Sunday, January 24, 2021

Toxic secrets behind your mobile phone: Electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels... how our so-called green world depends on the mining of rare metals which is a filthy, amoral industry totally dominated by China

Past the suburbs of the Chinese city of Baotou, below a quadruple carriageway, a lonely path led me to an embankment bristling with pylons, each with a security camera watching for intruders.

This is how I reached the Weikuang Dam – an artificial lake into which metallic intestines regurgitate torrents of black water from the nearby refineries. I was looking at ten square kilometres of toxic effluent. After observing this immense, disintegrating landscape, my guide and I decided to move before the security cameras alerted the police to our presence.

A few minutes later, we arrived in a village called Dalahai on another side of the artificial lake. Here, the thousands of inhabitants breathe in the toxic discharge of the reservoir as well as eating produce, such as corn and buckwheat, grown in it.

Cancer affects the local population and many villagers have died. The hair of young men barely aged 30 has suddenly turned white. Children grow up without developing any teeth.

One villager, a 54-year-old called Li Xinxia, confided in me despite knowing it’s a dangerous subject. He said: ‘There are a lot of sick people here. Cancer, strokes, high blood pressure… almost all of us are affected. We are in a grave situation. They did some tests and our village was nicknamed “the cancer village”. We know the air we breathe is toxic and that we don’t have that much longer to live.’

The provincial authorities offered villagers compensation to relocate but these farming folk were reluctant to move to high-rise flats in a neighbouring town.

In short, it is a disaster area. And the reason? Our insatiable demand for rare metals.

For centuries, mankind mined just seven primary metals – iron, gold, silver, copper, lead, aluminium and mercury. But from the 1970s, attention turned to lesser-known rare metals found in terrestrial rocks in infinitesimal amounts which have superb magnetic, catalytic and optical properties.

Now, we are totally reliant on them for the manufacture of devices such as mobile phones, not to mention electric and/or hybrid cars which require twice as many rare metals as a traditional internal-combustion engine vehicle.

They are also a key component in wind turbines and solar panels. Some of these substances have exotic names: vanadium, germanium, platinoids, tungsten, antimony, beryllium, fluorine, rhenium, tantalum, niobium, to name but a few.

For eight years, I have researched these rare metals that are upending our world. Across four continents, men and women involved in the opaque and underground industry told me a dark tale.

By their account, the development of these substances has not done us, or the planet, any of the favours we would have expected from a supposedly greener and friendlier world – far from it.

Above all, our dependence on rare metals brings two very big problems. The first is that mining, refining and recycling them is immensely polluting, thereby giving the lie to the idea that our increasingly digital and electricity-powered life is greener than one reliant on fossil fuels.

The 40 different rare metals in your phone

Screen: The glass is an aluminosilicate which is strengthened with potassium ions. The touch screen has indium tin oxide in the transparent film to help conduct electricity. Rare earth element compounds are needed for the colours in the screen. Others reduce ultra-violet light penetration into the phone.

Electronics: Copper is used for wiring. Gold and silver form the micro-electrical parts. Tantalum is the major component of micro-capacitors, which stabilise the power supply and generally total more than 700. Nickel is used in the microphone. Alloys including the elements praseodymium, gadolinium and neodymium are in magnets used in the speaker and microphone. The vibration unit contains neodymium, terbium and dysprosium. Pure silicon goes into the chip. Tin and lead are employed to solder the electronics.

Battery: Most mobiles have lithium-ion batteries, made of lithium cobalt oxide for the positive electrode and graphite (carbon) for the negative. Some batteries have manganese. Casings are made from aluminium. Some cases are constructed with magnesium compounds. Or with plastics, some of which contain flame retardant compounds such as bromine.

Second, one country – China – has a near stranglehold on the production and supply of rare metals. The Beijing government is not just seeking to control the metals found in its lands but also to control the production of rare metals wherever they are found on the globe. It has used barely credible chicanery to position itself as the sole supplier. It’s as if Saudi Arabia, which holds the world’s largest oil reserves, took it upon itself to control the reserves of the 13 other main petroleum-exporting countries.

BEFORE looking at these problems, we need to understand what makes rare metals so special.

While mineralogists have known of their existence since the 18th Century, they attracted little interest while their industrial applications remained undiscovered. But from the 1970s, their exceptional properties to make super-magnets began to be exploited.

Once processed, a minute amount of these metals emits a magnetic field that makes it possible to generate more energy than from the same quantity of coal or oil.

Magnets are now – to a vast majority of electric engines – what pistons have been to steam and internal-combustion engines. They have made it possible to manuacture billions of engines, be it for a motorbike, powering a train, making an electric toothbrush or mobile phone vibrate, operating an electric window, or sending a lift to the top of a skyscraper.

Without most of us realising it, our societies have become completely magnetised. Most crucially, rare metals allow us to generate clean energy as they cause the rotors of wind turbines to turn and in solar panels help convert the sun’s rays into electricity.

As a result, it is now possible to envisage a world without nuclear, oil-fired or coal-fired power plants. But that is merely the start.

Rare metals have a wealth of other properties that make them indispensable to myriad green technologies. They allow us to trap car-exhaust fumes in catalytic converters, ignite energy-efficient light bulbs, and design new, lighter and hardier industrial equipment, improving the energy efficiency of cars and planes.

Most surprising is how these metals have become indispensable to new information and communication technologies for their semi-conducting properties that regulate the flow of electricity in digital devices. Just look, for example, at all the rare metals in a smartphone and you can see how omnipresent they are. The fact is that we now use at least two billion tons of rare metals every year – the equivalent of more than 500 Eiffel Towers a day.

BUT while rare metals can produce green technologies, the savage irony is that mining and refining them are among the most polluting and wasteful processes on earth.

The 10,000 or so mines across China have played a big role in destroying that country’s environment. Pollution damage by the coal-mining industry is well documented. But barely reported is the fact that mining rare metals also produces pollution.

In 2006, about 60 Chinese companies producing indium – a rare metal used in the manufacture of some solar-panel technologies – released tons of chemicals into the Xiang River in Hunan, jeopardising the province’s drinking water and local people’s health.

Working conditions in the mines are appalling. But it is the refining process that causes the most pollution and harm to workers and nearby inhabitants.

In truth, there is nothing refined about it at all. It involves crushing rock and then using a concoction of chemical reagents such as sulphuric and nitric acid. ‘It’s a long and repetitive process,’ says a specialist. ‘It takes loads of different procedures to obtain a rare-earth concentrate close to 100 per cent purity.’

That’s not all: purifying a single ton of rare earths requires using at least 200 cubic metres of water, which then becomes saturated with acids and heavy metals. Very rarely will this water be treated at the plant before it is released into rivers, soils and ground water.

The Chinese could have opted for clean mining but didn’t. From one end of the rare-metals production line to the other, little in China is done according to the most basic ecological and health standards. So, as rare metals have become ubiquitous in green and digital technologies, the toxic sludge they produce has been contaminating water, soil, the atmosphere and the flames of blast furnaces – representing the four elements essential to life. The result is that producing rare metals has become one of the most polluting and secretive industries in China.

The pollution caused by rare metals is not limited to China. It concerns all producing countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, which supplies more than half the planet’s cobalt. This element, indispensable to the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, is mined under conditions out of the Middle Ages.

One hundred thousand miners equipped with spades and picks dig into the earth. Given the African country’s inability to regulate its mining activities, the pollution of surrounding rivers and turmoil in the ecosystems are legion.

Research by Congolese doctors has found that the cobalt concentration in the urine of the local communities living near mines in Katanga province is up to 43 times higher than a control sample.

We see the same in Kazakhstan, a central Asian country producing 14 per cent of the world’s chrome – prized by the aerospace industry for the superalloys that improve the energy performance of aircraft. In 2015, researchers from South Kazakhstan State University discovered that chrome-mining was responsible for colossal pollution of the Syr Darya, the longest river in Central Asia. Its water had become unfit for consumption by the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, who are now even advised against using it for their crops.

Extracting minerals from the ground is an inherently dirty operation. But the way it’s been carried out so irresponsibly and unethically in the most productive mining countries casts doubt on the virtuous vision of those behind the energy and digital revolution.

A recent report by the Blacksmith Institute, a US environmental group, identifies the mining industry as the world’s second-most-polluting industry, behind lead-battery recycling.

Major users of rare metals rarely acknowledge their dependence on them. In Apple’s 2018 annual report, despite being a major consumer of rare metals, the words ‘rare earths’, ‘minerals’ or ‘metals’ did not appear. And Tesla, the biggest name in electric vehicle manufacturing, was discreet in its environmental report last year. Cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo were mentioned but nothing said of their environmental impact.

What the West has done, by moving the sourcing of its rare metals to China, is to relocate its pollution. We have knowingly and patiently created a system that allows us to move our ‘filth’ as far away as possible, and the Chinese have welcomed the initiative.

As a Canadian rare-metals industrialist said with great irony: ‘We can thank them for the environmental damage they have endured to produce these metals in our place.’

Beijing is well-versed in the power of such mineral sovereignty. When a student in France, Deng Xiaoping (China’s leader in the 1980s) worked in a foundry of the iron cookware firm Le Creuset. All but one of the past six presidents and prime ministers were trained in engineering – electrical, hydroelectrical, geology – and in process chemistry.

Consequently, and with the support of a stable authoritarian political system that values patient and consistent decision-making, they have laid the foundations of an ambitious policy to secure the nation’s supplies.

To put this stranglehold into perspective, look at OPEC, the oil producers cartel. For decades, its 14 members have been able to significantly influence oil prices, yet they represent ‘only’ 41 per cent of global production.

China has staked its claim on 95 per cent of global production of the coveted class of certain rare-earth metals. In the words of one expert: ‘It’s OPEC on steroids.’

So what does a nation do when it is so powerful?

Naturally, Beijing’s intentions become far more aggressive – reducing supply of rare metals in order to ramp up the price.

Experts noticed that China’s export quotas, set at 65,000 tons in 2005, began to drop a year later to under 62,000 tons. By 2009, Beijing had reduced this to 50,000 tons and official figures for 2010 put exports at only 30,000 tons.

