher the GA.

Just to make the story more exquisitely painful, if the HOEP goes down further, for instance through technological innovation, power rates won’t go down. A drop in the HOEP widens the gap between the market price and the wind farm’s guaranteed price, which means the GA has to go up to cover the losses.

Ontario’s policy disaster goes many layers further. If people conserve power and demand drops, the GA per kWh goes up, so if everyone tries to save money by cutting usage, the price will just increase, defeating the effort. Nor do Ontarians benefit through exports. Because the renewables sector is guaranteed the sale, Ontario often ends up exporting surplus power at a loss.

The story only gets worse if you try to find any benefits from all this spending. Ontario doesn’t get more electricity than before, it gets less.

Despite the hype, all this tinkering produced no special environmental benefits. The province said it needed to close its coal-fired power plants to reduce air pollution. But prior to 2005, these plants were responsible for less than two per cent of annual fine particulate emissions in Ontario, about the same as meat packing plants, and far less than construction or agriculture.

Moreover, engineering studies showed that improvements in air quality equivalent to shutting the plants down could be obtained by simply completing the pollution control retrofit then underway, and at a fraction of the cost. Greenhouse gas emissions could have been netted to zero by purchasing carbon credits on the open market, again at a fraction of the cost. The environmental benefits exist only in provincial propaganda.


Wind Power Obsession Sends South Australians Back to the Stone Age

Amidst the panic and chaos being experienced by the wind industry, its parasites and spruikers – due to the unfolding and inevitable wind power calamity in South Australia – one of the newly invented catchphrases is “transition”.

It’s a term now employed by wind spinners, dimwitted politicians and gullible journalists; and is often coupled up with lines such as “interconnectors”; “rapidly improving battery technology” and “gas”.  Gas, apparently, is now seen as a “transition” fuel to a … ahem … fossil fuel free future and the interconnectors proposed would connect to coal-fired plant currently chugging away in Victoria and New South Wales [note to Ed is this ‘pure irony’?]

Last time we took a peek at the climate-calamatists’ websites, gas was right up there with coal as the source of all peril and evil on earth, so we’re not sure that the Chicken Littles will buy the line about gas being anything other than a ‘spawn-of-the-Devil’ fossil fuel.

And adding ‘fuel’ to the fire, the gas destined for this “transition” isn’t going to be used in highly efficient Combined Cycle plants, but squandered in gas-thirsty and highly inefficient Open Cycle plants that emit 3-4 times the CO2 per MWh of a modern coal-fired plant.

Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) are literally jet engines, run on gas or fuel oil (diesel) or kerosene. The initial capital outlay is low, but their operating costs are exorbitant – depending on the fuel input costs (the gas dispatch price varies with demand, for example) operators need to recoup upwards of $300-400 per MWh before they will even contemplate firing them into action. For a wrap up on “fast-start-peakers” see this paper: Peaker-Case-Histories As to the insane cost of running them, see this article: OPEN GAS CYCLE TURBINES: Between a rock and a hard place

And the line about “transitioning” to a wind powered future with “rapidly improving battery technology” comes sprinkled with a fair dose of pixie dust: nowhere in the world is there an example of grid-scale electricity storage using batteries (of any description); not in Germany; not in Spain; not in Denmark; not in California; not in South Australia – or anywhere else stupid enough to attempt to run on sunshine and breezes.

Now that the mainstream press have caught up with the energy disaster that is South Australia, journos are, for the first time in their lives, starting to grapple with the tricky concept of electricity generation: terms such as “load following”; “frequency control”; and “grid balancing” are starting to find their way into the pages of the Australian Financial Review and The Australian.

These aren’t just fancy nouns and verbs of recent invention, they go right to the heart of whether customers at the thinnest end of an electricity grid get to enjoy electricity on demand, or at all.

What media hacks are starting to understand is that there is a world of difference between the quality of electricity produced by conventional generation sources; and that thrown occasionally into the grid by a wholly weather dependent source, abandoned centuries ago, for pretty obvious reasons – eg, SA’s wind farm’s efforts in April:

It’s not just a question of delivering power when and where it’s needed; frequency control is a matter that determines whether a grid functions at all (see our post here).

Where the chaos and intermittency of wind power destabilises the grid (see our post here), it’s down to conventional generation sources that can ramp up output at the press of a button to keep the grid alive: “reactive power” that allows for the 50Hz frequency of the grid to be controlled and maintained around close tolerances.

In a place like South Australia, where wind power capacity tops 40% of its entire generating capacity, every time a breeze turns to a zephyr, voltage and frequency drops, which requires an instantaneous response from coal or gas-fired generators (hydro is exceptionally good at responding in an instant) – with recent efforts to rely on the chaotic delivery of wind power, those selling power for frequency control and load following now recoup a very solid premium for their service.

Remove that class of generator from the system and the wind cultist and his fellow travelers are soon left tossing chaff about the wonders of wind, while sitting freezing in the dark.



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


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