Thursday, August 13, 2020

The staggering human costs of “renewable” energy

By Paul Driessen

Marathon Petroleum recently announced it will “indefinitely idle” its Martinez Refinery. The decision will remove hundreds of jobs, billions of dollars, and nearly 7 million gallons of gasoline, diesel and other petroleum liquids per day from the energy-hungry California economy. It will also send fuel prices even higher for minority and other poor families that already pay by far the highest gasoline prices in the continental United States: $1.32 more per gallon of regular than in Louisiana and Texas.

California’s green and political interests don’t want drilling or fracking, pipelines, or nuclear, coal or hydroelectric power plants – or mining for the materials needed to manufacture electric cars. They prefer to have that work done somewhere else, and just import the energy, cars and consumer goods.

They’ve long wanted a totally electric vehicle (EV) fleet, which they claim would be clean, ethical, climate-friendly and sustainable. Of course, those labels hold up only so long as they look solely at activities and emissions within California state boundaries – and not where the mining, manufacturing and electricity generation take place. That kind of “life cycle” analysis would totally disrupt their claims.

Consider copper. A typical internal combustion engine uses about 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of this vital everyday metal, the International Copper Association says. A hybrid car requires almost 90 lb (40 kg); a plug-in EV needs 132 lb (60 kg); and a big electric bus can use up to 812 lb (369 kg) of copper. If all 15,000,000 California cars were EVs, they would need almost 1,000,000 tons of copper.

But copper ores average just 0.5% metal by weight, notes energy analyst Mark Mills. That means 200,000,000 tons of ore would have to be dug up, crushed, processed and refined to get that much copper. Almost every step in that process would require fossil fuels – and emit carbon dioxide and pollutants.

That’s just California. According to Cambridge University Emeritus Professor of Technology Michael Kelly, replacing all the United Kingdom’s vehicles with next-generation EVs would require more than half the world’s annual production of copper; twice its annual cobalt; three quarters of its yearly lithium carbonate output; and nearly its entire annual production of neodymium.

Just one electric car or backup-power battery weighs 1,000 pounds and requires extracting and processing some 500,000 pounds of various ores, Mills says. The true costs of “green” energy are staggering.

Imagine replacing all of the USA’s nearly 300,000,000 cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, buses, trucks and other vehicles with electric versions under the Green New Deal – and then charging them daily. The millions of wind turbines, billions of solar panels, billions of backup-power batteries, thousands of miles of new transmission lines, grid upgrades and million or so fast charging stations all across America would also require copper, concrete, all these other metals and many more materials, in incomprehensible quantities.

Alaska’s Pebble Mine deposit has an estimated 35 million tons of high-grade copper ore and 3 million tons of molybdenum and other critical GND ores. The copper alone is nearly two times the world’s 2019 output of that essential element. Permits were blocked for years for questionable reasons. But the US Army Corps of Engineers recently found that mining would not have a “measurable effect” on sockeye salmon numbers in the Bristol Bay watershed and should be allowed to proceed, under tough US pollution control, reclamation, wildlife protection, workplace safety, fair wage and child labor laws.

Environmentalists intend to delay the Pebble Mine as long as possible – and block other US exploration and mining projects. That’s why most mining and processing is done overseas, much of it in China and Mongolia or by Chinese companies in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where none of these laws apply.

Most of the world’s rare earth ores are extracted near Baotou, Inner Mongolia by pumping acid into the ground, then processed using more acids and chemicals. Producing one ton of rare earth metals releases up to 420,000 cubic feet of toxic gases, 2,600 cubic feet of acidic wastewater, and a ton of radioactive waste. The resulting black sludge is piped into a foul, lifeless lake. Numerous local people suffer from severe skin and respiratory diseases, children are born with soft bones, and cancer rates have soared.

Lithium comes largely from Tibet and arid highlands of the Argentina-Bolivia-Chile “lithium triangle.” Dead, toxic fish join carcasses of cows and yaks floating down Tibet’s Liqi River, which has been poisoned by the Ganzizhou Rongda mine. Native people in the ABC triangle say lithium operations contaminate streams needed for humans, livestock and irrigation, and leave mountains of discarded salt.

