Sunday, November 06, 2016

The Dakota pipeline as an example of government malfunction

Uncertainty. Perhaps the worst of words for private sector investors. The free market is filled to the brim with it. One rarely if ever knows how things will transpire. You measure twice – if not three, four or five times. And then you cut your deal. Then you cross your fingers – and hope for the best.

And with all of that – eight out ten businesses fail. Ouch.

But that’s the nature of the private sector. If you want a successful, vibrant economy – you have to acknowledge and accept this uncertainty as a part of the deal.

What you don’t need – is all sorts of additional, superfluous, ridiculous uncertainty piled on top of you by government.

And the Barack Obama Administration is Team Uncertainty.

What you want from government is an orderly process for new laws. Thankfully, the Constitution sets that up. Elected members of the Legislative Branch debate bills. We the People can lobby members of Congress to redress our grievances. Making the bills better – or, failing that, making Congress better by electing new members.

The Obama Administration has bypassed all of this. And has instead governed by a massive flood of regulatory fiats – issued by unelected bureaucrats. Whom we can’t lobby. Of whom we can’t rid ourselves in the next election. (In fact, we can’t get rid of them just about ever.)

This is the very definition of uncertainty. You never know when or where the next government anvils are going to fall. And you have zero say in any of it. It is thus impossible to measure twice, thrice or more – and you’ll never feel comfortable cutting any deal. So fewer and fewer people do.

Because for all you know your entire business model may the very next day be irreparably damaged or even deemed illegal – by some unnamed bureaucrat somewhere within the Gigantism of the $4-trillion-per-year federal government.

All of this (and more) is why President Obama will be the first chief executive in our history to never have a year of even 3% economic growth.

Speaking of – sometimes, the economy-killing bureaucrat does have a name. And a very recognizable face. Behold President Obama his own self – throwing an ocean-sized bucket of government water on the private sector.

Obama Says Army Corps is Considering Ways to ‘Reroute’ Controversial Dakota Access Pipeline: “On Tuesday, President Obama weighed in on the Dakota Access pipeline being constructed to transport oil from North Dakota to a refinery outside Chicago.”

Get that? The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is “being constructed.” Which means – it’s already been approved. By FIVE different governments.

The pipeline will run through four states. And all four of those states’ governments approved the pipeline. And guess who else approved it? The Barack Obama Administration – via its aforementioned Army Corps of Engineers.

So the DAPL folks did exactly what they were supposed (forced) to do. They played Mother-May-I with five different governments – and received five go-aheads.

And now President Obama has after-the-fact, retroactively pulled the rug out from under them. Hello, uncertainty.

And in so doing, is siding with the liars and thugs who have been blocking the already-approved project.

Up to and including the ridiculous New York Times’ ridiculous Bill McKibben – who last week defended the indefensible in a ridiculous screed entitled “Why Dakota Is the New Keystone.” The title isn’t even true. DAPL was approved by the Feds (and everyone else) – the Keystone Pipeline was not.

McKibben having joined with the liars and thugs in word – word is he will today be joining with them in deed. In person, in North Dakota, helping to continue to block lawful commerce from being conducted.

Who are the these liars and thugs? The Standing Rock Sioux Indian Tribe – and their environmentalist-radical trail lawyers from EarthJustice.

How are they liars?

The Disingenuous Duo has filed a lawsuit to block the pipeline, in which they claim: “Neither [Dakota Access] nor the Corps ever consulted with the Tribe…or had invited their participation as the Tribe had repeatedly requested.”

Except: “A basic examination of documents provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state utility boards, as well as filings by the Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia shows the (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) and environmental allies met with regulators multiple times, and filed over a hundred comments throughout state and federal review periods. Filings also show that Dakota Access made seven attempts to meet with the tribe directly but were rejected every time.”

So, they’re liars.

How are they thugs?

The Morton County (North Dakota) Sheriff’s Department has issued a statement (and offered up some pictures) in which they catalog the very peaceful protesters’ very peaceful protests. Up to and including:

A woman firing multiple gun shots at the police line,

Protesters throwing Molotov Cocktails at officers,

Two officers receiving minor injuries after being hit by logs and other debris,

Protesters setting numerous fires to vehicles and other debris; at least nine vehicles plus construction equipment was torched.  (For reference, the photos that show the burned out vehicles on the bridge are located at Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806.),

142 people were arrested on Thursday and Friday bringing the number of protesters who have been arrested in the County for illegal acts since August 10 to 411.

