Monday, February 26, 2018

Climate Accord Nations Failing, Complaining and Buying Coal

The Paris climate accord, which the U.S. wisely vacated last year, accomplishes nothing in the way of meaningful environmental changes. One huge and inherent roadblock is that other nations are only halfheartedly and haphazardly invested. In fact, aside from the obvious fact that Barack Obama signed onto it unconstitutionally, that was one of conservatives’ biggest gripes against the Obama administration’s obsession with making the U.S. a captive of the agreement.

Not only is the accord a misnomer in that it won’t significantly alter future temperatures (realists rightfully doubt it will alter temperatures at all), but major pollution emitters other than the U.S. are far less inclined to clean up their act. The expectation of fecklessness by other nations wasn’t so much a prediction as an inevitability.

This week, a Washington Post story — “Countries made only modest climate-change promises in Paris. They’re falling short anyway.” — proves this is exactly the case. The articles says the persistence of deforestation in Brazil and the development of new coal plants in nations like Turkey and Indonesia are a few major reasons for the world’s “struggling to hit the relatively modest goals set in Paris.” In Germany, “The county’s emissions actually rose slightly in 2015 and 2016 because of continued coal burning and emissions growth in the transportation sector.”

With 2030 acting as the embryonic deadline for emissions targets, environmentalists are hoping that nations step up and push hard over the next 12 years to fulfill their obligations. As the Post notes, “The emissions-cutting pledges that countries brought to the table in Paris were nowhere near sufficient to meet such goals, which world leaders acknowledged at the time. The plan was for nations to ramp up their ambition over time.”

However, it continues, “By 2020, countries are expected to actually ramp up the promises they made in Paris.” This is a pipe dream. These nations were never expected to actually keep their promises, much less take initiative by going the extra mile. What makes anyone think they’ll change their ways in a few years?

Foreign nations can certainly be criticized for expecting the Paris climate accord to actually accomplish anything, not to mention their hypocrisy on the matter. But it’s not unreasonable for nations to put their interests ahead of a fairy tale accord. For example, The Washington Times reports: “As France, Germany and Italy chastised President Trump for rejecting the Paris climate accord in June and mocked the U.S. for turning its back on the environment, their nations were busy importing record amounts of American coal.”

An additional 95 million short tons of coal were shipped out of the U.S. last year. According to the Times, “About 31 million short tons of that went to Asia, nearly double the amount from 2016. China alone imported 2.8 million short tons through September 2017 — a wild increase over the previous year’s 205,000. Total exports to Europe reached 40 million short tons — 13 million more than in 2016.”

The U.S., thanks to Donald Trump, is making its economic interests a top priority by producing and exporting more energy resources. Meanwhile, other nations that greatly need them are happily taking it off our hands. It’s a win-win situation that benefits each nation. The bottom line? While the results are antithetical, contradictory and hypocritical regarding the rhetoric we’re hearing from “environmental leaders,” it demonstrates why the Paris climate accord will never work.


Germany Had to Ground Its 'Green' Luftwaffe

Too much biodiesel in the fuel mix leaves our NATO ally grounded and way behind schedule.   

How’s that “green” fuel initiative by the United States military and our allies working out? Not too well. In fact, one NATO ally has seen its military readiness take a huge hit as a result of placing being “green” over being ready for war.

According to a report by UK Defence Journal, the German Luftwaffe’s force of Tornado IDS strike aircraft has been grounded. The reason? Too much biodiesel in the fuel mix. As a result, these potent strike aircraft are out of action until their fuel tanks can be flushed, new-pilot training is now three months behind schedule, and the Germans may not be able to lead the NATO force slated to counter Russian aggression, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, next year.

Now, “green fuel” from various sources (anything from beef fat to plants) can be useful as a reserve in case of a disruption in the supply of oil. But when jet fuel costs almost $30 a gallon or can only use a small amount of biofuel because it would break the bank, using it regularly is pretty stupid.