The world’s top producer of cobalt is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some 40,000 children as young as four toil with their parents for less than $2 a day up to 12 hours a day. Many die in cave-ins, or more slowly from constant exposure to toxic, radioactive mud, dust, water and air that puts dangerous levels of cobalt, lead, uranium and other heavy metals into their bodies. The cobalt ore is sent to China for processing by the Chinese-owned Congo Dongfang International Mining Company.

That’s just to meet current raw material requirements. Try to picture the raw material demands, Third World mining and child labor conditions, and ecological destruction, under the Green New Deal.

Liberals often say they support sustainable, ethical coffee, sneakers, handbags and diamonds. No child labor, sweat shops or unsafe conditions tolerated. But it’s a different story with green energy and EVs. In 2019, California Assembly Bill 735 proposed that the state certify that “zero emission” electric vehicles sold there are free of any materials or components that involve child labor. Democrats voted it down. The matter is complicated, they “explained.” It would be too hard to enforce, cost too much and imperil state climate goals. And besides, lots of other industries also use child labor. (So shut up about it.)

Last month, the US House of Representatives had an opportunity to legislate a national certification that federally funded electric buses and charging stations would not include minerals mined with child labor. The Transportation Committee approved the amendment 43-19 (all 19 nay votes were Democrats). But Pete DeFazio(D-OR) quietly replaced the enforceable certification language with a meaningless statement that “it is the policy of the United States” that funds “should not be used” for items involving child labor.

DeFazio claimed certification is unnecessary because US trade agreements prohibit child labor. But there is no agreement with Congo, and China has shown no interest in ending child labor in its supply chains. (Plus, the matter is complicated, hard to enforce and perilous for climate and Green New Deal goals.)

It’s easy for Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues to wear Kente cloth stoles in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. And for Sierra Club staff to criticize the organization’s “history and culture of white supremacy” – what I call callous, deadly and arguably racist eco-imperialism and carbon colonialism. We need real reform, and an end to the cancel culture that silences discussion about the horrors of what’s going on in too many non-white areas of the United States and world.

The human and ecological realities of GND policies cry out for debate. So do the violence and death that preceded and followed George Floyd’s inexcusable death. Not just the 25 police killings of unarmed blacks all across America in 2019 that have become the narrow focus of Black Lives Matter, politicians and rioters. But also the murders of David Dorn, Patrick Underwood and other police officers; Mekhi James, LeGend Taliferro, Secoriea Turner and other black children gunned down by their fellow blacks; and as many as 7,000 American black men, women and children murdered by blacks every year.

In Chicago, over the July 4 weekend, police reported 87 shootings and 17 deaths, and nearly a dozen of those shot were children caught in the crossfire, the New York Post despaired. In fact, the black-on-black Windy City murder toll over almost any two recent successive weekends exceeds those 25 police killings.

“Every single person who has been shot in New York City [so far] this July, nearly 100 in total, has been a member of the minority community,” NBC News reporter Tom Winter tweeted, “and 97% of shooting victims in June were members of the city’s minority community.” The solution is defunding the police?

ALL these African, Asian, Latin American and minority American lives matter. It’s time to talk about it honestly, figure out what’s really driving the inhumanity, and create a world we can be proud to live in.


Harris Poll: Americans No Longer Care About Climate Change

We asked a panel of U.S. adults a series of questions about today’s most crucial issues, environmental policy options, and their own behavior.

In all three categories, I was personally surprised and discouraged to discover that our devotion to the world around us is flagging.

In a survey we at the Harris Poll conducted last December, American adults said climate change was the number one issue facing society.

Today, it comes in second to last on a list of a dozen options, ahead of only overpopulation. Among Gen X men, in fact, more than third dismiss climate change as unimportant.

COVID-19 and the recession have, of course, reordered priorities around the world. Still, the coronavirus didn’t elbow aside other issues as muscularly as it did climate change. (Incidentally, global warming is a bigger concern to retirement-age women than any other age group except millennial men.)

Additionally, we asked about policies the government could adopt to fight global warming or help the environment generally.

There was majority support for only one of nine initiatives, with 51% endorsing tax credits or rebates for greater energy efficiency in buildings.

Moreover, 13% of all respondents say the government should do nothing to improve the environment, a stance that rises to nearly one in five of all survey takers in the South.

