Sunday, January 06, 2019

New National Geographic Documentary Highlights How Ill-Informed Climate Debate Has Become

In announcing the United State’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement last year, President Donald Trump declared, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

A company called RadicalMedia and Bloomberg Philanthropies attempted to counter the president this week with the release of a documentary titled “Paris to Pittsburgh” on the National Geographic Channel.

Taking incredible liberty with the facts and playing on fears and false hopes, the documentary casts a cataclysmic vision of extreme weather, blaming it on fossil energy all along the way.

This is a sad reminder of how ill-informed the national energy debate has become.  It spreads alarmist propaganda and promotes a junk science proposition that the world would somehow be better off without fossil energy, while never disclosing how that same energy has made our world more climate resilient.

Worst of all, the film completely ignores the tragic continuation of energy poverty that myopic, renewable-centric policies inflict on the billions of humans on this planet. They are being deprived of affordable electricity because environmental zealots advocate restricting new fossil energy projects in nations that simply cannot afford to electrify their nations at scale with anything else.

The movie also couldn’t be more ill-timed or poorly titled.

Invoking Paris as some kind of beacon of smart energy policy is beyond ironic — given that Paris is currently burning at the hands of working-class protesters opposed to climate change policies that intentionally increase fuel prices.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s Democratic mayor, in politically motivated sound bites, claims that Paris-like policies are the reason Pittsburgh has cleaned up its act. But the facts on the ground tell a very different story.

Pittsburgh is a beacon of how the environment can be cleaned up with fossil energy, not despite it. Anyone who visited Pittsburgh decades ago can’t fail to note how much clearer its skies are now, and the data backs up that observation. But those gains did not come from myopic anti-fossil energy policies.

Quite the contrary, like many great American cities, Pittsburgh’s environment improved because of technology, not ideology. Despite implications from the film, coal miners, oil and gas drillers, and steelworkers are still around in Pennsylvania. They are just doing their work cleaner and leaner than ever before.

The 90-percent reduction in air and water pollution in Pittsburgh occurred because we found a cleaner way to harness fossil energy through high-efficiency power plants and improved steel manufacturing technologies like Electric Arc Furnaces (EAFs).

One need only track the dramatic drop in air pollution across the country throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s to see that the deployment of these and other pollution control technologies brought about cleaner air, not some anti-fossil fuel ideology or marginal increase in renewable energy.

Aside from the irony of its title, the “Paris to Pittsburgh” film represents the worst kind of junk science and fear mongering.

The fundamental premise of the film is: unless the United States takes aggressive steps to reduce CO2 emissions, we’ll see disastrous impacts from sea level rise on the order of three, six, and even 20 feet. But once the real facts are disclosed, the film’s premise is ridiculous.

Here are the facts: If U.S. emissions were completely eliminated by 2020, the standard RCP4.5 model from the IPCC — which is deserving of criticism in its own right — predicts that the atmospheric concentration of COa would be 2.1-percent lower in 2050. An immediate shift to 100-percent renewable electricity (which is the primary topic of the film), even if it were achieved as soon as next year, would reduce 2050 CO2levels by a mere 0.7 percent.

So the climate zealots’ own data show that eliminating, let alone reducing emissions from the United States will contribute little to nothing to prevent the supposed catastrophic consequences the film uses as the call for the United States to stop using fossil fuels.

The sponsors of this film should spend less time playing games with climate science models and more time practicing basic math.

Meanwhile, the policies required to reduce CO2 emissions in any significant way would do real damage to this country and societies all over the world. The latest IPCC report calls for carbon taxes that would increase fuel anywhere from $1.20 to as much as $49 per gallon by 2030. Parisians are rioting over an increase of just 25 cents-per-gallon, imagine the potential for chaos created by a $49 per gallon increase.

The energy cost explosion from these policies would cripple most economies, including our own. Not to mention what life without access to reliable, abundant energy will continue to look like for billions of global citizens in the developing world who have bigger problems than feeling guilty about how they charge their iPhone.

Weather changes. Climate changes. The real story about weather and climate of the last 100 years is how incredibly resilient humans have become because of access to affordable and reliable fossil energy.

Pittsburgh and America have proven that you can harness fossil energy, make the building blocks of modern society, and clean the environment.

And, no, you don’t need billions of dollars in renewable subsidies to make it happen. You just need science, technology, and economic freedom.

