Tuesday, September 04, 2018

In easing up on mileage rules, the Trump administration gets one right

Jeff Jacoby

LABOR DAY WEEKEND marks the traditional close of the summer driving season, but for those of us who live in a college town like Boston, it's also when the throngs of arriving students clog the city's streets with their cars, and empty parking spaces become more elusive than a winning Powerball ticket.

But not all the automotive news is bad.

Washington is poised to ease up on the federal miles-per-gallon mandate known as CAFE, for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. On Aug. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced their intention to freeze the fuel-economy standard when it reaches 37 mpg in 2021, and keep it at that level for the next five years. If adopted, that will represent a sensible correction to the course set by the Obama administration, which had proposed to keep ratcheting the fuel-economy requirement upward, to a fleetwide average of 54.5 mpg by 2026.

Like just about everything the Trump administration does, the projected change to CAFE standards has set off a frenzy of apocalyptic rhetoric. According to the Sierra Club, the real explanation for the new fuel-efficiency rule is that President Trump and EPA chief Andrew Wheeler are interested in "lining their friends' pockets" and "in favor of destroying clean air and healthy communities." Environment America, another activist group, accuses Trump officials of "rolling back the most effective tool we have to fix global warming." Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, charges the White House with "doubling down on the dirty vehicles of the past" in order to "knowingly increase air pollution."

This, not to put too fine a point on it, is crazy talk.

To begin with, the administration isn't "rolling back" anything. The current average fuel-economy requirement is 34 mpg, so pausing it at 37 mpg in 2021 will first mean a nearly 9 percent increase in overall fuel efficiency over the next three automobile model years. The 54.5 mpg standard touted by the Obama administration was never chiseled in stone. Federal law actually prohibits fuel-economy standards from being imposed for more than five years at a time, so 54.5 mpg should never have been regarded as anything more than an Obama-era velleity.

"Doubling down on the dirty vehicles of the past"? That's a snappy sound bite, but it's the exact opposite of the administration's goal, which is to get more motorists out of older, less-efficient vehicles and into newer, cleaner ones.

Requiring automakers to meet ever more rigorous mileage mandates has pushed up the price of new cars. The automobile industry made its peace with the Obama administration's 54.5 mpg standard, but everyone knew that it would mean notably higher sticker prices. "The cost of the average vehicle will rise," warned Edmunds.com, the highly-regarded automotive website, in a detailed 2013 analysis of the Obama fuel-economy rules. To meet such a steep mileage target, it explained, "such expensive technologies as turbocharging, direct fuel injection, 8- to 10-speed automatic transmissions, [and] electric drive" would have to be "spread widely throughout the vehicle fleet."

Sure enough, prices have risen and motorists have been holding on to their current cars for longer. Result: The average age of all cars on the road in the United States is now about 12 years, a record high.

Granted, price is not the only reason Americans are waiting longer to replace their cars. Modern vehicles are more expensive, but they are generally more dependable, too. Still, no one denies that price is a powerful driver of consumer decisions, and the administration calculates that its proposed mileage standards would drop the cost of a new vehicle by an average of $2,340. That in turn will mean an additional 1 million new car sales over the next decade. Perhaps those sales projections will prove overly optimistic, but it is asinine to accuse the administration of wanting to keep dirty old vehicles in use.

Most bizarre of all are those charging the Environmental Protection Agency with being against clean air.

CAFE standards weren't created to combat air pollution; their purpose was to reduce oil consumption in the wake of the Arab oil embargo of 1973. Nevertheless, one of the great regulatory success stories of modern times has been the EPA's war on pollution from cars and other vehicles. New cars today emit 99 percent less pollution than new cars did in 1970, when the Clean Air Act was enacted. Air pollution from all sources has been cleaned up, but the reduction in tailpipe emissions has arguably been the most dramatic of all. Between 1980 and 2015, even as the number of vehicle miles driven in America more than doubled, pollution from those vehicles — carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, particle emissions, hydrocarbons, lead — was slashed.

