Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump: Nukes Are the Greatest Threat to the World, Not Climate Change

Crazy that this had to be said

President Donald Trump said Thursday that contrary to what former President Barack Obama has said, “nuclear” is the greatest threat to the world, not global warming.

When asked what his priorities are as it applies to the nuclear posture, the president said he would like to “de-nuke the world.”

“I would like to de-nuke the world. I know that President Obama said global warming is the biggest threat. I totally disagree. I say that it's a simple one: Nuclear is our greatest threat worldwide. Not even a question, not even close,” Trump told reporters in Bedminster, N.J.

As previously reported, in 2015, Obama said “there’s no greater threat” than climate change and that it “poses immediate risks to our national security.”

Trump said he wants countries that have nuclear weapons to “get rid of them,” but until then, he wants the U.S. to be “the most powerful nuclear nation on Earth.” He said that’s the first order he gave to his generals.

“So I'd like to de-nuke the world. I would like Russia and the United States and China and Pakistan, and many other countries that have nuclear weapons, get rid of them, but until such time as they do, we will be the most powerful nuclear nation on Earth by far,” he said.

“The first order I gave to my generals, as you know -- you know, Mike -- my first order was:  I want this, our nuclear arsenal, to be the biggest and the finest in the world, and we spent a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of effort, and it's in tip-top shape, and getting better and getting stronger,” Trump said.

“And until such time as this scourge disappears, we will be so much better and so much stronger than anybody else, and nobody, including North Korea, is going to be threatening us with anything,” the president said.

When asked what he has changed in the nuclear arsenal, the president said, “We've done a lot of modernization, but we've done a lot of renovation, and we have it now in very, very good shape, and it will be in much better shape over the next six months to a year.”

Trump added, “My first order was, we have to do the military, but before we do the military per se, we're going to do the nuclear, and we are in very strong shape. We are going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons having to do with the anti-missile.

“So we are going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars. We'll probably be able to report that over the next week. As you know, we reduced it by 5 percent, but I've decided I don’t want that. We're going to be increasing the anti-missiles by a substantial amount of billions of dollars,” he said.


N.C. State researchers say solar lobby silencing them

Ron Heiniger just wanted to be a farmer. He encouraged research to avoid solar industry encroachment on North Carolina’s prime farmlands.

But because of his academic study, the respected crop and soil scientist has become an unwilling poster child for anti-solar activists, vilified by the solar lobby, and chastened by his employer, N.C. State University.

“I’ve been called crazy. I’ve been threatened. My job’s been threatened. I really don’t want to advertise my issue very much anymore,” said Heiniger, who works at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth.

Left unchecked, Heiniger says, replacing prime farmland with utility-scale solar projects could destabilize a fragile agricultural ecosystem. He warns about soil erosion, leaching contaminants, and ruining soil for future crop growth.

Heiniger and Herb Eckerlin, an N.C. State professor emeritus of the College of Engineering, said they were silenced by the university. Cooperative Extension agents across the state were ordered to cancel popular public forums they had arranged independently to discuss pros and cons of the state’s rapid solar growth.

State lawmakers have jumped in, asking university officials if they have stifled viewpoints that don’t align with those of the solar lobby.

Local officials, higher education watchdogs, and grass-roots observers question whether N.C. State’s North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center is a tax-supported lobbying arm of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association disguised as an academic pursuit.

Heiniger and Eckerlin had been working with county and municipal governments to understand the complexities of proposed large commercial solar projects. They were encouraged to launch a speaking tour for farmers and other interested parties at county Cooperative Extension offices.

“I vetted my materials through people in my department, and I’ve shared my slides to everybody who’s asked for them,” Heiniger said. “In the university I’ve had nobody argue against what my concerns are. In fact, I’ve had very many people in academics agree 100 percent.”

