Friday, September 14, 2018

Government for Hire? Emails Show ‘Climate Industry’ Funds Jobs in Offices of Governors, Attorneys General

California Gov. Jerry Brown is host of a three-day “Global Climate Action Summit” in San Francisco organized by an “activist donor network” that has burrowed into state government agencies, a climate change skeptic says in a new report.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is the author of two reports detailing how a well-endowed “climate industry” steers donor money through nonprofit organizations into the offices of state governors and attorneys general.

The relationship between governors and environmental activists who are using governors’ offices to advance the climate change agenda of certain donors is the subject of a report by Horner released Tuesday by CEI, a libertarian think tank in Washington.

“A particular theme slated for the San Francisco event is that President Trump’s promise to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty is isolating the United States from what is otherwise and elsewhere a doable, successful, and economically beneficial adoption of this agenda,” Horner writes.

The new report highlighting Brown, a Democrat, builds on Horner’s report last month describing how these same special interests work with compliant state attorneys general.

It views the actions of Brown in California as a case study, examining how elected officials and other political figures allow their offices to be used to pursue climate change policies that conform with the international accord known as the Paris Agreement.

Government officials around the world negotiated the agreement in Paris as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2015. The agreement calls on countries to combat the perceived threat of climate change by working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In June 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which he said “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”

Brown’s San Francisco summit, set for Wednesday through Friday, places a strong emphasis on opposition to Trump’s policies, Horner writes:

Trump vowed to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because it is in reality a costly and ineffectual solution to the alleged climate crisis, it mostly directs resources to politically favored industries, and it harms disfavored ones. For similar reasons, the climate industry is dedicated to reversing Trump’s not yet consummated decision.

A major component of its campaign is claiming momentum toward Paris’s goals and rebutting the history of economic and social costs involved in implementing the policies that Paris demands. Implementation of the Paris agenda requires domestic policies, and implementing those policies is the principal objective of the campaign detailed in this paper.

The Daily Signal sought comment from Brown’s office on the new report, but had not received a response at publication time.

The California governor’s three-day summit comes with a budget of $10 million made possible through the support of individuals, foundations, governments and business, according to Horner’s report.

The nonprofits involved “take a handsome percentage for serving as middlemen,” it says.

Emails obtained from open-records requests indicate that politicians are making use of nonprofits and consultants as “pass-throughs for donors to support politicians with resources that the relevant legislatures will not provide and that donors cannot legally provide directly,” Horner’s report says.

The email records describe privately funded staff members placed in governor’s offices as “refugees” from the Obama administration who are working to reposition U.S. policy on climate and energy to conform with their preferred policies.

Horner, author of a 2007 book called “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism,” raises several questions in the new report in response to what he uncovered:

Are the donors going to such lengths to avoid 1) directly placing consultants in governors’ offices or 2) giving the money to do so directly to those offices, because they are barred from such placement? If so, why is this permissible? Or is the effort creating middlemen all merely due to appearances? Why do we find participants misleading or telling outright falsehoods when questioned about what we have found?

And the biggest issue of all is, does this represent government for hire?

The “off-the-book” operations detailed in the emails call out for legislative oversight to determine whether they violate state laws, Horner concludes.


EU policy to burn more wood will ‘fuel climate change’

More Greenie stupidity

Inefficiencies in harvesting and burning processes mean that more carbon is emitted into the air per kilowatt hour of electricity than when fossil fuels are burnt

A decision by the European Union to promote the use of wood as a “renewable fuel” will greatly increase the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions and is likely to harm the world’s forests, a study has warned.

EU officials revised the bloc’s energy policy in June in an effort to double Europe’s use of renewable sources by 2030. Against the advice of hundreds of scientists, its renewable energy directive now treats wood as a low-carbon fuel.

A study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, estimates that the provision will lead to sharply increased harvesting of the world’s forests.

The paper forecasts that the use of wood for energy will account for between 10 and 15 per cent of European energy emissions by 2050


The academic article is below

Europe’s renewable energy directive poised to harm global forests

This comment raises concerns regarding the way in which a new European directive, aimed at reaching higher renewable energy targets, treats wood harvested directly for bioenergy use as a carbon-free fuel. The result could consume quantities of wood equal to all Europe’s wood harvests, greatly increase carbon in the air for decades, and set a dangerous global example.