So, they’re thugs.

All of this lying and thuggery – now tacitly endorsed by the President of the United States.

All in opposition to a pipeline – already approved by the President of the United States.

Yet another federal-government-sized dose of uncertainty – heaped upon a private sector already suffering from pronounced crush syndrome.


Making The Rogue EPA Obey The Law, One Case At A Time

The Obama administration's war on coal was dealt a setback by a recent decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. The court held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed to follow the law and did not properly evaluate the job losses caused by its regulations.

Plaintiffs, including Murray Energy Corp., a large coal producer, sued the EPA regarding its failure to comply with the Clean Air Act, which instructs the EPA to "conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of this Act and applicable implementation plans."

The EPA argued that because there is no specified date by which evaluations should be completed, there is no enforceable duty to perform any evaluations. The court, noting the "continuing" language used in the statute, didn't agree. The EPA here is like a child who after being told by a parent to "keep your room clean" argues that the absence of a deadline means that they do not really have to clean the room.

Only in a federal bureaucracy could the term "continuing" be construed as "never." As the court noted, the "Blacks's Law Dictionary" definition of "continuing" is "uninterrupted."

The court stated that "while the EPA may have discretion as to the timing of such evaluations, it does not have the discretion to categorically refuse to conduct any such evaluations."

The court further noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has held "it is rudimentary administrative law that discretion as to the substance of the ultimate decision does not confer discretion to ignore the required procedures of decision-making."

Thus, while Congress gave the EPA discretion to determine the structure of "continuing evaluations," that discretion cannot be translated into discretion to not conduct the evaluations.

The EPA also had the gall to assert that the plaintiff coal companies had no standing to sue, arguing that no injury to the plaintiffs could be traced to the failure to perform evaluations.

On this point the court disagreed, stating, "while the EPA argues that such (injury) would only be traceable to the earlier actions of the EPA rather than the failure of the EPA to conduct employment evaluations, this Court cannot agree. The claimed injuries, while in part traceable to the prior actions of the EPA, may also be fairly traceable to the failure of the EPA to conduct the evaluations."

The court then gets to the real reason why the EPA does not want to perform these continuing evaluations: Doing so "may have the effect of convincing the EPA, Congress, and/or the American public to relax or alter EPA's prior decisions." In other words, the EPA knows that the only way to be sure it can succeed in its war on coal is to keep the effects secret as long as possible.

Keeping the effects secret will also help keep Congress from asking the EPA uncomfortable questions. Here the court, quoting the U.S. Supreme Court, stated that the "continuing evaluation requirement 'will allow the Congress to get a close look at the effects on employment of legislation such as this, and will thus place us in a position to consider such remedial legislation as may be necessary to ameliorate those effects.' "

The court ordered the EPA to provide it with a plan on how it would perform the evaluations. After the EPA begins performing the required evaluations, Congress should take up the court's invitation and "get a close look at the effects on employment." Those effects should be taken into consideration when considering how much taxpayer money the EPA gets from Congress next year.


The "Voluntary" Component of EPA's Clean Power Plan Makes It Even More Unlawful

Today I filed a comment letter on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule titled “Clean Energy Incentive Program Design Details.” The comment period closes today at the stroke of midnight.

As the title suggests, EPA’s proposal is designed to flesh out the details of the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), a major program element of the agency’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP), on which the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently held oral argument.

The gist of my comment letter is that the CEIP makes the Power Plan even more unlawful, enlarging EPA’s already formidable power grab to pick energy market winners and losers and rig the electricity marketplace against fossil fuels.

The CEIP is what’s known in regulatory parlance as an “early action credit” scheme. In a generic early action credit program, companies that reduce emissions before the start of a compliance period receive credits they can later use during the compliance period to meet part of their obligations. They can also sell the credits in emissions trading markets.