But there’s another “green” fuel with no carbon footprint that could be very useful here. That’s nuclear power, and it’s already used on the aircraft carriers and submarines of the United States Navy. What you may not remember is that it also was once used to power the Navy’s nine cruisers.

Perhaps a good idea might be to develop two classes of nuclear escorts for the nuclear-powered carriers: One would be an aerospace-defense cruiser loaded with Mk 41 vertical-launch cells — something at least the size of the one-of-a-kind USS Long Beach (CGN 9). The other would be a general-purpose escort — think something like an updated California-class guided-missile cruiser (originally designated a guided-missile destroyer leader).

Doing this could be a start in helping to free up some of the fuel resources. In 1962, the Navy used Task Force One to go around the world in two months without re-fueling. That’s not a bad thing.


Britain and Europe must ban palm oil in biofuel to save forests, EU parliament told

If Britain and other European nations are to fulfil forest protection goals, they must ban the use of palm oil for biofuel and tighten oversight of supply chains, a delegation of forest peoples told parliamentarians this week.

The call for urgent, concrete action comes amid an increasingly heated diplomatic row over the issue between the EU and the governments of major palm-producing nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Costa Rica.

The European parliament voted last April to prohibit sales of biofuels made from vegetable oils by 2020 in order to meet its climate goals. This was followed by a related vote last month. Whether and how this might be implemented is now being considered by the European Commission and member states.

The pushback has been strong, particularly in south-east Asia, the origin of 90% of the world’s palm oil exports, which is used in hundreds of supermarket products. Palm oil can also be blended with diesel to power engines, which is what the ban would halt.

Influential politicians in these countries, many of whom are closely linked to the industry, accuse the EU of trade protectionism, colonial thinking and undermining poverty reduction efforts. Malaysia’s plantations minister described the proposed ban as “crop apartheid.”

But indigenous and other communities who are negatively affected by the plantations urge the EU to push ahead with the ban and to go further by tightening other supply chain controls to prevent damage to their land, rights and environment.

Franky Samperante, a founder of the indigenous peoples’ organisation Pusaka, said the Indonesian government had granted concessions to more than 50 companies to open plantations on 1.2m hectares of land claimed by local communities. For him, any palm oil from this area should be considered a conflict product and prohibited from sale in Europe.

“There should be sanctions. If not, there is no point,” he said.

Samperante is part of a group of 14 forest peoples representatives from 11 nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America visiting Europe this week to lobby for a new action plan on sustainable supply chains.

The delegation proposed concrete steps, including for European nations to establish sustainable trade ombudsmen to look into reports of human rights and environmental violations, and for companies to adopt binding human rights policies rather than voluntary actions. Their call was supported by a coalition of environmental NGOs including the Forest People’s Programme, Global Witness, Greenpeace, WWF and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Tom Griffiths, the author of , said lofty goals to protect forests were being undermined by a failure to protect the rights of those who live in them.

“There are so many pledges and commitments by companies and government that sound good on paper, but the reality on the ground is starkly different,” he said. “At the meetings this we, they are all saying close the gap.”

Their recommendations will be presented at a multilateral meeting in Paris in June, when the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is expected to launch his strategy for “deforestation-free trade”.


The RFS has bankrupted its first refinery, more to follow

By Printus LeBlanc

Americans for Limited Government has been warning of the impending bankruptcies in the petroleum refining industry for some time now. Well, the first canary, Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), has died, and the only question left is how many more will die before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congress wake up.

In 2005, Congress passed, and President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Among the many new regulations created in the legislation, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was birthed. The RFS mandated a certain amount of renewable fuels, mostly corn ethanol, be blended with gasoline. The amount was 4 billion gallons in 2006 with a rise to 7.5 billion in 2012.

In 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was passed. The bill increased the amount of renewable fuel to be blended. It required 9 billion gallons be blended in 2008 with an increase to 36 billion gallons in 2022. Of course, this made the subsidy loving corn growers extremely happy. The federal government was now mandating citizens purchase their product. And we wonder where they got the idea for the Obamacare individual mandate.