Neither Heiniger nor Eckerlin, who designed the Solar House at N.C. State, founded its Solar Center, and was instrumental in creating the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, oppose solar energy. They said they were interested in full disclosure about pros and cons so that government officials and North Carolina residents could make informed decisions about the renewable industry.

They were joined by Tommy Cleveland, renewable energy project coordinator at the Clean Energy Technology Center, on a panel at Fayetteville.

While Heiniger was driving to the event, Tom Melton, Cooperative Extension deputy director, called him and directed him to discontinue the series of scheduled forums. It was too late to cancel the Fayetteville session, but Melton eventually kept Cleveland on the panel, while replacing Heiniger and Eckerlin at future events.

The university and College of Engineering said Eckerlin was putting them in a bad light, according to Melton. To protect the university’s reputation and educational mission, Melton told county Cooperative Extension offices not to allow Eckerlin or Heiniger on their programs.

“It’s been a bit of a painful process for me,” Melton said. “I’ve been doing this job for over 30 years, and I’ve never asked for anyone not to be on a program.”

State Reps. Billy Richardson, D-Cumberland, and Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, asked university officials to account for the removal of Heiniger and Eckerlin. “I’ve only heard one side, and even Solomon listened to both women. But I would be concerned if there was anything untoward about asking them to stand down,” Dixon said.

Richardson attended the Fayetteville event. He called it “without a doubt one of the most enlightening, refreshing, and important seminars I ever went to. I would encourage them, if there’s some reason they politically pulled that back, to not do that. … The university’s mission should never be to present one side.”

Melton said forbidding Heiniger and Eckerlin from taking part in the panel forums resulted largely from complaints by Cooperative Extension agents. Eckerlin said agents were eager to work with them to arrange the meetings.

Other complaints were registered by representatives of the solar industry, and the Clean Energy Technology Center, Melton said.

“The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association contacted the deans of the College of Agriculture, and told them to shut me down, to stop me from talking to anybody,” Heiniger said. “I’m upset that they’re using what should be the freedom of academics to push back against me.”

“I don’t want to embarrass Melton, and I don’t want to embarrass the university. But Melton [is] not representing the people of the state. He’s representing the solar industry,” Eckerlin said.


Green Delusions and the Wind Bully

Green ideology is a collection of beliefs and superstitions that have been elevated into a religious cult.  The green cult is rife with contradictions and dogma.  For example, people in Wisconsin must eat fresh natural food, grown locally...and Wisconsin farmers are still working on the problem of growing lettuce in the snow.

The electric power grid is an essential of modern life.  Take it away, and the consequence would be mass extinction.  The greens are eager to tamper with the grid.  They want to substitute "clean" wind and solar electricity for the "dirty" nuclear, coal, and natural gas electricity.

The word "clean," like the word "green," has a new meaning.  Now "clean" means politically correct.  Something is clean if it conforms to green dogma.

The Panera Bread fast food chain tells us that its food is now "clean."  It means that its food is politically correct, not containing a long list of taboo ingredients.  The greens have their own dietary laws.  Read the magazine Clean Eating for details.

Renewable is another word that has been twisted to conform to green dogma.  Renewable electricity, according to the dictionary, is a source of electricity that is naturally replenished.  The state of California has a definition of renewable electricity that is more complicated.  California collects a variety of green dogmas under the umbrella "renewable."

Fossil fuels are taboo.  Hydro electricity is naturally replenished by the rain, but to California, it is renewable only if it does not interfere with kayaking and fish.  California loves wind and sunlight for generating electricity.  Among greens, anti-nuke hysteria trumps global warming hysteria, so carbon-free nuclear electricity is not renewable.  A 112-page RPS Eligibility Guidebook, Ninth Edition Revised, details the California definition of renewable electricity.

As George Orwell often pointed out, changing the meaning of words is a method of controlling and limiting the ability to think.