The same trend was observed for all the rare metals disproportionally produced by China.

The World Trade Organisation’s analysis of the complaints against the Chinese was unequivocal: over the previous two decades, China had engineered a policy of systematic restrictions on rare mineral exports.

Notoriously, China is also expanding its rare-metals operations around the globe. It is a new world that China wants to fashion to its liking and has therefore begun its own hunt abroad for rare metals, starting in Canada, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Peru and Vietnam.

The most prized location is Africa, and in particular South Africa, Burundi, Madagascar and Angola. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, China has built a railway line to open access to the cobalt-rich southern region of Katanga.

SO what is the solution? I support bringing back mining in the West. Not so much for the value, the additional tax revenues and the thousands of jobs it would create; nor for the strategic security of having our own supply chain.

Rather, my argument is on behalf of the environment. Reopening mines in the West would be the best possible decision we could make for protecting our planet.

Relocating our dirty industries to China and Africa has helped keep Western consumers in the dark about the true environmental cost of our lifestyles.

The effects of returning mining operations to the West would be positive. We would instantly realise – to our horror – the true cost of our supposedly green world. We can well imagine how having quarries ‘in our backyard’ would end our indifference and denial and drive our efforts to contain the resulting pollution.

Rare earths first? Or last?

Biden’s Green New Deal won’t work without mining, especially for rare earth elements

Duggan Flanakin

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take the reins of government and launch their program to “transition” America away from fossil fuels, they need to consider some hard realities. Chief among them is that no Green New Deal can succeed without major increases in US mining and processing – unless they want to make America even more dependent on China and Russia.

Rare-earth metals are essential to 21st Century technologies, including smartphones, lasers, night vision systems, weapons guidance systems – and GND technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles. As British hedge fund veteran James Horrocks noted in a recent article, “It is easy to see why rare earths have become a pawn in the US-China trade war.”

China, Horrocks noted, has only a third of global reserves of rare earths, but in 2017 produced over 80% of the global supply of rare-earth metals and compounds, and its exports that year to the US accounted for 78% of the 17,000 tons of US rare-earth imports. Even rare-earth metals mined in the USA are processed in the People’s Republic – because China now owns the US deposit and we’d prefer to pay the cheaper prices associated with processing under China’s abominable pollution, wage and workplace safety rules.

Christopher Barnard, national policy director at the American Conservation Coalition, is but one of many who agree that a reliable, affordable domestic supply of rare-earth metals is critical to building a “green” economy. Last month Barnard warned that “the geopolitical, economic and environmental risks” inherent in near-total reliance on a potentially hostile power “can no longer be ignored.”

The Chinese near-monopoly (it was worse before Japan built a new supply chain after China blocked all rare-earth exports in 2010) is largely a creation of activist-driven US anti-mining policy. There are plenty of rare-earth deposits in the USA, but extracting them is not photogenic. Barnard laments the “regulatory minefield of labyrinthine local, state and federal rules” that has turned permitting into a two- to three-decades adventure in frustration.

Over the past decades, lawmakers have all but banned mineral exploration and development on minerals-rich federal lands. The few once-active rare earth mines are now long shuttered, largely due to high compliance costs. Mountain Pass, the sole US operating rare-earth mine, lost two years of production due to a 2016 bankruptcy and still sends its mined ore to China for processing.

To counter US dependence on Chinese imports, in September 2020, President Trump signed Executive Order (EO) 13953 declaring a national emergency in the mining industry. The order charged the Interior Department with increasing domestic production of rare-earth materials, to reduce America’s dependence on China for these building blocks for 21st Century technologies. EO 13953 built on his December 2017 EO 13817 that required the Interior Secretary to identify critical materials and reduce “the Nation’s vulnerability to disruptions in the supply of critical minerals,” especially those from China and Russia.

Many of the recommendations in EO 13953 were incorporated into the Energy Act of 2021, part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act that also funded pandemic relief. The new law requires the Energy Department to conduct a research and development program for advanced separation technologies for extraction and recovery of rare-earth elements and other critical materials from coal and coal byproducts. A coequal goal is to ensure mitigation of any potential environmental and public health impacts from these activities – which is always required for US operations, though not for those in or by China.

The new law further requires triennially updated lists of critical minerals, plus new curricula for colleges and universities to build a strong critical minerals workforce; domestic, publicly available resource assessments of critical minerals; analytical and forecasting tools to evaluate critical minerals markets; new alternatives to, recycling of, and efficient production and use of critical materials; and more. Finally, the law requires that the Director of National Intelligence submit to Congress a regular report of Chinese investments in minerals.

In addition, during Trump’s final days, the Bureau of Land Management (the other BLM) announced new decisions that took effect January 15 expanding potential mining operations on federal lands, adding mining to the list of industries that can receive fast-tracked permitting (critical to getting any new rare-earth mines operational), approving a new mine in Nevada for lithium (a critical element in electric vehicle batteries), and approving a land swap to ease final approval of an Arizona copper mine.

With these final acts, the Trump Administration will have laid the groundwork to let the “clean-energy-focused” new government have a shot at meeting the raw materials needs for the 21st Century technologies that President Biden has promised will drive tomorrow’s US economy. Of course, China may use its leverage to try to undercut any US producers, especially if President Biden lifts (or fails to impose) tariffs aimed at offsetting China’s unfair advantages from its unethical and dirty mining and forced labor practices.

Will Biden and Congress undermine all this? Anti-mining Democrats were quick to object to the last-minute BLM actions. Rep. Paul Grijalva (D, AZ), whose own approach to U.S. mining has been called “good for China, bad for America,” has said President Obama’s 2015 FAST-41 law, which greased permitting for utility projects, was “never intended … to cover the mining sector.”

But Rich Nolan, president of the National Mining Association, lauded the BLM move, stating that, “American mining is key to successfully repairing our nation’s infrastructure.” Previously, Nolan had reiterated his organization’s stance that “the very technologies essential to our recovering economy will be built on a foundation provided by mining. It’s now absolutely essential that smart policy recognizes this need and opportunity.”

The Biden campaign privately told US miners it would support boosting domestic production of metals required to make electric vehicles, solar panels and other products critical to his climate plans. But this would represent a shift from Obama policies that included “rigorous environmental regulations that slowed US mining sector growth.” It’s also total anathema to environmental pressure groups that support and advise Biden.

Green groups in Minnesota, Nevada and Arizona – along with some Native American tribes – have begun pounding the drums of dissent. For example, Save the Boundary Waters opposes a Twin Metals copper mine in Minnesota; the project already has federal permits but is facing court challenges. Spokesperson Jeremy Drucker complained, “Mining companies have been using EVs and climate change as a cover to push their own agenda: profit.”

Then there is Biden’s nomination of New Mexico Native American Deb Haaland to head up his Interior Department. Native American groups have opposed the fast tracking of approval of the Resolution Copper Mine, which could supply up to a quarter of growing US copper demand for 40 years. Native Americans say the mine would desecrate sacred lands. How will Haaland, and her boss, handle this touchy issue, given her ties to tribes opposing the mine and the vital role of copper to the GND?

One wonders how much influence VP Harris will have on Biden Administration planning and policy, since she is on record as opposing almost any new domestic mining operations. Put another way, who will really be in charge of our energy and economy?

The ultimate question is, Should America be dependent on China (and Russia) to supply the tools for the new economy? Or will the Biden-Harris Administration follow up on the Trump approach to rebuilding the US rare-earths mining and processing industry, to avoid near-total dependence on major human rights violators? In other words, will Biden-Harris put America’s clean energy future in Chinese hands?

Via email

Paris Agreement: a commitment to terminal decline

Within hours of his inauguration, Joe Biden announced that the USA was ‘back in the Paris Climate Agreement’. Donald Trump had pledged, in June 2017, that the USA would withdraw from the agreement – a slow process, which took the remainder of his term to complete. Climate activists worldwide are now celebrating, of course.

The past five years have seen many comparisons drawn between Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Though they were dismissed as ‘populism’ rather than the (attempted) reassertion of popular democracy, both ballot-box revolts shocked political establishments that had by 2016 grown overconfident and entitled. ‘Globalism’, as it is sometimes clumsily referred to by its detractors, had been given a bloody nose. But not a coup de grâce. The epitome of this contempt for democracy comes in the form of climate environmentalism, which not only survived, but has also expanded since 2016.

The withdrawal from the Paris Agreement had nearly no effect on the ambitious architects of global ecological utopia. Climate advocates never learn anything from their setbacks since all dissent from their designs is rejected as ‘denial’. Accordingly, John Kerry, failed presidential candidate and now special presidential envoy for climate, tweeted that Biden’s announcement ‘restor[ed] America’s credibility and commitment – setting a floor, not a ceiling, for our climate leadership’. ‘Working together, the world must and will raise ambition’, he said.

The Paris Agreement requires member countries to propose their own levels of emissions reduction – or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). America’s INDC pledge, made by the Obama administration, is to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. Trump argued that this was a bad deal for Americans, and that it would lead to job losses, rising prices, loss of industry and the surrender of democracy to a global agreement. All of that is true, but it has been hidden from public debate by a mixture of green utopianism and the complexities involved in turning abstract emissions-reduction targets into tangible policies.

Greens of all kinds talk a very good game about ‘creating jobs’ and ‘climate justice’. But these claims remain unsubstantiated. In 2010, for instance, Gordon Brown’s government claimed that its offshore-wind energy plans would create 70,000 jobs in the sector. But despite the agenda facing almost zero political opposition, by 2020, there were just 11,000 jobs according to the industry’s own (favourable) analysis, as reported by the FT. The sector still enjoys absurd levels of public subsidy (many tens of thousands of pounds per job ‘created’), despite claims that wind power is now ‘cheaper’ than coal or gas generation. Promises of green jobs and less expensive energy never materialise, but this is never questioned.

Put simply, there is no translation from emissions-reduction targets to reality which is not going to hit Americans hard, especially those who live either in cities designed around the motor car,or in deep rural country. Americans pay on average less than half what Britons pay for petrol. But for how much longer?