A key point to bear in mind is that all early action credit programs transfer wealth, in the form of tradable emission credits, from those who don’t take early action to those who do. Both the environmental integrity of the associated emissions reduction program and the monetary value of the credits demand that each early credit be subtracted from, rather than added to, the supply of credits available in the mandatory period. Otherwise credit inflation would devalue the credits as tradable assets and the total supply of regulatory allowances would exceed the emissions reduction target or cap.

Thus, although often touted as “voluntary” and “win-win,” early action crediting is a coercive, zero-sum game. For every company that gains a credit in the early action period, there must be another than loses a credit in the compliance period. Early actors profit at the expense of companies that don’t participate. That is not an unintended consequence but the very purpose of such programs. The intent is to “incentivize” early reductions by imposing windfall losses on those who do not “volunteer.”  

The CEIP includes two novel features not included in any previous early action program or proposal of which I am aware. First, EPA will create a federal “matching pool” equivalent to 300 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) to provide bonus federal credits in addition to early credits awarded by States. Second, participation is restricted to investors in renewable energy and demand-side energy efficiency projects. No credits will be awarded to utilities that achieve early CO2 reductions by improving the heat-rate efficiency of coal power plants or by shifting baseload generation from coal to gas.

In short, the CEIP is the first greenhouse gas early credit program ever adopted or proposed to discriminate against classes of early reducers based on their fuel source or core technology, and the first to intensify the zero-sum dynamic of an early action program by means of a federal-state “matching pool.”

A major criticism of the Power Plan generally is that it is a strategy to expand the market share of renewables rather than to improve the “environmental performance” (lower the emissions rate) of existing coal and gas power plants. The CPP sets performance standards for existing fossil-fuel power plants that EPA acknowledges are infeasible and unaffordable even for new sources using state-of-the-art control technology.

To meet the CPP’s unachievable standards, owners of fossil-fuel power plants have the “choice” to produce less power from coal or gas facilities, shut down the plants, or invest in new renewable units, which are not even “sources” (emitting facilities) under the pertinent statutory provision, section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The CPP is transparently designed to undermine the economics of coal generation and advantage renewables at the expense of both coal and gas.

The CEIP will enhance EPA’s ability to suppress coal and gas generation. To repeat, only investments in renewable energy and demand-side energy efficiency will qualify for early credits, ensuring that all early credits are awarded at the expense of fossil-energy interests. Plus, the early credit “matching pool” will intensify the pain and penalty already inflicted on fossil-energy interests by their exclusion from the CEIP, because it will further reduce the supply of credits available to them in the compliance period by an amount equivalent to 300 million tons of CO2.

The logic operating here is political, not statutory. EPA is biased against fossil fuels and seeks to rig the marketplace against fossil fuels. There is no evidence, textual or otherwise, that Congress enacted Sec. 111(d) to pick energy market winners and losers or transfer wealth from fossil energy interests to alternative energy interests.

Read the full comment letter here. More information on CEI's legal challenge to the Clean Power Plan, CEI, et al. v. EPA, is here.


Paris climate deal: don’t bet on renewable energy to stop global warming

A realistic Warmist below.  He understands the economics, if not the climate data

The Paris climate agreement has now officially come into force. Although Donald Trump and other climate change deniers have vowed to abandon it, most have hailed the agreement as a huge success and a significant milestone in our quest to limit the effects of global climate change.

But here’s the problem: many climate experts warn that the commitments made at Paris still fall far short of what is required to halt global warming at the 2°C mark, never mind reversing the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The simple truth is that the Paris agreement is blind to the fundamental, structural problems that prevent us from decarbonising our economies to the radical extent needed.

Take renewable energy. Among the most progressive leaders in business, government and NGOs there is a shared belief that, if only we could switch off the fossil fuel tap and quickly transition towards renewable energy sources, we still have a chance to save the world from runaway climate change. All that’s needed is massive investment in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewables. International agreements such as those reached in Paris are what makes those investments possible, providing business confidence and policy commitment.

While I feel part of this group of progressives, there are some hard facts that cannot be ignored.

Fossil fuel still dominates

First, the renewable schemes to date have largely been at the expense of unpopular nuclear installations, while the global share of fossil fuel-generated energy consumption remains at about 80-85%: just where it’s been since the early 1970s. Yes, massive solar and wind parks are being built around the world, but they haven’t yet changed the business models of Shell, BP and other fossil fuel giants. On the contrary, they feel more secure than ever to invest in fossil fuel sources, particularly gas, which they see as a “transition fuel” – here to stay until at least 2050 they say.