California has passed a law that 50% of its electricity is to be renewable by 2030.  Taken seriously, that would be technically impossible.  But California has a method of turning non-renewable electricity into renewable electricity by legal fiat.  Instead of importing electricity, "Renewable Energy Certificates" can be imported from someone generating and selling renewable electricity outside California.  The abstract "renewable attribute" comes with the certificate and can be used to legally turn non-renewable electricity into renewable electricity.  It's modern alchemy.

The wind farmers selling these certificates to California utilities are supposed to sell the renewable attribute only one time.  But there is an incentive to counterfeit certificates.  Renewable electricity auditors police that.  Both the seller and the buyer of the certificate have an incentive to cheat.  The seller is selling a piece of paper that costs him nothing.  The buyer needs the paper just to satisfy a government agency.

The owner of a wind farm in Colorado can sell the electricity to consumers in Colorado and separately sell Renewable Energy Certificates to utilities in California.  The wind farm owner also collects a federal subsidy of 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity sold.

The claim is often made that wind electricity is cheaper than fossil fuel electricity, a claim that can be easily disproven.  Wind electricity is about three times as expensive as electricity produced by the best fossil fuel plants.  A combined cycle natural gas plant can generate power at a cost of 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.  From real U.S. wind farms, wind electricity costs about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Wind electricity is the most important form of renewable electricity.  Other forms of renewable electricity, such as solar, are even more impractical than wind.  Adding wind power to the U.S. grids makes no economic sense.  It just increases the cost of electricity and gains nothing unless you believe that limiting CO2 added to the atmosphere will prevent catastrophic global warming.

Increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere is highly beneficial for plants and agriculture.  Plants grow better with less water if there is more CO2.  Even if you believe in global warming, cutting back on U.S. emissions of CO2 is a waste of time because the heart of increasing CO2 emissions is in China.

In the conventional electric grid, the manager of the grid instructs the generating plants when to generate electricity and how much to generate.  Wind works the opposite way.  When the wind is blowing, the grid is expected to accept whatever wind power is available and adjust the other generators to balance supply and demand.  Wind is a bully that pushes the other generators around to suit its needs.  Wind generators have this power because many states have requirements, like California, that a certain percentage of the power be renewable by certain dates.  The politicians enable the wind bully.  Green propaganda and the wind turbine manufacturers drive the politicians.

According to Disraeli and Mark Twain, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.  A forth type of lie, green lies, should be added.  The best liar is someone who believes his own lies, and that makes green lies particularly believable.  Goebbels noted that if you keep repeating a big lie enough, people will come to believe it.

An important green big lie is the claim that global warming is affecting the current climate and is responsible for extreme weather events.  According to the best measurements, global warming has been absent for 18 years.  The scientific link between global warming and extreme weather is not just weak, but negative.  Logically, one would expect global warming to make the weather less extreme, because global warming decreases the temperature difference between the poles and the equator that drives weather.

Do not think that the green cult is populated only by hippies with ponytails, driving Volvos and composting garbage in their backyards.  Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and the 10th richest man in the world is a card-carrying member.  The card is a Sierra Club membership card.  Bloomberg and the former president of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, wrote a recent book, Climate of Hope.  The book is a demonstration that you can write any ignorant drivel and be taken seriously if you are important and pretend that the drivel is science.

The green cult, especially the global warming branch, is like Lysenkoism in the former Soviet Union.  It is an official scientific ideology that scientists are expected to support.  The scientists who refuse to support it – there are many – suffer the consequences.  Most scientific dissenters keep quiet.  They have families to support.  Thankfully, there are signs that the official support is starting to crumble.


The totalitarianism of the environmentalists

Late last year, I gave a talk about human progress to an audience of college students in Ottawa, Canada. I went through the usual multitude of indicators – rising life expectancy, literacy and per capita incomes; declining infant mortality, malnutrition and cancer death rates – to show that the world was becoming a much better place for an ever growing share of its population.

It seemed to me that the audience was genuinely delighted to hear some good news for a change. I had won them over to the cause of rational optimism. And then someone in the audience asked about climate change and I blew it.