Similarly, America’s industrial economy is in large part built on industry powered by cheap energy. Carbon-reduction targets, which will cause energy prices to multiply, were dreamt up long before anyone had any serious ideas as to how to realise them, and without consideration for ordinary people’s lives. The existing Paris commitments are bad enough, but these will be succeeded by new levels of ambition set at this year’s climate conference in Glasgow.

No doubt Biden takes his pledges seriously. But his election victory may not have provided enough political capital required to make these ambitions real. That victory was secured on a margin of some seven million votes, in a country of 328million people. A convincing win for a presidential candidate, yes, but not for the radical reorganisation of 328million people’s lives that his climate imperatives demand. No matter how much smoke a sycophantic, fawning media try to blow up Biden’s rear, the American public are going to notice the dire consequences of these policies eventually.

‘This is the most important transition from one president to another of my lifetime’, tweeted a dizzy Robert Peston. There’s a great deal of journalistic buzz about Joe Biden ‘healing’ the country from its trauma. Commentators are making facile historical comparisons with Abraham Lincoln – the president that steered a divided country through its civil war. But Lincoln rebuilt an independent USA, he did not cede its sovereignty to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In order to sustain the historical allusion, Trump stands accused of ‘racism’, ‘fascism’ and ‘white supremacy’. But while such unevidenced and hyperventilating claims may denigrate the former president, they do little to elevate Biden, and do significantly less to win over Americans to the climate cause. The drama is confected, and the promise of a green utopia is hollow.

It is the bottom line that counts. As Roger Pielke Jr has pointed out, the scale of America’s ‘transition’ to Net Zero is a task far greater than any of its historical political, industrial or military projects. It ‘would require the deployment of approximately 1,500 wind turbines, over approximately 300 square miles, every day starting tomorrow and continuing to 2050’. Even if such an ambitious project were ever realised, Biden’s climate agenda would yield no net benefit to ordinary Americans, except – perhaps, maybe, but probably not – slightly fewer wildfires, slightly fewer hurricanes, and slightly less sea-level rise, and only then if viewed from the perspective of climate statistics at century timescales. Yet it would saddle the public with tens or even hundreds of trillions in debt, skyrocketing costs of living, immobility and terminal industrial decline. The conditions for civil war, in other words. Maintaining the Paris Agreement and reaching Net Zero are tasks far beyond President Biden’s means.

Environmentalism is, as Tim Black points out on spiked, the mainstay of technocratic rule. With the election of Joe Biden, it may have won a major battle. But the climate wars have reached a new phase. Much of what has gone before has been mere fluff: abstract virtue signalling about targets, that most voters have yet to connect with their day-to-day experiences. As those targets are made real in the years to come, the consequences will be profound. If these global agreements and Net Zero ambitions are not watered down, the climate technocrats will make themselves a lot of enemies.

How The Free Market Can Protect And Preserve The Environment

In the ongoing debate over what to do about the environment, there seem to be two prominent views. One, that the government should intervene and steer the country toward a green future. The other, to do nothing.

Both are wrong, however, as both deny that the free market is capable of tackling climate change or other environmental concerns. Without a doubt, however, the free market can solve this crucial problem much more efficiently than the government can. Liberating the market from unfair subsidies, reforming tort laws, and allowing property rights to save our species and our lands are just some of the several ways this can happen.

Opponents of our current economic system claim it is a free market. There’s nothing free, however, about the chains of burdensome regulations and subsidies. Much of the environmental degradation we witness can be traced back to the billions of dollars of government kickbacks given to both the fossil fuel industry and farmers, a state of play that also prevents the proliferation of clean energy firms.

The Failings of Subsidies

This year, for instance, farmers were paid almost $50 billion in subsidies, an amount that accounted for a third of their income. These subsidies contribute to the overuse of farmland while hurting our wetlands and forests by increasing the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Furthermore, these subsidies increase prices on food and result in a reduced incentive to innovate.

But will eliminating farm subsidies hurt small farmers? Consider this: 70 percent of subsidies go to farmers of wheat, corn, and soybeans on typically big farms that don’t even need it. Once you include peanuts, cotton, and rice, the percentage of subsidies heading to Big Farming is 94 percent.

The vast majority of small farmers receive very little subsidies and vegetable, meat, and fruit farmers are almost entirely left out. In 2017, there were more than two million farms, of which 90 percent were small farms making less than $350,000 in annual gross cash farm income. To view this another way, 1.85 million farms receive almost nothing.

The fossil fuel industry receives far more in subsidies and the effects are similar. We give oil and gas companies almost $650 billion a year, which is enough for every adult to receive a stimulus of $2,600 a year. These subsidies encourage waste and distort the economy. Clean energy companies can’t be expected to compete when, at $200 billion, their industry is three times smaller than just the subsidies paid out to these corporations.

Where competition is nearly impossible due to government interference, is incredibly hard to have a free market where enterprising businesses can develop and eventually thrive.

Tort Law Reform Is Part of the Solution

Tort law reform would allow those who are hurt by environmental damage to receive compensation. This can be best exhibited in an example used by the economist Murray Rothbard: Suppose an airport is established and is quite noisy. The sound waves travel over the empty, unowned land. A housing development is built nearby and, later, the homeowners sue for noise pollution.

The airport can only pollute the land it owns, and any pollution it creates must be contained within its borders. Polluting land outside its borders is aggression and an assault committed on the homeowners. Therefore, with tort law, they’d receive monetary compensation and the airport would be forced with the choice to either innovate and reduce its noise output or continue paying those fines.

Under current tort law, however, small parties that pollute more are spared as the Environmental Protection Agency goes after bigger targets, resulting in high costs and legal delays. If we moved toward proportional liability where those more responsible pay more, increasing costs would push polluters towards reform.

Property Rights Are Key to Helping the Environment

The last element of using the free market to solve our current environmental dilemmas is to expand property rights. For this, the nation of Namibia serves as a shining example of how property rights can save species. When poaching was shrinking Namibia’s small number of black rhinos, the tiny African country allowed private landowners to breed their own black rhinos and protect them from poachers. In return, the landowners are paid for tourism and trophy hunting. Since 2013, the black rhino population has increased from 60 to 200.

South Africa has a similar problem with its white rhino population, so it too has encouraged the private ownership of wild rhinos. In 1982, a live rhino was worth 1,000 South African rand (about $1,000 at the then exchange rate of $1 equal to 1 rand) but a trophy was 6,000 rand (about $6,000), meaning there was little reason to keep them alive. In 1990, a live rhino was 49,000 rand (about $16,000 at the then exchange rate of $1 equal to 3 rand) while a trophy was 80,000 ($26,600).

Then, in 1991, a law was passed that allowed the private ownership of tagged animals. As it then made sense to keep and breed them, the white rhino population tripled by 2007. It makes sense. Why sell a trophy for 80,000 rand when a family of four rhinos is worth almost 200,000 rand and they can continue to produce more rhinos? To move away from rhinos to something more accessible, why cut down an apple tree for timber when the sale of its apples can make you far more in the long run or help feed your family?

If America implemented the system in South Africa and Namibia, it’d go a long way to saving our own endangered species. We did it with the nearly extinct North American bison and we can do it again. Our threatened species can be privately owned while our least-concern species can be wild and free.

Now, it is worth noting that, while some species would benefit from a South African/Namibian-style system like the polar bear or the red wolf, there are other species that people wouldn’t want to hunt or eat. So, what about creatures like the golden-cheeked warbler or the Chiricahua leopard frog?

Well, there are many reasons these species are endangered. The golden-cheeked warbler’s habitat is over-browsed by goats and white-tailed deer. One possibility — again lying in the realm of tort law — would see the owners of a specific population of warblers suing the owners of the deer and the goats that eat too much of their habitat and have them removed from that specific area. That allows the warbler to enjoy all the excesses of its ecosystem without the worry of competition from much larger creatures.

The Chiricahua leopard frog faces a different situation. One of the things that threaten it (besides climate change) is the chytrid fungus. If we allowed owning these frogs, the owner could move them to a safe marsh or wetland where no fungus could infect them. Private investment in efforts to develop a cure could fast track it just like what is happening with the coronavirus now.

The Freedom to Preserve

Ultimately, another beneficial move would be to extend property rights to the environment and not just the species that inhabit it. Yet, currently, it is illegal for someone to buy land sold for energy, grazing, or timber needs and not harvest, extract, or develop those resources. Energy leasing regulations force individuals to extract the oil or lose the lease, thus preventing anyone from buying land and protecting it.

The environmental activist Terry Tempest Williams and her husband, Brooke, tried to buy land they had no intention of developing, forming an energy company after purchasing 1,120 acres in Utah. Their lease was canceled by the Bureau of Land Management, however, for violating the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.

Regulations like this and others prevent good Samaritans from keeping land from the fossil fuel industry. Like in Africa, if we allowed people to buy or lease this land and do whatever they wanted with it, our natural resources would be far better protected than they are today.

The solution to environmental problems doesn’t lie in the hands of the state, nor will things resolve themselves by doing nothing. To harness the undeniable power and benefits of the free market system, we must eliminate all unfair farm subsidies, ending the farming sprawl created by corporate farms that invade our forests and wetlands.

We must eliminate the subsidies that benefit the fossil fuel industry to the detriment of clean energy, putting them on equal ground.

We must reform tort law so that those responsible for damaging our environment pay for those damages. Finally, we must extend property rights so that our endangered species can survive and thrive and for our green good Samaritans to be able to buy or lease land to protect it from fossil fuel extraction. All of these measures would significantly reduce our carbon footprint while creating a powerful, modern economy where everyone prospers — a bright, green future for us, our children, and humanity.




Saturday, January 23, 2021

'Carbon-neutrality is a fairy tale': how the race for renewables is burning Europe's forests

Kalev Järvik stands on a bald patch of land in the heart of Estonia’s Haanja nature reserve and remembers when he could walk straight from one side of the reserve to the other under a canopy of trees.

