Monday, December 19, 2016

An Australian dream that is a Greenie nightmare

Ever since Hitler, Greenies have been doing their best to frighten us into thinking that we are going to run out of food.  Hitler at least had the excuse that there really were food shortages in Germany immediately after WWI but modern-day Greenies live in an era of unprecedented abundance.

Food shortages -- see Paul Ehrlich -- were the no. 1 scare before global warming came along  as a tool to make us do the Greenie beck and call -- but they still pop out the old scare at times too -- usually presenting it as a result of global warming.  That a warmer world would in fact produce a food bonanza doesn't faze them. Imagine the farming lands in Northern Canada and Siberia that a warmer climate would open up!

But you don't have to imagine anything to realize what Northern Australia does to any food-shortage scare. And it rebuffs such scares in two ways -- both because of its potential and because of its actuality.

Australia is a continent and as you will read below, there is an area the size of India in Northern Australia which is virtually  unused agriculturally.  And India feeds over a billion people.  As in India, the usability of the land is uneven but with modern farming methods it could undoubtedly produce far more food than the primitive methods used by most Indian farmers do.  So how is that for a potential food bonanza?  Would enough extra food to feed more than a billion people be enough to tone down the scares?

So that is the potential.  The actuality is in fact even more instructive.  WHY has such vast potential gone unused?  We can find out from the one bit of Northern Australia that HAS been developed  -- using a lot of taxpayer money.  I refer of course to the Ord river scheme.  The Ord is a big river that flows through a fertile landscape in North-Western Australia.  And for decades governments have been trying to open it up for farming.  They even built a big dam to ensure year-round water supply.

So what happened?  They succeeded brilliantly at growing all sorts of crops.  They could readily have fed a small nation for a lot of the time.  But most of the crops concerned have now been abandoned.  Just about the only product they export is sandalwood.  And you can't eat sandalwood.  You burn it for incense.

So WHY was the Ord scheme an abject failure?  Because the world is SWIMMING in food.  There are all sorts of clever farmers worldwide who produce food at minimal cost.  So much so that the big costs is distribution: Getting the food into your local supermarket. The farmer gets only a small fraction of what you pay.  And that's not a racket.  Distribution is expensive.  All those trucks and trains and warehouses and wharves and roads and rail lines, loading docks and silos are expensive -- and so are the wages of the men who work in them.  They have to be paid too -- not only the farmer. And the Ord is far away from most potential markets and is connected to none of the existing distribution networks.  Getting food from the Ord into your local supermarket would be way too expensive.  It's all down to those pesky dollars and cents.

The Ord is in fact not far away from some big potential markets in Indonesia, India and China, but those countries, like most countries, want to be able to feed themselves -- and their governments are fixated on that.  The Ord can go hang as far as they are concerned.  And it does. The twin whammy of distribution costs and trade barriers doom the Ord.  And it would be just the same for the rest of Northern Australia.

Australian politicians have been breast-beating about our empty North for generations and periodically put money into explorations of its potential -- but it never has come to anything and it never will.  The world has TOO MUCH food for that to succeed. So only the cheapest food into your supermarket gets grown.  Famine is not the danger.  Greenies are talking out of their anus gross ignorance

Scientists have been digging up the dirt on northern Australia's potential to become an agricultural powerhouse.

In the biggest undertaking of its kind in Australia, thousands of soil samples were collected from water catchments in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The samples are now being analysed as part of the Federal Government's multi-billion-dollar plan to develop the Top End and double the nation's agricultural output.

"Northern Australia is a vast and underdeveloped landscape that's three million square kilometres — roughly five times the size of France, or the size of India," said CSIRO Research Director Dr Peter Stone, who oversees the science body's Northern Australia program.

Over the past five years, the CSIRO has identified 70 crops which could grow in the north and 16 million hectares of land that is suitable for irrigated agriculture.

"If you ... grabbed all the water you could, there'd be enough to irrigate about one and a half million hectares of northern Australia," he said.

