Sunday, November 04, 2018

U.S. Oil Production Allows America to Crack Down on Iran

Yet again, we have witnessed a heinous display of the anti-Semitism that has plagued the Jewish community throughout history. America cannot sit silently and allow anti-Semitism to prevail, be it domestically or internationally. While the act of terror in Pittsburgh was that of a domestic white supremacist, anti-Semitism remains a global issue. Iran perpetuates the virulent rhetoric that has fueled this global scourge, and its rogue actions pose a threat to the United States and its allies.

Anti-Semitism is not solely a Jewish issue or an Israeli issue. It is also an American issue. America must hold Iran accountable for its bad behavior. Iran must pay for its constant attempts to destabilize the Middle East. Its nuclear ambitions, its proxy wars in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, and its financing of terrorism through groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas are a threat to the entire region.

Before the American energy renaissance, any suggestion of upheaval in the Middle East sent oil prices skyrocketing. Sanctions against a leading oil producer such as Iran were guaranteed to add several dollars to the global price of crude.

Times have changed. The Trump administration’s looming imposition of sanctions against Iran has hardly caused a financial ripple in the oil market. Fortunately, this November, America will reinstate oil sanctions on Iran and thereby diminish Tehran’s ability to fund its hegemonic goals and impose its extremist ideology. The sanctions facing Iran are warranted, given its position as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran continues to incite violence against the United States, Israel, and other countries while repressing its own citizens.

The United States will no longer be held hostage to rogue states. Because of increases in U.S. oil-production capacity, the decision to enforce and augment the sanctions will not be as disruptive to oil markets as it would have been in the past. America’s status as a geopolitical powerhouse is enhanced as it grows into an energy exporter.

The global market’s pending loss of oil from Iran is an opportunity for American producers to become a supplier to the world. The United States can use the energy it produces domestically to ensure that its national-security concerns are met without harming American consumers. American energy independence will remind the world that it will no longer have to deal with wild price fluctuations spurred by unrest in the Middle East. The United States is capable of providing enough oil to help stabilize the global market, no matter what happens in countries such as Iran.

The deal arranged by the previous administration removed sanctions against Iran without offering any long-lasting solutions to the problems caused by this rogue nation. Making matters worse, that deal also funded Iran, allowing the regime to finance global terrorism, including the wars in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Even so, Iran violated the terms of that agreement, so the sanctions imposed by the current administration are justified on those grounds as well.

The geopolitics of the Middle East are changing. Historic alliances are shifting, as nations move to protect themselves against the looming existential threat posed by Iran. The only constant is that Israel remains America’s closest friend in the region. Israel and America stay linked through their shared democratic values and common interests.

It is incumbent on the United States to stand up for our allies in the Middle East. America is no longer beholden to past realities to keep the oil market in check. No longer is it the case that the flow of oil to the United States will be stifled if the Strait of Hormuz is shut down.


Why Wind Power Isn’t the Answer

On October 8, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report warning that nations around the world must cut their greenhouse-gas emissions drastically to reduce the possibility of catastrophic climate change. The report emphasizes “fast deployment of renewables like solar and wind” and largely ignores the essential role nuclear energy must play in any decarbonization effort.

Four days earlier, to much less fanfare, two Harvard researchers published a paper showing that trying to fuel our energy-intensive society solely with renewables would require cartoonish amounts of land. How cartoonish? Consider: meeting America’s current demand for electricity alone—not including gasoline or jet fuel, or the natural gas required for things like space heating and fertilizer production—would require covering a territory twice the size of California with wind turbines.

The IPCC and climate-change activists love solar and wind energy, and far-left politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have called for a wartime-style national mobilization to convert to 100 percent renewable-energy usage. But this credo ignores a fundamental truth: energy policy and land-use policy are inextricable.

The renewables-only proponents have no trouble mobilizing against land use for the extraction of hydrocarbons. Consider the battle in Colorado over Proposition 112, which will prohibit oil- and gas-drilling activities within 2,500 feet of homes, hospitals, schools and “vulnerable areas.” Environmental groups including, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace have endorsed the initiative, which will appear on the November 6 ballot. If it passes, Proposition 112 would effectively ban new oil and gas production in Colorado, the nation’s fifth-largest natural gas producer. Or consider the months-long demonstrations that ended last year in South Dakota over the Dakota Access pipeline. More than 700 climate-change activists and others were arrested during protests claiming that Dakota Access, by crossing the traditional lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, was violating the tribe’s cultural and spiritual rights. These energy- and land-use battles are waged by climate activists and environmental groups whose goal is to shutter the hydrocarbon industry. Most of these groups, including and Sierra Club, routinely claim that the American economy can run solely on renewables. Further, the Sierra Club has tallied 74 U.S. cities that have pledged to get all of their electricity from renewable energy.

