Sunday, May 28, 2017

Trump refuses to get in line for climate deal

President Trump dug in his heels last night over committing America to the climate deal signed by President Obama, citing fears that such an agreement could threaten US jobs.

On the first day of a two-day meeting of the G7 leaders at Taormina in Sicily, the host, Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian prime minister, said that the US leader had yet to be convinced not to back out of the Paris Accord, which seeks to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Gary Cohn, Mr Trump’s economic adviser, said that Mr Trump had stuck to prioritising American jobs, which he believes are threatened by moving to clean energy. He said that the president “wants to do the right thing for the environment, he cares about the environment but he also cares very much about creating jobs for American workers”.

After the first round of talks, Mr Gentiloni said: “We are hopeful that the US will want to participate and we hope there are positive decisions in the coming days or weeks.”

Mr Cohn hinted that the president might yet be convinced, saying after the session that the president felt “much, much more knowledgeable” on the topic than he did previously. He said that Mr Trump had told the G7 leaders that the environment was “very, very important” to him and that he had even cited environmental awards that he had received.

The drafting of a diluted final G7 declaration, which is expected to acknowledge the climate battle, has been hampered by the absence from the summit of Kenneth Juster, Mr Trump’s international economic policy adviser, who has reportedly stepped down and been replaced by his deputy.


Trump’s Budget and the environment

It’s been described as a “slap in the face,” “slaughter,” “a punitive … assault on science, the environment, and indeed the planet.”

Aside from being inappropriate and irresponsible, these remarks are how some in the policy world and media have depicted cuts to global warming spending in President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal.

People seem to have forgotten—or perhaps never noticed—just how much the government spends on direct climate programs.

Trump’s budget proposal does in fact eliminate or cut a number of climate programs. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to realize there are legitimate justifications for doing so.

Even if the federal budget won’t be balanced on the back of eliminated climate programs, there are a number of basic problems with government climate spending.

1. Quite simply, there are a lot of global warming programs.

For all the Obama administration’s emphasis on global warming as an issue, the Government Accountability Office’s December 2016 assessment found only partial improvement in program management and could not yet determine if government standards showed whether programs were being effective, as they had only just been implemented.

The Government Accountability Office noted in 2009 that “the federal government’s emerging adaptation activities were carried out in an ad hoc manner and were not well coordinated across federal agencies, let alone with state and local governments.”

At least 18 federal agencies administer climate change activities, costing at least $77 billion between fiscal years 2008 and 2013, according to the Congressional Research Service.

2. Most of the money goes to green tech rather than science.  

If these technologies are economically viable, there will be plenty of private sector capital available to develop them. Hardworking taxpayers shouldn’t have to dump money into speculative or failing technology companies or pad the bottom lines of successful ones.

The Department of Energy is notorious for spending on research, development, demonstration, and commercialization of technologies like wind, solar, geothermal, electric vehicles, biofuels, coal carbon capture and sequestration, small nuclear, and batteries.

This has been particularly true in more recent years as a result of the Obama administration’s failed stimulus package, which funneled billions of dollars into energy technologies.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the bulk of federal climate spending has gone to technology development rather than science, wildlife, or international aid.

3. There’s a lot of wasteful spending.

While the Navy’s price per gallon may appear cheap, the actual total cost to the government is much higher.

Despite clear direction from Congress that fuels be cost-competitive, the executive branch camouflaged the costs of the Navy’s biofuel program by subsidizing it through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation program and the Department of Energy.

There are other much larger boondoggles, too. The Navy spent hundreds of millions of dollars on biofuels to meet a political objective to “jumpstart” a domestic biofuel economy with no strategic advantage for military capabilities.

There are many other equally ridiculous examples, such as an Environmental Protection Agency grant for “green” nail salon concepts in California.

As just one example of wasteful spending, Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney highlighted the National Science Foundation’s grant for a global warming musical. (The nearly $700,000 grant was awarded in 2010.)

4. International climate initiatives are fatally flawed.

There are a number of problems with America’s continued participation in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that has produced international global warming agreements and, most recently, the Paris Protocol.

One would think that an international climate conference aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be the perfect opportunity to have a teleconference to show some good faith. But instead, government officials from around the world fly to lavish venues while telling you to buy hybrids and eat less meat.

Each year, the result is the same: symbolic commitments that shame industrialization and the use of fossil fuels with little to no actual impact on the climate.

Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority’s participation in the Paris Protocol should be cause enough to halt funding as Congress has stipulated under current law.

As the Trump budget proposes, the U.S. should also end funding to the quasi-scientific body behind the Paris Protocol—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This panel’s studies have been subject to bias, manipula­tion, and poor data.

5. There are major problems and gaps in climate science.

The fact is, climate modeling is at this point an inexact science. Models have proven to be inaccurate, and regulatory cost-benefit accounting metrics based on them are indefensible.

It is thus no surprise that massive government policies like the Paris Protocol and Clean Power Plan are demonstrably ineffective in addressing global temperatures.

There are many areas of disagreement and uncertainty among climate scientists, not to mention biologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, economists, and others with relevant expertise.