On some issues, the Trump administration can't be faulted strongly enough. But in proposing to ease up on the extreme Obama mileage standards, it is acting with prudence. If adopted, the new rule will lead to more cars that are cleaner, safer, more fuel-efficient, and more affordable, with no discernible impact on air quality. There are times when apocalyptic panic is justified. This isn't one of them.


Energy Socialism Comes to Congress, States

Socialism kills. From the former Soviet Union to Cuba, from North Korea to Venezuela, everywhere socialism has been tried it has robbed people of freedom and their property, produced economic stagnation and misallocation of resources, and resulted in millions of direct and indirect deaths.

Energy socialism, as touted by 28-year-old self-described socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the current darling of the progressive set and a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives from New York, would be just as deadly. Ocasio-Cortez’s platform states, “Climate change is the single biggest national security threat for the United States and the single biggest threat to worldwide industrialized civilization,” Her solution to this supposed threat is to transition the United States to a 100 percent renewable energy system by 2035—through government force.

Recognizing a complete transformation of the massive U.S. energy system, which took more than 80 years to build, in just 17 years would be a herculean undertaking, Ocasio-Cortez proposes a “Green New Deal,” similar to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II, requiring “the investment of trillions of dollars.”

Socialist thinking captured the Democratic Party’s imagination even before Ocasio-Cortez’s star rose, In September 2017, for example, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act. The OFF Act would require “100 percent renewable energy by 2035 (and 80 percent by 2027), places a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, bans the export of oil and gas, and also moves our automobile and rail systems to 100 percent renewable energy.” Calling it “the most aggressive piece of climate legislation ever introduced in Congress,” hundreds Democratic candidates for local, state, and federal office in 2018 have signed the OFF pledge, a project of the lobbying group Food & Water Action, to push enactment of Gabbard’s OFF Act.

These policies would destroy millions of jobs and put the United States at a huge economic disadvantage versus other countries, especially China, India, and other developing nations that are increasing their use of fossil fuels to bring their populations rapidly out of poverty.

Laws mandating an end to the use of fossil fuels are energy socialism with a vengeance. Absent government support, wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy can’t compete with traditional energy sources such as coal and natural gas. In an inane attempt to control the weather 100 years from now, socialists like Ocasio-Cortez and far-left lawmakers want to use government to destroy whole industries composed of hardworking Americans and then take trillions of dollars from taxpayers to keep failing renewable energy companies afloat. The fact they would be putting honest people out of work, driving up energy costs, and hurting the poorest among us more than any other group doesn’t bother these green socialists at all. For them, it’s nature, not humans, that counts.

The United States has been traveling by fits and starts down the road to energy socialism for decades, with predictable results: an increasingly unreliable power grid resulting in a growing number of blackouts and power failures; higher prices for electricity, fuel, food, and other goods and services; damaged equipment; people having to choose between buying food and medicine and paying their light bills; and unnecessary premature deaths.

For example, in the mid-1970s, to cut oil imports, the federal government established fuel mileage mandates, forcing automakers to reduce vehicles’ size, weight, power, and the strength of the materials used. Oil imports continued to rise after imposition of these mandates, because families continued to drive, but something truly horrific also occurred: tens of thousands of additional premature deaths of drivers and passengers. That’s just a small sample of what energy socialism looks like.

Energy socialism gained an even larger foothold in the electric power market when federal and state governments began providing lavish subsidies, tax credits, and tax abatements to politically connected Big Green solar and wind energy companies. Many states compounded this grave error by mandating utilities operating within their borders ensure ever-increasing percentages of the electricity they provide come from select renewable energy sources. People in states with renewable power mandates have seen their electricity bills rise by more than those living in places without renewable power diktats. And because the poor spend a larger percentage of their incomes on energy and energy-intensive items than the relatively wealthy, these mandates were predictably regressive, forcing hard choices on impoverished families.

