Wednesday, February 10, 2021

You Knew It Was Coming: AOC, Bernie, and Earl Introduce Bill to Declare National Emergency on Climate

President Trump declared a national emergency over the novel coronavirus on March 13, 2020. As the crisis evolved throughout 2020, many governors took that football and ran it as far down the field as they could, implementing ever more severe restrictions on their states as they declared their own state emergencies. As COVID-19 lockdowns spread across the states, they began to take on an appearance of permanence, despite questionable results in slowing the pandemic’s spread. The populace, often scared into submission, mostly complied out of a fear of the unknown.

This gave those governors a taste of power heretofore resisted by the American public, and many of them found the sensation intoxicating. Even more intoxicating was the willingness to accept the new normal.

As more despotic governors declare more states of emergency without legislative approval or oversight, or even a light at the end of the tunnel, it seemed the light bulb went on for the far left. We could finally rid the United States of that pesky republican form of government once and for all and install direct democracy. This led me to believe that these permanent temporary lockdowns would soon become a dry run for national emergency after national emergency—like climate change—that would create fun new normals ad infinitum.

Schumer Urges Biden to Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’
Enter Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

(You may be forgiven for not having any idea who that third guy is. Blumenauer represents Portland, Ore., in Congress. He’s inhabited the swamp for a couple of decades and, like other Oregon representatives, has mastered the art of avoiding notice, which is why he hitched himself to AOC and The Squad in an effort to gain traction.)

AOC, Bernie, and Earl have introduced a bill directing the president to declare a national emergency on climate. CNN reports:

The National Climate Emergency Act, introduced by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, along with Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, would direct Biden to declare a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, allowing him to unlock sweeping presidential powers and be able to organize resources to mitigate climate change.

They had introduced a similar resolution in 2019 — but it had little hope of advancing in the Republican-led Senate and under former President Donald Trump. Now, the lawmakers have re-energized their efforts under a new administration committed to combating climate change with an ambitious plan to do so.

In the announcement on his website, Blumenauer states that he worked with climate activists to craft this resolution:

Scientists and experts are clear, this is a climate emergency and we need to take action. Last Congress, I worked with Oregon environmental activists to draft a climate emergency resolution that captured the urgency of this moment. President Biden has done an outstanding job of prioritizing climate in the first days of his administration, but after years of practiced ignorance from Trump and Congressional republicans, an even larger mobilization is needed. I am glad to work with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Sanders again on this effort, which takes our original resolution even further. It’s past time that a climate emergency is declared, and this bill can finally get it done. [emphasis added]

AOC said:

We’ve made a lot of progress since we introduced this resolution two years ago, but now we have to meet the moment. We are out of time and excuses. Our country is in crisis and, to address it, we will have to mobilize our social and economic resources on a massive scale. If we want to want to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past – if we want to ensure that our nation has an equitable economic recovery and prevent yet another life-altering crisis – then we have to start by calling this moment what it is, a national emergency. [emphasis added]

Sez Bernie:

What we need now is Congressional leadership to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of the planet. Climate change is a national emergency, and I am proud to be introducing this legislation with my House and Senate colleagues. [emphasis added]

AOC, Bernie, and Earl describe their goals in the statement:

The National Climate Emergency Act builds on that resolution – which was based on input from Oregon environmental activists – by mandating a presidential declaration of a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. The legislation also outlines steps that the president can take to address the climate emergency while centering environmental justice.

To ensure accountability to Congress and the American people, the National Climate Emergency Act requires that the president deliver a report within one year of the bill’s enactment (and then every year thereafter until the emergency sunsets) that details the specific actions taken by the executive branch to combat the climate emergency and restore the climate for future generations.

As detailed in the legislation, this should include, but is not limited to, investments in large scale mitigation and resiliency projects, upgrades to public infrastructure, modernization of millions of buildings to cut pollution, investments in public health, protections for public lands, regenerative agriculture investments that support local and regional food systems, and more.

They fully intend for the federal government to intervene, on a perpetuated emergency basis, into virtually every aspect of the American economy. Notice their reference to environmental justice just before launching into a laundry list of industries that require fundamental change.

Sure, the liberals have droned on for years about the climate emergency, and Americans have collectively yawned in response. 2021 is different, though. We have a populace that has endured 2020. We have citizens cowed into fear of living their lives in dubious attempts to mitigate the spread of a coronavirus. We have a new president who has signed dozens of executive orders, many of which advance radical environmental policies. And we have a House and Senate that could go either way (to put it charitably) in terms of expanding federal power.

It doesn’t appear that America will go back to pre-2020 normal, and it remains to be seen if we have the will to fight this.

Notably, the statement from Blumenauer’s office lists many of the radical environmental organizations I wrote about in my book as supporters of this legislation:

The legislation introduced today by Blumenauer, Ocasio-Cortez, and Sanders is supported by dozens of environmental groups including, Center for Biological Diversity, The Climate Mobilization, Food & Water Watch, Labor Network for Sustainability, Progressive Democrats of America, Public Citizen, Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, Greenpeace, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Align NY, Friends of Earth, and Climate Justice Alliance.

Will 2020 represent a mere precursor to more government by fiat? Will 2021 see even more states of emergency declared, with the intent to undermine our representative democracy and further cement an American Oligarchy?

Will you resist?


What The Japanese Energy Crisis Should Teach Us

Generating capacity from closed nuclear plants has not been replaced

A cold snap is laying bare the flaws of the Japanese energy grid. The country, which relies on imports for the lion’s share of its energy, is struggling to meet demand for electricity and heating. As this cold snap overtook Europe and Asia in early January, natural gas prices soared and the price for super-cooled liquefied natural gas (LNG) reached record highs.