In January of this year, even as the Parliament of the European Union admirably voted to double Europe’s 2015 renewable energy levels by 2030, it also voted to allow countries, power plants and factories to claim that cutting down trees just to burn them for energy fully qualifies as low-carbon, renewable energy. It did so against the written advice of almost 800 scientists that this policy would accelerate climate change1. This Renewable Energy Directive (RED) is now finalized. Because meeting a small quantity of Europe’s energy use requires a large quantity of wood, and because of the example it sets for the world, the RED profoundly threatens the world’s forests.

Makers of wood products have for decades generated electricity and heat from wood process wastes, which still supply the bulk of Europe’s forest-based bioenergy2,3. Although burning these wastes emits carbon dioxide, it benefits the climate because the wastes would quickly decompose and release their carbon anyway. Yet nearly all such wastes have long been used4.

Over the last decade, however, due to similar flaws in the 2008 RED, Europe has expanded its use of wood harvested to burn directly for energy, much from U.S. and Canadian forests in the form of wood pellets. Contrary to repeated claims, almost 90% of these wood pellets come from the main stems of trees, mostly of pulpwood quality, or from sawdust otherwise used for wood products5.

Greenhouse gas effects of burning wood

Unlike wood wastes, harvesting additional wood just for burning is likely to increase carbon in the atmosphere for decades to centuries6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16. This effect results from the fact that wood is a carbon-based fuel whose harvest and use are inefficient from a greenhouse gas (GHG) perspective. Typically, around one third or more of each harvested tree is contained in roots and small branches that are properly left in the forest to protect soils but that decompose and release carbon. Wood that reaches a power plant can displace fossil emissions but per kWh of electricity typically emits 1.5x the CO2 of coal and 3x the CO2 of natural gas because of wood’s carbon bonds, water content (Table 2.2 of ref. 17) and lower burning temperature

Allowing trees to regrow can reabsorb the carbon, but for some years a regrowing forest typically absorbs less carbon than if the forest were left unharvested, increasing the carbon debt. Eventually, the regrowing forest grows faster and the additional carbon it then absorbs plus the reduction in fossil fuels can together pay back the carbon debt on the first stand harvested. But even then, carbon debt remains on the additional stands harvested in succeeding years, and it takes more years for more stands to regrow before there is just carbon parity between use of wood and fossil fuels. It then takes many more years of forest regrowth to achieve substantial GHG reductions.

The renewability of trees, unlike fossil fuels, helps explain why biomass can eventually reduce GHGs but only over long periods. The amount of increase in GHGs by 2050 depends on which and how forests are ultimately harvested, how the energy is used and whether wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas. Yet overall, replacing fossil fuels with wood will likely result in 2-3x more carbon in the atmosphere in 2050 per gigajoule of final energy (Supplementary Note 2). Because the likely renewable alternative would be truly low carbon solar or wind, the plausible, net effect of the biomass provisions could be to turn a ~5% decrease in energy emissions by 2050 into increases of ~5–10% or even more (Supplementary Note 2).

Consequences for forests

The implications for forests and carbon are large because even though Europe harvests almost as much wood as the US and Canada combined, these harvests could only supply ~5.5% of its primary energy and ~4% of its final energy. If wood were to supply 40% of the additional renewable energy—an uncertain but plausible level—the wood volumes required would equal all of Europe’s wood harvest (Supplementary Note 3). In fact, the RED sets a goal to increase by 10% renewable energy for heat, sourced overwhelmingly from wood, which would likely by itself use ~50% of Europe’s present annual wood harvest18,19. European Commission planning documents projected somewhat smaller roles for bioenergy based on lower renewable energy targets, but they scale up to ~55–85% of Europe’s wood harvest at the larger target ultimately adopted (Supplementary Note 4). Supplying this level of wood will probably require expanding harvests in forests all over the world.

The global signal may have even greater effects on climate and biodiversity. At the last global climate conference (UNFCCC-COP 23, Bonn 2017), tropical forest countries and others, including Indonesia and Brazil, jointly declared goals “to increase the use of wood … to generate energy as part of efforts to limit climate change”20,21. Once countries and powerful private companies become invested in such efforts, further expansion will become harder to stop. The effect can already be seen in the United States, where Congress in both 2017 and 2018 added provisions to annual spending bills declaring nearly all forest biomass carbon free—although environmentalists have so far fought to limit the legal effects to a single year22,23. If the world met just an additional 2% of global primary energy with wood, it would need to double its industrial wood harvests (Table 1).

