Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The end of oil is not in sight

Environmentalists dreaming of a post-pandemic future free of fossil fuels need to wake up.

For once, the cliché ‘unprecedented’ really did apply. In April, the price of an American barrel of oil, delivered in May, briefly dropped from a low $20 to minus $40. Storage capacity for oil became so tight, producers paid people to take it off their hands, for fear that supply chains would clog up irreparably.

That has never happened in 150 years of processing oil.

Some believe that the world’s daily average supply of oil – about 100million barrels a day (mmb/d) – could drop by 20 per cent. After all, America’s lockdown has already made demand for oil there fall from 20 to 14 mmb/d. But it is the collapse of demand for it in transport that has attracted most attention. Indeed, in the OECD area (which includes Europe, the US and Central America), transport accounts for more than 60 per cent of overall demand for oil.

The green establishment, now complete with woke banks and investors, sees in ghost roads and empty skies the beginning of the end of oil. These are the ‘sunset years of the fossil-fuel era’, contends Sky News’ economics editor. The former head of BP, Lord Browne, now says ‘people who have spent months worrying about their lungs are more likely to want clean air’ than continued use of oil. The International Energy Agency’s chief energy modeller has proclaimed that renewables beat fossil fuels because they’re like children – immune from the effects of the virus. Overall, we’re told, the world faces peak demand for oil in just a decade or two.

These people need a reality check. They are convinced electric vehicles will supplant petrol and diesel ones, and that renewables will replace fossil fuels. But they’re fooling themselves.

Take electric transport, for example. It would take 14 years just to restock the entire fleet of cars on UK roads. And, even then, that would depend on: all new cars made being electric by law; the sales of these new cars remaining steady, at 2.3million per year, despite the coming depression; the eight million used, internal-combustion-engine cars sold every year being declared illegal; and the sunk costs of petrol stations and tankers being ignored in favour of new charging points everywhere. And that’s four very big ifs. In other words, it could take much, much longer than 14 years to replace the UK’s existing fleet of cars.

For decades, too, acquiring and transporting the materials for electric cars – as, indeed, for wind turbines and solar panels – will depend on oil much more than electricity. Remember, for example, that the cobalt in batteries isn’t mined in by far the world’s largest producer, the Democratic Republic of Congo, by electric robots and distributed by electric trucks. No, it’s mined using children and diesel.

Greens also expect far too much of China. I’m a big fan of China’s electric cars, but Asia’s rebound from Covid-19 will see demand there surge for cheap-to-buy-and-run conventional cars. Renault, for example, envisages electric vehicles taking just a quarter of the Chinese market by 2030. And it will not just be the Chinese in Asia who, with higher incomes, will want the freedoms provided by the conventional car.

Beyond oil and transport, what about heat and gas? In energy, the price of gas tends to follow trends in the price of oil; so right now, gas, like oil, is really cheap. Yet, obsessed with global ‘heating’, our electric fetishists nevertheless forget the role of heat in industrial processes – the production of steel, chemicals, fertiliser, food, drink, cement, pulp, paper, and plastics – and the centrality of gas within those processes. Even in advanced, electric-arc furnaces, for instance, only half the energy used to make steel comes from amps and volts. Similarly, it is just possible that, by 2050, all plastics production in the EU will be electricity-based, including that of PPE. But environmentalists themselves concede that, in such a case, costs would be two to three times higher than today. And the claims that we can replace ‘nearly all’ UK household gas boilers with electric heat pumps or other alternatives to gas by 2050 remain fanciful at best.

And what of power supply? Environmentalists again deceive themselves when they take the irresistible rise of ‘green electricity’ for granted.

The government’s Digest of UK Energy Statistics states that, in 2018, wind and solar provided just 63.5 per cent of the record 33 per cent of UK electricity produced by renewables. The rest was produced by biofuels, the use of which many greens criticise on the grounds that they emit CO2 and require excessive amounts of land to be grown.

In other words, what are generally understood to be ‘renewables’ amount to just 21 per cent of the UK’s annual electricity supply. Yes, breezy and sunny summers can famously generate higher quantities of UK renewable electricity. But wind and solar won’t dominate year-round UK power supply for ages.

Greens contend that renewables use will increase because wind and solar are always getting cheaper. Yet while wind and solar, like electric vehicles, will indeed benefit from improvements in production technology, so will oil and gas. Our electric fetishists ignore, for instance, how IT has raised the productivity of US shale oil and gas production.

Selective in their appreciation of technological advance, electric fetishists are downright dishonest about the work that goes into electric systems. As noted above, child labour, sweat and exploitation account for much of the production of cobalt for batteries. But for electric fetishists, such facts are inconvenient.

As, indeed, is the fact that nobody can really forecast oil prices. But one kind of forecasting we can do without is the sort that’s wishful, technocratic, and, above all, authoritarian. In the 1980s, the uber-Thatcherite minister Norman Tebbit famously told the unemployed: ‘On your bike!’ Now our wannabe electric rulers tell everyone: on your electric bike – or buy that £40,000 Tesla.


Roll Call Caught Telling Farmers Lies About Drought, Floods, Crop Yields

At the top of Google News searches this morning for “climate change” is a Roll Call article titled, “Farmers are coming around on climate change.” The article’s subtitle is “Flooded fields, persistent droughts or ravaging wildfires are giving many a change of heart.” Factual data, as well as the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), establish there is no increase in drought or floods. Moreover, crop yields set new records virtually every year. Roll Call is simply peddling discredited climate lies dressed up into fake news.

Drought Claims Are Strike One

Let’s first examine Roll Call’s claim about “persistent droughts.” As documented in Climate at a Glance: Drought, the United States is benefiting from fewer and less extreme drought events as the climate modestly warms.

