Wednesday, September 27, 2017


France to spend E20b on Greenie follies

The French government plans to invest 20 billion euros ($A29.86 billion) in an energy transition plan, including 9 billion euros towards improved energy efficiency, 7 billion for renewables and 4 billion to precipitate the switch to cleaner vehicles.

The environment-related investments, drafted by economist Jean Pisani-Ferry and presented by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Monday, are part of a 57 billion-euro investment plan to run from 2018 to 2022.

Buildings are responsible for 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, so the government plans a 9 billion-euro thermal insulation program that will focus on low-income housing and government buildings, the government said in a statement.

"The number of badly insulated low-income housing and social housing will be divided by two, and a quarter of government buildings will be renovated in line with environmental norms," it said.

The program aims at financing the renovation of 75,000 dwellings per year, or 375,000 over the government's five-year term.

The government will also invest 7 billion euros to boost the growth of French renewable energies by 70 per cent over the next five years.

Investments will include research and innovation to combat climate change, and will speed up France's transition to low carbon and greater energy efficiency.

While efficiency investments will be a boon to the housing sector, the resulting lower power demand will hurt utilities, although the industry should also benefit from more support for renewable power.

The plan will also invest 4 billion euros in the switch to less polluting vehicles, with the transport industry responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions.

Further elements will focus on the road and railway network, boost local transport networks and will help low-income households to exchange old, polluting vehicles for newer, more environmentally friendly models.

The plan will target the phasing out of 10 million old vehicles and focus on cars with petrol engines registered before 1997 or diesel vehicles registered before 2001.

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The inconvenient truth about Al Gore

A decade ago Al Gore released his documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Second only to 9/11 it was the decade’s most significant event in shaping public policy worldwide. To mark the anniversary Gore has released An Inconvenient Sequel which has flopped. The politicians haven’t caught up yet but the public has lost interest in global warming – contrary to forecasts summer still feels like summer and winter still feels like winter. If there had been more scrutiny a decade ago of Gore’s life story we would have saved ourselves a decade of bad policy. Gore has written plenty of books but unlike every other vice presidential candidate in memory there haven’t been any memoirs. Why? Because Gore is politically ashamed of his past.

Gore’s father was a congressman and then senator for Tennessee for 32 years. His mother was an aide to ├╝ber-liberal Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1956 Gore’s father lost a bid for the vice-presidential nomination and the family’s fierce ambition was channeled to infant Al. He studied politics and history at Harvard where he was elected student president. He’s confessed to smoking pot and a friend recalled ‘pot stimulated Gore’s imagination. He talked about what he would do as President. Political ambition coursed inside him like an underground river.’

Like his parents, Gore supported the Democratic Left. At college he described anti-communism as ‘paranoia and a national obsession’ and the US military as ‘fascist.’ In 1970, his father was struggling for re-election to the Senate due to his opposition to the Vietnam War which was still popular in Tennessee. After months of family anguish Gore volunteered for a war he didn’t believe in – his dad still lost but Gore knew one day America would ask ‘did you serve?’ After five months in Vietnam (far from the front line), Gore was discharged early after hearing the call to study religion. A few months into his theological studies he quit, made money in property (courtesy of his dad’s network) and worked as a reporter. Then his dad’s old congressional seat became vacant. Dad had learnt the hard way a lefty in Tennessee now had no future, so Gore campaigned stridently right-wing on everything: pro-life, pro-gun, pro-tobacco, anti-gay and born-again. It was 1976 and he won.

By 1985 Gore was one of America’s youngest senators. This was the height of Reaganism and Gore boasted he was a ‘raging moderate’. He and his then wife founded the Parents Music Resource Centre (PMRC) – which waged a morals crusade against rock music. Gore arranged congressional committees to investigate satanic and lewd influences on kids. Remember backward masking? Gore didn’t invent it but he did make it famous. In the mid-1980s the Gores were America’s Fred and Elaine Nile.

