Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A receding Arctic scare

Inevitably, when even satellite temperatures were showing 2016 as “the hottest year on record”, we were going to be told last winter that the Arctic ice was at its lowest extent ever. Sure enough, before Christmas, a report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was greeted with such headlines as “Hottest Arctic on record triggers massive ice melt”. In March we had the BBC trumpeting another study that blamed vanishing Arctic ice as the cause of weather which led to the worst-ever smog in Beijing, warning that it “could even threaten the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022”.

But last week we were brought back to earth by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), as charted by our friend Paul Homewood on his blog Notalotofpeopleknowthat, with the news that ever since December temperatures in the Arctic have consistently been lower than minus 20 C. In April the extent of Arctic sea ice was back to where it was in April 13 years ago. Furthermore, whereas in 2008 most of the ice was extremely thin, this year most has been at least two metres thick. The Greenland ice cap last winter increased in volume faster than at any time for years.

As for those record temperatures brought in 2016 by an exceptionally strong El Niño, the satellites now show that in recent months global temperatures have plummeted by more that 0.6 degrees: just as happened 17 years ago after a similarly strong El Niño had also made 1998 the “hottest year on record”.

This means the global temperature trend has now shown no further warming for 19 years. But the BBC won’t be telling us any of this. And we are still stuck with that insanely damaging Climate Change Act, which in this election will scarcely get a mention.

SOURCE. Homewood post here

Wind Industry Titan Soaks Up Billions in Tax Subsidies

A renewable energy company that is worth $60 billion — and hasn’t paid federal income taxes for the last seven years — is among the country’s largest recipients of federal subsidies. It’s also suing a small Michigan township as it seeks to take advantage of a state law for its financial gain.

NextEra Energy, based in Florida, has filed lawsuits in Michigan against Ellington Township and Almer Township seeking to compel the municipalities to allow its wind turbine towers to be erected. The company has wind farm projects in 19 states and four Canadian provinces and has built more than 8,700 wind turbines in 110 wind farm facilities.

Ellington Township and Almer Township are located in Tuscola County in Michigan’s Thumb region, which has become the state’s battleground over the rollout of industrial wind turbines. NextEra is also seeking a zoning change on the May 2 ballot in neighboring Huron County. A favorable vote could add many more turbine towers to the 473 already there.

The push for additional wind farms in the Thumb is largely due to a Michigan law passed last December that expanded an existing state mandate. The 2016 law increased the percentage of electricity that must be generated by renewable sources from 10 percent to 14 percent. Mandates like this represent an indirect subsidy to companies like NextEra, which also enjoy many direct government subsidies.

NextEra Energy had corporate profits of $21.5 billion from 2008 to 2015. The company paid no federal income taxes on this amount but instead received a net credit of $313 million due to government subsidies.

Almer Township, by comparison, had a general fund budget of $600,000 in 2016.

The analysis of NextEra Energy’s corporate profits and taxes was done by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a center-left nonprofit. It was published in a March 2017 report, “The 35 Percent Corporate Tax Myth; Corporate Tax Avoidance by Fortune 500 Companies, 2008 to 2015.”

The report stated on NextEra Energy: “Deferred tax benefits explain most of the company’s tax benefits.”

NextEra Energy didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

NextEra has received about $1.9 billion in federal grants and tax credits since 2000, according to a March 2015 report by GoodJobsFirst.org, an organization that tracks federal subsidies. NextEra was second only to the energy company Iberdrola in collecting federal subsidies since 2000; Iberdrola has received $2.2 billion.

The federal government does not track its subsidies for renewable energy companies on an annual basis. But the wind industry received $5.9 billion in federal subsidies in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available from the Energy Information Administration.

“NextEra may produce wind energy, but its real business is subsidy mining,” said Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an expert on the energy sector. “Renewables need subsidies because they aren’t economic in the free market. By subsidizing renewables, the wholesale power markets across the country are getting more and more distorted. The result of those distortions is that other electricity generators — and particularly the nuclear energy generators — are now seeking their own subsidies.”


Solar Power: An Environmental Disaster

Solar power is expensive, unreliable and environmentally destructive. So it doesn’t come into being through consumer demand; rather, by government fiat or subsidy. The federal government controls the military, so, sadly, our armed forces have been dragged into the government’s alleged fight against “climate change” to a humiliating degree.