While acknowledging that the available data suggests a “lukewarming” trend in global temperatures, I cautioned against excessive alarmism. Available resources, I said, should be spent on adaptation to climate change, not on preventing changes in global temperature – a task that I, along with many others, consider to be both ruinously expensive and, largely, futile. The audience was at first shocked – I reckon they considered me a rational and data-savvy academic up to that point – and then became angry and, during a breakout session, hostile. I even noticed one of the students scratching out five, the highest mark a speaker could get on an evaluation form, and replacing it with one. I suppose I should be glad he did not mark me down to zero.

My Ottawa audience was in no way exceptional. Very often, when speaking to audiences in Europe and North America about the improving state of the world, people acknowledge the positive trends, but worry that, as Matt Ridley puts it, “this happy interlude [in human history will come] to a terrible end.” Of course, apocalyptic writings are as old as humanity itself. The Bible, for example, contains the story of the Great Flood, in which God “destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air”.

The Akkadian poem of Gilgamesh similarly contains a myth of angry gods flooding the Earth, while an apocalyptic deluge plays a prominent part in the Hindu Dharmasastra. And then there is Al Gore. In his 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore warns that “if Greenland broke up and melted, or if half of Greenland and half of West Antarctica broke up and melted, this is what would happen to the sea level in Florida”, before an animation shows much of the state underwater. Gore also shows animations of San Francisco, Holland, Beijing, Shanghai, Calcutta and Manhattan drowning. “But this is what would happen to Manhattan, they can measure this precisely,” Gore says as he shows much of the city underwater.

It is possible, I suppose, that our eschatological obsessions are innate. The latest research suggests that our species, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, is 300,000 years old. For most of our existence, life was, to quote Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Our life expectancy was between 25 years and 30 years, and our incomes were stuck at a subsistence level for millennia. Conversely, our experience with relative abundance is, at most, two centuries old. That amounts to 0.07 per cent of our time on Earth. Is there any wonder that we are prone to be pessimistic?

That said, I wonder how many global warming enthusiasts have thought through the full implications of their (in my view overblown) fears of a looming apocalypse. If it is true that global warming threatens the very survival of life on Earth, then all other considerations must, by necessity, be secondary to preventing global warming from happening.

That includes, first and foremost, the reproductive rights of women. Some global warming fearmongers have been good enough to acknowledge as much. Bill Nye, a progressive TV personality, wondered if we should “have policies that penalise people for having extra kids.”

Then there is travel and nutrition. Is it really so difficult to imagine a future in which each of us is issued with a carbon credit at the start of each year, limiting what kind of food we eat (locally grown potatoes will be fine, but Alaskan salmon will be verboten) and how far we can travel (visiting our in-laws in Ohio once a year will be permitted, but not Paris). In fact, it is almost impossible to imagine a single aspect of human existence that would be free from government interference – all in the name of saving the environment.

These ideas might sound nutty, but they are slowly gaining ground. Just last week, a study came out estimating the environmental benefits of “having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year), living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding air travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year).”

And then there is Travis N. Rieder, a research scholar at Johns Hopkins’ Berman Institute of Bioethics, who says that “maybe we should protect our kids by not having them.” He wants tax penalties to punish new parents in rich countries. The proposed tax penalty would become harsher with each additional child.

And that brings me to my final point. Since the fall of communism, global warming has been, without question, the most potent weapon in the hands of those who wish to control the behaviour of their fellow human beings. Lukewarmists like me do not caution against visions of an environmental apocalypse out of some perverse hatred of nature. On the contrary, concern for the environment is laudable and, I happen to believe, nearly universal. But, environmentalism, like all –isms, can become totalitarian. It is for that reason that, when it comes to our environmental policies, we ought to tread very carefully.


Rising British energy bills: the price of green obsessions

It’s government policy, not big business, that’s hiking up energy prices.