In 1988 Gore, 39, ran for president, finishing a dishonourable third after a slanging match with liberal hero and rival candidate Jesse Jackson. In the Democrats primary, Gore also introduced Willie Horton to the public and fatally wounded the nominee Michael Dukakis. It took years for African-Americans to forgive Gore’s 1988 race-baiting. Gore was devastated. He was just too conservative for the Democrats. Gore needed a makeover so wrote Earth in the Balance and the public met ‘global warming.’ Communism was dead, the Left needed a new cause and Gore delivered it in a worldwide bestseller. Lefties have short memories. Gore had redeemed himself.

When nominations opened for the 1992 election President Bush had stratospheric approval after liberating Kuwait. Gore calculated he would sit this one out and wait for the 1996 election. Only lightweights nominated for the Democratic nomination – Bush derided them as the ‘seven dwarfs’ which included the Governor of Arkansas. Gore was a national figure – Bill Clinton was not. But a recession hit and America warmed to Clinton. ‘Draft dodging’ and ‘womanising’ dogged Clinton, however, so when he weighed his vice presidential candidates a ‘veteran’ and former morals crusader ticked the boxes. The invitation was bittersweet for Gore (he was meant to be the next Democratic president!) but with Clinton looking like a winner Gore accepted. The ‘Dream Team’ shot to an overnight 11 point lead and victory.

Gore was a diligent VP who worked closely with Clinton but they were not friendly – the patrician Gore family were privately appalled their son had to serve under the commoner Clinton. Monica ended what relationship there was. Gore was furious Clinton’s recklessness had damaged his upcoming tilt for the presidency. The impeachment however backfired and Clinton had high approval on his departure. Gore’s resentment blinded him and ‘Clinton’ along with ‘global warming’ was jettisoned in campaign 2000.

On election night Gore conceded to Governor Bush but then retracted – an unprecedented act of bastardy in the history of democracy. It was also pointless. Gore contested the result to a 7-2 Supreme Court loss. In 1960, Richard Nixon was in a similar position but Nixon feared dividing America and conceded without dispute. Gore did neither and America’s acute polarisation today can be traced back to election night 2000.

Bar strategic forays Gore was largely quiet for six years. The first thing he did was write a book about family values but that didn’t take off so he plotted the revival of the cause that had rescued him in 1992 – global warming. He gave terrific performances on comedy shows to soften his wonky image and was the first significant Democrat to oppose the Iraq War. He endorsed Howard Dean in 2004 thereby locking in left activists for his coming crusade. In 2006 An Inconvenient Truth was unleashed – the book, the movie, the world-wide all-encompassing revolution. Saint Al and global warming were everywhere. After the bitterness of 2000 Gore was a liberal martyr and the press gave his ‘end is nigh’ thesis unquestioning approval. Millions if not billions were fooled temporarily into thinking life as we know it only had ten years to go. Gore, the most partisan politician, claimed ‘global warming is not a political issue but a moral issue.’ How cute. He demonised opponents with religious fervour – a sure sign it’s a bluff.

This simple fact was ignored all along – Gore has no standing to teach science. His academic research was on ‘Presidents and the media’ and yes he has proven profound skill in both these utterly non-scientific fields. Over the past four decades Gore has journeyed from hard left, hard right, centre and back to the hard left. Al Gore is a Pied Piper who the New York Times has estimated is on track to make a billion dollars from global warming.

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Bridenstine to Lead NASA? Why Not?

President Donald J. Trump recently nominated Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) to lead NASA. Science Magazine promptly raised two objections. First, Bridenstine rejects climate change alarmism. Second, he’s a politician, not a scientist.

Professional advocates for science should come up with more substantive analysis. Reason, not ideology, should rule.

Let’s consider climate change.

NASA’s mission is pretty much the antithesis of that of the climate change movement.

Climate change alarmists would ratchet back mankind’s use of energy and technology to reduce our impact on the planet.

NASA’s mission is advancing technology through space exploration. That involves burning lots of fossil fuels not only as direct rocket fuels but also to generate electricity to make liquid hydrogen fuel. A NASA director who accepted climate alarmists’ goals might never launch another rocket.

