Saturday, February 20, 2021

Bill Gates can't win

He wants to focus on improved technology to reduce atmospheric CO2. The Greenies (below) don't like that at all

You might think that the decision of Bill Gates to throw his resources, energy and intellect into the infernal problem of climate change would be universally welcomed by those who have been battling the issue for a generation.

This week’s publication of Gates’ new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, has revealed an intellectual and philosophical schism in the climate field, one most pronounced between those who have battled in the field for a generation, and newer entrants like Gates.

In his book Gates does an admirable job in breaking down the complex problem of climate change into understandable building blocks.

“When I started learning about climate change, I kept encountering facts that were hard to get my head around,” he writes. “For one thing, the numbers were so large they were hard to picture ... Another problem was that the data I was seeing often appeared devoid of any context.”

Gates provides the context, explaining that reaching net zero by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change means working out how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 billion tonnes annually.

Gates breaks the figure down further, explaining that 31 per cent of the emissions are caused by making things such as steel, cement and plastic, electricity production causes another 27 per cent and agriculture 19 per cent. Transport and heating and cooling cause another 16 per cent and seven per cent respectively.

With the impact of climate change tangibly evident in recent record temperatures, in catastrophic fires in the American west and in Australia, no one would argue with Gates’ analysis, nor with his new sense of urgency.

“We have no time to lose,” he told Good Weekend.

However, Gates is being criticised by some of the world’s leading climate scientists and environmentalists for his view on how we should use what time we have left to act, and how best to direct resources.

Gates argues that American policymakers should dedicate their efforts to research and development of new technologies to drive down what he calls “the green premium”. This premium, he explains, is how much more it costs people to use a green alternative over an existing technology - the price difference between, say environmental fuel for his jet versus conventional jet fuel.

In a tetchy rejoinder in The New York Times this week the renowned climate author and journalist Bill McKibben begins, “First things first — much respect to Bill Gates for his membership in the select club of ultra-billionaires not actively attempting to flee Earth and colonise Mars.”

He goes on to argue that Gates makes the common mistake of underestimating the tools we already have to hand to reduce emissions. Solar power is the cheapest power in human history according to the International Energy Agency. As factories producing solar panels have become more efficient, their drop in price over the past decade has been, McKibben points out, 50 to 100 years ahead of what the IEA was forecasting in 2010.

According to McKibben, every time we double the number of panels installed, the price drops another 30 to 40 per cent. Batteries, he says, are following a similar price curve.

Underestimating the potential of existing renewable technology, he says, leads Gates to overestimate the significance of the green premium. He argues that the future tech Gates wants the world to focus on will be critical in future in mopping up the last few percentage points of greenhouse gasses, while renewables must do heavy lifting now.

At the heart of some of the criticism of the efforts of Gates - and other billionaires - in the climate field is their support for what is known as carbon dioxide removal, or CDR, technologies.

In theory if effective CDR machines could remove and store enough carbon, climate change could be solved by technical innovation.

CDR’s critics dismiss it as fantastical at best and dangerous at worst, as it provides an excuse for inaction.

Speaking with the Herald earlier this week the leading climate scientist Professor Michael Mann - whose book The New Climate War has also just been published - was blunt in his criticism of Gates’ approach.

“We don’t need new magic new technology, like Bill Gates says [we do], we don’t need a miracle. We have the tools necessary, with wind and solar, geothermal et cetera, to decarbonise our economy. It is a pretty clear path forward.”


As nation freezes, fossil fuels are keeping the lights and heat on

Much of the Midwest and the Mountain States are seeing subzero temperatures and blizzard conditions sweep through. As far south as Dallas, a polar vortex has caused temperatures to dip into the 20s, with ice and snow. In parts of Minnesota, temperatures dipped to near their lowest levels in a century. There are now rolling blackouts in some parts of Texas because of power supply shortages at a time when the deep freeze causes peak demand.

Many states are at a dangerous point of running out of energy at any price to meet demand as the cold spell rolls on.

This story isn’t so much about the weather as it is about a grand failure of public policy. Because of the political left’s war on fossil fuels, and “renewable energy mandates” that require 20 percent to 30 percent of a state’s power supply to come from wind and solar power, the power grid is squeezed to the brink. Wind and solar don’t generate much power when temperatures plummet.

The Center of the American Experiment, a Minnesota-based think tank, reports: “Wind turbines are shut down when temperatures are below -22° F because it is too cold to operate them safely. This means it will be too cold for the wind turbines built by the power companies to generate any electricity.”

It’s worse than that, however. According to the Minnesota think tank, “Wind turbines will actually consume electricity at these temperatures because the turbines use electric heaters in their gearboxes to keep the oil in the housing from freezing. During the 2019 Polar Vortex, wind turbines were consuming 2 MW of electricity. Wind turbines are a liability on the grid when the power is needed most.”

Solar power is even less reliable in severe weather conditions. Snow and ice during frigid temperatures often disable the panels. And when temperatures drop way down at night — when the sun goes down — is when the energy for heat is in highest demand.

