Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Fossil fuels now beat wind and solar on environmental as well as economic grounds

When governments try to impose large-scale renewable technologies, they lay waste to nature

Non-renewable energy is sustainable; renewable energy is not, not even close, not by any meaningful yardstick, not in our lifetime or in that of our children. Renewables cannot passably meet any of the important needs claimed by their champions, whether economic or environmental. Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars governments have spent over the decades in aid of kick-starting a large-scale renewables industry, wind and solar complexes are generally incapable of helping humanity progress today or in the foreseeable future. Fossil fuels, in contrast, have gone from success to success for several centuries now, with no end in sight.

Prior to the industrial revolution of the 1700s, when the world depended almost exclusively on renewable energy, poverty and subsistence was the rule. The rise of mass affluence only came when highly concentrated energy – in the form of fossil fuels — made sustainable progress possible, both material and social.  Lifespans improved along with living conditions and eventually the environment did too, as fossil fuels curtailed the denuding of forested lands to obtain charcoal for industry and wood fuel for heating.

Fossil fuels continue their dominance unabated – recent projections by the International Energy Agency show the world will be consuming ever more in the decades ahead as the United States becomes self sufficient and China and India become major importers of oil and coal, the better to bring their poor out of poverty. Despite all the fossil fuels consumed in recent centuries, the world’s available store continues to increase – at existing rates of consumption, the world has centuries of fossil fuel left.

Wind and solar power – the darlings of environmentalists and multinationals alike – meet but a picayune proportion of the world’s energy needs and even then they need a crutch – generally in the form of fossil fuel backup – to sustain them. Because the Sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, society would be vulnerable – unsustainable – if these renewable technologies tried to meet human needs on their own.

The environment would be vulnerable, too. When governments and industry try to impose renewable technologies on us on a large scale, they lay waste to nature. Industrial wind farms have become major killers of birds, from the majestic bald eagle to tiny songbirds. Last year, according to the United States Geological Survey, wind turbines killed some 900,000 bats, in the process harming farmers who depend on bats for pest control – the USGS pegs the value of bats to the agricultural industry at $23-billion annually.

Wind’s ecological trail of destruction extends back to China, which supplies most of the rare earths required in the construction of wind turbines. When we in the West erect a wind turbine, reported an investigative article in the UK’s Daily Mail, we help create “a vast man-made lake of poison in northern China” that, according to locals, withers their crops and kills their animals.

Solar, too, is anything but benign. A major 2009 report by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a pro-solar California-based environmental justice non-profit, described the many toxic threats that come of solar, often because the toxic chemicals involved in its manufacture are haphazardously processed in China. But problems abound in the U.S., too, where solar companies such as Solyndra and Abound Solar went bankrupt after their subsidies ran out, leaving behind sites abandoned with millions of pounds of toxic waste that taxpayers will somehow have to clean up. Most cash-strapped solar companies, in fact, don’t report the levels of toxic waste they generate to state authorities, as required by law, and they are even tight-lipped about their environmental procedures to their environmental allies.

“We find the overall industry response rate to our request for environmental information to be pretty dismal for an industry that is considered ‘green,’” the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition told Associated Press earlier this year, after only 14 of 114 companies deigned to respond to them.

Solar, like wind, also draws ire from environmentalists for the ecological implications of the enormous amount of land required — last year Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council sued the federal government to stop a giant solar plant that would have been built on 7.2 square miles in the Mojave Desert, threatening imperiled wildlife such as the golden eagle and the desert tortoise.

On the plus side, because solar hasn’t been widely adopted – it provides less than one-tenth of 1% of North America’s energy — the damage it could cause has been limited. And with subsidies now ending, solar will soon be fading into the sunset.

Fossil fuels also cause pollution in our society but – thanks to past environmental pressure – relatively little: The enormous volumes of fly-ash, mercury, SOX and NOX that once dirtied the environment belong to a bygone era. Today, BTU for BTU, fossil fuels are generally more benign to human health and the environment than wind and solar, not to mention ethanol and hydroelectricity, which have often devastating impacts through air pollution (ethanol) and flooding (in the case of China’s Three Gorges Dam, the casualties included the farms, fisheries and livelihoods of some 1.4 million people).