Land shortage

Second, the massive amounts of land required for installing gigawatts of solar and wind power will destroy natural habitats and take away valuable farmland. This is already evident in the way existing biomass production schemes – forests in the US for instance, sugar cane in Brazil or palm oil in Malaysia – have had serious environmental and social side-effects to the extent that they have been labelled as “greenwash.

There simply isn’t enough accessible land for all the solar or wind farms that would be needed to transition to a renewable future. Wherever renewables have been developed at the "mega” level, they end up bulldozing, quite literally, people and wildlife. And generally it’s the poorest, usually rural, communities who are disproportionately affected, given that their land values are lowest and existing users have little power or formal land rights. For example, large-scale hydroelectric dam projects, currently the greatest source of renewable energy, have destroyed many human communities and flooded irreplaceable natural habitats.

Yes, offshore wind can fill some of the gaps, but it is more expensive to build and maintain than onshore, and the generated energy has to be transmitted over long distances.

Heavy on metals

Third, as French scientist Olivier Vidal and his colleagues recently pointed out, the shift to renewable energy will “replace one non-renewable resource (fossil-fuels) with another (metals and minerals).” Vidal estimates that 3,200 million tonnes of steel, 310 million tonnes of aluminium and 40 million tonnes of copper would be needed to build the latest generations of wind and solar facilities. Together with demand from electric vehicle manufacturers, a worldwide renewables boom would rely on a 5% to 18% annual increase in global production of minerals for the next 40 years.

Similarly startling projections are made for other materials oiling the wheels of green capitalism, including silver, lithium, copper, silicon, gallium and the rare earths. In many cases, supplies of these raw materials are already dwindling. The Toyota Prius, for example, one of the greenest cars on the market, relies on a range of very dirty rare earth minerals, the excavation and processing of which has devastated large areas of Inner Mongolia in China.

Removing carbon

Lastly, the climate challenge is so urgent and huge that we actually need to remove carbon from the atmosphere, rather than just switching to renewables. That’s the view of prominent climate scientist James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has shown that, even if we switched to zero-carbon energy sources today, we would still be facing a serious climate challenge for centuries to come.

What this all means is that the Paris agreement doesn’t go far enough. In fact, it might give us the impression of moving in the right direction, but actually the pledged actions are so far off what is needed, it spreads false hope.

So, what is needed then?

A realisation that simply switching to renewables alone will not solve the climate change problem.

We need to start removing carbon from the atmosphere.

We need to tackle the demand side. We cannot simply assume that relentless economic growth is compatible with a green future.

These points raise uncomfortable questions that only those who can think and act against the grain dare to ask. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t transition to renewable energy. Not at all. But that alone will not save the climate. The world’s climate experts and leaders in business, government and NGOs, who are about to gather in Marrakesh for yet another UN conference, would do well in starting to engage with this uncomfortable truth.


Why Climate Spending Does Nothing and Should Be Scrapped

Comment from Australia

The industrial burning of fossil fuels has released CO2 that is purported to be responsible for .7 degrees of planetary warming over the last century, and climate models predict it could be responsible for up to another 2 – 6 degrees over the next 100 years. Despite the fact that very few of the climate change predictions made since the late 80’s have come true (think empty dams, no more snow in the UK and an ice-free arctic) if a warmer earth is going to be problem, what can we do about it?

Mainstream thinking tells that leaving fossil fuels in the ground is the answer. According to the IPCC we must act now to reduce emissions substantially in order to reduce climate risks and increase our chances of adapting to a warmer world. Across the globe various carbon pricing schemes, taxes and renewable energy subsidies have been put in place in order to roll back the clock on global carbon dioxide emissions.

In Australia we have the Emissions Reduction Fund to which the government have allocated $2.55 billion in order to to help achieve Australia’s 2020 emissions reduction target of five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. Then there is the $1 billion dollars pledged after the Paris Climate Summit last year, $200 million pledged over 4 years for the Global Climate Fund, and also $200 million dollars pledged to Mission Innovation, a multi-country group whose mission is to accelerate global clean energy innovation. It has been estimated that the overall gross cost of decarbonising Australia’s energy production over the next 20 years will be $60 billion.

