Thursday, July 07, 2016

Are Federal Bans on Mining for the Birds?

With little time left on its clock, the Obama administration is rushing to place millions of acres of federal land off limits to commercial resource extraction. Although Lighthouse subscribers have read about regulatory obstacles to oil and gas development, a recent op-ed by Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II and Strata Research Director Megan E. Hansen emphasizes the harm that federal restrictions impose on the development of minerals and metals that could otherwise be used for making things like smart phones, electric car batteries, and computer memory chips.

“Mineral resources are plentiful within our borders, but the United States imported $41 billion worth of processed mineral materials in 2014 from foreign countries,” Shughart and Hansen write. “The production of rare earth metals, for example, is now dominated by China, even though the United States once was a leading rare earth elements producer. In fact, we have now become 100 percent dependent on imports of 19 key minerals.”

The Department of Interior is trying to create more obstacles. Last fall it proposed withdrawing 10 million acres of land from resource development—an amount equivalent of the size of Yellowstone National Park—ostensibly in order to protect the habitat of the greater sage grouse—a bird species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services says is not at risk of extinction.

“Banning mining on federal lands will weaken Western state economies to protect a species that doesn’t seem to need protecting,” Shughart and Hansen continue. “Claiming that the ban will save the greater sage grouse is an absurdly deceptive justification for regulatory overreach.”


Environmentalists Blast TransCanada for Suing Obama Administration Over Rejection of Keystone XL Permit

TransCanada is suing the U.S. government for $15 billion over President Obama’s rejection of its permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline, a move environmental activists called “absurd” and “a bullying tactic” in a telephone press conference earlier this week

TransCanada filed the lawsuit under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), claiming that the Obama administration “discriminated against and significantly damaged” TransCanada and that the administration’s actions were "politically drivern,"and "breached U.S. obligations” under NAFTA.

The corporation’s complaint argues that Congress, rather than the president, has the power to “govern the development of oil pipelines and other infrastructure projects with significant domestic effects,” citing the Clean Water Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act as precedents.

“[T]he prohibition on construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline directly interferes with foreign and domestic commerce, the regulation of which is textually committed to the Congress by the U.S. Constitution,” the complaint maintains

“Absent express statutory authority, the President simply does not have the power to regulate such domestic facilities based on asserted harms arising from greenhouse gas emissions,” TransCanada's lawsuit continued.

“Stated simply, the delay and the ultimate decision to deny the permit were politically-driven, directly contrary to the findings of the Administration’s own studies, and not based on the merits of Keystone’s application,” according to the corporaton's Notice of Intent to seek arbitration under NAFTA.

But environmentalist groups were quick to criticize the lawsuit.

“This lawsuit from TransCanada is both absurd and a perfect illustration of why people around the world feel that their elites are getting out of touch,” said Bill McKibben, founder of

“The rejection of the Keystone pipeline came out of one of the biggest exercises in democracy in recent American history. ... It was a vast, nationwide, continent-wide campaign. And everyone who was involved with it took the science extraordinarily seriously,” continued McKibben.

“This was a remarkable, remarkable battle. And the idea that after all those many, many, many millions of Americans and Canadians participated in this fight, it could somehow be negated by three guys sitting in a room that nobody’s ever heard of and nobody ever voted for, is all the proof that anyone would ever need as to why these kinds of arrangements like NAFTA are something we should be wary of to a huge degree,” he told reporters during the press call.

“TransCanada filed this lawsuit as a bullying tactic,” agreed Jill Kleeb, president of Bold Alliance. “Now TransCanada is trying to bully the American taxpayers and President Obama and any future president that they should not dare to mess with big oil.”

“President Obama did not make a political decision. President Obama made the right climate, water, and property decision on rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline,” continued Kleeb.

Anthony Swift, director of the Canadian division of the Natural Resources Defense Project, told reporters that the argument that the pipeline would not have had significant environmental impact "could not be farther from the truth."

However, in January 2014, the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL concluded that not building the 875-mile pipeline could result in the release of “from 28 to 42 percent” more greenhouse gases into the environment due to the need to use alternate transportation modes -- such as railcars and diesel-fueled trucks -- to get the oil to market.

TransCanada applied to the State Department for a presidential permit to build Keystone XL in 2008. The pipeline would have brought crude oil from the tar sands of western Canada into the U.S., performing the same function as three already-existing pipelines, according to TransCanada.

President Obama denied the permit in November after seven years of delay. “The State Department has decided that the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the national interests of the United States. I agree with that decision,” he said when he announced the rejection.

“For years, the Keystone pipeline has occupied what I frankly consider an overinflated role in our political discourse. It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter,” Obama said.


Happy American Energy Independence Day

Every president since Richard Nixon has promised to make America energy independent, but  we still import nine million barrels of oil a day, with much of it coming from the Middle East and OPEC.  Now for the first time in a half century -- thanks to the shale oil and gas revolution -- the dream of American energy independence is not just a pipedream but easily achievable if the next president takes the right steps to make it happen.