Why the RED sustainability criteria are insufficient

Unfortunately, various sustainability conditions in the RED would have little consequence. For example, one repeated instruction is that harvesting trees should occur sustainably, but sustainable does not equal low carbon (Supplementary Note 5). Perhaps the strictest version of sustainability, often defended as a landscape approach, claims GHG reductions so long as harvest of trees in a country (or just one forest) does not exceed the forest’s incremental growth24,25,26,27. Yet, by definition, this incremental growth would otherwise add biomass, and therefore carbon storage to the forest, holding down climate change28. This carbon sink, in large part due to climate change itself, is already factored into climate projections and is not disposable. Harvesting and burning this biomass reduces the sink and adds carbon to the air just like burning any other carbon fuel. The directive only requires forests to maintain existing carbon stocks in limited circumstances, but given the size of the global forest sink, even applying such a rule everywhere would still allow global industrial wood harvests to more than triple (Supplementary Note 6)29,30.

The directive also repeatedly cites a goal to preserve biodiversity, but its provisions will afford little protection. Prohibitions on harvesting wood directly for bioenergy apply only to primary forests—a small share of global forests (Supplementary Note 5). In addition, any forests could be cut to replace the vast quantities of wood diverted from existing managed forests to bioenergy.

Some argue that increasing carbon in the atmosphere for decades is fine so long as reductions eventually occur, but timely mitigation matters. More carbon in the atmosphere for decades means more damages for decades, and more permanent damages due to more rapid melting of permafrost, glaciers and ice-sheets, and more packing of heat and acidity into the world’s oceans. Recognizing this need, the EU otherwise requires that GHG reductions occur over 20-years, but that timing does not apply to forest biomass (Supplementary Note 5).

Instead, the directive incorporates the view that forest biomass is inherently carbon neutral if harvested sustainably (Supplementary Note 5). Although the RED requires that bioenergy generate large greenhouse gas reductions, its accounting rules ignore the carbon emitted by burning biomass itself (Annex VI, section C, par 13 in ref. 31). They only count GHGs from trace gases and use of fossil fuels to produce the bioenergy, which is like counting the GHGs from coal-mining machinery but not from burning the coal.

The main new Commission thinking, reflected in the sustainability provisions, is that bioenergy rules do not need to count plant carbon so long as countries that supply the wood have commitments related to land use emissions under European rules or the Paris accord (RED, Article 26, point (6)(1)(ii)) (Supplementary Note 5). But this thinking repeats the confusion that occurred at the time of the Kyoto Protocol between rules designed only to count global emissions and laws designed to shape national or private incentives32. Under accounting rules for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries that burn biomass can ignore the resulting energy emissions because the countries that cut down the trees used for the biomass must count the carbon lost from the forest. Switching from coal to biomass allows a country to ignore real energy emissions that physically occur there, but the country supplying the wood must report higher land use emissions (at least compared to the no-bioenergy alternative). The combination does not make bioenergy carbon free because it balances out global accounting, the limited goal of national reporting.

But this accounting system does not work for national energy laws. If a country’s laws give its power plants strong financial incentives to switch from coal to wood on the theory that wood is carbon-neutral, those power plants have incentives to burn wood regardless of the real carbon consequences. Even if a country supplying the wood reports higher land use emissions through the UNFCCC, that carbon is not the power plant’s problem. Only if all potential wood-supplying countries imposed a carbon fee on the harvest of wood, and this fee equaled Europe’s financial incentive to burn it, would European power plants have a financial reason to properly factor the carbon into their decisions. No country has done that or seems likely to do so.

In fact, few countries have any obligation to compensate for reduced carbon in their forests because few countries have adopted quantitative goals in the land use sector as part of the Paris accord33. Even if countries did try to make up for reduced forest carbon due to bioenergy with additional mitigation of some kind, all Europe would achieve is a requirement that its consumers pay more to do something harmful for the climate so that other countries could then spend additional money to compensate.

Europe has also created a kind of reverse REDD + strategy by treating forest and all other biomass as carbon neutral in its Emissions Trading System, which limits emissions from power plants and factories. While the not yet realized hope behind REDD + is to reward countries for preserving carbon in forests, this bioenergy policy means forest owners can be rewarded for the carbon in their trees—so long as they cut them down and sell them for energy. The higher the price of carbon rises, the more valuable cutting down trees will become. Strangely, this policy also undermines years of efforts to save trees by recycling used paper instead of burning it for energy. Even as recycling polices push consumers to save trees, this policy will encourage others to burn them.

