Friday, April 08, 2011

If Al Gore Can Outgrow the Ethanol Fad, Why Can’t Conservatives?

The Senate is expected to vote on S. 520, a bill to repeal the 45 cents per gallon volumetric ethanol excise tax credit (VEETC). The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.). Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jim Web (D-Va.) have also introduced S. 530, which would limit the VEETC to “advanced biofuels,” thus ending the subsidy for conventional corn ethanol. S. 530 would also scale back the 54 cents per gallon ethanol import tariff commensurately with the reduction in the tax credit.

The VEETC adds about $6 billion annually to the federal deficit. Unlike many other tax credits that reduce a household’s or a business’s tax liability, the VEETC is a “refundable” tax credit. That means the VEETC is literally paid for out of the U.S. general fund with checks written by the Treasury Department. The protective tariff, for its part, prevents lower-priced Brazilian ethanol from competing in U.S. markets. It increases the price of motor fuel at the pump.

Now, you would think supporting S. 520 and S. 530 would be a no-brainer for conservative lawmakers. But some are reportedly getting cold feet. To remind them of their duty to put the general interest of consumers and taxpayers ahead of the special interest of King Corn, I offer the following observations.

(1) The market for ethanol is propped up by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a Soviet-style production quota. Conservatives should be appalled by this reversion to Stalin-era central planning. Should taxpayers have to subsidize ethanol too?

(2) The Ethanol Troika – RFS, VEETC, Protective Tariff – increases consumers’ pain at the pump. Because the supply of ethanol, ramped up by the Troika, exceeds demand, ethanol today is cheaper than gasoline by volume. However, ethanol has one-third less energy than an equivalent volume of gasoline. Thus, consumers have to spend more for ethanol than gasoline to drive the same number of miles. The American Automobile Association’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report makes this crystal clear by publishing the mileage-adjusted price of E-85 (motor fuel blended with 85% ethanol).......

(5) As climate policy, the VEETC is a complete bust.

Again, the VEETC and tariff support only a small and declining fraction of total production. Consequently, any incremental greenhouse gas reduction attributable to those policies has an unreasonably high price tag. CBO estimates that the VEETC costs taxpayers $750 to $1700 for every ton of greenhouse gases avoided — many times the estimated price of emission permits under the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, which the Senate did not see fit to pass.

Ironically, the corn rush may increase net greenhouse gas emissions, as Tim Searchinger of Princeton University and Joe Fargione of the Nature Conservancy found in separate studies. A gallon of ethanol emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) than a gallon of gasoline when combusted. However, CO2-emitting fossil fuels are used to make fertilizer, operate farm equipment, power ethanol distilleries, and transport the ethanol to market. In addition, when farmers plow grasslands and clear forests to expand corn acreage, or to grow food crops displaced elsewhere by energy crop production, they release carbon previously locked up in soils and trees. For several decades, such land use changes can generate more CO2 than is avoided by substituting ethanol for gasoline.
Unsurprisingly, many environmental groups and even Al Gore have disavowed their previous support for corn ethanol. Isn’t it time for conservatives to outgrow this obsolete environmental fad?


Another one of the endless climate pow-wows gets nowhere

The first UN climate talks for the year entered their final day on Friday with negotiators still trying to hammer out a deal after familiar feuds between rich and poor nations flared.

The four days of talks had an apparently modest main goal of sorting out an agenda for the rest of the year's negotiations that would lay the foundations for agreements at an annual UN climate summit in South Africa in November.

But delegates said the agenda had still not been decided by Friday morning, with one key point of dispute an insistence by many poorer countries for a greater focus on actions developed countries must take to fight global warming. "Nothing has been decided. It's not a very good signal," said one European negotiator.

Delegates said a compromise could still be reached by the end of the talks on Friday evening. But they said the spirit of co-operation between developed and developing countries that led to breakthroughs at the last annual summit in the Mexican resort city of Cancun in December was not nearly as strong in Bangkok.

The talks began on Tuesday with poor nations demanding that rich ones agree to a second round of legally binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments under an updated Kyoto Protocol.

The first round of commitments are due to expire at the end of 2012, but many richer countries have said they do not want to sign up to a second phase because major polluters the United States and China will not.

The US never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and its climate envoys have repeated this week that the country has no intention of signing on.

Developing countries, including China, did not have to commit to cutting emissions as part of the Kyoto Protocol and most of them maintain this should remain the case.