Last week, British Gas announced that it was bumping up its electricity prices by 12.5 per cent. Cue outrage from all quarters about the energy industry’s profiteering. At the weekend, the government announced an independent review of energy prices, led by Professor Dieter Helm. But in truth, the best thing the government could do to lower energy prices would be to scrap some of its own wrongheaded policies.

The complaints that energy suppliers are ripping off customers are actually out of kilter with the actual scale of the price rise and the available options to avoid it. British Gas has left its gas prices on hold, so the overall effect of the rise on the average dual-fuel bill will be about 7.3 per cent. To put that into perspective, the rise amounts to about £1.50 per week – another minor source of stress for cash-strapped households, but hardly devastating for most people. Moreover, there are plenty of other suppliers out there in the market. With a bit of initiative, British Gas customers on the standard tariff could save themselves far more than the price rise by switching suppliers. In fact, even just switching to a different British Gas tariff could allow customers to save money.

Nonetheless, the Conservative manifesto for June’s General Election promised ‘a safeguard tariff cap’ for customers on the ‘poorest-value tariffs’. Now, given that the Tories’ effective majority, thanks only to a deal with the DUP, is tiny, tricksy policies like price caps have been quietly dropped, for now. But Helm has previously argued for intervention on energy prices, so some form of government action seems likely to be his recommendation, even if it’s not a price cap.

And yet, profiteering really isn’t the problem here. The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) website provides breakdowns of suppliers’ costs and overall pre-tax profit. According to the latest figures, for supplying gas, the big energy suppliers have done well of late, making a return of 10 per cent before tax. On electricity, however, the companies have actually been losing money – 1.72 per cent before tax. Looking at dual-fuel bills, combining both gas and electricity, the companies have a pre-tax profit margin of 4.26 per cent. That’s higher than in some industries, like supermarkets, where profit margins have fallen to close to three per cent, but it’s peanuts compared with the profit margins of tech companies like Apple, Microsoft or Google, which are more like 26 per cent.

Another figure in those Ofgem tables is more instructive: on dual-fuel bills the cost of ‘environmental and social obligation costs’ is 8.18 per cent – basically double the profit margin. There is also value-added tax (VAT), which comes out at 4.76 per cent in these figures. These costs are imposed by the government – they’re not due to the world price of energy, distribution costs or general company costs. And these are costs the government has it within its power to do something about.

For now, EU rules mean that VAT must be charged, and that could change after Brexit. But those environmental costs could be slashed. It’s one thing to give low-carbon energy sources a helping hand to establish themselves. But why are we continuing to subsidise wind and solar power? Why are we penalising fossil-fuel energy sources? If renewables are rapidly becoming cheaper and more efficient, as green-energy proponents claim, surely they can now compete? Apparently not.

If we don’t do something quickly, things are going to get even worse. As I noted back in March, the Committee on Climate Change – the government’s climate-policy watchdog – says green policies already add an average of £105 to dual-fuel bills. Meeting future targets will pretty much double that cost by 2030. Moreover, rising energy prices affect the cost of everything else we buy. So we’re paying more across the board for those green policies.

Ah, but we have to pay the price to save the planet, right? Well, firstly, the reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions achieved will be trivial on a global scale. The UK currently produces just 1.1 per cent of global emissions. Even assuming that the estimates of temperature rises due to greenhouse gases are correct (and that’s a big ‘if’), at best the effect of UK green-energy policies would be tiny. And secondly, there are more cost-effective ways of achieving those reductions. Switching from coal to gas is pretty cheap, for example, and it’s worth noting that the Conservative manifesto was upbeat about the potential for exploiting shale-gas resources in the UK. Dropping huge subsidies on wind, solar and – in the case of the enormous white elephant that is Hinkley Point C – nuclear, is not remotely sensible.

Apparently, the government would rather scapegoat big energy companies than actually bring prices down.




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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