"So overlaying the sweet spots — where soil is suitable and water is not only available, but reliable — is part of the key."
Drilling in Northern Territory

In the basement of the Ecosciences Precinct in Brisbane, you could be excused for thinking you had walked into a fanciful coffee roastery.

Grinders are lined up on one side of the room, while on the other, Seonaid Philip stacks trays of the most delectable-looking grinds into an oven for drying.

But the pale greys, rich ochres and velvety chocolates are not coffee, of course, but a collection of outback soils.

"For this project we've collected approximately 4,000 samples," said Ms Philip, who co-ordinated the field trips involving two dozen people in the Fitzroy, Mitchell and Darwin water catchments over 120 days.

"The colours tell us quite a bit about the attributes of the soils. These red ones are highly sought after, highly productive, very good for horticultural development... not the best water-holding capacity, but people can manage around that.

"But this one here is a bit sad," she said, picking up a pot of grey dirt.

"It's leeched, a pale colour, and shows that nutrients have been stripped out of it, probably in a high rainfall area."

Upstairs in the laboratory, the samples undergo a wide range of tests to determine their composition, structure and level of nutrients such as nitrogen, essential for plant growth, and carbon, critical for soil and plant health.

The information is helping to build a detailed map of northern Australian soils, which will be overlaid with a similar map being created for above and underground water resources.

Together the projects form the Federal Government's $15 million Northern Australia Water Resources Assessment.

Developing the north is "vitally important", according to Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.  "Mining is great, but it's boom and bust ... but agriculture is a constant flow of wealth that comes back," he said.

"If we can, over time, irrigate one and a half million hectares in the north, that would almost double the amount of land we have under irrigation today ... in the whole of Australia, and that would help us to double agriculture over time," Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan told the ABC.

"We don't have a lot of major dams in the north and in the south, in the Murray Darling and other places, we've kind of exploited the resources we already have, so our future opportunities in agriculture, our future opportunities to develop our water resources do predominantly lie in the north."

Senator Canavan said the Government's $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility would help to ensure that any northern foodbowl could get its produce to market.


Rick Perry will give back energy to the American people

During the second presidential debate, now President-elect Donald Trump discussed making the nation’s energy sector a priority. Trump laid out a plan to empower energy companies, return energy workers to their job, and explore new, efficient energy sources.

With his latest decision to select former Texas Governor Rick Perry as head of the Department of Energy Trump has taken the crucial step toward increasing production in the American energy sector he has promised the country. Perry will give back energy to the American people.

Trump represents a shift away from the exotic, green energy programs implemented under the Obama administration which prioritize clean energy over efficient and job creating energy options in the petroleum, coal and nuclear industries.

As Jack Gerard, president of the Washington-based American Petroleum Institute representing oil and natural gas companies, explained to Reuters on Dec. 15, “As the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry knows the important impact that energy production has on our nation’s economy. In his new role at the Energy Department, he has the opportunity to encourage increased exports of domestically produced natural gas.”

Rather than seeing the Department of Energy as a tool for regulating energy production, Perry will use the department to fuel energy production in the private sector.

Using his experience and close ties with the Texas oil industry, Perry hopes to recreate the job boom he helped foster through empowering Texas’s oil and gas industries from 2000 to 2015. As energy transition spokesman Sean Spicer reminds us, this is ultimately Trump’s plan, and Perry will be integral in implementing the Trump agenda above all else.

This Trump agenda spans far past oil and gas. The Department of Energy also shares powers including implementation of the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the maintenance and production of the American nuclear supply.

This is critical, because Perry will finally be able to carry out his goal of the completion and utilization of Yucca mountain which President Barack Obama defunded in 2011.

Since 2014, Perry has been fighting to re-establish Yucca mountain and thus, re-establish a nuclear energy option in the United States. Despite a congressional act entitled the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 directly outlining that the federal government would take possession and provide a disposable solution for all nuclear waste, in 2009 President Obama abandoned the project at Yucca mountain which would act as an ultimate waste zone. After more than $15 billion was spent developing the site, President Obama had the entire project defunded.