Throughout the Bangkok talks, many of the richer countries have pushed to have the focus for this year's negotiations primarily on pushing forward the agreements achieved in Cancun last year.

However poorer nations say that if only the Cancun agreements are put into action by the end of 2012, rich nations will not have to agree on legally binding emission cuts and the Kyoto Protocol will have largely fizzled out.


"Renewable" power INCREASES CO2 emissions

More and more "renewable" power sources are coming online (at huge expense) but CO2 emissions from power generation are continuing to rise. Why?

For this month, it is again patently obvious that when electrical power is needed the most, during the cold weather of Winter, those renewable power plants again show that they are not only incapable of delivering that increase in power, they in fact supply less power, while every other sector increases the power they supply for all consumers.

When looked at over the whole 12 month period, again it is obvious that when power is required, it is only those traditional suppliers can actually deliver that power.

Even with the increase in numbers of those renewable power plants, especially the almost exponential increase in construction of wind towers, CO2 emissions are rising, and rising by large amounts.

Again, why is that? Those renewable power plants cannot deliver power for when it is needed. 65% of all electrical power is required ABSOLUTELY, for 24/7/365, and not one of those renewable plants can deliver power on that basis.

The remaining power is consumed during specific times, and this is referred to as Peaking Power. This is required for a couple of hours in the early mornings 6AM to 9AM, and from 4PM until Midnight. It is required exactly for those times.

Again, those renewable plants cannot deliver that power for specifically when it is needed.

So, while those renewable plants actually do provide power to the grids, actual power consumption is required for specific periods. Because of that, those Natural Gas fired plants especially are required to work for longer periods of time, because if renewable power was relied upon solely to provide that power, then as soon as the wind failed, or the Sun set, then power drops dramatically, and if those renewables are an integral part of that mix, then the result will be brown outs and blackouts as the grid for that area crashes. So, to cover every contingency, then those Natural Gas fired plants especially have to work harder and longer so that power is always available at the grid to cover actual consumption by all users.

So, while it may actually ‘seem’ that renewables are increasing at an almost exponential rate, and at enormous expense, that money is in fact being wasted on a technology that not only does not deliver power, but is leading to an increase in CO2 emissions, exactly the opposite of what we are being told it will do.

Much more HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

A lot of hot air: Wind farms 'working at just 21% of capacity'

Britain's wind farms produce far less electricity than their supporters claim – and cannot be relied upon to keep the lights on, a study from a conservation charity showed yesterday.

A damning report from the John Muir Trust found the UK’s heavily subsidised wind farms were working at just 21 per cent of capacity last year. Yet the renewable energy industry claims their turbines work at 28 to 30 per cent efficiency on average.

The Trust also found that for extended periods all the UK’s wind turbines linked to the National Grid muster less than 20 megawatts of energy at a given point, enough power for fewer than 7,000 households to boil their kettles.

Stuart Young, author of the report, said: ‘Over the two-year period studied, the wind farms in the UK consistently generated far less energy than wind proponents claim is typical. ‘Sadly, wind power is not what it’s cracked up to be and cannot contribute greatly to energy security in the UK.’

The UK has more than 3,100 working wind turbines. According to the wind industry, they are capable of generating more than 5.2 gigawatts of electricity – enough for nearly three million homes. Another 10,000 are planned for the next decade to meet EU climate change targets.

The report covered the output of around half of the UK’s turbines. The rest supply local grids and their output is not included in day by day figures.

Industry body RenewableUK said the report was incomplete. It said onshore wind farms worked at 27.6 per cent capacity between 2006 and 2009 and offshore at 31.1 per cent.


What really threatens our future?

Energy sustainability is not about resource availability and pollution. Capitalism and human ingenuity have already addressed “sustainability” in these regards, if the statistics are to be believed.

The real sustainability challenge and threat concerns government intervention in the name of “sustainability,” because it is political and bureaucratic intervention that reduces the availability, reliability and affordability of energy. The real sustainability challenge is also about overcoming the forces of nature, via with ever stronger energy infrastructure around the world. That is a job for capitalism, not central planning.

Consider these examples.

Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident have brought rolling blackouts, as authorities strive to meet electricity demands with reduced supplies and crippled transmission lines.

However, power cuts and inadequate power are routine in developing countries like India. For them, going without electricity for hours or even days is the norm, not the exception.

But now, the UK’s power grid CEO is warning Brits that their days of reliable electricity are numbered. Because of climate change and renewable energy policies, families, schools, offices, shops, hospitals and factories will just have to “get used to” consuming electricity “when it’s available,” not necessarily when they want it or need it.