Meanwhile, natural gas has had supply problems too. Normally, natural gas is the most reliable of energy sources, but some pipelines are freezing at the very time demand is soaring. According to an analysis by ZeroHedge, the mid-continent gas spot price “exploded from $3.46 one week ago, to $9 on Wednesday, $60.28 on Thursday and an insane $377.13 on Friday, up 32,000 percent in a few days” — something that makes the rise in GameStop stock look like child’s play. As the ZeroHedge article explains, “there simply is nowhere near enough product to satisfy demand at any price, hence the explosive move.”

What we are experiencing is the “perfect storm” disrupting our energy supply and creating an extreme stress test for the power grid that is being pushed to the limits. Yet, there is one source of energy that is, thankfully, keeping us from mass power outages and keeping the lights and the heat on: coal.

Longtime energy expert Terry Jarrett, who has served on the board of the national utility commissioners, explains what is going on: “The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) — which oversees power transmission in 15 states … is reporting that coal is currently generating more than half of its overall electricity.”

Here are the daily numbers during the big freeze in the 15-state Midwestern region: Coal is producing roughly 41,000 megawatts of electricity; natural gas is providing 22,000 megawatts; wind and solar are roughly 3,000 — or about 4 percent of the power. This points to the foolishness of states requiring 30, 40 or even 50 percent of their power to come from wind and solar. Even with normal weather patterns, when wind and solar are working, coal-fired plants are almost always necessary as a back-up when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun not shining.

We should have learned our energy lessons from Germany. In the early 2000s, the Germans went all in on green energy and largely abandoned fossil fuels. It caused massive price spikes throughout the country, and manufacturing began to leave for nations with much lower power costs. Germany wisely ditched the all-in green energy movement. Now as a polar vortex has hit Europe, the German are getting much of their energy from ... coal.

But the environmental movement is succeeding in moving America in the opposite direction on energy. Imagine for a moment that we had in place today the Biden national goal of near-zero fossil fuel energy in America. Millions of Americans might be facing power outages — no heat, no lights — in the middle of blizzard conditions; power costs would soar.

What is happening today across much of the country should be a wake-up call that safe and reliable “all of the above energy” — including coal — isn’t just a convenience. It’s a matter of life and death.


American K-12 science education gone bad

By David Wojick

I don’t often write an article about someone else’s article but Shepard Barbash’s deeply researched piece “Science betrayed” deserves a wide readership. His subtitle says it all: “The propaganda infecting K–12 science curricula, especially on the environment, won’t go away.”

Barbash first looks at the history, then where we are today. The entrenchment of the great green message really got going in the 60’s and 70’s, to the point where it is now just business as usual in teacher education and the textbooks. No wonder millions are marching.

But now it is getting systematically much worse. The so-called Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) govern over a third of America’s K-12 public school students, with more on the way. State science standards say what will be taught in each grade. The conventional state standards have been relatively neutral when it comes to green propaganda, while the NGSS are full of it. They also don’t care much for scientific knowledge.

The article is full of great quotes. On the history side here is a good one from 1983:

“For the moment at least, ecological doomsayers rule the cultural roost. Fire-and-brimstone logic is combined with fear-and-doomsday psychology in textbooks around the country. [The story] could be retold tens of thousands of times, about children in public and private schools, in high schools and at elementary levels, with conservative and with liberal teachers, in wealthy neighborhoods and in poor. A tidal wave of pessimism has swept across the country, leaving in its wake grief, despair, immobility, and paralysis. . . . Why should our students be misled?“

That “moment” has lasted for almost 30 years and the doomsaying just gets worse with the onset of climate change hysteria.

Here is Barbash’s succinct summary: “This fear has suffused curricula since the 1970s with an ever-growing list of alarms: pesticides, smog, water pollution, forest fires, species extinction, overpopulation, famine, rain forest destruction, natural resource scarcity, ozone depletion, acid rain, and the great absorbing panic of our time: global warming.

These premises inform everything about environmental education: the standards of learning that states impose on school districts; the position statements from the associations of science teachers; the course work and texts in education schools; the training that educators receive throughout their careers; and the textbooks, lesson plans, field trips, and homework assigned in all grades.”

The NGSS really pile on the climate change hysteria. Here is how Barbash explains it:

“The phrase “climate change” appears in the document as a “core idea” for middle and high school. The phenomenon is presented as fact, as are its supposed consequences—loss of biodiversity, species extinction, changing rainfall patterns, disruption of the global food supply, glacial ice loss, and mass migration due to rising sea levels. Nowhere do the standards say that both the nature of the phenomenon and its consequences are matters of pitched debate, or that rival theories to explain climate change exist—put forth not by flat-earthers or disbelieving parsons but by serious scientists.“

In most conventional state standards, climate change is a minor topic taught in the high school Earth Science class, which is an elective that many students do not take. The NGSS make the climate scare a required topic in middle school, when most students are too young to question it. To date 19 states have adopted the alarmist NGSS.