The chief remaining environmental knock against fossil fuels today relates to carbon dioxide emissions which, according to a major survey, most scientists believe to be beneficial – known as “nature’s fertilizer,” carbon dioxide has led to a greening of the planet, as satellite imagery over the past 30 years makes evident.

Fossil fuels have sustained the blows of their detractors and remain unambiguously ascendant. Wind and solar are undone, and unsustainable.


Second new British nuclear plant given go-ahead

The second of a new wave of nuclear power stations will be built by private investors with government support, the Treasury will announce on Wednesday.

The power station, at Wylfa on Anglesey in Wales, is among the major infrastructure projects that will go ahead after ministers promised to support commercial interests.

The station, to be built by Hitachi and Horizon, follows an agreement earlier this year for French and Chinese investors to build a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Suffolk. Ministers have suggested that as many as a dozen nuclear reactors will be built in the coming years as fossil fuels are phased out and public hostility to renewables such as wind turbines mounts.

The nuclear plan will be announced by Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who will also detail plans to sell the Government’s stake in the Eurostar rail link as part of a plan to privatise £20 billion of assets by 2020.

Mr Alexander will also reveal that plans for a new toll road on the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon have been dropped. Improvements to the road will be funded by private investors instead.

The announcement is part of the Coalition’s attempt to deliver £375 billion of infrastructure projects in energy, transport, flood defence, waste, water and communications by 2020.

Such capital projects are said by some economists to boost growth in both the short and long-term.

Ministers have previously been accused of cutting government spending on major capital projects too sharply as part of their austerity programme. They have responded by trying to encourage private investors, such as insurance companies and pension funds, to invest in large projects, offering government guarantees as incentives.


"Enviro Charge": DC Restaurants’ "Transparent" Green Tax

Before I enjoyed my Toasted Marshmallow milkshake from Good Stuff Eatery, a local Washington, DC establishment, I noticed a tax on my receipt that said, "enviro charge." Curious, I asked an employee what it meant.

He said it was a tax they charged for their environmental usage and, “Unlike others, we don't hide it.” I left the restaurant, however, still scratching my head. For further explanation, I emailed their PR contact, Jordyn Lazar.

“Both Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza have a one percent environmental administration charge added to orders," she explained. "Our company prides itself on Goodness at all levels, including our environmental impact in the world. We used eco-friendly cleaning supplies, recycled construction materials and use local suppliers. These business practices come at a higher cost. We choose to work with environmentally conscious vendors and pay environmental charges to them. This charge offsets a minimal portion of these costs.

We hope that our customers will continue to support us in our efforts to help make our environmental impacts as minimal as possible. For those who choose not to participate, the charge is immediately removed.”

She then explained their restaurants are partnering with Plant a Billion Trees and directed me to Good Stuff Eatery’s Environmental section, where it explains, at the bottom of the page,

Our customers are part of the solution with us, 1 percent of your total bill is donated to plant a tree a day and sustain various environmental efforts.

Hm, so I wouldn’t have known about this charge if I hadn’t happened to notice the fine print on my receipt and asked an employee, or gone to their web page and scrolled down. After doing more research, it appeared I wasn’t the only customer to be a little irked about this largely hidden fee. Here were just a few of the comments from regarding the tax:

“Yeah, sounds like a 1 percent arbitrary-markup-but-if-you-call-us-on-it-we’ll-just-drop-it tax. pretty cheeky.”

“Reminds me of the ‘hazardous waste’ fee or ‘shop materials’ fee with an oil change. It’s just a way to weasel more money out of the customer without being upfront about it. Sketchy sketchy sketchy.”

Spike Mendelsohn, a former contestant on Bravo TV’s "Top Chef," opened Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill in 2008, and then We, the Pizza in 2010. He gave an interview in the Washington Post a few years ago about his restaurants and received a blunt question from one customer about their environmental charge.