Nature Communicationsvolume 9, Article number: 3741 (2018)

Arctic Sea Ice Just Won’t Play The Game

Arctic sea ice is proving remarkably reluctant to enter its appointed ‘death throes’, despite the usual suspects having already planned the funeral. Climate Change Anxiety Disorder, it turns out, is yet to impose its angst on the actual climate, no matter how hard the BBC tries to make it.

The latest observations show that Arctic sea ice is on course to have a greater minimum extent than in 2015 and 2016, and is running higher than levels seen a decade ago. Back then, the BBC reported that Arctic summers may be ice-free by 2013, although this estimate was described as being ‘too conservative’.

That prediction was spectacularly wrong, and contrary to warnings of an ‘Arctic death spiral’, sea ice extent has been remarkably stable in the last decade. No one can say what exactly will happen next; if this humbling affair teaches anything it should be precisely that.

The climate has misbehaved in other ways too. The Greenland Ice Sheet has been gaining mass at a record rate for the second year running, and Antarctic sea ice extent is perfectly normal relative to the 1981-2010 average. These facts get little coverage because they don’t sound alarming at all, and for most reporters that means they’re not news.

These ‘inconvenient truths’ are nonetheless a helpful reminder that climate change coverage should be taken with a healthy dose of scepticism. There is a long way to go before we can make accurate predictions about how the climate will behave, if indeed we ever can.

Climate science has to be more deeply grounded in real-world observations rather than models that are inevitably riddled with flawed human assumptions


Jerry Brown Is Getting Heckled At His Own Climate Conference

Three years ago this month protesters in front of a Wells Fargo branch in the financial district of San Francisco also targeted Gov. Jerry Brown. (Photo by Flickr User Peg Hunter)
You might think that local environmentalists would be fawning over Governor Jerry Brown this week. After all, he just signed bills to move the state to 100% renewable electricity and ban off-shore drilling. But instead, many of them are protesting at his international climate change conference in San Francisco. What's going on?


They're part of the environmental justice movement, many people of color from less well-off, more polluted places like South L.A. or Wilmington. They want the fight for climate change to result in cleaner air for them right now.

Meanwhile, the people they are protesting (Governor Brown and his allies) are part of the mainstream environmental movement, which is often wealthier and whiter. Mainstream environmentalists support big, sweeping actions to fight climate change globally and generally think environmental justice groups are trying to twist climate laws into fixing air pollution, too.


They want the Governor to stop issuing new drilling permits for oil wells. And they want him to phase-out existing oil production by creating a buffer: any well that's within 2,500 feet of a home, school, or park would have to be shut down. In Southern California alone, that's a whole lot of wells.

"California's climate policy won't be complete until the state address its own dirty oil extraction," said Kassie Siegel with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group allied with the South L.A. activists. "It's hard to be climate leader while also being a top oil producing state."


Yes, he has.

He signed a law committing California to slashing its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

His administration heavily subsidizes electric vehicles and trucks.

New building codes passed this year require all new homes to have solar panels.

His attorney general, Xavier Becerra, is fighting to preserve California's strict greenhouse gas standards for cars, which the EPA is trying to repeal

We could go on, but you get the idea.

Still, protesters say this isn't enough. Martha Dina Argüello, the head of Physicians for Social Responsibility in Los Angeles, says Governor Brown's climate policies aren't helping people who are most affected by oil drilling.

"The people who live near these oil wells, it's really time to put them first," she said.


Look we're not Texas, but California is the number six oil-producing state in the country. The oil industry is about three percent of California's GDP and employs about 400,000 people, according to a study commissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association.

Argüello acknowledges that if oil drilling were to end, a lot of people could be out of work. But that's why she and other activists want what they call "a just transition" to help oil workers find new jobs.


Brown, meanwhile, thinks this idea is totally impractical. The last time protesters heckled him in public, at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, he told them that would have devastating impacts on the economy. "If I could turn off the oil today, 32 million vehicles would stop!" he said.

Later, in an interview with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now, he elaborated, "We have the toughest rules on oil. I don't think we should shut down oil in California and then take it from Venezuela, or places where the rules are even worse."


Pipeline Investors Fight Climate Change

Although the Sierra Club attracts members who care deeply about the environment, they have opposed the most successful steps taken to lower CO2 emissions.