Järvik has lived in the Haanja uplands in the southern county of Võru for more than 10 years. His closeness to the forest has shaped his life as a carpenter and the fortunes of the surrounding villages, with their handicraft traditions – a substitute for farming on the poor arable land. Upcountry, travel literature promotes the region to city dwellers, promising its ancient woodlands as a place to rest and reinvigorate the mind.

But in 2015, the Estonian government allowed what is known as clear-cutting in some parts of the Haanja nature reserve. The practice involves stripping entire areas of mature forest and removing whole tree trunks.

This relaxation of the logging rules came as international demand for Estonian wood soared – not just for furniture or construction, but because of an unlikely culprit: Europe’s renewable energy policies.

“Sometimes I can’t bear to go outside,” Järvik says, standing by the stumps left on land stripped by the logging company Valga Puu. The firm is a subsidiary of Graanul Invest Group, Europe’s biggest producer of the wood pellets which are burned on an industrial scale as biomass for heat and light in many of Europe’s former coal-fired power stations.

The days Järvik is spared the sound of harvesters have become rare. “You don’t want to leave home, because the landscape has become so impassable, it leaves you feeling anguished. But still the noise comes.”

Forests cover 2m hectares or more than half of Estonia. Around 380,000 hectares (939,000 acres) of that, including the Haanja nature reserve, fall under the EU’s Natura 2000 network, which is designed to protect Europe’s forests and offer a haven to rare and threatened species. Haanja is home to 29 protected species, including the black stork, the lesser-spotted eagle and the corncrake.

Natura-protected zones are managed under the legally binding provisions of the 1979 EU birds directive and the 1992 habitats directive. But logging is governed by domestic laws, and Estonia permits it as long as it does not damage bogs and other special habitats, or fall within bird mating seasons.

Campaigners say that by allowing intensive clear-cutting in Natura 2000 sites, Estonia is in breach of the habitats directive and undermining the EU’s climate goals.

Siim Kuresoo of the non-profit Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) doesn’t just blame the Estonian government. He says there is a direct connection between the subsidised growth in the biomass industry encouraged by EU renewable energy policies and the acceleration of unsustainable Baltic tree-felling.

“There is clear evidence that the intensification of logging is at least partly driven by higher demand for biomass for heat and power,” says a report co-authored by Kuresoo for the ELF and the Latvian Ornithological Society. “Given that over half of Estonia’s and Latvia’s wood pellet exports in 2019 went to Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK, ‘green energy’ use in those three countries contributes directly to increased logging in the two Baltic states.”

The Council of Estonian Environmental NGOs (EKO), of which the ELF is a member, has made a complaint to the European commission alleging “systematic” breaches by Estonia of its forest conservation obligations.

Across Estonia, between 2001 and 2019, Natura 2000 areas lost more than 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of forest cover, an area more than twice the size of Manhattan. The last five years account for 80% of that loss. Further alterations to rules in other Estonian national parks are planned.

This acceleration appears to be taking a toll on bird species like the black grouse, woodlark and others. Woodland birds are declining at a rate of 50,000 breeding pairs a year, according to national records.

The clearances are also damaging the ability of Baltic forests to store carbon, and could be undermining climate goals by reducing the chance for Estonia and Latvia to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

In a country where the overwhelming majority of people say they regard nature as sacred, logging has led to protests or what the Estonian media calls the “forest war”. Residents of Saku, a small town 16 miles south of Tallinn, successfully fought to save an area of forest that was scheduled to be cut down this year by RMK, the state forest management company, which manages around half of Estonian forests.

“We convert our trees into pellets and sell them to energy plants in your countries,” says Ivar Raig, one of the Saku campaigners. “This is considered to be sustainable, but we suffer.”

Sustainability goes to the heart of the European renewable energy debate. The drive to replace coal, one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon emissions, with cleaner sources of power, is a top priority in the fight against climate change globally.

A switch to burning wood in the form of pellets appears to offer a simple and in theory carbon-neutral alternative to coal-fired power stations because trees take up carbon dioxide from the air as they grow. As long as the burned trees are replaced with new plantings, there is no net addition to the stock of carbon in the atmosphere.

However, that process of carbon take-up can take many decades. And in the furnace, burning wood releases more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than burning gas, oil, or even coal. By accelerating carbon dioxide emissions in the short term, burning wood for electricity could be fatal for states’ ability to meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global heating to well below 2C by 2050.

Demand for woody biomass or energy from wood as an alternative to coal in power stations took off from 2009, when the first EU renewable energy directive obliged member states to source 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 and classified biomass energy as carbon-neutral.

A flaw in the legislation meant that woody biomass was fully categorised as renewable, even if it came not just from wood residues or waste, but from whole trees. This meant that companies could directly harvest forests for pellets – rather than making pellets from the by-products of timber cut for other uses – in the name of sustainable forest management.

As the EU moved in 2018 to double the use of renewable energy by 2030, scientists warned the European Parliament that this loophole in the sustainability criteria of the revised EU legislation would accelerate the climate crisis and devastate mature forests. But against the competing interests of the multibillion euro biomass lobby, it went unamended.

Almost all European countries have recorded an increase in logging for energy. Nearly a quarter of the trees harvested in the EU in 2019 were for energy, up from 17% in 2000.

Biomass, of which wood from forests is the main source, now makes up almost 60% of the EU’s renewable energy supply, more than solar and wind combined, and a vast cross-border industry has emerged to meet this demand.

Taxpayer subsidies are driving much of the growth in this trade. Between 2008 and 2018, subsidies for biomass, of which wood is the main source, among 27 European nations increased by 143%. In the UK, government support for biomass projects is expected to total more than £13bn by 2027 – the date at which current subsidy agreements expire, according to the climate thinktank Ember.

Every month tens of thousands of tonnes of wood pellets leave the port of Riga to cross the North Sea on Graanul Invest’s vessel, the MV Imavere. Much of this cargo is bound for the port of Immingham, where it is transported to UK power stations including Drax, which has converted four of its six units from coal to biomass since 2013 and is now the world’s largest biomass burning plant. The UK accounts for more than a third of Graanul’s annual revenue. Denmark, the Netherlands and Italy are also target markets.

But electricity production from wood pellets would not be financially sustainable without public subsidies: the British government paid Drax the equivalent of €2.4m (£2.1m) a day in 2019. Drax will have received more than €11.2bn (£10bn) from the UK government since its conversion to biomass in 2012 until subsidies run out in 2027, researchers from the Ember have calculated.

The UK is now the biggest subsidiser of bioenergy in Europe, spending more than £1.9bn in 2019 primarily to pay for burning imported wood at Drax, according to new research by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and Cut Carbon Not Forests. Britain is no longer bound by EU renewable energy targets post-Brexit but has set a new target of cutting emissions by 68% by 2030 and is committed to the EU goal of net-zero carbon by 2050.

Other European governments are following suit. In the Netherlands, the government has promised energy companies RWE, Uniper and Onyx (formerly Engie) more than €3.5bn in subsidies to use biomass, making the country one of the biggest importers of wood pellets in Europe. Campaigners are anxiously watching Germany, where Onyx Power, a subsidiary of the US hedge fund Riverstone, is examining the possibility of converting coal plants to biomass.

“Biomass only exists at the scale that it does because of subsidies,” says Duncan Brack, associate fellow at the London-based thinktank Chatham House. “We’re effectively paying to increase carbon emissions in the atmosphere, which is an absurd use of public money.

China's 2020 coal output rises to highest since 2015, undermining climate pledges

China's coal output rose last year to its highest since 2015, despite Beijing's climate change pledge to reduce consumption of the dirty fossil fuel and months of disruption at major coal mining hubs.

The world's biggest coal miner and consumer produced 3.84 billion tonnes of coal in 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday.

China's coal output dropped after reaching a peak of 3.97 billion tonnes in 2013, as Beijing axed excessive mining capacity and promoted clean energy consumption. But production is rising amid surging industrial demand and an unofficial restriction on coal imports aimed at shoring up the domestic mining industry.

For December alone, coal output was 351.89 million tonnes, up 3.2% from the same month last year, and up from 347.27 million tonnes in November.

China's coal mining sector was one of the first industries to resume operations when COVID travel restrictions were gradually relaxed, as Beijing wanted to ensure adequate fuel supplies once the country emerged from the lockdown enforced to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, production was partially disrupted in Inner Mongolia, China's top coal mining region by output, as the region in March launched an anti-corruption campaign to probe malpractice related to coal resource development over the past 20 years.

Output finally rebounded from multi-month lows in September, as coal import restrictions and surging electricity demand intensified a supply crunch at the onset of the winter heating season.

To stabilise the sky-rocketing coal prices, which hit their highest level since late 2011, Beijing urged miners last month to boost output.

Earlier this month, China's energy administration approved six coal mining projects, with projected combined annual production of 15.3 million tonnes, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Climate challenge needs a very different approach


Let’s get real. Climate is a man-made problem. But Biden’s climate alarmism is almost entirely wrong. Asking people to spend $1500 every year is unsustainable when surveys show that a majority are unwilling to spend even $24 a year on climate. And policies like Paris will fix little at a high cost.

Biden is right to highlight the problem, but he needs a smarter way forward.

The climate alarm is poorly founded. Take hurricanes. Last year, you undoubtedly heard that global warming made hurricanes “record-setting”. Actually, 2020 was above-average in the North Atlantic because of the natural La Nina phenomenon, and only record-setting in that satellites could spot more storms. When measured by total hurricane damage potential, the 2020 North Atlantic was not even in the top 10. And almost everywhere else on the planet, hurricanes were far below average, including the Pacific, southern and northern hemispheres. Globally, 2020 ranked as one of the weakest hurricane years in the 40-year satellite record.

We think 2020 was big on hurricanes because we read carefully curated stories of where and when they hit, but we didn’t see stories about the many more places and times they did not. This dynamic is why widespread climate alarm diverges from the decades of climate-economic research that shows the total impact of climate change is negative but manageable.