“If you really want me to know what I'm paying for, why not a line item breakdown of all the costs that go into a $4 slice of pizza? How much the dough and ingredients cost etc.

I applaud you wanting to be environmental, I think its very noble. But you are really, really rubbing customers the wrong way with this "tax" - and on top of that passing it off like you are doing us a favor.”

Mendelsohn responded:

“I think I know who you are and I'm sorry that you feel that way but the answer you're looking for. I think I have explained to you before... We do a lot of green stuff in the company and it cost us a pretty penny. The environment tax comes out to a couple of pennies on your bill and we will always happily refund if you want.”

It may cost Mendelsohn’s company a pretty penny, but why should customers be the ones to provide them? Not everyone is as adamant about being green and, while many may applaud the restaurateur’s environmental efforts, customers didn’t ask him to employ these green practices, so why should they have to fund them? What if, instead of planting a tree, they just want to enjoy a shake and burger?

It looks like this tax is not only going to be limited to DC. Mendelsohn is opening a new Good Stuff Eatery in Philadelphia as it continues expanding. And, considering the Good Stuff Eatery employee's earlier comments about them not "hiding" the environmental charge "like others" do, it makes me wonder how many other restaurants are charging customers more green for being green.

What do you think? Would you be upset if you were being charged a not-so-advertised environmental fee, or do you think it's an ideal way to promote a noble effort?

Regardless of your opinion, hopefully this will encourage you to read your receipts before taking the first bite.


EPA Chief: 'No More Urgent Threat to Public Health Than Climate Change'

Ahead of her upcoming trip to China, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told a liberal advocacy group in Washington on Monday that she has dedicated her life to protecting the environment: "And I really see no greater issue and no more urgent threat to public health than climate change."

McCarthy said the goal of her trip is to support the Chinese "in meeting their air pollution challenges," and she said China has much to learn from the United States.

"Climate change is not just a public health and safety issue," McCarthy told the Center for American Progress. "I consider it to be one of the greatest economic challenges of our time as well, which is why I'm really looking forward to the trip and why I was very excited back this summer when President Obama spoke so eloquently and so comprehensively about the urgency to act on climate change when he spoke at Georgetown University."

McCarthy said Obama "showed enormous courage and he showed enormous strength as well as he challenged us all to not just acknowledge the science of climate change, to understand that it's real and it's happening, but to also charge the Cabinet to take immediate action."

To help the EPA "acknowledge the science of climate change," McCarthy last week appointed a "scientific integrity official." Dr. Francesca Grifo will help the EPA communicate scientific information "with the highest degree of integrity and transparency to the American public," McCarthy said on Nov. 25.

Grifo comes to EPA from the Union of Concerned Scientists, where she helped to expose political interference in science -- threats to the liberal climate change agenda, in other words. At the EPA, Dr. Grifo will help to implement "strong scientific integrity standards in a way that will persist through various presidential administrations," the Union of Concerned Scientists blogged.

In her remarks on Monday, McCarthy said one of her main concerns is EPA funding: "You know, one of the concerns I have is resources just continue to be challenged and challenged, and Congress continues to challenge us, especially on the House (Republican) side. And I really want EPA to maintain its stature that it has internationally and it has with the American people of being THE best science agency that knows how to do the science and turn it into real-life improvements for American families. We are not telling that story effectively. And I -- we need to do that."

McCarthy said the EPA will continue to take the lead in implementing President Obama's Climate Action Plan, including additional regulations to curb pollution from existing power plants. Those regulations are expected in June, and they follow rules issued in September for new power plants.

"We have authority to do it. We are charged with responsibility to do it," McCarthy said about implementing President Obama's Climate Action Plan. "And we will meet that challenge to address the action items in the report and the plan, as well as continue to engage our international partners, because it's all about reducing carbon pollution, it's all about adapting to a changing climate, and it is all about the United States playing a leadership role in international discussions. Climate change is a global issue. We need global action."