But the new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, shows yet again that wind energy’s Achilles heel is its paltry power density. “We found that the average power density—meaning the rate of energy generation divided by the encompassing area of the wind plant—was up to 100 times lower than estimates by some leading energy experts,” said lead author Lee Miller, a postdoctoral fellow who coauthored the report with Harvard physics professor David Keith. The problem is that most estimates of wind energy’s potential ignore “wind shadow,” an effect that occurs when turbines are placed too closely together: the upwind turbines rob wind speed from others placed downwind.

The study looks at 2016 energy-production data from 1,150 solar projects and 411 onshore wind projects. The combined capacity of the wind projects totaled 43,000 megawatts, or roughly half of all U.S. wind capacity that year. Miller and Keith concluded that solar panels produce about 10 times more energy per unit of land as wind turbines—a significant finding—but their work demands attention for two other reasons: first, it uses real-world data, not models, to reach its conclusions, and second, it shows that wind energy’s power density is far lower than the Department of Energy, the IPCC, and numerous academics have claimed.

Further: “While improved wind turbine design and siting have increased capacity factors (and greatly reduced costs), they have not altered power densities.” In other words, though Big Wind has increased the size and efficiency of turbines—the latest models stand more than 700 feet tall—it hasn’t been able to wring more energy out of the wind. Due to the wind-shadow effect, those taller turbines must be placed farther and farther apart, which means that the giant turbines cover more land. As turbines get taller and sprawl across the landscape, more people see them.

Rural residents are objecting to wind projects because they want to protect their property values and viewsheds. They don’t want to see the red-blinking lights atop those massive turbines, all night, every night, for the rest of their lives. Nor do they want to be subjected to the health-damaging noise—both audible and inaudible—that the turbines produce.

The backlash against Big Wind is coast to coast. In New York, which has mandated 50 percent renewable-energy usage by 2030, the towns of Yates and Somerset are fighting against Lighthouse Wind, a 200-megawatt wind project proposed for the shores of Lake Ontario. In Oklahoma, the tiny town of Hinton continues its battle against NextEra Energy, the world’s biggest wind-energy producer, over the siting of wind projects nearby. In California, which just boosted its renewable-electricity mandate to 60 percent by 2030, wind turbines are so unpopular that the industry has effectively given up trying to site new projects there. Meantime, in deep-blue Vermont, both gubernatorial candidates—incumbent Republican Phil Scott and Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist—favor renewable energy in principle but oppose further wind-energy development in the state.

Big Wind has attempted to intimidate some of its rural opponents by filing lawsuits against them. Last year, NextEra sued the town of Hinton in federal and state court after the town passed an ordinance restricting wind-energy development. The wind-energy giant also sued local governments in Michigan, Indiana, and Missouri, all of which had passed measures restricting wind-energy development.

Why the hardball tactics? Simple: rural residents stand between Big Wind and tens of billions of dollars in subsidies available through the Production Tax Credit. In September, Lisa Linowes, cofounder and executive director of the Industrial Wind Action Group, a New Hampshire-based nonprofit that tracks the wind industry, published an article on “The US Treasury estimates the PTC will cost taxpayers $40.12 billion in the period from 2018 to 2027,” Linowes wrote, “making it, by far, the most expensive energy subsidy under current tax law.”

The punchline here is obvious: wind energy has been sold as a great source of “clean” energy. The reality is that wind energy’s expansion has been driven by federal subsidies and state-level mandates. Wind energy, cannot, and will not, meet a significant portion of our future energy needs because it requires too much land.

Miller and Keith’s paper shows that the ongoing push for 100-percent renewables, and, in particular, the idea that wind energy is going to be a major contributor to that goal, is not just wrongheaded—it’s an energy dead end.


EPA's plan for tree-fired power could be worse than coal

The Trump administration on Thursday endorsed burning trees and other biomass to produce energy, vowing to promote a practice some scientists have declared more environmentally devastating than coal-fired power.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined the departments of Energy and Agriculture in a letter to congressional leaders committing to "encourage the use of biomass as an energy solution." The EPA also reasserted its view that power plants burning trees and other woody materials to generate electricity should be viewed as carbon neutral, because when new trees are grown, they remove carbon dioxide from the air.