More telling is what we are doing—or should I say, what we no longer are doing.

We know from this survey, conducted on July 24, that American adults are burning less fuel than they did before the pandemic hit.

In pre-COVID-19 America, 77% of adults said they used to drive. Today, with more people working from home, or not working at all, just 61% say they are using their cars to get around.

Similarly, only 14% of adults say they are still flying, down from 21% last winter. That’s an environmental plus since it means we’re pumping less greenhouse gas into the air.

But we are also reverting back to a society that throws too much away. Younger men, in particular, are ordering more takeout food, packed in single-use plastic bags and disposable boxes, often with those plastic straws scorned for littering the landscape and polluting waterways.

We are toting reusable bags less often on errands. Probably because more of us are home, we also are consuming more energy to keep our homes cooler in the summer and warmer in chilly months than we used to.

And when the pandemic ends—or at least is suitably controlled—American adults say they’ll behave in ways that would increase their carbon footprint.

According to our survey, we’ll drive as much as we did before, take public transportation less, bicycle or walk less, buy more clothes, and have more stuff packaged up and shipped to our homes.

And most of us plan to jack up the home AC and heat even more than we already have.


Cascading fallacies in climate risk assessment

As a logician, I am always on the lookout for fallacies and there is no lack of them in climate change alarmist policies. New Zealand’s newly released climate risk assessment not only has multiple fallacies, they build on one another in a cascade.

This is not about New Zealand. The authors of the assessment make clear that theirs is a new approach which they hope will be used globally. So this is about the world, including America.

The massive report is titled “First national climate change risk assessment for New Zealand.” Under New Zealand’s climate law, these assessments are supposed to be done every five years and this is the first.

The scope is breathtaking. The idea is to identify all of the significant risks due to human caused climate change that will be present in 2050 and 2100. Moreover, these supposed risks are prioritized.

Unfortunately this elaborate procedure is just a cascade of fallacies. Some of the major ones are listed below.

First, they use computer models to say precisely what the average weather will be in 2050 and 2100. This includes short and long term temperatures, precipitation patterns, and other climate features.

The fallacy is that there is no computer model today that can accurately make such forecasts. Different major models disagree strongly in predicting all of these features. For example the model sensitivity to doubling CO2 ranges from 1 to 6 degrees C, which is a huge range.

Second, they use the average of what is called the CMIP5 climate model runs. These are runs on a large number of climate models that are made to feed into the IPCC process. (Here there are several problems. In particular the models are all constrained so that all the significant forces are human, but that is a different issue.)

The fallacy is that there is no reason to believe that the average of a bunch of bad models is good. In fact the CMIP5 average has been shown to run very hot compared to observed warming. (CMIP6 is even worse.)

Third, they then choose to use the modeling of a wildly worst case emissions scenario called “RCP 8.5”. This scenario for future emissions is so high that it has been criticized as impossible. Using RCP 8.5 is certainly a fallacy.

Fourth, they do what is called “down scaling” of these questionable modeling results. Down scaling means taking the crude modeling results for a large area and somehow generating results for specific places. There is no scientific way to derive fine scale forecasts from the model’s large scale ones. The data simply is not there. However it is done is arbitrary.

New Zealand is geographically pretty small with a land area of just over 100,000 square miles, roughly the size of Colorado. The risk assessment divides New Zealand into 8 tiny zones, with a unique climate forecast for each. This is a glaring fallacy.

Fifth, these impossible fine scale forecasts were then discussed by a large number of people, in a variety of ways, to define all the significant risks. This is an exercise in imagination, not science. It is well known in decision theory that the results of group gropes like this depend heavily on who is there, what they are given and how they are guided.

The fallacy here is to pretend that this is a systematic inventory of risks, suitable for policy making.

Sixth, the supposed risks were ranked based on polling the participants. In addition to the group grope problem there is the pesky fact that risk is a two dimensional concept so risks cannot simply be ranked in one dimension. Each risk has both a severity and a probability.

Generally speaking, high severity but low probability risks are not worth addressing. Meteor strikes are a standard example (the impact really is an impact). The same is true for high probability but low severity risks. What one looks for are risks that combine relatively high severity and probability.