The UN Climate Panel, the gold standard of climate science, tells us the total impact of climate change in the 2070s is equivalent to an average income reduction of 0.2 to 2 per cent. Since the UN also expects everyone to be 3.63 times richer, global warming means we will only be 3.56 times as rich. That is a problem, but not Biden’s existential threat.

Yet, rejoining the Paris agreement will solve very little at a high cost. By the UN’s estimates, if all nations live up to all their promises (including Barack Obama’s promises for the US), it will cut so little, it will reduce global temperature by less than 0.05C by 2100.

And Paris is costly, because it forces economies to use less or more expensive energy. Across many studies, the drag to the economies is $US1-2 trillion in lost GDP every year after 2030. While achieving some good, each dollar of cost will only deliver about 11 cents of long-run climate benefits.

While politicians also talk about job benefits, economic research shows that green spending will predictably increase green jobs. But because subsidies will be paid by higher taxes on the rest of the economy, an equal number of jobs will disappear elsewhere.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson excitedly talks about five million new green jobs, while his advisers now warn him that 10 million other jobs could be at risk.

Many rich countries are now promising to make their economies carbon-neutral by 2050. There is only one nation that has done an independent cost estimate of net-zero — New Zealand. It found that the average best-case cost is 16 per cent of GDP. This translates to more than $US5 trillion per year by mid-century for the US, and similarly exorbitant costs for other nations. Such costs make these policies unsustainable in the long run.

Moreover, rich countries can achieve very little by themselves. Imagine if the entire rich world stopped all its CO2 emissions today and never bounced back. This would be utterly devastating — COVID-19 lockdowns only reduced emissions by less than 10 per cent. Yet, this would reduce global warming by the end of the century by 0.4C. This is because three-quarters of the 21st century emissions will come from the rest of the world — especially China, India, Africa and Latin America. They are unlikely to accept slower economic growth to address a 2 per cent problem 50 years from now.

Fortunately, there is a much smarter way forward: investing a lot more in green energy research and development. As Bill Gates says, “We’re short about two dozen great innovations” to fix climate. If we could innovate the price of green energy below fossil fuels, it wouldn’t just be rich, well-meaning first-worlders cutting a bit of emissions. Everyone would switch, eventually fixing climate change.

The cost would be much lower, the policies much more likely to be implemented — and, fortunately, it is one of the promises Biden has made.

Indeed, at the sidelines of the Paris summit, more than 20 countries, including Australia, committed to double their clean energy R&D investment until 2020. Most countries have not delivered, but doing so for both the US and Australia would be a much more effective, cheaper and more sustainable strategy.

Bjorn Lomborg is President of the Copenhagen Consensus and Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book is False Alarm.

What is green hydrogen, how is it made and will it be the fuel of the future?

Abundant, cheap and clean-burning, hydrogen has long been described as the fuel of the future.

That future has never quite materialised, however, due to hydrogen's disadvantages. It's difficult to transport, it can make metal brittle and it's 20 times more explosive than petrol.

But in recent years, "green hydrogen" — hydrogen made without fossil fuels — has been identified as the clean energy source that could help bring the world to net-zero emissions.

Billions of dollars of investment capital and taxpayer support has flowed into the industry, and company share prices have soared.

This has accelerated in recent months, driven by the rising adoption of zero-emission vehicles, a deadline set by many countries to go carbon-free by 2050 and US President Joe Biden's support for clean energy.

The European Union plans to scale up renewable hydrogen projects and invest a cumulative amount of 470 billion euros ($740 billion) by 2050.

In November, Western Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest announced plans to invest billions of dollars in green hydrogen to grow his new energy business.

In the first of the ABC Boyer lectures on Friday, he focused on the potential for Australia to produce "green steel", which uses green hydrogen in place of fossil fuels to power the iron ore blast furnaces.

"The immediate and multiplier impact on the Australian economy, if we get this right, could be nothing short of nation-building," he said in the lecture.

So what is green hydrogen? How can it be used? And is the hype a lot of hot air?

Hydrogen is the universe's most abundant element, but here on Earth it doesn't appear pure in nature, and requires energy to separate.

The most common technique is to extract hydrogen from water, which is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen (hence H2O).

Doing this is fairly simple. You can use heat and chemical reactions to release hydrogen from organic materials such as fossil fuels.

But this is enormously polluting. Worldwide hydrogen production is responsible for CO2 emissions equivalent to that of the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined. (The hydrogen is mostly used in the oil refining industry and to produce ammonia fertilisers.)

There is a cleaner way of getting hydrogen: a strong electrical current passed through a tank of water splits the molecule into its two constituent elements. This is called electrolysis.

Hydrogen atoms form hydrogen molecules (H2) and oxygen molecules pair up too. Each can then be bottled up (more on that later).

If the electricity is generated from renewable sources such as solar or wind, production of hydrogen in this way emits no greenhouse gasses.

This is how we come to all the different shades of hydrogen:

brown hydrogen is produced using coal where the emissions are released to the air

grey hydrogen is produced from natural gas where the associated emissions are released to the air

blue hydrogen is produced from natural gas, where the emissions are captured using carbon capture and storage

green hydrogen is produced from electrolysis powered by renewable electricity.




Friday, January 22, 2021

Making America Energy Dependent Again

Joe Biden's plan is to reverse all the economic and energy gains made in the last four years.

During his presidency, one of the best things Donald Trump did was make America energy independent. Joe Biden plans to undue that agenda, ASAP. Among the 17 executive orders or actions the newly inaugurated president signed Wednesday afternoon was one revoking the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

We knew it was coming. The phrase “Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” was part of the list of executive actions contained in a briefing note circulated by Biden’s transition team last weekend, after first being shared with U.S. stakeholders. The cancellation of the permit would undo one of Trump’s first executive actions and return America to the Obama administration’s stance against a pipeline that would transport oil from the Canadian province of Alberta into Nebraska.

Barack Obama had rejected the permit in 2015 saying it would conflict with his administration’s global warming agenda. When Trump issued an executive order in 2017 allowing it to proceed, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris, an Obama appointee, rejected it by claiming that the State Department’s environmental analysis of the pipeline “fell short of a hard look” at the cumulative effects of greenhouse gases and the impact of pipeline construction on Native American land resources. Morris agreed with environmental groups who asserted that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit would allow companies to skirt responsibility for damage done to rivers and streams.

Morris made his ruling in November of 2018. In July of 2020, it was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Sunday, TC Energy, the Canadian company working on the project, released a statement addressing climate concerns. Richard Prior, president of Keystone XL, insisted the pipeline is “not only the safest and most reliable method to transport oil to markets, but the initiatives announced today also ensures it will have the lowest environmental impact of an oil pipeline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.” He added, “Canada and the United States are among the most environmentally responsible countries in the world with some of the strictest standards for fossil fuel production.”

The people who believe the transition from fossil fuels to a Green New Deal can simply be mandated, irrespective of technological and scientific realities, couldn’t care less.

The move apparently doesn’t sit well with Canada’s equally progressive leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In what seemingly amounts to progressive environmental heresy, Trudeau has long supported the $9 billion project because he thinks that creating jobs and reducing reliance on foreign energy sources is a commendable ambition.

How inane is it to cancel the deal? “Construction is well under way, with the cross-border portion of the line already completed,” explains columnist John Ibbitson. “Cancelling the project will cost thousands of jobs in both countries. TC Energy is committed to reducing carbon emissions, while the oil that replaces what Keystone would provide American refineries comes from countries with little or no commitment to fighting global warming.”

American labor unions are also less than enthused. Last August, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), and the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters reached a deal with TC Energy. Yet an oil and gas lobbyist who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press spelled out reality in no uncertain terms. “The only question has always been whether labor can stave off the death sentence,” the lobbyist stated. “And they never had a chance.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is also distressed. He notes that canceling the pipeline deal “will kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-U.S. relationship, and undermine U.S. national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports in the future.”

For the environmental religionists, killing jobs and a return to relying on foreign energy providers who hate us is a small price to pay for “saving the planet.”

And for eliminating racism to boot. Two incoming White House environmental aides — Maggie Thomas, who will be chief of staff for the Office of Domestic Climate Policy, and climate advocate Cecilia Martinez, billed as “senior director for environmental justice” — insist climate change is driven by systemic racism. In 2019, Martinez asserted that the nation’s only path forward “is to design national climate policies that are centered on justice.” Thomas’s scheme demands “trillions” in public investment, aimed at a “crack down” on oil production and a shift away from the nation’s “fossil fuel economy” — as well as funding for welfare programs, including rent and utility relief.

In other words, the Biden administration will precipitate skyrocketing energy prices, and then print trillions of additional dollars to subsidize the millions of Americans who can’t afford them. Anyone who disagrees with this double dose of ideologically driven stupidity?

Shut up — racist.

Keystone is just the beginning, and Americans will soon discover all of the other equally pernicious agendas an unchecked Democrat Party will inflict upon them. As columnist Steve Milloy warned last October, fracking, one of America’s most successful job-producing industries, can’t be killed by an executive order. Instead, it will be killed by thousands of regulations aimed at producing the same outcome.

“[Biden] has also committed to reversing President Trump’s deregulatory efforts,” Milloy wrote, “including the rollback of an Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency rule requiring the oil-and-gas industry to pay to limit methane leaks from fracking wells.”

Why? “Big oil companies support the Obama rule because it puts the squeeze on smaller players,” he continues. “If the rule is reinstated, struggling independent frackers will either close up shop or sell themselves to larger companies, whose profits have been harmed by a production glut. With the ability to control and limit overall production, those larger frackers could reduce the glut and increase their profits. There would be less fracking — and higher energy prices for consumers.”

In other words, in tandem with the economic destruction wrought by coronavirus lockdowns, more small businesses will be regulated into elimination, in service to a corporate oligarchy intent on eliminating any and all challenges to its hegemony.

In the next two years (at least), Americans are going to learn a very sobering lesson about the difference between a Trump administration’s aspiration to create economic abundance and a Biden administration’s socialist/Marxist effort to manage decline — the very same decline promoted as the “New Normal” during the Obama administration.