For example, in 2017 and 2019, the United States registered its smallest percentage of land area experiencing drought in recorded history.

Also, the United States is undergoing its longest period in recorded history with fewer than 40 percent of the country experiencing “very dry” conditions.

Globally, the IPCC reports with “high confidence” that precipitation has increased over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (including the United States) during the past 70 years. Moreover, IPCC has “low confidence” about any negative trends globally. (See https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/06/SR15_Chapter3_Low_Res.pdf, p. 191.)

Roll Call’s claims about climate change causing “persistent droughts” is fake news and strike one.

Flood Claims Are Strike Two

Next, let’s examine Roll Call’s claim about “flooded fields.” As documented in Climate at a Glance: Floods, there has been no evidence of increasing flooding frequency or severity as the climate modestly warms.

The IPCC admits having “low confidence” in any climate change impact regarding the frequency or severity of floods.

Also, IPCC admits having “low confidence” in even the “sign” of any changes. In other words, it is just as likely that climate change is making floods less frequent and less severe.

Supporting this, a recent peer-reviewed study on the climate impact on flooding for the USA and Europe, published in the Journal of Hydrology, Volume 552, September 2017, Pages 704-717, found “The number of significant trends was about the number expected due to chance alone.”

The study also reported, “The results of this study, for North America and Europe, provide a firmer foundation and support the conclusion of the IPCC that compelling evidence for increased flooding at a global scale is lacking.”

Roll Call’s claims that climate change is causing “flooded fields” fake news and strike two.

Claim of Declining Crop Yields Is Strike Three

Finally, let’s examine Roll Call’s claim about reduced crop yields. This, when all is said and done, is the heart of the issue regarding farmers and agriculture. Droughts and floods are merely the climate instruments by which crop yields may be stunted, hurting farmers. Does crop data show declining yields as Roll Call claims?

As documented in Climate at a Glance: Crop Yields, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization document that U.S. crop yields and global crop yields are setting records nearly every year as global climate modestly warms. Thanks in large part to longer growing seasons, fewer frost events, more precipitation, and the fertilization effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide, farmers are producing more food on less land, allowing them to feed a growing global population.

Indeed, almost every important U.S. crop has set record yields per acre during the past three years, with most of the top 10 years in yields-per-acre occurring during the past decade.

Crop yields set new records virtually every year, yet Roll Call attempts to fool readers with lies claiming the contrary.

Roll Call’s claim about climate change causing declining crop yields is strike three.

Three Strikes, Roll Call, Yerrrrrr Out!

Three strikes and you’re out, Roll Call. Climate facts trump fake climate news.


Alarmist Study Claims More Heat Deaths, Ignores Greater Number of Cold Deaths

CNN, the Washington Post, and other media outlets are touting an alarmist paper claiming the number of days with high heat and humidity has doubled since 1979 in some parts of the world, causing more heat-related deaths. In reality, if an increase in global temperatures and humidity is occurring, its primary effect is saving human lives.

Peer-reviewed research finds cold temperatures kill 20 times more people globally than warm or hot temperatures. With such a disproportionate amount of deaths caused by cold temperatures, clearly an increase in global temperatures will save many more people than it will kill. However, the new study being touted by the alarmist media fails to take into account the many more people who are being saved from cold-related deaths. As if often the case with climate alarmists and their ventriloquist dummies in the media, they isolate a minor negative repercussion of warmer temperatures, completely ignore the much greater positive benefits, and then cast the net overall benefit as a climate emergency.

For example, much of the focus in the new alarmist paper is on the southeastern United States. Yet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports cold temperatures kill many more people in the United States than warm or hot temperatures. The new paper leaves readers with the false impression that the net impact of warmer temperatures is more deaths, when it completely ignores the much greater number of people saved due to less frequent, severe, and deadly cold.

Indeed, in the United States and around the world, many more people die each year during the cold winter months than the hot summer months. Any change that reduces the prevalence and severity of cold relative to heat will accordingly save lives.


Greenies often assure us that we will run out of food. David Littleproud claims Australia has the best food security in the world. Is he correct?

Rice, pasta and some canned foods sold out in the weeks after state and federal governments imposed restrictions and urged Australians to stay at home, with a sudden rush to stock up severely straining supply chains.

State and federal government ministers have said repeatedly that buying huge volumes of food and groceries is unnecessary, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelling panic buying "ridiculous" and "not sensible".

The National Farmers' Federation also sought to quell concerns about food shortages, telling consumers not to "panic" as there was "plenty of food to go around".

The Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, went so far as to declare that Australia "[has] the most secure food security in the world".

"We're a nation of 25 million people," Mr Littleproud told ABC Radio National's Afternoon Briefing program on May 11. "We produce enough food for 75 million."

Is that correct? Does Australia have "the most secure food security in the world"? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.

The verdict: Mr Littleproud's claim is in the ballpark.

According to many studies and experts, Australia enjoys a very high level of food security. The nation produces an abundance of food, exports far more than it needs, and has ample alternative sources of certain foods should they become scarce.

While Australia is not the top-ranked or "most" food-secure nation in the world, according to some comparisons, it nevertheless has plenty of flexibility in terms of food sources and could switch production priorities to alleviate shortfalls. One international comparison places Australia 12th among 113 nations in terms of food security.

Richard Heath, of the Australian Farm Institute, typified the response of the experts.

"By the most basic definition — which is, 'Are we at risk of starving because we cannot feed ourselves?' — we are so far from that, it's ridiculous," he said.

"When you consider the availability of irrigated-water area, the amount of arable land … we are a very secure nation in terms of food."



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