UN IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri justifies this absurd situation by sermonizing, “Unless we live in harmony with nature, unless we are able to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and adopt renewable energy sources, and until we change our lifestyles, the world will increasingly become unfit for human habitation.”

Thus, people in poor countries who never had access to reliable electricity may be denied it even longer, while people in rich countries could soon face new electricity shortages.

Citizens of the world’s poor and emerging economies: Beware of claims that the greatest threat we face is from manmade climate change. They are wrong. The real threat is from energy starvation policies implemented in the name of preventing climate change.

Everywhere one looks, people are enjoying modern technologies, improving their lives, realizing their dreams. Other people want the same opportunities for themselves and their children — and they should have them. Every citizen of the world should someday enjoy access to similar levels of energy that people in developed countries enjoy today.

The technologies, trade and transportation networks, the legal, property rights, economic and banking systems have all been developed. If countries and communities take advantage of them, a better future will require only one more thing: energy.

Energy is the Master Resource, the key to everything else. Only our Ultimate Resource — our creative intellect — is more important. People who have abundant, reliable, affordable energy — and the freedom to use it — can turn dreams and ideas into reality.

Those who must rely on human and animal muscle, or open fires, remain poor. Certainly, wind turbines and solar panels are far better than primitive energy. They can bless remote villages with electricity. But they are nothing compared to reliable electricity from hydrocarbon, hydroelectric and nuclear power.

However, policies based on false claims that we can control Earth’s climate restrict access to energy and increase its cost. They perpetuate poverty, and prevent people from building better homes, having comfortable lighting and heating, using computers and modern conveniences, preserving food and medicines, and even surviving natural disasters and adapting to climate change.

Using computer models, thousands of scientists say human carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for recent warming. But thousands of other scientists say the sun and other natural forces still control our complex, unpredictable climate.

Earth’s climate has changed repeatedly throughout history. Its temperature rose slightly during the last century, as our planet recovered from the Little Ice Age, but not in a straight line. It went up 1900-1940, then cooled until 1975, warmed again until 1995, and has been steady since then — all while global CO2 levels were rising. Flood, drought, hurricane and other weather patterns also change periodically.

Earth’s climate is influenced by far more factors: solar, planetary, atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial. Climate models are useless, even harmful, for setting energy policy.

But even if carbon dioxide does affect climate, China, India and Brazil are building power plants and automobiles at a record pace. Their people are rapidly climbing out of poverty, using coal, oil, natural gas and hydroelectric power to achieve their dreams.

Leaders of these countries are not going to tell their still-poor people that they cannot enjoy the benefits that plentiful, affordable, dependable energy can provide.

Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States became modern economic powerhouses by using fossil fuels. They gave people wondrous technologies, improved their health and living standards, and doubled their life expectancies — using hydroelectric and hydrocarbon power.

Some people in rich countries talk about ending their fossil fuel use. But they have not done so — and cannot afford to. They talk about switching to wind and solar power. But they can no longer afford massive renewable energy subsidies that destroy two jobs in other sectors of their economy for every “green” job they create.

People in rich countries will not give up their modern living standards, electricity, automobiles, airplanes, hospitals, factories and food. Mr. Pachauri certainly will not. Why, should people in poor countries give up their dreams?

During the Cancun climate summit, rich nations said they would give poor countries $100-billion annually in “climate change reparation and adaptation” money. But these are empty promises, made by nations that can no longer afford such unsustainable spending.

Poor countries that expect this money will end up fighting over table scraps — and whatever funds do flow will end up in the overseas bank accounts of ruling elites. The poor will see little or none of it.

For awhile longer, rich countries will continue supporting global warming research and conferences. Researchers, bureaucrats and politicians will continue issuing dire warnings of imminent catastrophes, while they enjoy the benefits of modern energy, traveling on airplanes, attending talk fests at fancy hotels in exotic locations — all powered by coal and petroleum.

They may continue telling the world’s poor how important and admirable it is that we keep living traditional, sustainable, environment-friendly lifestyles; getting by on small amounts of intermittent, unreliable, expensive electricity from wind turbines and solar panels; and giving up our dreams of a better, healthier, more prosperous life.

Ultimately, the climate change debate is really over just two things.

Whether we, the world’s poor, must give up our hopes and dreams. And whether we will determine our own futures – or the decisions will be made for us, by politicians who use climate change to justify restricting our access to reliable, affordable energy.