The agencies also are committing to collaborate on policies promoting biomass, which could include Energy Department research and encouraging utilities to substitute wood for coal in power plants. EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the move "will support good-paying jobs in rural communities, protect our nation's air quality and remove unnecessary regulatory burdens."

But environmentalists say burning trees releases carbon dioxide previously trapped inside the plant. And when forests are cleared to produce energy, it can take them decades — or longer — to regrow, if they ever do.

The result is a power source that can generate more carbon dioxide emissions than the coal it is sometimes meant to replace.

"When biomass from forests is burned for electricity, it immediately emits CO2 to the atmosphere in amounts equivalent to, and often greater than, fossil fuels," more than six dozen scientists said in a letter Wednesday to Wheeler. "If trees are harvested for use in bioenergy production and then regrown, the combination of the regrowth and displaced fossil fuels can eventually pay off the carbon debt, but that 'payback period' typically ranges from decades to hundreds of years."

The EPA's own science advisers also warned that assuming biomass emissions are carbon neutral "is inconsistent with the underlying science."

Thursday's letter from the federal agencies responds to a provision Congress tucked into a spending bill directing federal agencies to establish policies that "reflect the carbon neutrality of forest biomass for energy production." Even before that directive, under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency declared in April that it generally considered burning biomass for energy as carbon neutral.

The Trump administration now is effectively doubling down on that declaration, with the EPA promising to help unlock "the full benefits of biomass for energy" and encourage its growth "as a key part of our nation's energy supply."

The approach could be good news for timber companies and firms that pelletize wood for power plants.

The American Forest and Paper Association said the administration was ending "seven years of policy uncertainty" that "jeopardizes our companies' ability to invest in biomass and build and upgrade their facilities."

The EPA also has proposed giving utilities credit for cutting carbon dioxide emissions when they replace some coal in power plants with biomass. That kind of substitution would qualify as an efficiency upgrade under the EPA's proposal to relax Obama-era Clean Power Plan curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from electricity.

Shifting to biomass increases carbon dioxide emissions "in nearly every scenario," the Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Air Task Force and seven other environmental groups said in comments filed on the plan Wednesday.


If You Want to Save the Planet, Drop the Campaign Against Capitalism

This month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report concluding that it is all but inevitable that overall global warming will exceed the 1.5 degree Celsius limit dictated in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The report also discusses the potentially catastrophic consequences of this warming, which include extreme weather events, an accelerated rise in sea levels, and shrinking Arctic sea ice.

In keeping with the well-established trend, political conservatives generally have exhibited skepticism of these newly published IPCC conclusions. That includes U.S. President Donald Trump, who told 60 Minutes, “We have scientists that disagree with [anthropogenic global warming]. You’d have to show me the [mainstream] scientists because they have a very big political agenda.” On Fox News, a commentator argued that “the planet has largely stopped warming over the past 15 years, data shows—and [the IPCC report] could not explain why the Mercury had stopped rising.”

This pattern of conservative skepticism on climate change is so well-established that many of us now take it for granted. But given conservatism’s natural impulse toward protecting our heritage, one might think that conservatives would be just as concerned with preserving order in the natural environment as they are with preserving order in our social and political environments. Ensuring that subsequent generations can live well is ordinarily a core concern for conservatives.

To this, conservatives might (and do) counter that they are merely pushing back against environmental extremists who seek to leverage the cause of global warming as a means to expand government, eliminate hierarchies of wealth, and reorganize society along social lines. And while most environmentally conscious citizens harbor no such ambitions, there is a substantial basis for this claim. Indeed, some environmentalists are forthright in seeking to implement the principles of “ecosocialism.”

One of the most prominent voices in this space has been Canadian writer Naomi Klein, whose 2015 book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, argued that capitalism must be dismantled for the world to avert catastrophe. While I am sympathetic with some of the critiques that Klein directs at corporations and “free market fundamentalism,” her argument doesn’t hold water—because mitigating climate risks is a project whose enormous scope, cost and complexity can only be managed by regulated capitalist welfare states. Moreover, it’s difficult to see how she isn’t simply using the crisis of climate change as a veneer to agitate for her preferred utopian socio-economic system. As has been pointed out by Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, Klein appears to be adapting a mirror image of the same strategy she critiqued in her previous book, The Shock Doctrine, wherein she claimed that cynical politicians, pundits and corporations seize on crises to lock in economic restructuring along radical free market principles.