“This is just the beginning of an energy agenda that will cripple us on so many levels: jobs, cost of living, and opportunity,” warns columnist Daniel Turner. “It will hurt our critical allies in Canada and Europe. It will benefit our enemies Russia and China. And it will do absolutely nothing for the environment.”

No one should be surprised. It’s what happens when the electorate puts people who hate this nation in charge of it.

Get Ready for More Obama-Era Green Energy Scams

With Democrats about to control all the levers of power in Washington, the biggest winners might be the wind and solar companies. These firms' stocks continue to surge mostly because President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to invest several hundred billion dollars in green energy through a pipeline of taxpayer-funded grants, loans, tax credits and loan guarantees.

This game plan looks suspiciously like a replay of the litany of green "stimulus" fiascoes that Biden piloted as vice president back in 2009 with the $800 billion Obama stimulus plan. The experiment in the government as an investment banker belly-flopped with embarrassing failures from Solyndra, Fisker Automotive and Abound Solar. Taxpayers lost billions of dollars on these lemons.

One of these disasters, the Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant, located in the Nevada desert, is still embroiled in court battles to sort out who pays for all the losses. The Obama administration first started showering this project with money beginning in 2011, with a $700 million federal loan. The Department of Energy boasted that the facility was supposed to provide half a million megawatt-hours of electric power every year. Not quite. Thanks to construction design flaws, faulty equipment and hapless management, Crescent Dunes has never come close to its production target. Then, in 2017, Crescent Dunes came knocking on Treasury's door again, this time receiving $275 million in cash grants instead of tax credits on top of $250 million in private capital. Even with this second round of life support, the plant had to shut down. Last month, the bankruptcy court approved the entire operation's Chapter 11 reorganization plan.

But the story doesn't end there. Under the settlement terms, taxpayers will only see $200 million recouped of the remaining $425 million still unpaid from the Department of Energy's loan. The rest will be forgiven. Some of the loan losses could be recouped if the plant hits profitability. Expert testimony in the court proceedings concluded this outcome is unlikely given its track record so far. The bottom line: Expect taxpayers to swallow hundreds of millions of dollars of losses here.

What is especially galling about this whole misadventure is the Spanish firm Grupo Cobra, which botched the construction, received full payment to build the facility. The Department of Energy has reached a deal with Grupo Cobra that forgives the $225 million of outstanding loans and allows Grupo Cobra to become sole owners of the project. The total public and private investor losses could approach half a billion dollars when all is said and done. Meanwhile, a foreign company is going to walk away with sole ownership of a U.S. solar plant. Grupo Cobra is getting rewarded for its incompetence.

Will the Biden administration learn from bankruptcies such as Crescent Dunes? Don't bet on it. It wouldn't be surprising if Biden's "green energy" crusaders, flush with taxpayer money, toss millions of more dollars into Crescent Dunes.

Renewable energy scams such as Crescent Dunes remind us that these "public-private" projects rarely produce much electric power, and they don't save the planet from climate change. But they do make millionaires out of lobbyists and fraudsters. My friends at the Heritage Foundation have counted 25 separate green energy projects, each with multimillion-dollar taxpayer losses like those from the Obama era. My advice to the Biden team is the old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Celebrity Climate Change Activists Flew Private Jets to Biden's Inauguration

Several celebrities attended and performed at Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, and many of those celebrities took their own private jets to get there. They didn't even carpool.

A celebrity couple who attended Biden's inauguration reportedly took a private jet to D.C. despite the couple's hardline stance on the issue of climate change.

Celebrities Chrissy Teigen and her husband, singer John Legend, were spotted boarding a private jet in Los Angeles, California, the Daily Mail reported.

Actress and singer Jennifer Lopez also took her own private jet to D.C. where the 51-year-old performed before the small crowd.

Teigen and Legend have been caught a few times before flying in private jets, including a Valentine's Day flight to Yountville, California, where the couple had dinner. The restaurant of their choice? The infamous French Laundry, a favorite place for other Democrat hypocrites like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed who flouted their own coronavirus guidelines to eat at the restaurant.

Fishermen reject Greenie claims Australians are 'eating endangered sharks' under the guise of flake

Queensland shark fishers have rejected an Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) campaign encouraging Australians to stop eating flake.

The Give Flake a Break campaign urges people to choose sustainable seafood alternatives, as there is no legal obligation to disclose what species of shark is being sold, or where it has come from.

Margaret Stevenson, who owns a fishing business with her husband Graham at Burnett Heads in Queensland, says there should not be any concern as fishers are already heavily regulated.

"We've got a total allowable catch that restricts how much we can catch," she said. "We have to call in and give out how many sharks we've caught, even if it's only one, and that's every trip. "We can't leave the boat ramp for an hour after we've called in so boating and fisheries patrol can inspect our catch.

"We have to identify each species of shark that we catch in our logbooks and report on it and we have to do that on the phone as well — we have to give them the numbers before we get in."

Senior sharks campaigner for the Australian Marine Conservation Society Leo Guida argued the seafood labelling system was "broken".

"Fishers do record what species they catch, and there are fishers out there who do a fantastic job and provide us with sustainable alternatives," he said.

"But by the time it gets to the plate, somewhere along the way, the information as to what species — particularly with sharks — that people are eating gets lost or is very difficult to find.

"We know this because there are quirks in our national environment laws that allow the harvest and sale of endangered fish. "These include the endangered school shark and the critically endangered scalloped hammerhead."

Mrs Stevenson said what AMCS was implying was simply wrong. "It just can't happen with these claims that we're selling product that we shouldn't be — that it's threatening an endangered species," she said.

"If they [boating and fisheries patrol] come and inspect our catch and we have something that we shouldn't have or there's an error in what we've told them over the phone — we're liable to get fined. "Our whole livelihood, our whole business then is on the line."

A handful of species are listed as threatened under Australia's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including the grey nurse shark and the speartooth shark, which banned them from being fished in Australian waters.

But while the scalloped hammerhead shark is classed as globally critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, it is legally allowed to be caught in limited numbers in Australia under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

In Queensland, recreational fishers are prohibited from catching scalloped, smooth and great hammerhead sharks, but commercial fishers are not.

Graham Stevenson explained that they were not catching endangered species of shark. "The species of sharks that we catch here primarily are spinner sharks, which are a school type shark — they're in the thousands out here," he said.

"We get black-tipped sharks and weasel sharks — weasel sharks only ever eat octopus, they're very similar to the southern gummy. "At different times of year we do get a lot of hammerhead sharks — they're very prolific in this area."

Mrs Stevenson said she was frustrated that there did not seem to be anything they could do about it. "We're guilty until we're proven innocent and we've got no mechanism available to us prove our innocence as an industry," she said.

"The only thing I can say to consumers is to put the onus back onto these greenie organisations and demand the evidence, demand the proof of what these claims are.

"A few years ago, we had a really good market for shark and they [AMCS] came out and did a big campaign and because of it that whole business that used to buy our shark went bust."




Thursday, January 21, 2021

Electric car battery that can recharge in 10 minutes and last for 250 miles

Back to the steam car! You've got to wait for it to heat up before you can drive off

US experts have developed a new electric car battery that charges in just 10 minutes and lasts for 250 miles on a single charge.

The EV batteries are made from lithium iron phosphate, which is known for its 'unsurpassed safety', and can quickly heat up and cool down – key to rapid charging and a long life.

They quickly heat up to 140°F for charge and discharge and then cool down when the battery is not being used.

The system could tackle 'range anxiety' – drivers' fears that they don't have sufficient charge on their electric vehicle (EV) to get them to their destination.

Researchers say their battery should last more that 2 million miles in a lifetime and would be 'a well-rounded powertrain for mass-market EVs' if commercialised.

'There is no more range anxiety and this battery is affordable,' said Chao-Yang Wang at Penn State University in the US.

'The very fast charge allows us to downsize the battery without incurring range anxiety.'

According to Wang, these batteries can produce a large amount of power upon heating – 40 kilowatt hours and 300 kilowatts of power.

An EV with this battery could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in three seconds and would drive like a Porsche, he said.

'We developed a pretty clever battery for mass-market electric vehicles with cost parity with combustion engine vehicles,' said Wang.

'This is how we are going to change the environment and not contribute to just the luxury cars. Let everyone afford electric vehicles.'

Batteries have three main components – the anode, cathode and electrolyte.

The electrolyte is typically a chemical that separates the anode and cathode and moves the flow of electrical charge between the two.

Because lithium is a highly-reactive element it stores a large amount of energy.

Lithium-ion batteries use a liquid electrolyte – a flammable, carbon-based liquid. But this liquid electrolyte is often flammable and has been blamed for lithium ion batteries bursting into flames when overheated, for example.

Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, a type of lithium ion battery, are an alternative. They use lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) as the cathode material, are already used in EVs and are renowned for safety.

This new battery is also lithium iron phosphate but is described as a 'thermally modulated LFP'. It uses a self-heating approach previously developed in Wang's lab, the Electrochemical Engine Center at Penn State.

The self-heating battery uses a thin nickel foil with one end attached to the negative terminal and the other extending outside the cell to create a third terminal.

Once electrons flow it rapidly heats up the nickel foil through resistance heating and warm the inside of the battery.

Once the battery's internal temperature is 140°F, the switch opens and the battery is ready for rapid charge or discharge.

Wang's team have also used low-cost materials for the battery's cathode and anode and a safe, low-voltage electrolyte.

The cathode is thermally stable lithium iron phosphate, which does not contain any of the expensive and critical materials like cobalt.

While the anode is made of very large particle graphite, a safe, light and inexpensive material.

Because of the self-heating, the researchers said they do not have to worry about uneven deposition of lithium on the anode, which can cause lithium spikes that are dangerous.

'This battery has reduced weight, volume and cost,' said Wang, who authored a paper on the findings that's been published in Nature Energy.

'I am very happy that we finally found a battery that will benefit the mainstream consumer mass market.'