Now, American nuclear energy production is at a standstill. In 2014, Perry supported a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality report on nuclear waste disposal. The report outlined options including reopening Yucca Mountain, building a long-term, commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing capability and having multiple disposal options, so that the nation’s nuclear industry is not dependent upon the politics of Nevada.

The report warned, “Early in 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it was developing a new plan to replace Yucca Mountain — estimating that an HLW disposal solution would not be available until 2048. However, in November 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia determined that the federal government has ‘no credible plan’ to dispose of HLW. 2048, or whatever year Washington forecasts that a solution will be provided, is too long to wait.”

In Texas alone, the delay of opening Yucca Mountain had cost taxpayers more than $700 million.

Perry has also made gas and oil production economically efficient in his home state, and has been eager to pursue new frontiers for energy development. The Obama administration prevented state governors like Perry from bringing national solutions to American energy and job growth to the table, but now all that is changing.

As James Taylor, President of the Spark of Freedom Foundation a leader in affordable energy production research, told Forbes on Dec. 14, “Affordable energy is a powerful economic stimulant. Energy costs are a factor in virtually all goods and services bought and sold in our economy. When energy prices are lower, the costs of producing goods and services are lower, which operates like a tax cut…  Benefiting from these pro-energy, pro-growth policies, Texas electricity prices have declined nearly 25 percent since 2008. National electricity prices, by contrast, are higher now than in 2008.”

Trump has made it clear since the beginning that he wanted to revitalize our job market and make America efficient again. And Texas led the nation on energy under Perry’s guidance and saw the economic prosperity it generated, now it is Perry’s turn to show the rest of the country he can do it again.


Radical Climate Agenda Lost the Election for Democrats. Now, They’re Doubling Down

Left-wing environmental groups are publicly melting down over the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as the next administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some are even calling on the U.S. Senate to block his confirmation.

None of this outrage is sincere, of course, but it still provides a valuable lesson: Environmental groups have learned almost nothing from the 2016 election and remain completely out of touch with blue-collar voters.

Pruitt, a Republican, is a staunch critic of the Obama administration’s climate and energy policies and a key player in legal efforts to overturn them. But even some environmentalists are cringing over the reaction to his nomination.

Before the Dec. 7 announcement, when Pruitt was one of two finalists, veteran environmental advocate Frank O’Donnell predicted what would happen.

“If either of these folks get picked, they will be vilified relentlessly as the personification of evil, of a person who hates children with asthma and loves oil derricks and coal mines,” O’Donnell told E&E News. “Whether that’s a fair characterization or not, I think that’s how they’ll be portrayed,” O’Donnell said.

Sure enough, the environmental left proved O’Donnell right. Pruitt’s nomination to lead the EPA was like “putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires” because he “regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections,” the Sierra Club claimed.

The Natural Resources Defense Council mounted a similar attack against the Oklahoma attorney general, claiming he belongs in the “environmental hall of shame.” A former adviser to President Barack Obama even called Pruitt “an existential threat to the planet.”

So, according to the environmental left, Pruitt cannot lead the EPA because he opposes the policies of the current administration and works too closely with interested groups. That’s a curious argument, to say the least, because you could have said the same things about Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, when she was nominated eight years ago.

“The Sierra Club has had a very close, very positive relationship with Lisa Jackson,” the group boasted in December 2008. “We now very much look forward to working with her in her new role.”

Jackson was a former EPA official who joined the senior ranks of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2002. In 2006, she was promoted to the state agency’s top job. During her time as an environmental official in New Jersey, Jackson took a hard line against the Bush administration, which refused to impose carbon caps on the U.S. economy.

She played a leading role in the creation of a carbon cap-and-trade scheme covering New Jersey and nine other Northeastern states, a program that was designed to put pressure on the federal government to follow suit.