As Asia has experienced a comparatively robust recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, its demand for natural gas in general, and demand for LNG in particular has rebounded quickly. And, as China switches more coal over to gas, it has added millions of households’ demand to the gas market.

This price spike is felt especially strongly in Japan because it is an island nation, and cannot receive natural gas by pipelines from neighboring countries as other nations do. It relies instead on imported LNG, and is the largest buyer in the world, accounting for 23.4% of the world’s LNG net imports. In 2019, it imported 77 million tons of LNG, at a cost of approximately $39.8 billion. A steep increase in the price of LNG means a concomitant increase in the price of Japanese electricity as well as gas heat.

At the same time, cold weather means more stress to the grid because customers will use more power than usual to keep their homes warm. The high demand will continue to raise the price, and in some parts of the country it may become difficult or impossible to meet demand. In some areas, utilization reached 99 percent of available capacity, leaving little slack to meet any increase in demand. Natural gas supply at some of the country’s biggest power plants is now running low enough that they are forced to run at lower rates. This energy crunch is the result of demand that follows normal market forces, over against a supply limited by government mandates aimed at limiting construction to meet decarbonization goals, and limited further by the continued closure of most of the country’s nuclear power plants. Often we view caution as being without cost, but being too cautious can often have the same deleterious effects as being overzealous. Blackouts cause avoidable deaths, as do rising electricity costs.

Why is the Japanese grid uniquely vulnerable?

A mixture of factors are at play. The shutting down of nuclear plants, the country’s physical isolation from other nations, and its lack of natural resources are all components of the problem. As it has very little in the way of natural energy resources, it relies heavily on imports to meet its energy demand.

Following the great Japanese earthquake and resultant Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, the country shut down all of its 33 nuclear power plants, three of which have since reopened. Before the earthquake, 30 percent of Japanese electricity came from nuclear power, and that share was projected to grow to 40 percent by 2017. They are currently working to restart reactors, with 18 in the approval process to be restarted. The country aims for 20 percent of its power to come from nuclear by 2030. The earthquake dealt a serious blow to Japan’s ability to generate electricity.

With these plants offline, the country became less energy-independent since the earthquake. In 2010, the country’s net electricity imports were at 80 percent, in 2015 after the earthquake, that had risen to 93 percent. Questions of safety are of course essential to the discussion of how and if Japan should bring its nuclear reactors back online, but one consideration that is often forgotten is that both the cost and availability of electricity are relevant to mortality rates.

In 2019 the Institute for the Study of Labor found 1,280 cold deaths between 2011-2014 that could be attributed to higher electricity prices following the shutdown of the nation’s nuclear plants. Shortages and price increases on necessary resources are not only inconvenient, but they can also be life-threatening, especially for the poor who feel price increases first, and the elderly who are ill-equipped to survive cold temperatures. Although precaution is warranted in the wake of disaster, delaying the reopening of plants that could be safely brought back online has costs which are often forgotten in the name of precaution.

Hopefully, Japan can weather this cold snap without a major blackout, but the precarity of the present situation shows how important it is to add reliable capacity to the grid and bring existing capacity back online as soon as possible. In the coming years, we will likely see more events like this one, as more countries import their energy after limiting their own supply. Those countries that allow the market to decide where power comes from will be the best equipped to face future crises, whatever their source.




Climate risk sees bank divest from Port of Newcastle, the largest thermal coal terminal in the world

The port is the largest thermal coal terminal in the world, last year exporting 160 million tonnes and accounting for 99.2 per cent of its exports by volume.

ANZ was previously a major lender to the port as part of its $950 million debt pile, but in November the port refinanced and ANZ took the opportunity to divest.

It is understood the bank deemed the port too risky an investment which could end up a stranded asset in a world that is quickly shifting away from coal.

Last year the bank also announced an ambitious net-zero emissions action plan which adopted the issue of climate change as a condition of lending.

Analyst from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Tim Buckley, said ANZ's decision was not surprising and in the best interest of its shareholders. "It will absolutely end up a stranded asset if the world is able to deliver on the Paris Climate agreement, and my conviction that the world will deliver on the Paris agreement has never been stronger," Mr Buckley said.

"The world is moving 100 miles an hour to address this critical global issue of climate risk and ANZ is understandably working with all of its customers to transition."

The United States has committed to rejoining the Paris Agreement to drastically cut carbon emissions, while large coal consumers like Japan and Korea have set net zero emissions targets for 2050, and China 2060.

The National Australia Bank, among several others, have meanwhile stepped in to underwrite the Port of Newcastle as it plans to diversity into non-coal operations in the long term, particularly container cargo.

"We are working with responsible lenders who are interested in helping businesses like Port of Newcastle become more sustainable and diversify," it said in a statement. "This is crucial to a business that supports our local, regional, and national economies."

The Federal Minister for Trade Dan Tehan said he was disappointed by ANZ's decision and described the port as a viable and strong business.

"I'm very pleased that it looks like there's going to be alternative finance that will be secured because it's an incredibly important business. It supports 9,000 jobs and plays an important role in our export mix," he said.

"It's incredibly important to understand that our coal is the cleanest coal exported in the world and if we're not exporting our coal other countries will be, and that will add to emissions."

When asked, Mr Tehan did not acknowledge that there was any need for the port to diversify its activities in the long term as demand for coal declines.

The port itself has openly acknowledged the need to diversify, but its push to develop a container terminal for general cargo has so far been hampered by the NSW Government.

When selling Port Botany and Port Kembla, the state implemented laws that would restrict any container traffic through Newcastle for the next 50 years. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deemed the move anti-competitive and illegal, and the matter is currently being dealt with in the Federal Court.




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