During its earlier years, some might have construed part of NASA’s mission statement to support climate research. But NASA removed the phrase “to understand and protect the home planet” in 2006.

NASA’s mission is space science, not climatology. This is not to say a director can’t take an interest in climate research, but it’s not his job. It’s not directly relevant to space exploration.

The objection that NASA can’t be led by a politician is equally wrong.

The agency’s source of direction and funding is very political. NASA has always had credentialed scientists, but they haven’t been able to get funds to advance space exploration. A leader with political savvy is exactly what NASA needs.

Beyond that, Bridenstine is an advocate for science. He was the executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium. He is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

That Bridenstine isn’t a scientist can’t be the Science editors’ real objection. Only three of NASA’s 20 past administrators were scientists — 15 if you include engineers. But climate alarmists are loathe to do that. Why? Because engineers, including some retired NASA engineers, are prone to question climate alarmism.

So, does Bridenstine’s skepticism about climate alarmism disqualify him?

We depend on science to do what science does best — perform disciplined research and pass the results to decision-makers. Actual climate scientists try to do that. But science journalists fail to report the continuing controversies. They perpetuate the myth of an overwhelming consensus. The myth is not just that climate changes or that humans contribute to climate change (so far so good). It is that humans’ contribution will be catastrophic but can be averted by policies that cost trillions of dollars (not so good).

Bridenstine recognizes that myth for what it is. Far from disqualifying him, that’s one of his best qualifications.

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Vermont Energy Goal Numbers Don’t Add up

Vermont, along with 19 other states, has a long-term greenhouse gas reduction mandate. The original mandate, signed into law in 2006, called for a 75 percent reduction below 1990 emissions levels by 2050. In 2011, then- Gov. Peter Shumlin raised the goal to a 90 percent reduction by 2050, something which the 2016 State Comprehensive Energy Plan discusses in detail.

Too bad the numbers don’t add up. Vermont’s mandate is much more than a requirement to supply consumers with electricity from renewable resources like wind and solar power. It will require virtually complete electrification of the Vermont economy to eliminate almost all fossil fuel consumption. Cars and trucks, oil- and gas-fired furnaces, industrial processes — virtually everything that now uses fossil fuels will need to be replaced with its electric counterpart.

In 1990, Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions were estimated to be 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e). By 2012, those emissions had increased to 8.3 million tons. (The “equivalent” arises because CO2 is just one of many greenhouse gases and in Vermont, methane emissions from the state’s dairy industry account for almost 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.) The 90 percent goal means that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by about 5 million tons, to just over 500,000 tons of CO2-e by 2050, less than one ton per Vermonter. That’s less than the methane emitted by the state’s bovines in 2012.

By comparison, in 2014, total world greenhouse gas emissions were estimated to be around 45 billion tons of CO2-e. To put that in perspective, Vermont’s CO2-e emissions in all of 2012 were about two hours’ worth of world emissions.

Meeting the 90 percent greenhouse gas reduction goal will require replacing virtually all fossil fuel used in the state with electricity, and ensuring that there is enough electricity to do that. According to data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Vermonters annually consume a total of 132 trillion BTUs of energy. Of that amount, about 20 trillion BTUs (15 percent) was in the form of end-use electricity consumption. Fossil fuel use accounted for 92 trillion BTUs. Although the Comprehensive Energy Plan discusses using biofuels, the amount of biofuel that could be produced on agricultural land is small, estimated at 4 million gallons. Thus, the prospects for a biofueled Vermont economy are slim. Moreover, biofuels cost far more than their fossil-fuel equivalents.

How much electricity will Vermont need? Suppose Vermont could reduce total end-use energy consumption to just 100 trillion BTUs by 2050. That’s 30 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, five times the amount consumed in 2015. Currently, Vermont gets 2 TWh of electricity each year from hydropower and another 1 TWh from burning wood. That leaves 27 TWh from wind and solar power.