When the federal government required increasing amounts of “renewable fuel” (ethanol and biodiesel) be blended into the nation’s transportation fuel, it resulted in damage to millions of engines in boats, older cars, and small engines in mowers, chainsaws, and other power tools. In addition, as increasing amounts of corn were diverted from dinner tables to gas tanks, food prices increased, including meat prices because livestock is often fed corn. In Mexico, which imports corn from the United States, the renewable fuel mandate created food riots, as the poor, who commonly grind up corn to make tortillas, empanadas, chips, and other foods consumed on a nearly daily basis, couldn’t afford the higher prices and faced corn shortages.

Europe, being much farther down the road to energy socialism than most U.S. states, should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone attracted to energy socialism. Over the past decade and a half, thousands of people across Europe have died in winter because of a lack of reliable, affordable heat, and during the summer from not having access to reliable air conditioning. Many European politicians have reacted by telling their fellow citizens they will have to make do with less and plan for shortages. They should be ashamed of themselves. Europe’s energy problems don’t result from some inability to produce energy—Europe had a modern energy system providing plentiful reliable power before energy socialism took hold—but rather from a decision by politicians to shutter reliable fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants as part of their misguided push to fight climate change.

These are the kinds of third-world problems that come with energy socialism: less-reliable power, higher energy costs, greater poverty, massive job losses, and lower economic productivity. Socialism can’t fix our problems, but it sure can make things a lot worse.


An anti-scientific cult has way too much control over non-GMO food labels

There’s a cheerful-looking picture proliferating on packages at the grocery store. An orange butterfly perches on a blade of grass forming a green check mark next to the words “NON-GMO Project.”

This innocuous little label is the emblem of the Non-GMO Project, an organization intent on misleading consumers with the end goal of limiting the number of agricultural innovations accomplished with the use of genetic engineering.

Remarkably, the government agencies that consumers trust to regulate nutritional information — the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture — have so far done nothing about it.

The Non-GMO Project earns a pretty penny licensing “GMO-Free” labels to companies, which appear on more than 50,000 foods and grocery products potentially generating hundreds of millions of dollars.

The labels play off the false idea that genetically modified organisms pose a risk to human health and the environment, when in reality, all of the credible accepted scientific evidence shows that the reverse is true. Approved GMOs are not only as safe as their nonengineered and organic counterparts, but in many ways they are even more beneficial. The science showing this has been evaluated and accepted by government consumer and health protection agencies like the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration under administrations of both parties.

International organizations such as the World Health Organization, and science and health associations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Medical Association have also embraced scientific findings that weigh in favor of GMO products. There are more than 400 peer-reviewed reports that detail the health benefits of biotech plants and foods and as of 2017, 67 countries have formally adopted 20 biotech crops for food, feed, and cultivation.

Fundamentally, the business of selling “GMO-Free” labels depends entirely on fostering needless consumer fears over nonexistent health and environmental risks. Once these fears are stoked, consumers then put pressure on food makers to make their products GMO-free, which then leads to greater demand for the Non-GMO Project’s services.

This tactic is a neat illustration of the phenomenon known as “ Zohnerism,” the “use of a true fact to lead a scientifically and mathematically ignorant public to a false conclusion.” Nathan Zohner was a 14-year-old who distributed an alarming report on the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide to classmates, and then asked what should be done about the substance, if anything. He listed risks as causing excessive sweating and urination or severe burns in gaseous form.

What is dihydrogen monoxide? Just a complicated chemical name for water. Rather than ask teachers about it or do any of their own investigation, 86 percent of the kids he surveyed voted to ban dihydrogen monoxide for “causing too many deaths.”

So while it may be true a particular product lacks GMOs, the insinuation that they are something to avoid leads the public to a false conclusion.

Stigmatizing GMOs is just as absurd as scaring people about the risks of water. One might even call it a bit kooky, which begins to make sense given the origins of the Non-GMO Project: an anti-science cult in Fairfield, Iowa, made up of the followers of the late Maharshi Mahesh Yogi.