New Jersey was also one of the states behind a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2007—Massachusetts v. EPA—which dramatically expanded the federal government’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Once confirmed as EPA administrator, Jackson tried to expand carbon cap-and-trade beyond the Northeast into all 50 states. At first, the Obama administration proposed national cap-and-trade legislation, but even the Democrats running Congress at the time refused to go along.

Later, Jackson laid the groundwork for Obama’s backup climate plan: EPA regulations that circumvented Congress completely.

The centerpiece of the EPA’s go-it-alone approach, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, was completed in Obama’s second term by Jackson’s successor, Gina McCarthy—another architect of the Northeast’s carbon cap-and-trade scheme.

And emails obtained under public records laws by the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute show close coordination between the EPA and environmental groups—including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council—throughout the entire regulation-making process.

The National Resources Defense Council even wrote the legal blueprint used by EPA officials to create the Clean Power Plan, according to The New York Times.

And yet, despite Jackson’s close ties to the environmental left, there was never any serious campaign to sink her nomination. Quite the opposite, in fact: The Senate confirmed her by unanimous consent two days after Obama’s inauguration.

But today, groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council are trying to impose a wildly different standard: If you oppose the current administration’s policies, you are immediately disqualified from leading the EPA.

Honestly, if that’s the new rule, then why even bother with elections in the first place?

But there’s a much bigger problem for the environmental left. Opposing Pruitt’s nomination and casting him as an extreme figure ignores—and insults—the Democrats and blue-collar voters who also believe the EPA went too far during the Obama years.

President-elect Donald Trump has named Scott Pruitt, attorney general for Oklahoma and a leading litigant against EPA regulations, as his pick for EPA administrator. (Photo: Polaris/Newscom)President-elect Donald Trump picked Scott Pruitt, attorney general for Oklahoma and a leading litigant against EPA regulations, for EPA administrator. (Photo: Polaris/Newscom)
The Clean Power Plan, for example, would impose on states a host of carbon-reduction and renewable energy mandates that trade unions have opposed. A number of unions even joined Pruitt and more than two dozen other state attorneys general in a lawsuit against the Obama EPA, which resulted in a rare Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan.

“The Supreme Court made the right decision in freezing the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan,” the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said when the stay was issued in February. “The problem of human-made climate change is real, but these rules would have unnecessarily disrupted our power grid and cost thousands of good jobs—two things our economy can’t afford.”

Before Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential election, environmental groups were betting that legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan would fail and the Supreme Court would ultimately lift the stay. Now the regulation is “dead,” as David Bookbinder, the former top climate lawyer at the Sierra Club, recently told Politico. But the current leaders of national green groups have vowed to fight on.

That is their right, of course, but maybe they should pause for a moment and reflect on the warning they received eight years ago from the blue-collar wing of the Democratic Party.

“In Massachusetts v. EPA, the court stated that it believed that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act,” U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, told a 2008 committee hearing. “This is not what was intended by the Congress and by those of who wrote that legislation.”

Dingell, who retired in 2015, would know. As the longest-serving member of Congress in history, he was there when the Clean Air Act was written in 1970.

He predicted a “glorious mess” of regulatory action and litigation that would affect “potentially every industry … and every person in this country” if the EPA imposed greenhouse gas limits without gaining new authority from lawmakers. The “inherently political decisions” behind such regulations “should be made by the Congress,” Dingell said.

And yet, after a heavily Democratic Congress rejected greenhouse gas legislation in 2010, the Obama EPA ignored these warnings and created the “glorious mess” anyway.

Environmental groups and their donors—especially California billionaire Tom Steyer—mounted a massive defense of the Clean Power Plan and the rest of the Obama administration’s climate agenda in the 2016 election, but it didn’t work.

Dingell’s home state of Michigan voted Republican in a presidential election for the first time in 28 years, part of a much larger voter revolt across the industrial Midwest.