Biden Cannot Legally Get Us Back Into the Paris Climate Accords; Here's Why

Joe Biden has made no secret of his intention to get us back into the Paris climate accords. It’s high up there on his laundry list of things to do upon taking office—even though the United States leads the world in reducing carbon emissions, despite not being a part of it anymore.

But the truth is, the United States was never actually legally a part of the Paris climate accords. The United Nations describes it as “a legally binding international treaty on climate change,” and it also meets the definition of a treaty under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which states that a treaty is “an international agreement concluded between [two or more] States in written form and governed by international law.”

And what does the United States Constitution say about treaties?

It says that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur.” It’s right there in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2.

Yes, Obama unilaterally signed the United States into the treaty in the final months of his presidency, which was a very telling move. Nearly 200 countries signed the treaty on December 12, 2015, but Obama didn’t sign it until nearly a year later, during the final stretch of the 2016 presidential election. Obama, who fancied himself a constitutional scholar, never even attempted to go to the Senate for ratification. Instead, he avoided referring to the agreement as a treaty publicly, in order to argue that Senate ratification wasn’t constitutionally mandated.

Obama’s move was clearly designed to benefit him politically while also punting the legal ramifications of the unratified treaty to another president. As such, less than six months into his presidency, Trump announced, to much fury from the left, that the United States would no longer be a part of the Paris climate accords—negating the need for a potential dispute over the legality of the treaty.

Just as easily as Barack Obama got us into the treaty, President Trump was able to get us out. This back-and-forth will continue ad infinitum each time the presidency changes parties. This is why the Founders established a system where neither the top executive nor the Senate can enter into a treaty without the consent of the other.

“The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States,” wrote Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #75. “To have intrusted the power of making treaties to the Senate alone, would have been to relinquish the benefits of the constitutional agency of the President in the conduct of foreign negotiations.”

Whereas the election of Donald Trump, whose opposition to the Paris climate treaty was well-established, precluded the need for any legal battles over the legitimacy of the United States’ entry into the treaty, Biden’s promise to get us back into it unilaterally will bring this issue back to the forefront, and I suspect confrontation is inevitable. Senator Ted Cruz, for example, previously called on Trump to send the Paris climate treaty to the Senate for a vote—knowing full well it would not be ratified.

With any luck, the moment Biden illegally gets us back into the Paris climate treaty, Republicans will mount a legal challenge to it, and the Supreme Court will rightfully strike it down.

Biden Administration: Yes, We Are Following Through With a Fracking Ban

Speaking at the White House Tuesday night, Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed President Biden will follow through with campaign promises to ban new fracking on federal land.

"President Biden promised to end all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands when was a candidate," a reporter asked. "Does the administration still have that commitment today? To end that lease?"

"We do and the leases will be reviewed by our team we just have only been in office for less than a day now," Psaki said.

Earlier Tuesday, Biden signed an executive order placing the United States back into the Paris Climate Agreements, despite the country reducing emissions without being in the global agreement. He also revoked permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, eliminating 11,000 jobs and destroying $2 billion in wages.

From Fox Business:

The move could happen on President-elect Joe Biden's first day in office, after the Trump administration spent four years trying to further construction of the $9 billion, 1,200-mile pipeline that would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska.

An existing Keystone pipeline currently transports oil from Alberta to Illinois and Texas.

According to the Keystone XL website, the project, initially proposed more than a decade ago, would sustain about 11,000 U.S. jobs in 2021 – including 8,000 union jobs – and generate $1.6 billion in gross wages.

It is unclear how the Biden administration plans to address the job losses, but his $2 trillion clean energy infrastructure plan, with its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, aims to "create millions of good-paying jobs that provide workers with the choice to join a union and bargain collectively with their employers," according to his website.

Biden Reportedly Putting Keystone Pipeline on the Chopping Block on Day One

Joe Biden is reportedly planning to rescind the Keystone XL pipeline permit during his first day in office. The move marks the fulfillment of a campaign promise Biden made in May of last year.

According to CBC News, sources say the incoming president plans to rescind the Keystone XL pipeline permit through executive action on his very first day in office. The rescinding of the permit, allowing the pipeline to cross the Canadian border into the United States, will effectively kill the pipeline as well as all the jobs and economic activity associated with the project.

In a memo circulated among incoming-senior Biden staffers, the words "Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit" are reportedly among the list of executive actions the new administration is planning for Day 1. A lengthier version of the memo was shown to stakeholders, but a smaller version of the memo was released to the public earlier this weekend.

Biden has also said that he plans to transition America out of the oil industry. During his second and final presidential debate against President Trump, Biden said he plans to transition America out of the oil industry.

"Would you close down the oil industry?" President Trump, not the moderator, asked Biden the important question.

"I would transition from the oil industry, yes," Biden answered.

When asked why Biden was planning to eliminate the oil industry, Biden replied, "Because the oil industry pollutes significantly." Biden later clarified that he would not ban the oil industry outright, but reiterated the "need" to transition away from oil.

The Keystone XL pipeline was rejected by the Obama administration in 2015, when Biden was vice president, but subsequently approved two years later by President Trump.




Tuesday, January 19, 2021

California secretly struggles with renewables

By David Wojick |January 16th, 2021|Economy|17 Comments
California has hooked up a grid battery system that is almost ten times bigger than the previous world record holder, but when it comes to making renewables reliable it is so small it might as well not exist.

The new battery array is rated at a storage capacity of 1,200 megawatt hours (MWh); easily eclipsing the record holding 129 MWh Australian system built by Tesla a few years ago. However, California peaks at a whopping 42,000 MW. If that happened on a hot, low wind night this supposedly big battery would keep the lights on for just 1.7 minutes (that’s 103 seconds). This is truly a trivial amount of storage.

Mind you this system is being built to serve just Pacific Gas & Electric. But they by coincidence peak at about half of California, or 21,000 MWh, so they get a magnificent 206 seconds of peak juice. Barely time to find the flashlight, right?

There is no word on what this trivial giant cost, since PG&E does not own it. That honor goes to an outfit called Vistra that does a lot of different things with electricity and gas. But these complex battery systems are not cheap.

This one reportedly utilizes more than 4,500 stacked battery racks, each of which contains 22 individual battery modules. That is 99,000 separate modules that have to be made to work well together. Imagine hooking up 99,000 electric cars and you begin to get the picture.

The US Energy Information Administration reports that grid scale battery systems have averaged around $1.5 million a MWh over100% renewable deception the last few years. At that price this trivial piece of storage cost just under TWO BILLION DOLLARS. At 103 seconds of peak storage that is about $18,000,000 a second. Money for nothing.

Mind you the PG&E engineers are not that stupid. They know perfectly well that this billion dollar battery is not there to provide backup power when wind and solar do not produce. In fact the truth is just the opposite. The battery’s job is to prevent wind and solar power from crashing the grid when they do produce.

It is called grid stabilization. Wind and solar are so erratic that it is very hard to maintain the constant 60 cycle AC frequency that all our wonderful electronic devices require. If the frequency gets more than just a tiny bit off the grid blacks out. Preventing these crashes requires active stabilization.

Grid instability due to erratic wind and solar used to not be a problem, because the huge spinning metal rotors in the coal, gas and nuclear power plant generators simply absorbed the fluctuations. But most of those plants have been shut down, so we need billion dollar batteries to do what those plants did for free. Nor is this monster battery the only one being built in California to try to make wind and solar power work. Many more are in the pipeline and not just in California. Many states are struggling with instability as baseline generators are switched off.

There is even an insane irony here, one that is perfect for Crazy California. This billion dollar battery occupies the old generator room of a shut down gas fired power plant. Those generators used to make the grid stable. Now we are struggling to do it.

Of course no one at PG&E or Vistra says publicly that this monster battery is there to keep renewables from trashing the grid, not to back them up. One wonders if the California Public Utilities Commission knows this? The big question is why is the rate paying public not told? Or the press? There is really a very expensive hoax here.

While on this topic, let’s ask what it would actually cost to back up wind and solar with batteries. This depends a lot on local climate. How often the wind does not blow hard for example. Wind generators need about 10 mph just to start and more like a sustained 30 mph for full power.

Multi-day heat waves are often periods of very low wind, combined with a maximum need for power. A nasty combination. So my rough rule of thumb is that you need storage of 7 days times peak need.

California peaks at 42,000 MWh and 7 days is 168 hours so using this rough rule we would need about 7 million MWh of batteries. This makes 1200 MWh truly trivial. Then at $1.5 million a MWh we get an astounding 10.5 TRILLION DOLLARS, just for the batteries to make renewables reliable.

The scam is breathtaking, and not just in California. Nationwide we are spending untold billions of dollars trying to keep the erratic nature of renewables from crashing the electric power system. But these efforts are routinely portrayed as storage for when renewables do not run. Stabilization is the opposite of storage. We are being lied to about renewables.

Nio, the ‘Chinese Tesla’ that has electrified investors worldwide

When William Li, the founder and chief executive of Nio, decided that the electric car company’s mission statement should be “To shape a joyful lifestyle”, he probably wasn’t thinking about Britain’s twentysomethings happily punting on its share price to stave off boredom in lockdown.

Nio, based in Shanghai and a relatively small company by revenues, making about 200 cars a day, has lofty goals, not least helping to tackle climate change by shifting the world away from internal-combustion engines.

However, it has emerged, with a New York listing, as one of the most popularly traded stocks in Britain, boosted by the commonly expressed prediction that the company is going to be “the next Tesla”.

According to Susannah Streeter, senior investment analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, Britain’s biggest stocks platform: “Nio is the second-most popular overseas investment on the HL platform and since the start of the year has been in the top ten overall.”

AJ Bell, another large investment platform, said that it had handled more trades in Nio in the first week in January than in all of December. has reported “very high interest” among its clients.

The stock also seems to be one of those prospective world-beaters that catch the imagination of younger, novice investors: those who have never experienced a full-scale bear market.

IG, the spread-betting group, said that Nio was its second most popular stock globally behind Tesla, especially with younger investors: “We’ve seen a huge amount of interest in it and other electric vehicle stocks over the past 12 months, particularly among the new, younger cohort of clients.”