Some will remember the Maharishi as the promoter of transcendental meditation and rejected guru of the early Beatles. Others may recall his followers’ claims that they levitate and fly powered by transcendental meditation. But his followers also include anti-science and technology zealots who are intent on undermining modern agriculture based on a belief that removing bioengineered crops will help bring about world peace and “invincibility” for all mankind.

Despite its professed commitment to transparency and consumer protection, the Non-GMO Project is conspicuously silent about the role Maharishi followers play in its history and ideology. And why is that?

The Non-GMO Project’s marketing department understands that selling its labels to mass market food producers like General Mills and Nabisco, and to consumers in general, could be a lot less profitable if the public fully understood it as part of a larger plan to replace safe, scientifically based, affordable, and successful American farming technologies with something called “Vedic” agriculture.

In a 2010 video interview, John Fagan, a founding partner, former board member, and longtime advisor to the Non-GMO Project, spelled out in detail how Vedic agriculture would replace modern farming using the “sounds of nature to enliven the full value of consciousness in the food” and thereby align crops with the “fluxuating fields of the universe” — the same forces, presumably, powering Maharishi followers to fly.

Should an anti-scientific cult be permitted to call all the shots where consumer safety and health is concerned?

There are some encouraging signs that the feds are beginning to focus attention on the perfidy. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb took to Twitter earlier this month expressing a renewed commitment to review labeling claims for the benefit of consumer understanding. This attention could not come soon enough.

As attorney and professor of law Dean McGrath wrote in The Hill, “The law is clear that food claims made on websites come under FDA’s labeling guidelines. It is also clear that the assertions the [Non-GMO] Project makes on its website should be captured under FTC’s equally strict laws against misleading advertising.”

A little FDA enforcement can go a long way toward improving the health and well-being of American consumers who deserve accuracy and transparency in the labeling of their food products.


The Misguided Affordable Clean Energy Rule

By Tom Harris, Timothy Ball

Why is the US EPA still determined to control plant food and drive up electricity prices?

On August 29, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release “EPA Acting Administrator tours Ohio to promote ACE rule,” his proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule.

According to the release, the Trump Administration’s proposed rule will “replace the Clean Power Plan [CPP] and establish emission guidelines for [U.S.] states to develop plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

But the new rule is still misguided. Like the CPP, it is based on the mistaken idea that human activities, and particularly our industries and electricity generators, are causing dangerous global warming.

In reality, increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), the only gas restricted by both the ACE and the CPP, is bringing huge benefits across the terrestrial biosphere. CO2 is an essential ingredient in photosynthesis. The last thing we should be doing is trying to reduce this “plant food.”

So why is it that, even under President Trump, the EPA still finds it necessary to restrict CO2 emissions? Let’s review a bit of history.

To increase government control over the economy, the Obama White House strongly supported the climate scare: the unfounded crusade to restrict CO2 emissions. The impact was and would be profoundly harmful. As MIT atmospheric meteorologist Richard Lindzen has said, “Controlling carbon is a bureaucrat’s dream. If you control carbon, you control life.”

Obama achieved his goals using the “deep state” – influential, unelected, decision-making, unaccountable government bureaucrats, whose policies and long-term goals are mostly unaffected by changes in elected officials. In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was central to his administration’s control of carbon in the form of CO2.

Obama knew he could not get the Paris Agreement on climate change through the Senate because – just before the rest of the world adopted the UN’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol in Japan – the Senate unanimously passed the Byrd/Hagel Resolution. This resolution stated that the United States should not be a signatory to any agreement that did not hold developing countries to similar targets as developed nations. In particular, the document said in part:

Resolved, that it is the sense of the Senate that –

the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997, or thereafter, which would –

mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex I Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period

The Paris Agreement does indeed have very different targets for developing and developed countries. So Obama asserted that Paris should not be considered a “treaty,” and so would not require Senate approval.