This Made in America energy strategy means we could stop draining our economy of about $200 billion a year that could be used to rebuild our own country.  This isn't just about the economy.  We know from intelligence reports that as much as $500 million a year of petro-dollars find their way into the coffers of terrorist networks like ISIS.

To achieve American energy self-sufficiency I'm not talking about the left's strange infatuation with building more windmills (sorry Hillary). We only get about 5% of our energy from windmills and solar panels.

What I am talking about is about taking the strategic steps necessary to making the United States the energy dominant force on the planet within five to 10 years by using our super-abundance of fossil fuel resources.  Thanks to the amazing made-in-America technological breakthroughs of the last decade -- including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to get at shale oil and gas reserves -- the U.S. now has at least 150 years of oil and natural gas resources on top of 500 years of coal.

Consider what has happened in less than a decade with oil production.  ‎In 2008 the U.S. produced about 5 million barrels a day. We hit 8.7 million ‎in 2014 and could double that by 2025.

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As we tap into the full potential of our tens of billions of shale oil and gas we can become the number one export nation on the planet. This could easily mean more than $1 trillion a year in oil, gas and also coal exports each year -- perhaps exceeding 5% of GDP.

Let's not forget about coal.  America was built on coal, and our nation has far more of it than any other nation. And we burn it cleanly and efficiently, unlike the Chinese and India who build hundreds of coal plants every year, but spew out dirty emissions.

I estimate that with five simple steps taken by the next president, America will gain its energy independence:

1. Allow drilling and mining permits on federal lands.  So far at least 90% of the shale gas and shale oil revolution has happened on private land.  But around half of all the land west of the Mississippi is government owned.  We estimate there are $50 trillion of energy resources stored underneath non-environmentally sensitive federal lands.  This is the biggest treasure chest in the world.

2. Build a national network of pipelines across the country by allowing the permitting for projects like Keystone XL and many others.  Right now the federal government is holding up as many as a dozen necessary pipelines to get the oil and gas across the country and then shipped across the world.

3. Build refineries and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in the United States. The Energy Information Agency says the latest refiner "began operating in 1977" – or almost 40 years ago even though the U.S. population has nearly doubled since the mid 1970s and our energy production has doubled as well.

4. Stop the Obama war on coal.  The environmentalists have tried to shutdown coal production, the next president should revive it.  This means putting a muzzle on the EPA to allow our energy resources to be harnessed and used in an environmentally responsible way.  Environmental rules have to be shown to be cost-effective, meaning that the cost to the economy of complying with the rules is justified on the basis of the environmental benefits -- and measured honestly.

5. End all subsidies for all forms of energy. The left complains about taxpayer subsidies for oil and gas. The best way to promote efficient energy is to let the free market work and remove government handouts – particularly to the green energy sector.

If we get this right, America can declare its independence from OPEC and Middle Eastern oil.  We can become the Saudi Arabia of the 21st century.


Pennsylvania Slashes Rooftop Solar Subsidies

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) just ended the solar subsidy called net metering, and the state legislature isn’t likely to overturn the decision.

The state commission found twice that net metering solar subsidies are not in the public interest, as they raise the price of electricity and transfer money from poor people without solar panels to rich people with them. The PUC is made up of both Republican and Democratic appointees and voted unanimously both times.

The only way to stop massive subsidy cuts is if the state legislature blocks the PUC’s plans within two weeks. But the legislature isn’t interested in doing so and will soon leave for a summer break.

“Basically, the moon and the stars have to align in a perfect order for this to be stopped,” Todd Stewart, a partner at a regulatory law firm in Pennsylvania, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Otherwise, if the commission intends to promulgate the regulations anyway over the double objection by IRRC, they can still do so.”

Net metering policies force utilities to buy electricity produced by rooftop solar panels at retail rates, which means companies can’t cover the fixed costs of operating the electrical grid. Rooftop solar companies such as SolarCity, have pushed these policies as a way to encourage solar power across the country.

The PUC found that forcing up the price of electricity via net metering hurts the poor and ethnic minorities the most, because poor people tend to spend a higher proportion of their incomes on basic needs like groceries, power bills, gasoline, etc. than wealthier people. As essential goods like electricity become more expensive, the cost of producing goods and services that use electricity increases, effectively raising the price of almost everything.

Policies like net metering hurt the poor 1.4 to four times more than they hurt the rich, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

A 2015 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded rooftop solar subsides are inefficient and costly, and that rooftop solar companies simply cannot compete without government support.

Even proponents of solar power and net metering recognize their reliance on subsidies. Without high net metering payments, rooftop solar “makes no financial sense for a consumer,” Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, admitted to The New York Times in February.

Solar power receives 326 times more subsidies than conventional energy sources relative to the amount of energy produced, according to Department of Energy data. Green energy sources got $13 billion in subsidies during 2013, compared to $3.4 billion in subsidies for conventional sources and $1.7 billion for nuclear, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Despite the enormous subsidies, solar power only accounted for only 0.6 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. for 2015, according to the EIA.