The Minnesota National Guard’s facility at Camp Ripley, Minnesota, is a case in point. Yesterday, an array of public officials hailed the opening of a 60-acre swath of solar panels that will produce a pathetic amount of energy, during the daytime and assuming it isn’t cloudy. My colleague Tom Steward has the story at the American Experiment web site:

Our military used to boast about its fire power. These days the brass brags about its solar power. The Minnesota National Guard has just unveiled the latest weapon in the war on global warming. It’s a 60 acre solar panel farm at Camp Ripley in north central Minnesota. Row upon row of 120,000 solar panels standing in precise military formation, the biggest solar installation at any National Guard base in the country.

But as turns out to be the case more often than not in Minnesota, sunshine proved to be elusive for the occasion.

If we devoted a fraction of that space to a natural gas, coal or nuclear facility we could produce 100 times the energy–even at night time, when people need to turn lights on.

It is sad to see military personnel who should know better, and probably do, mouthing the inane pieties of global warming:

“Camp Ripley is now capable of producing as much energy as it consumes,” said Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. “We can make a better Minnesota and a better world by joining the worldwide initiative to address the serious challenge of climate change.”

Right. We’d prefer you address the serious military challenge of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and so on. Tom Steward points out the costly reality:

The project’s astonishing $25 million price tag has led to the utility taking fire from state regulators for overpaying for solar panels and long-term lease with the National Guard. The collateral damage includes the northern Minnesota utility’s residential ratepayers, whose bills will rise as a result of the costly solar farm.

The solar facility can provide electricity for only 1,700 homes, a ridiculously small number, at “full capacity.” But solar installations never reach full capacity, and if it is dark or cloudy, they are irrelevant. No one would argue for ugly 60-acre scars on the landscape based on a cost/benefit analysis.

In Duluth, the best proxy for Camp Ripley, there are an average of 77 sunny days per year. Hey, that is better than one in five! Of course, they don’t have any sunny nights in Duluth, so there’s that.

It was left to Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith (D) to deliver the most mind-numbingly stupid commentary on the occasion:

“With four megastorms in the past seven years in Minnesota, we don’t need any more reminders of the impact of a changing climate on our state,” Smith said. “Projects like you see behind us will be helpful to mitigate some of that damage.”

Perhaps Ms. Smith is unaware that no respectable scientist claims “megastorms” have increased as a result of purported global warming. Perhaps she doesn’t know that hurricanes in the Western Hemisphere–to take just one example–are at a historic low. Perhaps she is unaware that the models on which global warming hysteria is based forecast fewer extreme weather events, not more.

All of that might be excusable ignorance. But Ms. Smith presumably has lived in Minnesota for a while, so she should know that four “megastorms” in seven years is a mild rate. Actually, I don’t recall anything that I would call a megastorm in recent years. Ms. Smith has perhaps forgotten that the really epic storms, like the Halloween Blizzard of 1991, when snow fell faster than I have ever seen before or since, or the tragic Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, predated the purported era of “climate change.”

But maybe it is irrelevant to point out how wrong the global warming alarmists are, and how severely their uneconomic installations damage the environment. Their doctrine is a religious faith that has nothing to do with science or history, and everything to do with government greed, so rational arguments are wasted on them.


The real threat is ‘Big Environment’

Earth Day, held annually on April 22 since 1970, is the official holiday of Big Environment, the organizations that keep supposedly evil corporations from ruining our “Pale Blue Dot,” as the late, great Carl Sagan once described Earth.

In the early 1990s, I remember seeing people mark the day by cleaning up roadside trash tossed aside by careless motorists. This was useful action by those early environmentalists, but it seems Earth Day is more than that now. Now, it seems like a pagan rite of spring, where we humanize the natural world and deify it at the same time. All the while we elevate ourselves, believing we caused the Earth to change and that we have the power to revive it.

While I’m no expert in climate change, I know the environment is a huge political football. There was a time when environmentalists were on the outside looking in. Now, Big Environment (yes, they’re as big and powerful as Big Oil) seems to be the driving force in politics. Just as they would say about Big Oil, Big Environment is run amok.

While it’s right to think of environmental impact when crafting legislation – so we don’t go back to red-running rivers and smog-filled cities, the very issues the environmental movement rightly sought to fix in the 1970s – some believe the health of the environment should trump every other concern, especially when government faces issues related to population or commercial growth.

We need look no further than our own backyard for examples of Big Environment in action.