Environmental groups now have a choice: Accept they have a problem with the blue-collar wing of the Democratic Party or pretend the 2016 election never happened.

Based on their reaction to the Pruitt nomination and their continued defense of the EPA’s “glorious mess,” don’t expect the make-believe to end anytime soon.


EPA Finds No Widespread Water Pollution From Fracking

Americans could be forgiven for thinking fracking poses an inherent threat to groundwater.

The anti-fossil fuel “Keep It in the Ground” movement has waged a multimillion-dollar campaign to convince the public of that exact claim, even though there has never been any evidence to support the accusation.

Indeed, anti-fracking activists were peddling “fake news” long before the media professed any concern about it.

But a landmark report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, released earlier this month, finally puts that talking point to bed. After more than half a decade of study, the EPA concluded that “the number of identified cases of drinking water contamination is small” compared to the total number of hydraulically fractured wells.

Put differently, activist claims about “inherent risks” to groundwater are simply not true.

Of course, the EPA did its best to soften the blow to the “Keep It in the Ground” crowd. The agency stressed that oil and gas development as a whole “can” have impacts “under some circumstances,” a fact that was already known before the EPA began spending nearly $30 million in taxpayer money to assess the risk.

The EPA also claimed “data gaps and uncertainties” prevented it from making broad-scale conclusions, which is odd considering how Congress appropriated the EPA the money in order to derive a conclusion about the overall risk.

Even the agency’s admission that the number of contamination cases was small was omitted from the EPA’s press release. It had to be pried out of the agency from the media.

In the agency’s draft report, released in the summer of 2015, the EPA explicitly said it “did not find evidence that these mechanisms [fracking] have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.” The data did not change, but the EPA removed that line from the final report.

The EPA is now defensively claiming that political pressure played no role in how it characterized its results.

Regardless of the EPA’s press strategy, one thing is abundantly clear. The lack of evidence of water contamination from fracking is now the data.

Multiple officials at the EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Geological Survey have either said there is no evidence of widespread contamination or have released reports showing no such evidence exists.

Peer-reviewed studies have consistently found little if anything to substantiate the idea that fracking can contaminate groundwater.

At a certain point, you have to accept that the lack of evidence actually means something, especially considering the extensive studies that have taken place.

But if you’re waiting for environmental groups to acknowledge the scientific realities of fracking, don’t hold your breath.

The Sierra Club still claims on its website that “fracking has contaminated the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of Americans.” Food & Water Watch responded to the EPA’s report by claiming it shows “the inherent harms and hazards of fracking.”

It’s odd how members of “Keep It in the Ground” love to call their opponents science deniers, considering they are willfully denying what the scientific community has said and continues to say about fracking.

Anti-fracking groups have done a masterful job of scaring the public about oil and gas development. Thankfully, we now have proof that their central claim is without merit.


Is It Time to Deregulate All Electric Utilities?

YES: It Is the Best Way to Lower Costs and Increase Innovation

Today’s modern society requires a reliable electricity system. Anyone who has lived through a major blackout, such as occurred in the Northeast in 2003, knows that when the lights go out, life shuts down.

Users of electricity also want power to be affordable, of course, and at the same time, policy makers increasingly are demanding that more of the nation’s energy come from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Meeting these competing challenges won’t be easy. Creating a cleaner, more reliable and less expensive electricity grid is going to require new ideas and a great amount of technological development to lower costs. Unfortunately, these are things that run counter to the incentives of regulated utilities.

In a regulated system, government agencies make basic production and grid-access decisions, and set electricity rates in a way that guarantees utilities a certain rate of return on capital investments and other approved costs. Because utilities’ profits are a function of how much they spend, there is little incentive to cut costs and increase efficiency.

The other option is to rely as much as possible on market forces. While no one has figured out how to completely deregulate the electricity market, "restructuring" clears the way for competition in certain segments, such as generation, that aren’t natural monopolies.