Etoro, a fast-growing investment-cum-social media platform popular with young people that claims to have about 1.7 million registered users in Britain, said that Nio was its most frequently traded stock in December.

Some investors know very little about the company, let alone take a considered view about its prospects. One 26-year-old quantity surveyor, who asked not to be named, told The Times: “My mate told me to invest in it. He’s bang on it. I’d actually never heard of it before. It’s the Chinese Tesla.

“It’s tipped to nearly double by the end of the year. I’m just waiting for it to make me a millionaire.” This was said tongue-in-cheek, but there is no denying that investors hope to make a profit.

Social media sites are full of chat between millennials relating their investment experiences. One said that after making profits from bitcoin, he was shifting into Nio having taken advice from a 19-year-old friend on Tiktok: “He really knows his shit.”

This kind of talk is grist to the bears and sceptics who mutter about elevator boys in 1929 Manhattan offering share tips just before the Wall Street crash. Nio’s popularity, they argue, is a classic example of a frothy market, with some stocks in bubble territory.

Yet to portray Nio as a stock purely puffed up by naive novices would be wrong. The company has fans among some of the most admired and successful technology investors in the world.

James Anderson, manager of Scottish Mortgage, the FTSE 100 investment trust, sang its praises in a webcast with his investors last week, arguing that it had emerged over the past year from being merely one of perhaps a hundred electric car businesses in China to being “probably the clear leader”.

Nio shares reflect that progress, rising 28-fold from a low of $US2.11 in March to more than $US60 today, valuing Nio at $US96 billion ($125bn) – more than General Motors at $US74bn, or Ford at $US40bn. According to Scottish Mortgage’s most recent filings, its stake in Nio was worth £857 million ($1.5bn) on November 30.

If it holds the same number of shares, that will be more than £1bn today. That is starting to look meaty even against Tesla, which went up by a mere 1000 per cent in the same period since March. The Scottish Mortgage stake in Tesla was worth more than £2bn that last time that it reported.

“Tesla way underperformed Nio last year, so perhaps we should ask Mr Musk [Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and now the world’s second richest man] why he’s doing so badly,” Mr Anderson said.

Underpinning the confidence of investors is some eye-catching engineering. The latest Nio models seem not only to be ahead of the offerings from traditional car companies but also ahead of Tesla itself.

Nio’s 70 kilowatt-hour battery and 100kwh battery packs make its cars capable of travelling up to 450 miles (724km) on a single charge, soothing “range anxiety”. The company claims to be close to producing packs of denser, solid-state batteries to replace the ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries and push ranges to more than 960km.

Then there is its innovative approach to recharging. It has rejected the hugely expensive motorway service station superfast chargers being put in by Tesla, which still take 20 minutes to re-fire its cars, and has opted instead for battery-swapping stations, which reduce the stop time to only five minutes.

Nio also is turning out cars with “Level 2” autonomous capability as standard, a level of driver assistance – automatic braking, acceleration, lane guidance – only a step before the machine takes over at the steering wheel.

In a recent report into the electric vehicle market, Jefferies, the stockbroker, cited range, connectivity, autonomous driving and charging solution as the unique selling propositions of Nio in an industry divided between legacy companies and the wannabes.

“Wannabes’ success may hinge on legacies’ inability to respond,” it concluded. That included the way to market. The legacy companies rely on outmoded dealership showroom networks. Nio is selling on the internet and is marketing through pop-up shopping centre “Nio spaces”.

The excitement around Nio is that it is coming soon to try to crack the European market, where electric adoption is accelerating. Tesla is proving that the new wave can succeed, delivering the best electric car sales in Britain, ahead of BMW, Nissan and Renault.

So the company’s prospects are immeasurably sunnier than they were last March, when, as Mr Anderson concedes, the company was in “severe danger”. A $1 billion rescue by the provincial Chinese government of Anhui, where the vehicles are manufactured, helped to put the company on a more solid footing. Even so, the valuation remains stratospheric by conventional measures.

Nio is lossmaking, recently reporting a $US154m net loss for the quarter to September, although this was down by 59 per cent from a year earlier and down by 11 per cent on the previous quarter.

Annualising that quarter’s sales puts Nio on a multiple of 36 times annual revenues. To put it more starkly, the company is valued at $US2.19m for each car it has produced in the past year.

The “buy” case is that the lesson of digitised, globalised, brand-driven capitalism is that a very small number of winners – Apple, Google and Netflix – grab all the cake. In carmaking, Nio, founded in 2014, might just be that winner in ten or twenty years’ time.

Nio, which buffs up its brand via its Formula E motor racing team, as well as clothing merchandise, brought out its latest model this week. The ET7 is a £60,000 car that goes from nought to 62mph (99.8km/h) in 3.9 seconds and has a claimed range of 435 miles (700km).

That puts it head-to-head with Tesla’s forthcoming Model S Plaid, as well as traditional marques, such as the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Nio, for now, is roaring ahead, whether or not investors look under the bonnet.

At the White House, the purge of skeptics has started with David Legates

President Donald Trump has been sympathetic with the climate skeptics’ position, which is that there is no climate crisis, and that all currently proposed solutions to the “crisis” are economically harmful to the U.S. specifically, and to humanity in general.

Today I have learned that Dr. David Legates, who had been brought to the Office of Science and Technology Policy to represent the skeptical position in the Trump Administration, has been fired by OSTP Director and Trump Science Advisor, Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier.

The event that likely precipitated this is the invitation by Dr. Legates for about a dozen of us to write brochures that we all had hoped would become part of the official records of the Trump White House. We produced those brochures (no funding was involved), and they were formatted and published by OSTP, but not placed on the WH website. My understanding is that David Legates followed protocols during this process.

So What Happened?

What follows is my opinion. I believe that Droegemeier (like many in the administration with hopes of maintaining a bureaucratic career in the new Biden Administration) has turned against the President for political purposes and professional gain. If Kelvin Droegemeier wishes to dispute this, let him… and let’s see who the new Science Advisor/OSTP Director is in the new (Biden) Administration.

I would also like to know if President Trump approved of his decision to fire Legates.

In the meantime, we have been told to remove links to the brochures, which is the prerogative of the OSTP Director since they have the White House seal on them.

But their content will live on elsewhere, as will Dr. Droegemeier’s decision.

Trump’s past Actions Should Slow Biden’s Radical Climate Agenda

Incoming President Joe Biden has promised to implement the most radical energy and climate agenda Americans have ever seen.

With the Democratic party having become an almost wholly owned subsidiary of the radical progressive environmental left while controlling both houses of Congress for at least the next two years and the White House for the next four years, Biden and his climate alarmist ilk have their best opportunity ever to impose the biggest government takeover of the economy since the Great Depression.

Fortunately, in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term, his administration took a series of actions that will act as shock absorbers for the economic havoc Biden’s climate policies would wreak, complicating Biden’s attempt to impose a “Great Reset” to fight supposed climate change.

The Trump administration auctioned off oil and gas leases on public lands in Alaska (January) and California (December). These sales will complicate Biden’s ability to keep his promise of ending new oil and gas leases on federal land.

Although, to the federal government’s fiscal detriment, a Biden administration can refuse to offer more leases, it will be hard to prevent future production from leases the Trump administration recently approved, unless it can come up with the money to buy the leaseholders out of the leases. Federal regulatory agencies under Biden’s control can drag out the environmental review and permitting process, but as long as the companies comply with the relevant laws and guidelines, they should eventually be able to develop these lands.

Biden has vowed to take us back into the Paris climate agreement, from which Trump withdrew the United States, and he can do so. Yet, actions the Trump administration has adopted will make it harder to implement Paris-compliant regulations solely through executive action.

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) determined current National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone and Particulate Matter (PM) were protective of public health. EPA also finalized a rule requiring comprehensive benefit-cost analyses (BCA) be carried out for all future rules implemented under the 1970 Clean Air Act (CAA).

The Obama administration justified most of its climate policies based on claims they would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Almost all the supposed benefits of the regulations, however, resulted from counting benefits of restrictions on pollutants such as PM and ozone as if they were new benefits from limiting nontoxic carbon dioxide emissions.

Other purported benefits of carbon-dioxide restrictions flowed from including benefits to people in foreign countries while limiting the cost calculations to those accruing within the borders of the United States.

Under the EPA’s recently finalized BCA rule, all new CAA rules must be accompanied by a BCA that must include a statement discussing any industry, group, or geographic region that will be disproportionately negatively impacted by the rule.

Each new CAA-related regulation must contain a plain-language explanation of what welfare and public health benefits EPA believes the rule will deliver and what costs it will impose. BCAs, under the new procedures, will distinguish between benefits flowing directly from the rule and “co-benefits” resulting from other CAA requirements, and they will separate domestic benefits from any benefits the rule produces for people in other countries, reporting both.

Because Trump’s EPA affirmed and locked in the current ozone and PM standards for the next five years, the Biden administration should find it exceedingly difficult to claim “new” co-benefits from tighter restrictions on these two pollutants from any proposed carbon-dioxide restrictions.

In addition, in early January, Trump’s EPA finalized a rule to improve the transparency and public scrutiny of the science used to justify regulations.

Under the final transparency regulation, the Biden administration will be required to be more transparent than any administration in history concerning the science used to justify new climate regulations. The rule establishes requirements for the independent peer review of pivotal science. In addition, when proposing a significant regulatory action, the agency now must clearly identify the research used to inform the rule, specifying which studies it relied upon for rule-making.

The rule also requires EPA to consider studies for which the underlying dose-response data are available for independent validation and public examination.

Each of the policies described here was in the works long before any votes were cast in the 2020 presidential election. As such, the rules were intended to further Trump’s efforts to promote American greatness and energy independence, not to thwart Joe Biden from implementing his climate agenda.

In fact, these rules by themselves cannot stop Biden from attempting to impose whatever climate policies he thinks he can get away with. What these policies do, however, is make Biden’s efforts more transparent. Maximum transparency and thorough publicly justified analyses are good policies to follow in a democratic republic, regardless of the president or the party in power.