But what will we get for those dollars and how much will it affect global temperature? With perhaps the exception of Mission Innovation, which focuses on more on ‘clean’ energy innovation and not carbon reduction, the dollars spent largely serve to increase energy poverty and slow economic growth, by making energy production more expensive. Together with the Renewable Energy Targets we are also heading towards a 23.5% reliance on unreliable renewable energy sources by 2020, and nobody can say with any accuracy exactly how many degrees of future warming these measures will mitigate. Seeing as Australia emits just 1% of the total global carbon dioxide emissions per year, and we are striving to reduce this to 5% less than our 2000 emission levels, we can assume it’s not very much. Meanwhile, worldwide there are 350 gigawatts of coal projects currently under construction, and 932 gigawatts of pre-construction coal proposals in the pipeline. Compare that to Australia’s annual coal production capacity of 29 GWe in 2014, it becomes apparent that our efforts are not only futile, but seriously undermined.

Consider also that global population will continue to rise until at least mid-century, meaning that in order for global carbon dioxide emissions to even remain stagnant, per capita emissions must continually fall proportionate to population growth. We are told that if fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions stabilise at today’s levels, the climate will still warm by .6 degrees over the next 100 years. To achieve this continual reduction in per capita emissions, it means no new cheap energy for the developing world, and somebody would have to stop India, Indonesia and China from building new coal powered plants. A realist knows that this will never happen; it is more likely that globally we will continue on a ‘business as usual’ course. No number of carbon reduction schemes in the West will have any ability to stop this growth and they certainly won’t have any effect on the temperature.

But in rushing to decarbonise, are we on the right track? Alex Epstein, author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels outlines in his book just how much benefit fossil fuel use has been to humanity. By every measure human well-being is better than has ever been. We have cleaner air to breathe free from wood smoke, clean water, sanitation, sturdy homes, modern medicine and modern farming methods all due to the cheap reliable energy that fossil fuels provide. To him, the planet is here for us to modify and improve and in doing so we improve our lives. He even argues that fossil fuels improve the environment, evidenced by the fact that richer, industrialised nations have more measures in place to protect the environment than poorer, non-industrialised nations. By continuing to access cheap and plentiful energy through the burning of fossil fuels we are further equipping ourselves to withstand extreme weather events, and overcome and adapt to any changes a that warmer planet may bring. Mortality rates due to extreme weather events have actually declined by 95% since 1900, due, one can assume, to the protection modern fossil fuel powered technology affords, by way of satellite monitoring and more powerful modes of disseminating information.

Those who hark back to pre-industrialised societies as some sort of utopian existence where man is at one with nature, neglect to realise that without modern civilisation we would be faced with disease, hunger and very short and miserable lives. Those who demonise the ‘dirty fossil fuel industry’ naively forget just how much our modern lifestyles relies on it in order to function. They also forget that ‘clean’ energy sources have their own negative environmental impacts, and that fossil fuels and rare earths are required in order to produce ‘climate friendly’ solar panels and wind turbines.

What is comes down to is risk benefit analysis. No power source currently available is free from negative impacts. Fossil fuels can be polluting, but newer technologies are making it less so. Eventually fossil fuels are going to run out (but much later than the ‘peak oil’ scare had us believe) and at that point motivation to invest in alternatives will be at its greatest. Once alternative energy sources become viable under their own steam, demand for fossil fuels will decline. Our future lies in innovation, human ingenuity and an energy market free from government subsidies and incentives, that will provide us with the platform to develop new energy technology that works. It helps to remember that we don’t actually know with any certainty what the future climate will be; we need to be able to adapt to any future climate problems we may face including rapid warming or indeed global cooling.

Energy policies that attempt to push a move away from fossil fuel consumption before we are really ready have everything to do with ideology and nothing to do with common sense. The billions of taxpayer dollars Australia is spending in order to ‘do something’ about the climate is money down the drain and an example of government waste. It is money that could be better spent on any number of programs that would actually have a beneficial effect on our environment, or on our standard of living.  Our climate dollars will have next to no impact on the climate, and are instead just very expensive tokenism.



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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