Last November’s election appears to have confirmed that Vermonters don’t want thousands of giant wind turbines dotting the landscape. So assume that additional electricity will be generated by solar photovoltaics. To produce 27 TWh of electricity from solar panels would require about 20,000 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity. According to data published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1 MW of solar photovoltaic requires eight acres of land. So, 20,000 MW would require 160,000 acres, or about 250 square miles. And despite cost decreases, solar power is still much more costly than power purchased on the wholesale market. Thus Vermonters would pay even higher electricity prices.

Solar photovoltaic is not available at night or on cloudy days. Thus, enough solar photovoltaic will need to be installed to store excess electricity in batteries. Current battery technology can provide 8 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity for every MW of capacity, at a cost of about $1.2 million per megawatt. Twenty-seven TWh of electricity is equivalent to just over 80,000 MWh per day. Thus, suppose that on a cold, cloudy December day, electricity consumption is 100,000 MWh. Supplying that much electricity from batteries would require 12,500 MW of battery storage, at a cost of $15 billion. Even if battery costs drop by half, that’s still $7.5 billion.

Replacing all of the fossil-fuel-using equipment in the state and adding electric vehicle charging stations would cost billions of dollars more.

Curiously, nowhere does the 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan discuss the benefits of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps that’s because there will be no benefits. Reducing Vermont’s two-hours’ worth of world CO2 emissions will have no measurable impact on world climate. Nor will similar greenhouse gas reduction mandates in other states. No measurable climate impacts mean zero climate benefits.

Ambitious, math-challenged legislators can always vote to impose costly and foolish mandates like Vermont’s with little pushback from voters. But Vermont’s mandate, like the mandates in other states, will impose additional costs on residents and businesses with zero offsetting benefits. Vermont’s is just another economically damaging exercise in symbolic environmentalism and political grandstanding.

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Massachusetts wind turbine study is junk science

Raymond S. Hartman,

I am a mathematical economist. I have studied alternative green energy sources as a faculty researcher at MIT and have taught energy and environmental economics as an associate professor at Boston University and the University of California at Berkeley.

Voters in Savoy will soon decide whether to allow taller wind turbines in the town. In the discussion leading up to the relevant vote, the Minuteman Wind representative told the town that "there is not scientific consensus" about sound issues (Eagle, Aug. 25), citing a submitted noise study. She was likely referencing a state-sponsored January 2012 wind turbine study. Her assertion is a complete mischaracterization of the scholarly research.

As an expert witness, I have professionally reviewed hundreds of quantitative policy analyses and provided leading testimony that ended in landmark legal decisions. I thoroughly evaluated the state-sponsored study and found it to be fundamentally flawed in its analysis and conclusion that wind turbines do not cause negative health effects.

Simply put, the health impact study is not independent science. Rather, it is biased, distorted and in many cases outright deceitful. Several members of the panel were not independent; they benefit from big wind financially or have demonstrated a scientifically unsupported intellectual preference for this technology. The study relies primarily upon four to five articles while ignoring hundreds of other relevant studies. It summarizes health effects of much smaller turbines than the ones proposed for Savoy, for example, and examines the effects in Sweden, Holland and New Zealand, while inexplicably ignoring the serious health effects that have arisen from the many large wind projects in Massachusetts and the rest of New England.

Furthermore, the panel distorts, ignores and misstates the conclusions of the very studies upon which it relies. These studies conclude that industrial wind turbines disrupt sleep, and note that chronic noise exposure is a psychosocial stressor that can induce maladaptive psychological responses and negatively impact health. Furthermore, wind turbine sound varies unpredictably, and the noise does not cease at night.

Wind developers are eying our small towns, while unprepared to evaluate the adverse effects that 35 to 50-story wind turbines will have. These include lower real estate values near turbines and negative impacts on the tourism-based regional economy of Western Massachusetts. Would we alter these elevated ridge lines with 35- to 50-story Walmarts?

I hope voters in Savoy do not rely on this fatally flawed health study as science to evaluate the project. If one of my students had handed it in to me, I would have given it a failing grade.

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