Which should we fear most? Climate change that some say might happen 50 or 100 years from now? Or an energy-deprived life of continued poverty, misery, disease, and forgotten hopes and dreams?

Our future is in our hands.


Australia: The Greens are now "concerned with everything except the environment", say Greenie elders

Norm Sanders, environmentalist and retired senator, near his home in northern NSW, believes the Greens have lost their way. Picture: Jack Tran Source: The Australian
TWO founding fathers of the Greens say the split between the old-school environmentalists and the new generation of ideologically driven urban activists now swelling the parliamentary ranks could destabilise the party and alienate voters.

The man who gave up his seat in the Tasmanian parliament 29 years ago to launch Bob Brown's political career, Norm Sanders, said the Greens had "lost the plot" by shifting away from their core business of the environment.

And Queenslander Drew Hutton, who co-founded the party in 1992 with Senator Brown, hit out at the "ludicrous" decision by the NSW division of the Greens to thumb its nose at federal policy and back an international trade boycott of Israel in the recent state election campaign.

"I just shake my head in wonder at why a state-based party would go into an election pushing out front of a federal issue that the state party has no reason to be concerned with," said Mr Hutton, 64. "Why would you be profiling issues above environmental issues at this particular time? . . . I don't think it helps to alienate significant groups inside the NSW voting public."

Mr Sanders, 78, said scathingly that the Greens were now "concerned with everything except the environment".

"You hear them going on about the tax system, same-sex marriage, adoption, all these social equity issues, but they don't talk about the environment much," he said. The concerns of two such experienced and respected figures in the green movement will intensify the values debate that was kicked off by the actions of NSW Greens figures Fiona Byrne, a suburban mayor in Sydney who stood unsuccessfully at last month's state election, and senator-elect Lee Rhiannon in backing the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.

While Senator Brown, the party's veteran leader, has tried to distance himself and the federal Greens from the BDS push, yesterday he supported West Australian senator Scott Ludlam in advocating a ban on any arms sales to Israel, as part of a halt to Australian military exports.

The Australian revealed yesterday that Senator Ludlam and South Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young had previously supported calls for Australian sanctions against Israel, widening the party's exposure on the issue.

They will be joined in parliament from July 1 by four senators elected at last year's federal ballot, taking the Greens' numbers to nine in the upper house and securing the balance of power there. Adam Bandt, who became the first Greens MP to be elected to the House of Representatives at a general election, will push the Greens partyroom into double figures.

Mr Sanders was elected to the Tasmanian parliament in 1980 and resigned in 1982 to make way for the future senator Brown, giving him his start in politics.

Mr Sanders said Senator Hanson-Young, 29, a former campaign manager for human rights group Amnesty International, who challenged Christine Milne for the Greens deputy leadership after the federal election in August, personified the contemporary Greens. "That Sarah Hanson-Young, she's on television and radio all the time, but I've never heard her talking about the environment," Mr Sanders said, speaking from his home near Byron Bay in northern NSW.

"All those social issues they're on about, that's what the ALP's for. Even the Liberal Party can handle some of them. The Greens have lost the plot, and who's looking after the environment?"

Brisbane-based Mr Hutton is still on the front line of environmental activism, having been arrested recently while protesting against coal-seam mining on the Darling Downs, west of the Queensland capital. He stood unsuccessfully for the Senate three times and is now an organiser for the environment group Friends of the Earth.

Mr Hutton said there had always been "tension in the Greens between those who come from a Left background, and those who come from a green background". Describing the furore over the BDS as "mildly destabilising", he said the key role of the Greens

was to address environmental issues "in a way that none of the other parties is prepared to do".

"I would be the last person to say non-environmental issues aren't important, because for the past 40 years I have been involved in a whole lot of issues - the democratic movement in the Joh Bjelke-Petersen days, Aboriginal issues and so on - so I am not just a pure greenie," Mr Hutton said. "But there is no doubt in my mind that the key issues today, and the reason we formed a green party, was that we've reached a time when if we don't take determined and far-sighted decisions on the environment, then the whole planet is going to be in trouble."

But he said the tensions with the "hard Left" of the Greens would subside. "In time, that strong left-wing element will diminish, because the people coming in are wanting us to be in government and they are wanting us to be in policymaking positions," Mr Hutton said.

Both veterans praised Senator Brown's leadership. "Bob and Christine are the only ones who've been on the barricades," Mr Sanders said. "They're the only activists in the Greens. I don't know where the rest come from."



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