This 2-value ranking was not done, giving the fallacy of the single ranking of risks.

The seventh fallacy is yet to come. This wrongly ranked list of imagined risks based on arbitrary down scaling of an average of questionable computer model results running an impossible scenario is supposed to lead to a National Adaptation Plan in two years. That would be a mega-fallacy.

On the amusing side, I think they got the highest ranked risk right. This is the risk that the government will do the wrong thing. I agree completely, especially if they use this risk assessment.

Also very funny is the “Give us a lot more money” risk. It goes like this:

“Risk of delayed adaptation and maladaptation due to knowledge gaps resulting from under-investment in climate change adaptation research and capacity building.

Risk summary:
Under-investment in research and capacity building to inform understanding of climate change risks and impacts is undermining New Zealand’s ability to develop evidence-based adaptation policy. Critical research gaps relate to:

–atmospheric processes
–hydrological cycle impacts
–ecosystem responses
–biodiversity and biosecurity
–New Zealand’s rural and urban communities
–the economic costs of climate change
–impacts on the primary sector
–impacts on heritage
–effects on health and health services
–use of mātauranga Māori to inform adaptation
–cascading impacts
–how to govern climate change adaptation at a number of scales.

These research gaps are a critical barrier to informed decision-making. While these gaps remain, maladaptive actions are a key risk.” (Page 188)

Given all these significant gaps one would think that an accurate assessment would conclude that no risk assessment is possible at this time. That is my assessment.


The New Zealand climate risk assessment is a cascade of fallacies, unfit for policy making.


Sydney dams start to spill after a saturated six months

The Greenies were telling us that the drought was due to global warming.  So does this show global cooling?

The fact of the matter is that rainfall in Australia is erratic but can be made adequate by use of dams

Sydney's dams have started to spill after the latest big rain event over eastern NSW filled most reservoirs to the brim, with more rain forecast.

By Tuesday, the storages had gained more than 10 per cent in a week, or a net 253 billion litres, to climb to 95 per cent capacity, WaterNSW data shows.

The giant Warragamba Dam, which accounts for about 80 per cent of Greater Sydney's reservoir capacity, had risen to almost 96 per cent full, or about double the storage of a year ago.

The smaller Nepean Dam on the Upper Nepean River has started to spill after gaining almost a quarter of its capacity in the past week.

Tallowa Dam is also spilling, into the Shoalhaven River, with flows contributing to the highest flood levels downstream at Nowra in 29 years.

At its peak spill rate on Monday, Tallowa was releasing water at the rate of 375 billion litres a day, WaterNSW said.

The near-full capacity comes just six months after the storages dropped towards 40 per cent before a huge three-day rain event in February doubled water levels. The jump in inflows allowed the Berejiklian government to ease water restrictions and delay plans to double the size of Sydney's desalination plant.

A spokesman for WaterNSW said Warragamba was not expected to spill as a result of current inflows generated by the rain event.

"However WaterNSW will be making small operational releases from the dam’s spillway gates in order to bring the storage back to target level in anticipation of further rainfall," he said.

The forecast rainfall for the coming weekend had been scaled back, including 5 to 15 millimetres for Friday, but those predictions could change, the spokesman said.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Olenka Duma said "we're not expecting a huge amount of rain" from the strong cold front that will move eastwards towards the end of the week. Still, there remains the prospect of thunderstorms over much of NSW as the front draws in tropical moisture from the north.

In addition, the bureau is putting the odds of a wetter-than-normal September-to-November period for the eastern half of mainland Australia at greater than 65 per cent.

Stuart Khan, a professor in the University of NSW's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the rapid shift from water restrictions to full storage "is something we haven't seen since 1998".

Professor Khan said it was "pretty likely" Warragamba would start to spill soon. The Wingecarribee Reservoir, for instance, was 99.6 per cent full, and any spill from there would largely end up in Warragamba via the Wollondilly River.

The rapid rise inflows has meant NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey had been vindicated in her decision to stop work on preparations to double Sydney's desalination plant, he said. The high flows, though, should not put a halt to consideration of water-saving measures such as water recycling.

"It's exactly the time we should be talking about long-term water supply strategies," Professor Khan said.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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