To track the renewable fuel usage, Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) were created. A RIN is a string of numbers and letters used to identify each batch of biofuel produced. The RINs count towards the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO), an amount designated to each refinery by the EPA. The RINs are the problem.

When the EPA instituted the program, it believed the costs would only be a few cents per RIN. As usual, when the federal government gets involved the costs spiraled out of control. Wall Street speculators now routinely drive up the prices. In one seven-month period in 2013, the value of one RIN went from 7 cents to $1.43. The volatility is creating economic hardships for refiners across the nation and has caused the largest refinery on the east coast to declare bankruptcy.

PES filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January with over an estimated $600 million in debts. The company owns the largest refinery on the East Coast with the capability to refine 335,000 barrels per day.  In the bankruptcy filing, PES stated the second largest expenditure behind crude oil was RINs, spending $218 million on the imaginary numbers in 2017.

Mixing ethanol and gasoline is not as easy as it sounds. A refinery, like the PES facility, cannot combine the two ingredients at the plant. Because ethanol degrades the mixture over time, there is a relatively short shelf life once the two chemicals are mixed, around three months. For this reason, the ethanol is mixed in at the point of sale to the consumer.

This does not have an impact on refineries that own gas stations. Several of the larger companies like Exxon and Saudi Aramco also own gas stations across the country. What are small and medium-sized refiners to do, go out and spend millions to purchase gas stations?

Of course, King Corn could care less about the companies going bankrupt because they are being forced to buy their product. All King Corn cares about is making sure the government mandate stays in place, regardless of the outcome to the consumers or refiners.

However, there is a middle ground everyone can agree on. Allowing RINs attached to exported biofuels to be counted towards the RVO benefits almost everyone:

The refiners no longer must pay twice for RINs;

The corn producers still produce the same amount of corn, and will have greater access to overseas markets;

Increases American exports;

EPA Administrator Pruitt must act quickly. The first canary in the ethanol corn maze is dead. The next one is likely to come from Delaware. It is time to reform the RFS and get the government out of picking winners and losers. The RINs system must be updated.


Rainfall’s Natural Variation Hides Climate Change Signal

New research from The Australian National University (ANU) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science suggests natural rainfall variation is so great that it could take a human lifetime for significant climate signals to appear in regional or global rainfall measures.

Even exceptional droughts like those over the Murray Darling Basin (2000-2009) and California (2011 to 2017) fit within the natural variations in the long-term precipitation records, according to the statistical method used by the researchers.

This has significant implications for policymakers in the water resources, irrigation and agricultural industries.

“Our findings suggest that for most parts of the world, we won’t be able to recognize long-term or permanent changes in annual rainfall driven by climate change until they have already occurred and persisted for some time,” said  Professor Michael Roderick from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

“This means those who make decisions around the construction of desalination plants or introduce new policies to conserve water resources will effectively be making these decisions blind.

“Conversely, if they wait and don’t act until the precipitation changes are recognized they will be acting too late. It puts policymakers in an invidious position.”

To get their results the researchers first tested the statistical approach on the 244-year-long observational record of precipitation at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, UK. They compared rainfall changes over 30-year-intervals. They found any changes over each interval were indistinguishable from random or natural variation.

They then applied the same process to California, which has a record going back to 1895, and the Murray Darling Basin from 1901-2007. In both cases, the long dry periods seem to fit within expected variations.

Finally, they applied the process to reliable global records that extended from 1940-2009. Only 14 percent of the global landmass showed, with 90 percent confidence, increases or decreases in precipitation outside natural variation.

Professor Graham Farquhar AO also from the ANU Research School of Biology said natural variation was so large in most regions that even if climate change was affecting rainfall, it was effectively hidden in the noise.

“We know that humans have already had a measurable influence on streamflows and groundwater levels through extraction and making significant changes to the landscape,” Professor Farquhar said.

“But the natural variability of precipitation found in this paper presents policymakers with a large known unknown that has to be factored into their estimates to effectively assess our long-term water resource needs.”




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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