Protect South Portland has been intent on ridding the city of its once-thriving oil industry, despite that industry’s importance regionally, nationally and even internationally. The group’s influence a few years ago to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance is now costing city taxpayers millions to defend in court. The law, which bans Canadian oil sands within city limits, is decimating the local oil industry, and impacted companies are, not surprisingly, seeking tax abatements.

I feel especially sorry for those South Portland taxpayers (especially those who voted against the ordinance) who are paying for Big Environment’s appeal to emotion regarding water quality. The likelihood of bursts and spills is too much to risk, pipeline foes say, despite the pipeline being in existence for 75-plus years with nary an errant drip.

Protect South Portland and other groups argue that all oil is bad and “sustainable” alternatives are good. I’m not so sure that’s true. Have you seen what wind power does to the environment? Before windmills dotted Maine’s upland horizon, you would have experienced nothing but wilderness in some areas.

Now, thanks to Big Environment and their powerful friends like U.S. Sen. Angus King, you see massive turbine blades placed atop huge concrete foundations that ruin the mountainous landscape. They’re just plain ugly, noisy, dangerous to birds and taint what makes Maine unique – unbridled wilderness.

If wind power worked, I might look past these sensory impacts. But it doesn’t, because wind, even massive arrays like the one on Mars Hill in eastern Maine, can’t provide enough electricity to make a meaningful dent in energy generation. To illustrate how feeble Maine’s wind capacity is, there would have to be 47 Mars Hill-sized wind farms in each and every county to offset the energy needs of just the homes in Maine; never mind commercial energy needs.

While they aren’t great at discerning fact from fiction, the one thing that Big Environment is good at is filling their coffers. They devise would-be perils to convince us to donate. The recent furor over tar sands (a biased term concocted by Big Environment and parroted by the media) is a fitting local example. How much money did those anti-pipeline groups bring in as a result of their hysteria? To twist a U2 lyric, they remind me of a preacher from the Old-Time Gospel Hour, stealing money from the fearful and easily persuaded.

If the thermometer consistently read 120 degrees in the summer and 60 in the winter, I might join the Big Environment club. But January thaws still come and go; February blizzards blow; mud season and flooding occur in April; flowers still bud in May; August is as intolerable now as when my grandmother was young; apples still ripen in September, and we haul out those winter jackets around Thanksgiving every year. Nature works like clockwork.

I understand Big Environment needs to keep us in perpetual fear of creation’s imminent demise so their cash reserves stay plump, but maybe we should use Earth Day in a different way this year. After collecting that winter’s worth of roadside litter (a truly noble undertaking), spend the day outdoors doing something fun. Nature was created for our enjoyment, not for Big Environment’s political and financial benefit.


Every green initiative imposed  by British politicians has ended in disaster

What a parable for our times the great diesel scandal has been, as councils vie to see which can devise the heaviest taxes on nearly half the cars in Britain because they are powered by nasty, polluting diesel.

This week, it was announced many diesel drivers will soon have to pay fully £24 a day to drive into Central London, while 35 towns across the country are thinking of following suit. Already some councils charge up to £90 more for a permit to park a diesel car.

The roots of this debacle go back to the heyday of Tony Blair’s government, when his chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, became obsessed with the need to fight global warming.

Although he was an expert in ‘surface chemistry’ — roughly speaking, the study of what happens when, for example, a liquid meets a gas — King had no qualifications in climate science.

On one occasion he famously told an environmental audit committee of MPs that the world was warming so dangerously fast that, by the end of this century, the only continent on earth left habitable would be Antarctica.

His light-bulb moment came when he learned that diesel emits less CO2 than petrol. What a brilliant way it would be to save the planet, he thought, to manipulate the tax system to encourage motorists to make the switch — which millions did.

And here we are 15 years later, being told that, as an unexpected side-effect, more than ten million diesel vehicles on Britain’s roads are chucking out so much nitrogen oxide and other toxic pollutants they are being linked to 12,000 premature deaths a year.

This is only the latest in a seemingly endless flow of examples of supposedly ‘green’ government schemes which, one after another, turn out to have been standing common sense on its head, at a cost which is rocketing up by billions of pounds a year.

There may be other competitors for the title of the greatest scandal in Britain today, but this is so crazy that it is time we all woke up to how damagingly mad it has become.