The Shale Revolution has unlocked vast amounts of cheap American natural gas. This is steadily replacing coal as a source of electricity. As a result, the U.S. is far ahead of everyone in reducing its CO2 output over the past decade

This has been made possible by cheap, abundant natural gas which has required new pipelines to get it to market. Transco is an extensive natural gas pipeline network that runs from Texas to New York. It’s owned by Williams Companies (WMB). For decades, Transco has transported natural gas north from Texas. In recent years, growing output from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania reduced the need for Texan gas and now offers a cheaper alternative to nearby states. Transco, which runs north, has added lateral extensions and in certain cases reversed its flow to accommodate these new supply/demand patterns.

Atlantic Sunrise is an extension of the Transo pipeline system. It will bring more Pennsylvanian natural gas to states in the mid-Atlantic and southeast. As with previous steps to use more natural gas, it will provide cheaper, cleaner electricity than the coal it’s replacing.

The Sierra Club opposes everything related to all fossil fuels, including new natural gas infrastructure. They were against the investments Transco made to get Marcellus natural gas to southeastern customers. They are opposing Atlantic Sunrise, as well as other new east coast pipelines. Oddly, they also oppose nuclear & hydroelectric power, which produce no harmful emissions.

Such an extreme view will raise electricity prices sharply, slowing economic growth and weakening support for finding good long term solutions. Southern Australia uses solar and wind for almost 40% of its electricity. Because they can’t use it all when it’s produced, customers pay up to 79 cents per kilowatt-hour to store their excess solar-electricity in batteries, and then again when it’s discharged. This is ten times or more than the wholesale cost of U.S. electricity.

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club try to claim the moral high ground. But by opposing all energy sources except solar and wind, they are against the most successful steps we’ve taken to slow global warming. Most of our energy will continue to come from fossil fuels for decades to come. Those of us who care about really improving the environment favor more practical solutions that will sustain long term support. The most meaningful results in reducing CO2 are in the U.S., and those states that have switched from coal to natural gas have contributed the most. Canada’s environmental groups have enjoyed more success in blocking pipelines. The result is that Canada’s CO2 emissions have risen and their crude oil is deeply discounted because of few transportation choices (see Canada’s Failing Energy Strategy).

Because it’s not always sunny and windy, solar and wind both rely on conventional baseload power (often natural gas) to be viable, since cost effective battery storage remains out of reach. Output is unpredictable – clouds can block sunlight, and wind varies with the weather. An electricity grid has to meet 100% of customers’ needs. Peak electricity demand occurs during morning and evening hours, while peak solar electricity output is midday.

Moreover, solar and wind power sources are often located in remote areas, away from the population centers that rely on them. This adds many more miles of high voltage lines compared with natural gas power plants, which are usually located near their customers.

Given the rapid growth in solar and wind, few facilities are reaching the end of their 20-25 year useful life. However, IHS Market forecasts that within three years the cost of maintenance of existing wind turbines will exceed new investment. Renewable units are energy intensive to manufacture and their disposal results in toxic waste. .

With rapid improvements in solar and wind technology, it makes more sense to progress slowly, fully utilizing existing power stations and replacing them as they wear out.

In fact, switching completely to natural gas from coal would virtually eliminate many highly noxious pollutants, provide cost effective electric generation and cut total greenhouse gas emissions by 15%. Natural gas releases less than half the CO2 of coal, and negligible amounts of harmful pollutants such as sulfur, mercury and particulates. Coal is 30% of our primary energy but contributes 45% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, the relative ease with which natural gas plants can raise or lower output as needed will compliment solar and wind once technology allows them a meaningful share of electricity generation. China burns more coal than the rest of the world, and emits more CO2 than North America and Europe combined. China’s emissions continue to grow rapidly, in spite of their increasingly urgent search for alternatives (1.6 million annual deaths attributed to coal). China is an obvious buyer of America’s growing liquified natural gas exports. It’s how the American Shale Revolution can help combat global warming worldwide.

Bjorn Lomborg’s Cool It and Alex Epstein’s The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels both offer thoughtful, sustainable solutions to limit the effects of man-made global warming. They focus on what’s cost-effective, which includes investing in R&D for renewables, a modest carbon tax, and protecting coastal areas against rising sea levels. Solutions that don’t make economic sense are unlikely to command long term public support. Epstein asserts that, “We don’t want to ‘save the planet’ from human beings, we want to improve the planet for human beings.”

The impact of more natural gas use has been cleaner air. Energy infrastructure investors have financed solutions which have been highly effective in achieving CO2 reductions. If you want to make a real difference in combating global warming, you’re better off investing in a pipeline company rather than donating to the Sierra Club. It’s everybody’s environment, not just theirs.




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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