Exacerbating this is the role the federal government has played in toxifying the scientific debate on global warming. Rather than fostering scientific discovery in a field that is a mere few decades old, the federal government appears to have expressed bias in funding science that supports federal climate policies.

Science that challenges the current narrative is pilloried in the press and labeled “denialism,” whereas an intellectually honest approach would seek to understand and improve the science.

The debate is not improved by demands for RICO investigations or anti-science statements castigating those with different opinions as part of the “flat earth society” with their “heads in the sand,” and encouraging people to “find the deniers near you—and call them out today.”

We don’t need more spending on iterative studies telling us that coffee could be more expensive and snakes bigger thanks to global warming. We need better modeling, better understanding of basic science, more data, and a better, transparent discussion on climate science and climate policies.

Even after the president’s proposed cuts, there is plenty of money left in the federal budget to study and model the climate.

For instance, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, a division that includes many climate programs within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would be cut by more than $150 million, but still retain a hefty $324 million.

Let’s also not forget the role that universities, nonprofits, and international organizations play in studying the global climate.

Eliminating wasteful spending, some of which has nothing to do with studying the science at all, is smart management, not an attack on science.

It’s time to end the boondoggles and hold the federal government’s climate science activities to the same standards of rationality and cost effectiveness as other government spending.


Major Exxon Investor Warns Shareholders Not to Give Into Global Warming Hysteria

An activist-led measure at Exxon Mobil Corp.’s next annual meeting addressing global warming could financially wipe out the company’s largest shareholders, one long-time Exxon shareholder said.

BlackRock and Vanguard Group are toying with the idea of supporting an investor-created proposal that would force Exxon to measure how regulations limiting greenhouse gasses could impact the value of the company’s oil assets, sources told The Wall Street Journal Thursday.

The measure is receiving intense scrutiny from shareholders who worry Exxon could get wobbly-kneed in the face of the environmentalist push.

Some analysts believe the measure, if passed, could indicate the full weight and force powerful investors and money managers that are concerned about climate change have on energy companies.

Exxon is opposed to the measure and will find out if Vanguard and BlackRock support the measure at the company’s annual meeting on May 31.

But Steve Milloy, a lawyer-statistician and climate skeptic, believes Exxon’s shareholders are flirting with the devil.

Coal companies know what happens when shareholders entertain measures that could potentially affect their financial bottom line, said Milloy, a global warming skeptic and founder of the website

“It’s kind of ironic that you have a president who wants to roll back regulations against oil producers, yet companies like Exxon want more rules to be heaped on them,” said Milloy, an Exxon shareholder who will speak in opposition to the measure at the meeting next week.

Milloy has been advocating the oil producer end its support for a national carbon tax, rebuke the Paris Agreement on climate change, and discontinue funding climate research

“The threat would have been hypothetical no more than five years ago,” he added, “but the threat is real now. Shareholders get zeroed out because of all of this global warming hysteria.”

Climate activist shareholders hold a different view.

Timothy Smith, a director at Walden Asset Management, which backs the Exxon measure, for instance, told reporters that a few short years ago investors were not talking about the effect climate change has on business, but “now the evidence just slaps you in the face.”

BlackRock has not publicly supported the measure.

“No decision has been made regarding our vote at Exxon’s Annual Shareholder Meeting. Our deliberations continue and we look forward to continued engagement with the company,” said Zach Oleksiuk, head of Americas for BlackRock’s investment stewardship group.

Vanguard could be dissuaded from joining the climate crowd if Exxon offers concessions, such as allowing non-employee directors to meet with investors, the sources said. Similar concessions have worked in the past on other measures addressing global warming.

“Directors at any company who don’t engage with those on whose behalf they serve risk losing investor support,” Glenn Booraem, a principal at Vanguard, said in a statement about possible concessions Exxon should consider.

The measure comes as Exxon continues beating off an attorney general-led campaign to force the Texas-based oil producer into turning over decades worth of documents allegedly showing it hid knowledge about global warming from the public.

Much of the crusade against Exxon’s climate history is based on reports from liberal-leaning media outlet InsideClimate News and Columbia University, which claim Exxon has known the risks of global warming for decades but kept such knowledge under wraps.

Milloy, for his part, submitted a resolution in April through a mutual fund he called the Free Enterprise Action Fund, which requests Exxon change its bylaws blocking stockholders from filing resolutions.

His plan came after an activist-led ploy to force Exxon into naming a climatologist to the company’s board of directors. It relented and elected Susan Avery, a former director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Avery, a climate scientist specializing in atmospheric dynamics and climate change, helped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cobble together climate research. Milloy thinks activists with political views have been undercutting the company’s interests for years.

BlackRock received scorn and relentless criticism at Exxon’s annual meeting last year after it opposed a similar proposal. The group will make the disclosure of climate risks a key point of discussion with Exxon managers this year.

Next week’s investor-led measure hinges on many of Exxon’s largest shareholders, most of whom own about 20 percent of the company, according to Anne Simpson, investment director for sustainability at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. CalPERS has worked on oil and gas divestment issues in the past.

Simpson added: “At the end of the day, the outcome will turn on what do the big fund managers and mutual funds do.”