Nine years ago, MPs voted almost unanimously for then Labour minister Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act, thus making Britain the only country in the world committed by law to cut its ‘carbon emissions’ by 80 per cent in just 40 years.

Not one of those politicians bothered to wonder how in practice such an absurdly ambitious target could be met: which is why we have since seen successive governments thrashing about trying to adopt one dotty ‘green’ scheme after another.

Last week, I was asked in conversation: ‘Why is it that almost all these green schemes seem to end up as a fiasco?’ To which I replied: ‘You’ve only got one word wrong there. You can leave out the word “almost”.’

The truth is that every single green scheme the politicians have fallen for has proved to be a total fiasco: failing to achieve any of the results claimed for them and costing us more billions with every year that passes.

Consider the scandal of Drax in Yorkshire, until recently the largest, cleanest, most efficient coal-fired power station in Europe.

Now, thanks to an annual half-a-billion pounds of public subsidy, Drax has been switching from burning coal to millions of tons a year of wood pellets.

Absurdly, these are shipped 3,500 miles to Britain from the U.S., where vast acreages of virgin forest are being felled, supposedly to be replaced with new trees that will eventually soak up all the CO2 emitted by burning them.

Unfortunately, a bright spark has just pointed out in a report for a respected think-tank that it could take a replacement tree hundreds of years to grow to maturity — which would be far too long to have any supposed effect on any climate change. (It should be noted that the former coalition energy minister Chris Huhne, having been released from prison for perverting the course of justice over speeding points, became the European chairman of a firm called Zilkha Biomass, which makes its money supplying wood pellets from North America to Europe.)

The bottom line is that a new report has just confirmed that, far from reducing its CO2 footprint, Drax is now emitting more than it did when it was only burning coal.

Meanwhile, why is Northern Ireland going through its worst political crisis since the end of the Troubles? Because of the collapse of its power-sharing government over another green scheme, the Renewable Heat Incentive.

When businesses discovered that for every £100 they paid for wood chips to heat their offices, warehouses and factories, UK taxpayers would pay them £160 in subsidies, not surprisingly they kept their boilers running round the clock as if there were no tomorrow.

When it was discovered that, by 2020, we will have paid those businesses £1 billion — even to heat buildings left empty for years — this created such a scandal that it brought down the government.

That example made headlines, but the same is happening quietly in the rest of the country, too, where owners of large houses openly boast that they are running their boilers flat out, even in summer, to cash in on the racket which gives them a 60 per cent profit on every £1 they spend on wood chips.

Some of that wood is now coming from clearing priceless ancient woodlands, such as a National Trust estate in Cheshire which the charity plans to turn back into open heathland.

Another scandal created under the same scheme is the way canny developers are plonking down large industrial installations called ‘anaerobic digesters’ in the middle of the English countryside, to turn huge quantities of crops into small quantities of methane for the national gas grid.

Official figures show that, thanks to subsidies costing us more than £200 million a year, 131,000 acres of maize are now being grown to feed the anaerobic digesters, on land formerly used for food crops.

Separately, toxic spills of the ammonia that is used in the process have repeatedly poisoned livestock and fish in nearby fields and rivers.

Then there was the dream of ‘carbon capture and storage’, for which Gordon Brown’s government offered £4 billion for companies to come up with a way of removing CO2 from the coal and gas used to make electricity, and then piping it away for burial in holes under the North Sea.

Only one Scottish power station took up the offer, spending £1 billion before it discovered that it didn’t work.

But even though geologists say it can never work, the Government still talks about it as the only way it can allow coal and gas-fired power plants — which still supply more than half our electricity — to stay in business.

Consider, too, the not-so brilliant idea of bribing motorists to switch to supposedly ‘green’ all-electric cars. So far, this has cost us more than £50 million in subsidies, for the mere 50,000 cars which have been sold, at £25,000 or more a time. This is only a fraction of the 26 million cars on Britain’s roads.

And what gets cynically hidden by the authorities is that much of the electricity used to charge their batteries comes, of course, from fossil fuels. Add in emissions from the manufacturing process and, unsurprisingly, these vehicles give out more CO2 than they are claimed to save.

Yet under the latest ‘carbon budget’, a five-yearly environmental plan nodded through by MPs to meet our commitments under Miliband’s misguided Climate Change Act, they still fondly imagine that, within 13 years, 60 per cent of all Britain’s cars will be electric.