To get “rulings” that seemed to legitimize the EPA’s control over CO2 without going through Congress, Obama exploited a growing problem with the Constitutional balance of powers: the increasing tendency of the Judicial Branch to rule from the bench and make decisions that were properly Legislative Branch responsibilities. The EPA website explains  how it was able to bypass Congress and control CO2:

On April 2, 2007, in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), the Supreme Court found that greenhouse gases [including CO2] are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act. The Court held that the [EPA] Administrator must determine whether or not emissions of greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare, or whether the science is too uncertain to make a reasoned decision.

Predictably, on December 7, 2009, the EPA issued its “Endangerment Finding” that GHG emissions did indeed threaten health, asserting:

The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) – in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.


The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.

This is the flawed driver, the faulty reasoning, that underlies both the CPP and the ACE. Ironically, under the EPA definition of “air pollutant,” EPA could even include oxygen because it causes rust.

It is likely that the EPA colluded with the State of Massachusetts to get it to sue the EPA in support of designating GHGs as pollutants. In effect, the state claimed that the EPA was endangering the lives of its citizens by failing to control “harmful” CO2.

The trial transcript strongly suggests that EPA deliberately lost the final Supreme Court case. If it had properly defended itself, the case would have exposed all the lies and misinformation already pedaled to convince the public that dangerous human-caused global warming is a proven scientific fact.

The trouble is, most people think about this case in the context of criminal or civil law. In fact, and this is central to the problems created by unaccountable bureaucrats, it was adjudicated under Administrative Law (AL), a third component of the U.S. legal system.

Created just after World War II, AL allows groups and individuals to bypass the Constitution and Congress. It gives direct, unaccountable power to technocrats, subject matter experts who are members of highly skilled elite groups. The creation of AL speaks to the failure of the political class, but also to the manipulative power of technocrats and technocracy.

It was created because too many politicians cannot understand science and technology. They are afraid of making a mistake and exposing their ignorance, which would jeopardize their political careers. Instead of creating legislation that enables them to get information in ways they can understand, they give nearly complete control of issues involving science and technology to scientists, specialists and technologists. Here is what the Administrative Law does,

The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the US federal government cannot always directly perform their constitutional responsibilities. Specialized powers are therefore delegated to an agency, board, or commission. These administrative governmental bodies oversee and monitor activities in complex areas, such as commercial aviation, medical device manufacturing and securities markets.

Simply put, if legislators can’t decide these matters in the first place, they won’t know if what the experts are telling them is the truth, or an exaggeration, manipulation or fabrication.

Justice Scalia summarized the situation when the case came before the Supreme Court in 2007:

The Court’s alarm over global warming may or may not be justified, but it ought not distort the outcome of this litigation. This is a straightforward administrative-law case, in which Congress has passed a malleable statute giving broad discretion, not to us but to an executive agency. No matter how important the underlying policy issues at stake, this Court has no business substituting its own desired outcome for the reasoned judgment of the responsible agency.

As forceful and persuasive as Justice Scalia’s comments were (here is his dissent in full), there is one massive hole in them that illustrates what is wrong with AL, not only in this case, but in almost every case where it is the basis for judgment.

It was the EPA that determined that CO2 was a harmful substance. The Supreme Court is in the foolish position of effectively ruling that the EPA must control a harmful substance that the EPA decided, with little evidence, was a harmful substance.

No wonder so many bureaucrats take positions with technocrat groups after they leave government. They can guide the groups on how to get what they want without having to bribe politicians.

The EPA was the central agency for creating, perpetuating and applying the myth that that CO2 is a harmful substance that is causing runaway global warming. Its bureaucrats wrote and promoted the biggest deep state fake news story of all time. President Trump must continue to rein them in.


Breeding Green Elephants in Australia

by Viv Forbes

Canberra breeds many white elephants, but now they are breeding a gigantic new breed of pachyderm in Australia’s Snowy Mountains – a Green Elephant. Grandly named “Snowy 2.0 Hydro-Electric”, it has the compulsory green skin, but it is just another big white elephant under a thick layer of green paint.