The U.S. shale boom will continue to benefit consumers if energy markets are allowed to work

The American energy revolution of the past decade has brought unforeseen economic benefits including billions of dollars in new investments, lower energy costs for Americans and tens of thousands of new jobs.

That energy-driven economic stimulus has been especially powerful in the resource-rich regions in states like North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas where innovation and modern technological advancements in shale development have revitalized local economies. And the energy boom has had the deepest and most positive impact in states that have embraced commonsense policies that foster and encourage competition rather than picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace.

Where energy development has been allowed to take hold without onerous over-regulation, the energy sector's successes buffered local and regional economies from many of the devastating effects of the Great Recession. Since the recovery, the shale revolution has affected transformative changes in national and international energy markets, shifting long-held paradigms involving the production, generation and use of energy in America.

We have seen cheaper, domestically produced natural gas push out other sources of energy used to power America's electric grid, leading to more cost savings in states where consumers choose suppliers. In the Midwest, oil refiners invested billions to expand capacity and update facilities to process the significant boom in North American crude oil production.

As we continue to move away from government-imposed limits on the energy sector such as the now-lifted ban on crude oil exports, and move to encourage more overseas shipments of natural gas products, America's energy revolution is even reaching into global energy markets.

The United States exported oil to 26 different countries last year, according to recent Energy Information Administration data, thanks to the government's decision to finally get out of the way of energy markets. Given this newfound access to global energy markets, U.S. oil and gas producers, refiners and processors are rising to the fresh opportunities.

There's no debating the fact that the domestic energy revolution has delivered a powerful economic stimulus to the economy and made American more energy secure than ever before.

The market dynamics driven by this transformation require larger and more fundamental changes in our systems that move oil, natural gas and fuels. Such change can be painful for some. Communities that might not have seen new pipeline development or infrastructure projects in decades need to accommodate these critical improvements. Businesses that rely on decades-old systems need to adjust and modernize.


Australia: The arrogance of a Greenie

"We have to lead the government in what we want"

SO MANY people feel like they can’t make a difference nowadays but not Dayne Pratzky aka the Frackman.

Eight years ago he started a war with the coal seam gas industry that left him financially and emotionally drained but still angry enough to rip out the gas connection in his new house. “I will not have a part of it, I will not be held hostage to the gas industry in cooking and heating,” Pratzky told

Pratzky, who has embraced solar power at home, gained infamy when he appeared in the hit 2015 movie Frackman about his fight against gas companies who wanted to drill on his property in Queensland’s Darling Downs.

While he now lives in Forster in NSW’s Mid North Coast, Pratzky does not think he lost, despite the high price he’s paid for his activism. “I’ve lost eight years of my life, I’ve financially ruined myself and it will take time to get back on my feet but I’ll be back, I’m not finished.”

Pratzky believes he also helped others, and contributed to destroying the onshore gas industry in Australia. Since then the Victorian government has banned all onshore gas exploration and production, and there are delays over projects in NSW and the NT.

“You could say I lost but you could also say I won because the industry’s social licence has been destroyed,” Pratzky said.

“They are losing the PR battle and people don’t trust the oil and gas industry. “There’s no place for it in this country, and I’m proud of that.”

Ultimately Pratzky believes companies will never be a match for passionate people. “They do this for a job, they get paid, go home and do something else. But activists go home and eat and breathe it, that’s why you can’t beat activists because they are doing it because they want to. You can’t beat passion.”

Asked whether he had any regrets, Pratzky reckons he would have gone even harder. “I realise that being a passenger in policy, it’s no way forward,” he said. “We are having things that are not good for us forced down our throats.

“The government doesn’t lead, it follows. We have to lead the government in what we want.”

Far from feeling disempowered, Pratzky believes the rise of social media has enabled people to fight for what they believed in more than ever before. “Now I say if you’re not an activist, you’re just a whinger — there’s no excuse anymore,” Pratzky said.

“You used to have to fight to get yourself in the media, it would have to be a great story for them to get involved, but part of our rise to notoriety was because of social media.

“We had the ability to get the message out and it’s changed society. “You can be a keyboard warrior now, you can write a letter, join a group and educate yourself far easier than before.”

And contrary to what many people think, Pratzky said activists were not the rainbow-clothes wearing, bong smoking rabble they were often made out to be.

Pratzky, a carpenter and builder enjoys pig-shooting, is himself an unlikely activist and he said the social aspect of activism was actually the best part about it.

“The best thing is the people you meet ... they are absolutely phenomenal people, good Aussies, that’s why I stay involved, to help them save their properties,” he said.

“It’s not the ‘usual suspects’, it’s normal people trying to protect their way of life and business.”

Pratzky, who will be sharing his experiences during a talk at the Opera House on Saturday, wants to continue encouraging people to stand up for what they believe in.

“You’ve got to put yourself out there,” he said. “If there’s something wrong in our area, you should know about it,” he said.

“I’m a custodian of society, we all are. If you don’t want to live in a gun-filled and drug-filled society like America, you’ve got to fight to keep Australia the way it is now.”



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