That’s the foundation on which our country was built.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Is Neither ‘New’ Nor ‘Green’ — It’s Just Socialist

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has championed the “Green New Deal,” an idea rapidly gaining traction in Democratic Party circles.

The “democratic socialist” from New York has pushed for the policy in alarmist terms: “People are going to die,” she says, unless it becomes law. Or perhaps “Americans are dying” already. Either way, we face “cataclysmic climate disaster” unless Congress can “plan and implement a Green New Deal” in ten years.

But the “Green New Deal” has little to do with the environment. It is the latest incarnation of a “red-green” strategy, developed decades ago, which seeks to achieve socialist economic policy through the ruse of environmental crisis.

A decade ago, for example, Van Jones — now a left-wing CNN commentator with an admirably pragmatic streak — published The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems. In it, he suggested the U.S. should move to renewable energy resources to avoid higher fuel prices and “climate catastrophe.”

Jones rejected as “scary” and “bizarre” new technologies that would make fuel “out of tar sands and oil shale.” Rather, he argued, the government should promote “green jobs” in renewable energy.

To that end, he envisioned a diverse, working-class political movement embracing formerly elitist policies on the environment as a means to the “transformation of the entire economy,” solving pollution and poverty at the same time.

The book was published a month before Barack Obama won the 2008 election; Jones went on to serve briefly as Obama’s “green jobs czar.”

At around the same time, New York Times columnist and British academic Richard Murphy separately introduced the phrase “Green New Deal” to propose that economic stimulus be used to stimulate renewable energy industries, while ending subsidies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

These proposals collectively made their way into Obama administration policies, from the grand stimulus of 2009 to restricted oil and gas activity on federal lands.

But these policies failed.

The stimulus largely disappeared into state and local governments, and pet projects like Solyndra, which failed spectacularly.

Meanwhile, innovation in the fossil fuel industry — especially hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” — created a shale boom that made the U.S. the world’s number one producer of oil. Innovation also helped the U.S. shift to natural gas, reducing carbon emissions while growing the economy.

The “Green New Deal,” in other words, has already been tried, and failed.

Nevertheless, Ocasio-Cortez and a new cohort of “progressive” Democrats is determined to try again, borrowing partly from Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2016 (whom Ocasio-Cortez joined at the protests in North Dakota in the winter of 2016 against an oil pipeline near Standing Rock).

The main demand: a shift to 100% renewable energy sources by 2030. The promise, as with Van Jones in 2008, is that the shift will create massive numbers of new working-class jobs.

To place that demand in context, in September, outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will require the state to achieve 100% renewable energy — by 2045, not by 2030.

That is, by far, the most ambitious renewable energy plan of any state in the Union — and the state government has no idea how to achieve it. There is no backup plan in case the sun and wind alone cannot meet the needs of a growing population. Critics predict electricity shortages and rationing, and hence a poorer economy, unless the state continues to use fossil fuels.

The “Select Committee” Ocasio-Cortez is demanding would draft legislation to achieve the “Green New Deal.” Along with 100% renewables, her plan also calls for “upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety”; and “funding massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases.”

By any measure, Ocasio-Cortez is calling for huge government intervention in the economy.

The environment might benefit — or might not, if big government creates inefficiencies that produce more waste. Better to let the economy do what it has done without — or against — the government: namely, to innovate, creating cleaner fuels and new technologies, including in renewables.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is not “new,” and may not even be “green.” It is just socialism, which is often the opposite of sound environmental policy.


Dems Announce Climate Committee Guidelines; Ocasio-Cortez Isn’t Pleased

Democratic leadership has formulated the guidelines for the widely anticipated climate change committee, but have bucked environmental hardliners by giving it no real authority or legislative powers.

As part of a rules package that will govern the House for the next two years, House Democrats unveiled the authority and operations of the new “Select Committee on the Climate Crisis” on Tuesday. The new committee will be made up of 15 members — nine Democrats and six Republicans. Kathy Castor, a six-term Democratic representative from Florida, has been tapped to serve as the committee’s chairwoman.

The climate change committee will be tasked to “investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution,” according to the rules package.

However, the new panel won’t be able to do much else.