In restructured markets, investment decisions are made by entrepreneurs and engineers instead of government lawyers, and companies spend money only if they believe there is a market for the products they are building. Innovation happens more quickly because it doesn’t have to run through the gantlet of regulatory review.

The push to create a cleaner portfolio of generation resources is just one challenge that calls out for the further use of market forces.

Electricity for the most part can’t be stored, meaning supply must nearly match demand at all times or the grid could come under stress and crash. The problem with renewable power such as wind and solar is that it operates when nature allows, not when grid demand calls for it.

This is already causing problems in California, which has invested heavily in solar energy. The supply of solar power declines rapidly in the late afternoon—right when people are coming home from school and work. The result is tremendous stress on the electricity grid, as a large amount of electricity capacity must be "ramped up" at significant cost to supply power to the system in a short period.

To address this, California—which has a competitive wholesale electricity market—is joining forces with utilities and grid operators in neighboring states in an "energy imbalance market" that allows for transfers of power among participants. A free flow of electrons across the West will allow grid operators to balance supply and demand at a lower cost, and allow California to permit increased penetration of renewable energy sources without building unneeded capacity paid for by consumers. (The market already has saved California ratepayers more than $100 million since late 2014, according to the California electricity-grid-market monitor.)

As technology advances in other areas, power markets will have to adapt further. For example, many are looking forward to an era of electric vehicles, but their widespread use could put more strain on the grid, threatening its reliability. One solution is "time of day" pricing that incentivizes drivers to charge up at night, when power usage and wholesale prices generally are lower. An innovation like that isn’t likely to happen quickly—or at all—in a system where regulators set pricing rules.

Of course, many supply-and-demand challenges could be solved if the cost of storing electricity was brought down to economical levels, allowing it to be implemented in the grid. But again, that is going to require a great amount of technological development to lower costs, along with market rules that allow competitive firms to connect storage facilities to the grid. These are investments that regulated monopolists have little incentive to make.

Restructuring hasn’t lived up to all of its promises. Business customers in restructured states appear to have benefited more than residential customers in terms of lower power prices, perhaps because they have more incentive to shop around.

But in terms of keeping the cost of energy production down, restructuring has worked. Most important, no restructured state is repeating the mistake of spending billions of dollars on nuclear power, which low-cost natural gas has made a money loser.

New technologies, innovation, green power and competitive markets all go together. To create a cleaner, more reliable and less expensive electricity grid, it is time to escape the dictates of government officials and free up competitive forces.


Energy Dept refuses to name staffers who worked on climate

The Department of Energy said Tuesday it will reject the request by President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to name staffers who worked on climate change programs.

Energy spokesman Eben Burnhan-Snyder said the agency received “significant feedback” from workers regarding a questionnaire from the transition team that leaked last week.  “Some of the questions asked left many in our workforce unsettled,” Snyder said.

The survey for department leadership included more than 70 questions regarding what the agency does, its workforce, costs, professional affiliations and more.

But it also asked for a list of employees who worked on various climate change priorities in President Obama’s administration, including the Paris climate agreement and the social cost of carbon, an accounting measure for the costs of climate change.

That led to fears that Trump’s administration was undertaking a “witch hunt” to single out those workers.

“We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department,” Burnham-Snyder said in the Tuesday statement, first reported by The Washington Post.

“We will be forthcoming with all publicly-available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.”

The head of the union for workers at the Energy Department's Washington headquarters had also expressed concern with the questionnaire.

“My members are upset and have questions about what this means. These are all civil servants who do their jobs,” Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement.

“They have no wish to be caught up in political winds — they are nonpartisan employees — scientists, engineers, statisticians, economists and financial experts — who were hired for their knowledge and they bring their talent and experience to the job every day,” he said, adding that the union “will do all it can to ensure that merit system rules are followed.”

Laws and regulations regarding civil service workers make it illegal to fire or punish workers for political purposes, even when an administration changes.



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

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