McCarthy said she's "really excited" about her trip to China next week: "The U.S. and China represent the world's largest economies, the world's largest energy consumers and the world's largest emitters of carbon pollution. One out of three isn't that good. I'd rather not be the largest energy consumers or the largest emitter of carbon pollution, but since we are, we're going to get together and we're going to talk."

McCarthy said pollution from China makes its way to the West Coast of the United States, and mercury emitted in China goes into the atmosphere, and is "redeposited" in U.S. rivers and streams.

She said can learn from the U.S. experience, where "public outcry" in the 1950s and 60s "led to significant laws being enacted."

"China also is facing significant public outcry and they have significant challenges that they need to address, but the good news is that we have been there before," McCarthy said. "The U.S. has faced these challenges. We have faced them well. We have faced them over time. We know the technologies that are available. We know what planning can do. We know that there are many ways in which you can engage your states, and in China's case, provinces, to bring a sense of urgency to this issue. And we are going to be working with them on these air quality challenges moving forward."


Fracking:  Greener than ‘Green’

Fracking is friendly to protected species and mosquito-devouring bats.  

A constant, mild hiss. That was my chief observation when I returned to Anadarko Petroleum's Landon Pad A, a natural-gas site in Lycoming County, Pa. October's quietude was totally unlike the cyclone of equipment, personnel, and activity that dominated this spot last June, when Anadarko and the American Petroleum Institute hosted journalists and policy analysts here.

Back then, engineers used a pressurized blend of 90 percent water, 9.5 percent sand, and 0.5 percent chemicals to shake subterranean shale deposits and awaken natural gas that has slumbered since the dinosaurs died. This hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," occurs some 6,000 feet underground. This is 5,000 feet beneath the water table - deep enough to bury three Empire State Buildings.

This spot now resembles the scene of a once-raging party that has been cleared out and cleaned up. The trucks have driven off. Dozens of workers have moved on. The cranes are gone. What remains are three acres of gravel-covered farmland, five completed wells, and a steady, low-volume whoosh. This is the sound of natural gas being captured; counted by a "cash register" gauge that measures output and, thus, royalties; and conveyed via yellow pipes into the broader natural-gas market. The result? Warm bedrooms on crisp nights and hot showers on cold mornings.

Despite the shrill complaints of fracking foes, this productive but tranquil patch demonstrates how much greener fracking is than other power sources - even "green" ones.

Since 2002, carbon dioxide output has grown 32 percent globally, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Robert Bryce wrote for Bloomberg View in September. "In the U.S., meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions were 8 percent lower in 2012 than they were in 2002, largely due to a surge in shale gas production, which has reduced coal use." Indeed, fracking has helped America keep its unratified Kyoto Protocol commitments while other countries decry so-called global warming and yet continue boosting CO2.

New York City, home of ├╝ber-frackophobe Yoko Ono, is benefiting enormously from fracking. "New York has the cleanest air now of any major American city," Gotham mayor Michael Bloomberg told journalists on September 26. Thanks to both purer heating oil in local buildings and the conversion of others to natural gas fracked along the Marcellus Shale, New York's air has not been this clear in 50 years, officials say.

As the Associated Press's Deepti Hajela reported, decreases in sulfur dioxide, soot, and other pollutants are preventing 2,000 emergency-room visits and 800 deaths annually. This concrete positive vastly outweighs the theoretical risk that fracking someday, somewhere possibly might taint someone's drinking water - maybe.

Water is a precious resource. So, conservationists should smile at how little water fracking requires - compared to other energy sources. According to the U.S. Energy Department and the Ground Water Protection Council, it typically takes three gallons of water to produce 1 million British thermal units of energy from deep-shale natural gas/fracking. Atomic energy requires 11 gallons per million BTUs. Coal: 23 gallons. Corn ethanol? A whopping 15,800 gallons. And soy biodiesel requires nearly triple that amount: 44,500 gallons per million BTUs. That's 14,833 times the water needed for fracking.

But what about ground-water pollution? The hysteria that fracking poisons drinking water lacks one key ingredient: evidence.