Snowy 2.0 plans a hugely expensive complex of dams, tunnels, pumps, pipes, generators, roads and powerlines. Water will be pumped up-hill using grid power in times of low demand, and then released when needed to recover some of that energy. To call it “hydro-electric” is a fraud – it will not store one extra litre of water and will be a net consumer of electric power. It is a giant electric storage battery to be recharged using grid power.

This is just the next episode in an expensive and impossible green dream to run Australian cities and industries, plus a growing electric vehicle fleet, on intermittent wind and solar energy and without coal, gas, oil or nuclear fuels.

Surely we can learn from the unfolding disaster of a similar German Grand Plan.  See  here

The first stage of Australia’s green dream was to demonise coal and nuclear power, set onerous green energy and CO2 emissions targets, subsidise and mandate the use of intermittent energy from wind and solar, and give electric cars financial and other privileges. All of this costs Australian electricity users and tax payers at least $5 billion per year. This destructive force-feeding of solar and wind power is well advanced.

Solar energy peaks around mid-day, falls to zero from dusk to dawn and is much reduced by clouds, dust and smoke. Over a year it may produce about 16% of name-plate capacity. Thus a solar-battery system would need installed solar capacity of six times the demand. These solar “farms” are very land-hungry per unit of usable energy, often sterilising large areas of agricultural land.

Wind energy is much more erratic - it can produce about 35% of peak capacity but often produces peak power during the night when there is low demand. It may produce zero power for several days. A sudden high wind can send wind power surging onto the grid, and it falls to zero as the wind dies. Wind power driving a wind-battery system would need installed wind capacity of triple the expected demand, but even that may not cope with a long windless spell. There can be days with zero production from either wind or solar, and neither can increase output to meet demand which often peaks around dinner time and breakfast time when green power is scarce. Wind “farms” are a blight on the landscape and are often built in scenic areas where farming and forestry are prohibited.

The price of electricity fluctuates wildly as these floods and droughts of intermittent green energy surge into the grid. This creates instability, increases the chance of blackouts and destroys the viability of reliable coal-fired generators which are unable to ramp up fast enough to profit from soaring power prices during green energy droughts and are forced to keep running while accepting close-to-zero prices during the green deluges. To speed up this destruction of reliable energy, politicians are still using subsidies and targets to encourage more green energy to be dumped randomly onto the grid.

For a short very clear video on the cost and reliability problems caused by wind power in Minnesota see here

Warren Buffett puts it bluntly: “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms.  That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

The solution to green energy disruption is simple. Do not allow any new spasmodic generators like wind and solar to connect direct to the grid. They must construct or contract for battery or other backup to moderate their fluctuations and increase reliability and predictability. Existing wind-solar farms already connected to the grid should lose all subsidies and be paid what their second class product is worth at the time it floods onto the grid.

Backing up and taming green energy is simple in principle – it can be done using lithium batteries like the Musk monster in South Australia, or giant pumped-hydro schemes like Snowy 2.0. Or conventional reliable generators like hydro, gas, oil, coal or nuclear can be operated intermittently to fill green energy gaps.

Other ways to store and release energy would also work in principle – hydrogen generation, molten salt, compressed air or giant flywheels – all look smart when sketched on the doodle pads of green politicians and then modelled on academic computers. But they become progressively more complicated and expensive as they progress to engineering design, costing, construction, operation and maintenance. Reality will reappear when the bills start hitting consumers and tax payers, but by then it is too late to recover all those wasted resources.

To make things worse for consumers and industry, widely scattered green energy installations usually need new roads for construction and maintenance and new transmission lines to transport their unreliable product to where it can be used (some 30 new transmission lines are currently planned in Australia alone to connect green energy facilities, and more will be needed.) Those who profit from this green infrastructure get guaranteed returns based on capital, maintenance and operating costs, not on the value of its contribution to consumers, and as usual consumers and taxpayers pay the bills.