Barbash says the Feds are also very active in pushing green climate propaganda:

“At least 15 federal or federally funded websites offer free teaching materials about climate change and its dangers. The entities include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Global Change Research Program. The sites offer thousands of resources, including lesson plans, games, and videos for all grades. No website funded by government or universities or K–12 education groups is devoted to teaching about the scientific debate.”

How the NGSS teaches science in general also gets a good look:

“The Next Generation Science Standards are so convoluted that it is hard to imagine how they would help anybody teach any science at all, much less a fast-changing, contested science like climatology. Many concepts are too generic. Here’s one for third through fifth grade: “People’s needs and wants change over time, as do their demands for new and improved technologies.” Many performance expectations are unclear. Here’s one for kindergartners: “Analyze data to determine if a design solution works as intended to change the speed or direction of an object with a push or a pull.” What kind of data will a five-year-old analyze? Other standards pack too much science into one statement, often without sufficient instruction from earlier grades. This one for high school would challenge a graduate student: “Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.”“

I too think the NGSS are a big step backward when it comes to teaching science. In many places they replace the detailed scientific knowledge called for in the state standards they replace with hopelessly vague concepts.

Even worse, these vague concepts are embedded in a 3-D matrix. In addition to substituting abstract concepts for scientific knowledge, the NGSS have a three dimensional structure. They do not realize that if each dimension has just 20 concepts there are 8,000 combinations. If 100 concepts each then 1,000,000 combos.

Thus the NGSS are a prescription for confusion. In fact I think they are having trouble with the testing. In the NGSS case there should be national or international test scores becoming available at the state level, so we can see how well or badly the teaching under these strange new standards is doing.

In short the green propaganda in K-12 science education has been a growing problem for decades. But now under the Next Generation Science Standards it is quickly getting a lot worse. There is much more on this green wave in Barbash’s article so I recommend it highly.

American science education is transitioning and not in a good way.


Australia: Liberal party frustrated as National party's energy revolt gains another backer

A Nationals revolt on climate change has gained support from the party’s Senate team in a challenge to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on whether to allow a new $1 billion fund to invest in coal and nuclear power.

Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie is joining the push to amend the government bill to set up the fund, arguing the law should be “technology neutral” rather than limiting options.

The move throws support behind former party leader Barnaby Joyce, who infuriated the Liberals on Tuesday night by preparing an amendment in the lower house to allow the fund to invest in high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power stations.

Senator McKenzie told Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack of her plans on Tuesday night and has support from upper house colleagues including former resources minister Matt Canavan.

The Nationals senators were preparing to make their move on Wednesday to test the government on whether to allow the changes to a bill that has been planned for months, but the divisions forced a delay in the debate.

The government withdrew the bill from debate and is considering whether to bring it to Parliament in weeks or months to come, with some backbenchers speculating it could be delayed until May.

Liberal MPs are privately fuming at the Nationals’ move, arguing federal funds should not be put into new coal-fired power stations, but are avoiding public comment on the grounds a stoush would hurt the government.

Senator McKenzie said the government amendment needed to be changed. “The amendment is too narrowly focused, backing only one energy source for emission reduction,” she said.

Mr Joyce opened the policy dispute by lodging a formal amendment in Parliament to use a $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund, administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, to build a coal-fired power station.

Mr Joyce said his bill did not compel the CEFC to fund coal power but removed a restriction which prevented it from backing the energy source. “It’s not an obligation to do so, people can make a choice,” Mr Joyce said of his coal amendment. “But it shouldn’t be ruled out.“

Mr Joyce’s amendment would permit high-efficiency low-emissions coal plant projects to apply to the fund, which he said would boost greenhouse gas reductions. “Our largest sale as a nation is fossil fuels, like it or not, and I can’t see anything to change that,” he said. “The greatest thing we could do for emissions reduction is devise a technology for efficient use of coal.”

The bill the Nationals want to amend was brought to Parliament in August by Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor.

It would enable the CEFC to administer a new Grid Reliability Fund, which he said was needed to develop new energy projects and support reliability in the electricity network.

Mr Taylor told Parliament the bill would “not divert the CEFC’s existing $10 billion allocation” but would create a “trusted counter-party to investments, allowing the CEFC to support private sector involvement” in energy generation.

The CEFC welcomed the proposed changes, saying “critical infrastructure could be funded through the fund to improve the energy grid’s generation capacity and reliability”, and noted gas investments “may be technically eligible for funding” even without changes to legislation.

Labor climate change and energy spokesman Chris Bowen said delaying the bill was a “humiliating backdown” for the Morrison government.

“This now means the government is divided over exactly how many fossil fuel technologies the Clean Energy Finance Corporation should support – just gas, as proposed by Taylor, or gas and coal,” he said.

“The government announced the Grid Reliability Fund 15 months ago. Now, let alone deliver reliable cheap energy for Australians, the government can’t deliver a debate on the fund in the Coalition-controlled House of Representatives.”




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