The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will not have subpoena power, nor will it be permitted to vote on bills and send them directly to the House floor for a vote. Members will also not be barred if they accept donations from the fossil fuel industry. The committee is not even being specifically tasked with writing legislation pertaining to the Green New Deal — a vague set of demands by environmentalists that aim to transition the country to 100 percent renewable electricity. (RELATED: Elizabeth Warren Hasn’t Fully Embraced ‘Green New Deal’)

The committee’s lack of power is a major setback for environmental activists who hoped it would serve as a focal point for their Green New Deal agenda. Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who skyrocketed to fame after unseating a powerful New York congressman in the 2018 primaries — has been the Green New Deal’s biggest purveyor.

New York state senatorial candidate Julia Salazar was joined by Democratic primary winner Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in Bushwick to honor campaign workers who canvassed on her behalf. Shutterstock

Ocasio-Cortez blasted Democratic leadership Monday for not giving the committee subpoena authority or meeting any of her other “reasonable” demands.

The Sunrise Movement — an environmentalist organization and major supporter of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal — was even more critical.

“The mandate for Speaker Pelosi’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is out and it’s everything we feared,” Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash stated Wednesday. “1) It allows members to accept fossil fuel money; 2) It has no mandate to create a plan on the 12-year timeline mandated by the world’s top scientists; 3) It has no language on economic and racial justice, or a just transition.”


Mass Transit Is a Gov’t Failure

Hans Bader

I like subways, and spent most of my adult life taking them to work. Unfortunately, most people prefer to drive.  It can take an hour and a half to take buses and trains to work for a commute that would take only half an hour by car. Mass transit is largely a failure, and continues to decline despite growing subsidies to many mass transit systems. Light rail systems are white elephants. The money spent on light rail would be better spent on bus lines. The underground corridors used for some subways might better be devoted to self-driving cars.

Randal O’Toole describes just what a failure mass transit is in this country, a failure on every level, in a recent Cato Institute report:

“Nationwide transit ridership has declined steadily since 2014, with some of the largest urban areas, including Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles, losing more than 20 percent of their transit riders in the last few years. While this recent decline is stunning, it results from a continuation of a century-long trend of urban areas becoming more dispersed and alternatives to transit becoming more convenient and less expensive.

“Those trends include a dispersion of jobs away from downtowns and increasing automobile ownership, both of which began with Henry Ford’s development of the moving assembly line in 1913. As a result, per capita transit ridership peaked in 1920 at 287 trips per urban resident per year, and have since fallen to just 38 trips per urbanite in 2017.

“Congress began federal subsidies to transit with passage of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, and since then federal, state, and local governments have spent well over $1 trillion on subsidies aimed at reversing transit’s decline. Yet those subsidies have failed to do more than slow the decline, as the trends that have made transit obsolete and nearly irrelevant to the vast majority of urban Americans have overwhelmed the subsidies … transit carries fewer than 3 percent of commuters to work in half the nation’s 50 largest urban areas, as well as in the vast majority of smaller ones, making transit nearly irrelevant to those regions except for the high taxes needed to support it. Due to moderate gas prices, increasing auto ownership, and the growth of the ride-hailing industry, the nation likely reached ‘peak transit’ in 2014.

“The supposed social, environmental, and economic development benefits of transit are negligible to nonexistent. Federal, state, and local governments should withdraw subsidies to transit and allow private operators to take over where the demand still justifies mass transit operations.”

His very readable and interesting full report is available at this link.

So-called bullet trains generally turn out to be white elephants. South Korea is abolishing its celebrated high-speed rail line from its capital Seoul to a nearby major city because it can’t even cover the marginal costs of keeping the trains running. Most people who ride trains don’t need maximum possible speed, and most of those who do will still take the plane to reach distant destinations. Despite Japan’s much vaunted bullet trains, most Japanese don’t take the bullet train either, they take buses, because the bullet train is too expensive. Bullet trains do interfere with freight lines, so Japanese freight lines carry much less cargo than in the United States, where railroads — rather than trucks — carry most freight, thereby reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

California’s so-called bullet train is vastly behind schedule and over budget, and will likely never come close to covering its operating costs once it is built. As Reason magazine noted, transportation officials have warned that California’s misnamed “bullet train” is a disaster in the making. California is drastically understating the costs of its high-speed rail project. Just the first leg of this $77 billion project will cost billions more than budgeted. And the project is already at least 11 years behind schedule.