As former EPA chief Lisa Jackson testified before Congress in May 2011: "I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water." New York State's politically frackophobic Andrew Cuomo administration even concluded that "no significant adverse impact to water resources is likely to occur due to underground vertical migration of fracturing fluids through the shale formations." A December 2011 Department of Environmental Conservation draft report added that "there is no likelihood of significant adverse impacts from the underground migration of fracturing fluids."

Protecting habitat is another key eco-priority. Fracking succeeds here, too. An SAIC/RW Beck study found that natural-gas companies use 0.4 acres of land to generate a year's supply of electricity for 1,000 households. Nuclear power requires 0.7 acres. Coal consumes 0.75 acres. Wind power needs six acres. And solar cells require 8.4 acres to fuel 1,000 households annually. This is 21 times the habitat impact of natural gas. So, if you are a Gila monster or a Joshua tree, cheer fracking and hiss solar.

 What about wildlife?

Anadarko's Brad Milliken says that rattlesnakes are protected in Pennsylvania, unlike his home state of Texas. The company, Milliken says, retains "what I would call a rattlesnake wrangler. If we see a snake, we call him up, and they relocate him temporarily" until work has been completed. "All of our contractors understand not to disturb the snakes."

Before installing a new pipeline, Anadarko checks for Indiana bats as they migrate in May and June. Obstructing their flight paths "changes their way of life and can be detrimental to their health," Milliken explains. In such cases, he says, Anadarko would reroute a pipeline rather than threaten these bats.

In contrast, the "Earth friendly," taxpayer-subsidized wind industry slaughters thousands, perhaps millions of bats unlucky enough to fly into the giant Cuisinarts that are their turbines. (My friend Paul Driessen of the Center for a Constructive Tomorrow has documented this carnage with tragic eloquence.)

Nearly a century of horror movies have equated bats with Dracula. Too bad. These hideous creatures do a beautiful thing: Gobble mosquitoes. By one estimate, a brown bat devours nearly 8,700 such insects annually. So, ironically, "ecologically sensitive" wind turbines are butchering bats. This is great news for mosquitoes, which do suck human blood. On this vile path lies a hike in West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Could gas producers frack even more cleanly? Innovation, of course, could yield safer and more Earth-friendly production methods. Cal Cooper of the Apache Corporation wisely proposed at a Manhattan Institute energy-policy conference that gas companies "could transport fracking chemicals in powder form and mix them with water at production sites, rather than ship them around in liquid form, which risks a spill in transit."

Rather than blindly decry fracking, environmentalists should encourage more ideas like Cooper's. Beyond that, they should embrace fracking for being easy on the air, water, land, and wildlife - in most cases far easier than the "sustainable" energy sources that ecologists adore.


So much for the Southern summer: snow predicted in Southern Australia tomorrow

Global cooling

Snow will fall on Victoria's Alps on Thursday as a cold blast of wintry air hits the state.

Between 10 and 20 centimetres could fall on the Alps, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, while rain will continue steadily elsewhere. Already more than 30 millimetres of rain has fallen in Melbourne and regional areas.

"We'll see that snow falling, snow down to 1100 metres on Thursday," said Bureau forecaster Michael Efron. "We'll see that really cold air arriving over the state."

Nearly 20 millimetres has fallen on Melbourne since rain began on Tuesday night. Falls have been markedly heavier in the south-eastern suburbs, with Moorabbin receiving 30 millimetres and Mentone, Hampton and Sandringham 29.

Elsewhere in the state, Mt Buller has had 45 millimetres and Mildura, 35. Melbourne could get another 10 to 20 millimetres on Thursday, said Mr Efron, and parts of Victoria between 10 and 20.

A top of 17 is expected for Melbourne on Thursday, with gusting south-westerly winds. "It could feel a lot colder than 17 with those winds," said Mr Efron.

Fortunately, the cold won't be around for long. Friday will be 20 ndegrees, with a shower or two, but Saturday will be warm and 27, Sunday a shower or two and 29. Monday and Tuesday will have temperatures in the low 20s.

"Saturday is looking the best day in the outlook," said Mr Enfron.



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

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