Industry and households are now waking up to the costs and blackout risks facing them as more coal-fired generators are forced to close as evermore intermittent generators de-stabilise the grid and cause wild price swings. But politicians have yet another plan to paper over the growing supply problems from un-reliables as they try to meet the self-imposed emissions targets.

Recently the Turnbull Federal Government committed over $7 billion in studies and purchase price to buy the existing Hydro-electric complex in the Snowy Mountains from state governments. This valuable project conserves water which is used for irrigation and electricity generation. However they plan to burden this useful profitable project with another green dream - a Giant Battery.

Snowy 2.0 will consume electricity mainly from distant generators in the Hunter and Latrobe Valleys to pump water from lower dams to upper dams, and then recover part of this energy by releasing the stored water back downhill to drive turbines. The electricity recovered will be sent mainly to the big but distant demand centres of Sydney and Melbourne thus incurring more transmission losses. All of these unavoidable losses mean that Snowy 2.0 will only recover about 60% of the energy it takes from the grid. (This low recovery is one reason that existing pumped hydro facilities like Tumut 3 in the Snowy and Wivenhoe in Queensland are seldom used).

The system also imprisons Snowy water which could be used to generate new power and then flow into Snowy irrigation schemes. This Canberra-bred green elephant aims to profit from fluctuating wind-solar supply and prices, but it will make things worse for electricity consumers in the long run by helping to destroy low-cost, reliable base-load energy from coal.

Electricity supply will then become a lottery – every time the wind drops, the panels are shaded and the Giant Battery is flat, the lights will go out. South Australia has shown us how easy this is.

If there is also a long drought affecting hydro-electric supply in the Snowy and Tasmania, base load electricity supply will rely on a few geriatric coal generators. If a major transmission line is then damaged or fails, we will all need all the diesels in our sheds. Tasmania has provided a lesson for us all - they had a hydro drought and then a broken transmission cable and were forced to hurriedly purchase 200MW of diesel engines at a cost of $64M to keep their lights on.

In the coming brave new electric world, compulsory smart meters will decide which suburbs, homes, heaters, coolers, pumps, dairies, draglines or factories are switched off when power supply fails to meet demand.

Snowy 2.0 will be the biggest and most expensive storage battery in Australia with some 2,700 times the capacity of South Australia’s lithium Green Elephant. It will probably require upgrading of the transmissions lines to the big demand centres of Sydney and Melbourne and to the remaining real power stations which will supply most of the electricity to run its pumps.

All of this is supposedly being constructed to help Australia meet its costly but self-imposed emissions target. However there will probably be an increase in emissions if this Green Elephant is created. The project will require a huge amount of concrete, steel, copper, diesel and electricity to manufacture, transport and install the pipes, pumps, generators, roads and transmission lines and to bore 27 km of new tunnels. Pumping all that water up-hill regularly and repairing and maintaining the system in the coldest place in Australia will not be cheap in dollars, energy or emissions. Careful accounting of all long term effects will probably show no emissions savings whatsoever.

Snowy 2.0 is being constructed to moderate the fluctuations in green energy production and to kill coal power faster. It will do this. But will not be able to guarantee electricity supply with any certainty – if we have a week of windless cloudy weather, and there is not enough coal or gas power, the demand for electricity will quickly drain the Snowy 2.0 reservoirs. Then where does the power come from to pump the Snowy water back up the hill and keep the lights on? SA’s giant lithium battery may keep Adelaide powered for a few minutes, but what about Townsville, Toowoomba and Tamworth?

However, if politicians are determined to build Snowy 2-0, it could be put to much better use than pumping water uphill to run down again. Our electricity would be more secure and cheaper if we ceased all force-feeding of wind-solar un-reliables, used coal, gas or nuclear power running continuously at capacity to supply the stable “base load” of electricity demand, and used schemes like Snowy 2.0 to cover peak load fluctuations above this base load. This would create a stable grid providing reliable low-cost power (so it has little chance of happening with green gremlins in charge of energy.)




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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