Environmentalists make good movie villains because they want to make your real life worse

Radical environmentalists have really been taking it on the chin at the multiplex. They are perfect villains for our times: well-intended enough to often seem somewhat reasonable, but meddlesome busybodies whose hopes and dreams are to radically reduce standards of living in order to effect some utopian scheme or another that will return the world — or worlds — to an unsullied Eden.

Thanos, the villain (and protagonist, really) of the $2 billion-grossing megahit, “Avengers: Infinity War,” was basically an omni-powered Paul Ehrlich. Whereas the comic book version of Thanos sought to kill half of the universe in order to prove his love for an anthropomorphized Death, the film version was driven insane by his home planet’s self-immolation after a series of resource wars. Determined to eliminate suffering over food and land, over clean water and clean air, Thanos used the Infinity Gauntlet not to create abundance of each but to kill half of all living things.

Again, this is Ehrlichian in its madness: The author of “The Population Bomb” argued for years that the planet is overpopulated and that famines will wipe out a significant portion of humanity. It could still happen, I suppose — global warming could inspire an “Interstellar”-style blight; the skies could go dry — but, frustratingly for the doomsayers, life on Earth keeps getting better despite the “overpopulation” our precious blue orb continues to shoulder.

“Aquaman” is the surprise hit of the winter, racking up more than $800 million worldwide so far. And while Jason Momoa’s bro-tastic turn as Arthur Curry is earning deserved plaudits from male and female audiences alike, it’s Patrick Wilson’s King Orm who caught my eye. Orm hopes to unite the underwater clans of Atlantis in order to create an unstoppable army that will destroy life on the planet’s landmasses.

But Orm is no madman. His genocidal war is not the result of personal trauma or ideological insanity. It is, rather, a version of self-defense: The surface dwellers dump their trash into the water, strangling the sea life; the surface dwellers spew their smoke into the skies, choking the ocean with particulates; the surface dwellers hunt to extinction the ocean’s animals, depriving the Atlanteans of conveyances. Humanity must die so Atlantis might live.

You saw something similar in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” a few years back. Amongst the most reactionary films of our age, “Kingsman” featured as its villain a tech guru named Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). This billionaire was so disgusted by humanity’s excesses and so riled by the excretions of the masses that he engineered a plot to kill all of us in the most horribly violent manner possible. He invented a device that would cause man to turn against man, mother against child, sister against brother — with bare hands, we would tear each other apart. In so doing, the planet would be cleansed of humanity’s foul stench. Once free of the riffraff, wealthy swells and fabulous celebrities would reclaim the planet for themselves and rebuild the world in their image. Clean. Pristine. Free of the gauche hordes who have rendered our air travel unbearable and our beaches crowded messes.

Environmentalists make a useful villain because their malevolence can be obscured by a patina of reasonableness. Global warming and other manmade problems are going to end the world if we don’t do something — so just about anything is justified! But their villainy resonates with the masses because they actually do want to make life worse for people, for the most part.

There’s a reason France convulsed in recent weeks, as middle-class protesters angered by taxes pushed for by environmentalists took to the streets. Environmentalists want to increase the costs of everyday goods and services by taxing carbon. They want you to fly less and to pay more, via offsets, when you do fly. They want you to stop eating meat. They want you to stop having kids. They want to deprive you of disabled-friendly plastic straws — and they’re coming for your delightful balloons next. They want to turn your corpse into food for plants because even the sweet release of death cannot save you from the environmentalist menace.

There is no aspect of your life that environmentalists don’t want to tinker with, no realm immune from their meddling: just think of those poor small-businessmen whose livelihoods were destroyed by a deranged EPA bureaucrat in the 1984 classic “Ghostbusters.” On the plus side, this makes them pretty solid villains. Expect to see more of them in our big-budget films going forward.



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1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

One of the aspects of Mass Transit failure that is seldom addressed is that, subsidy or no, the politicians ALWAYS meddle with the are structure, ALWAYS skimp on maintenance, and ALWAYS favor 'solutions' that allow for grand public opening ceremonies.

Bus systems starve, when they are more flexible than Light Rail, because only a pip-squeak politician holds a press conference to open a bus stop.

And so, the Washington Metro (AKA 'Congress's Toy Train Set') was stretched to open two more 'lines' even though it was having trouble maintaining the infrastructure fro the ones it had running. Now it's so broken that the only sensible thing to do would be to fill it in with cement and walk away. Which is too bad; I liked riding the Metro when I lived in the DC area.