The latest wheeze to catch the attention of gullible politicians has been a mega-project to spend £40 billion on six giant ‘tidal lagoons’ around Britain’s coasts, beginning with one in Swansea Bay, to harness the power of the tide to provide ‘clean, green’ electricity.

This seemed so irresistible to David Cameron and George Osborne that they put it in the Tory manifesto at the last election — and the then chancellor even mentioned it in his Budget speech. Only when the figures were looked at more carefully did they realise how little electricity this would produce. Not only that, it would be the most expensive in the world!

The firm behind the scheme asked the Government to agree to give it a uniquely high subsidy. The project will only work, it said, if the power produced could be sold to the National Grid at a staggering £168 per megawatt hour.

This was well over three times the wholesale price of unsubsidised electricity from coal or gas-fired power stations, and would naturally be paid for by every UK householder through green surcharges on our electricity bills.

As a result of such concerns, a report on tidal energy was commissioned from a former energy minister, Charles Hendry. His objectivity can be guessed at when you learn that he is chairman of the world’s largest offshore wind farm project. Unsurprisingly, he was gung-ho for giving tidal lagoons the go-ahead.

But how can ministers justify proceeding with another pipe dream which, according to some conservationists, apart from its ludicrous cost would inflict serious damage on wading birds, eels and other fish?

This is because the building of gigantic stone tidal barriers miles long interferes with the natural ecosystem. Indeed, this disruption to the natural order is a common problem with schemes which are designed to be good for ‘the environment’. When, for example, the Somerset Levels suffered serious flooding in 2014, it emerged that this was not just a freak of nature.

For 18 years, the local rivers and drainage ditches had not been dredged by the Environment Agency, with the deliberate intention of keeping more water flooding out on to the Levels, to provide a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

One former head of the agency, who previously ran the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, had remarked that she wanted to see ‘a limpet mine’ on every one of the pumping stations which — separately from the dredging — were used to pump out the water channels to prevent flooding.

When the lack of dredging led to the inevitable, and the Levels disastrously flooded for the second time in three years, it not only did £100 million worth of damage to homes and businesses.

With bitter irony, it also resulted in the drowning of huge numbers of the birds, badgers and other creatures the conservationists had wanted to save.

Flooding aside, however, by far the greatest environmental damage, at the greatest cost to our household bills, has been done by the £52 billion so far spent on covering vast areas of our countryside and the sea around our coasts with wind and solar farms, which are now adding £5 billion a year to our electricity bills.

Apart from the way these eyesores have come to dominate parts of our landscape, studies have shown the shocking damage the windmills do to birds and bats, including species such as golden eagles, which are supposed to be protected by law.

Research by the ornithological society SEO/Birdlife suggested that each turbine kills between 110 and 330 birds a year, though the RSPB countered this saying that ‘our own research suggests that a well-located wind farm is unlikely to be causing birds any harm’.

(Conservationists claim the wind industry has a vested interest in covering up the true extent of bird deaths.)

And all this is to produce just 14 per cent of our electricity, available so intermittently that if it wasn’t for those remaining CO2-emitting coal and gas-fired power stations stepping in when the wind wasn’t blowing and the sun wasn’t shining, our lights would have already gone out.

Yet to meet that Climate Change Act target, the Government still dreams of closing down all our remaining fossil-fuel power stations, instead relying on ‘zero-carbon’ electricity from renewables such as wind, sun and wood-burning, and a number of new nuclear power stations, which seem ever less likely to be built after wrangles over funding.

Our politicians have been allowed to get away with all this make-believe for so long that few people noticed some startling figures published a few weeks ago at the time of the Budget, by the Office of Budget Responsibility.

These showed that, over the next five years, the annual cost of all the green taxes and subsidies we shall be paying for is due to rise from £8.97 billion a year to £15.2 billion.

This will bring the five-year total by 2022 to more than £73 billion, far higher than the estimated cost of the HS2 rail project, the most expensive engineering project ever seen in Britain. This equates to £561 a year for every household in the land.

When we consider that colossal sum, most of us may well conclude that our politicians must have gone completely off their heads.

Except that, alas, our MPs live in such a bubble of unreality that few will even have looked at those terrifying figures, let alone at what they are allowing our money to be spent on.

It was exactly a year ago that Theresa May’s joint chief of staff Nick Timothy described the Climate Change Act as ‘a monstrous act of national self-harm’. It is high time his boss realised just how chillingly right he was.



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   main.html or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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