Mississippi Clean Coal Plant Touted By Obama Admin Plagued With Inefficiency, Secrets

A ‘clean coal’ plant in Mississippi the Obama administration touted as an answer to global warming is now two years behind schedule, billions of dollars over its initial budget, and under a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation for allegations of fraud.

The Kemper coal plant in Mississippi was touted as the first commercial scale ‘clean coal‘ power plant in the United States, meaning it was capable of capturing and storing its own carbon dioxide emissions. A Tuesday article from The New York Times shows just how bad things have gotten at Kemper.

“It has nothing to do with the design, it has nothing to do with the technology, it just has to do with poor project management,” Landon Lunsford, a plant engineer said in a conversation with whistleblower, Brett Wingo last year. “As long as they can talk away the results as attributable to something else other than just poor performance, the other public service commissions can’t hold them over the fire as much.”

The problem has gotten so bad that the Securities and Exchange Commission has initiated an investigation into why a project that was slated to cost $2.9 billion now costs $6.7 billion and is still not operational. The company that runs the coal plant, Southern Company, is also being sued by Mississippi businesses who are concerned that the fact the project is so far over-budget may mean higher prices for its customers.

“The people of south Mississippi are struggling,” Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing the customers told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview. “They can least afford to be saddled with this boondoggle.” The piece goes on to say how due to the cost overruns, Southern Company also recently saw its credit rating downgraded by Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service.

The plant has some backers still standing up for it though, federal energy officials claim that for a project of this size it is ‘inevitable’ that it run over-budget and past deadline, further claiming bad weather, labor shortages and design uncertainties are responsible for the delays.

Brett Wingo, an engineer for the Kemper plant, is a whistleblower who first exposed the issues. “I’ve reached a personal tipping point and feel a duty to act,” Wingo said in a email from 2014. Wingo was able to find other engineers from the Kemper plant who think the delays and cost overruns are directly related to ‘mismanagement or fraud’.

Wingo also sent a letter to Southern’s CEO telling the company that the publicized open date was ‘not realistic’, but nothing came of it. Wingo was eventually ordered to stay silent on the matter.


Australia's ABC suspends junk science reporter

The woman should have known better. There must have been some personal reason for the BS.  The effect of electromagnetic radiation on health has been a big boogeyman for many years but the contrary evidence is huge. A scare that a few alarmists are trying to keep alive is that the radiation from your mobile phone will give you brain cancer.  Yet from the early days of mobile phones until now there has been no upsurge in brain cancer.  Now that mobiles are very widely used, we should be swimming in brain cancer cases by now.  But we are not. High or low levels of mobile phone use and the resultant radiation makes no difference. It's all just attention-seekers big-noting themselves

Isn't she gorgeous?  I suspect that it is her looks rather than her scientific ability that has got her prestigious jobs.  It happens

A CONTROVERSIAL ABC program about the health effects of Wi-Fi has led to a presenter being suspended, after it breached impartiality standards.

ABC presenter Dr Maryanne Demasi from the popular science program Catalyst has been suspended until September this year, after a review of the episode titled “Wi-Fried” was conducted by the ABC’s independent Audience and Consumer Affairs (A&CA) Unit.

Adelaide-born Dr Demasi completed a doctorate in medical research at the University of Adelaide and worked for a decade as research scientist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

She has also worked as an adviser to the South Australian Government’s Minister for Science and Information Economy.

The “Wi-Fried” episode was broadcast in February this year and contained information about the safety of wireless devices such as mobile phones.

In a statement released by the ABC, the investigation was initiated after the ABC received complaints from viewers about the episode. The ABC informed readers of its findings after the show aired on Tuesday night.

The A&CA found the episode breached the ABC’s editorial policies standards on accuracy and impartiality. “The A&CA Report found several inaccuracies within the program that had favoured the unorthodox view that mobile phones and Wi-Fi caused health impacts including brain tumours,” the ABC’s statement said.

“ABC TV is reviewing the strategy and direction for Catalyst with a view to strengthening this very important and popular program.

“Further, ABC TV is addressing these issues directly with the program makers and has advised the reporter, Dr Maryanne Demasi, that her on-air editorial assignments will be on hold until the review is completed in September 2016.”

ABC Director of Television, Richard Finlayson said the investigation had been thorough.  “Catalyst is a highly successful and respected science program that explores issues of enormous interest to many Australians. There is no doubt the investigation of risks posed by widespread wireless devices is an important story but we believe greater care should have been taken in presenting complex and multiple points of view,” he said.

The finding comes just two years after a separate investigation was launched into a Catalyst program about the use of cholesterol-reducing medications.

“ABC TV takes responsibility for the broader decision-making process that resulted in the program going to air and acknowledges this is the second significant breach for the program in two years,” the ABC stated.

“The ABC accepts the findings and acknowledges that errors were made in the preparation and ultimate approval of the program.”

The “Wi-Fried” program will now be removed from the Catalyst website.

Information about A&CA’s findings will be added to the Catalyst website, and the A&CA’s investigation and findings are on the ABC Corrections page.



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.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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