Simply put, describing the call for climate action in economically or politically revolutionary terms is always going to be counterproductive, because the vast majority of ordinary people in most countries don’t want a revolution. Environmentalists such as Klein are correct, however, in their more limited claim that market mechanisms alone can’t prevent global warming, since such mechanisms don’t impute the environmental costs associated with the way we produce goods and live our lives. Without some means of capturing the social price of environmentally destructive practices—resource extraction, in particular—we will invariably embrace wasteful and damaging practices.

Consider, for instance, the vast quantities of natural gas that are flared at oil wells simply because it’s seen as too costly to build gas pipelines to these facilities. This is a context in which we’d urge government to exercise its regulatory power; or to impose some kind of pricing mechanism that, either by carrot or stick, incentivizes the capture of the flared gas. Public policy has a necessary role in guiding capitalist decision makers toward the long-term sustainability of the environment. Unfortunately, this outcome is hard to achieve in a political environment characterized by tribalism, polarization and blame-shifting.

It is true that when it comes to climate change, the political left is more closely grounded in science than the right (even if both sides often tend to deny inconvenient truths more generally). But the left also has proven to be blinkered when it comes to appropriate responses, a tendency that has seeped into the latest IPCC report. While it’s not surprising that the report advocates support for renewable energy, its authors fail to acknowledge the warming effect that scaled up renewable-energy generation would have on land use due to their low energy density (think of the enormous footprint of solar farms). Likewise, the pro-environmental left’s distaste for nuclear power persists, despite its status as a geographically dense, safe, virtually carbon-free energy source.

The whole issue has become a sort of microcosm of the blind spots and dogmas embraced by both sides. As Jonathan Haidt argues, conservatives tend to be skeptical of top-down governance, preferring to focus on smaller nested structures that are less ambitious in scope, and hence easier to manage. This general principle takes form in conservative philosopher Roger Scruton’s approach to environmentalism, which argues that activism on issues such as climate change should be undertaken by communities at the local level, rather than by national (or international) bureaucrats and politicians—because the local level is where “people protect things which they know and love, things which are necessary for their life, and which will elicit in them the kind of disposition to make sacrifices, which, after all, is what it’s all about.”

While Scruton’s environmentalism gives us a reason to protect our local environments, the reality is that the effects of many environmentally damaging practices are not just experienced locally. A community may be motivated to protect a nearby forest from logging because it forms part of their love of home, but greenhouse gas emissions are displaced and dispersed into the shared atmosphere, contributing to global atmospheric degradation. Because of this, any approach that dismisses broader policy initiatives is unlikely to succeed in bringing down global carbon emissions. But at the very least, Scruton’s analysis awakens us to the reality that such policies will gain popular support only if they are justified and implemented in a manner that takes into consideration the views and sentiments of conservatives and liberals alike. Wind and solar farms will face less opposition if local communities get a greater say in where they are located. And while carbon taxes are effective in reducing emissions in some jurisdictions, conservatives will usually oppose them unless they are structured in a revenue-neutral manner, by legislating them alongside equivalent reductions in income tax, for instance.

Environmentalists also should acknowledge that some conservative objections to large-scale, top-down global instruments such as the Paris Agreement are perfectly legitimate. The provisions in such treaties typically are non-binding and require the good faith of all signatories. With many authoritarian countries seemingly misleading the rest of the world about their levels of economic activity, it’s not unreasonable to assume they would do the same when it comes to reporting carbon emissions. Moreover, those countries without the means to enforce reductions in carbon emissions domestically can’t be regarded as reliable participants in a global agreement to voluntarily decarbonize their economies.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be discussing climate change at a global level, or that international agreements don’t have any value. But environmentalists’ tendency to treat these documents as holy writ comes off as naïve, and thereby tends to undermine their cause.

Overall, our best hope for dealing with the emissions of developing countries is likely to assist them in managing their energy infrastructure so as to bypass high-emissions technologies. China, despite often being lauded for the amount of renewable energy it produces, now emits more carbon dioxide than the U.S. and Europe combined. With technologies such as large-scale solar generation becoming cost competitive with coal, progress is possible, but far from guaranteed without Western support.

These measures aren’t revolutionary. But that’s the point: In the environmental sector, just as in every other arena, there’s an opportunity cost to adopting revolutionary postures—since these revolutionaries tend to make more enemies than allies. If this project is really about saving the planet, rather than destroying capitalism, cooling the earth will mean cooling our rhetoric as well.


Grim reef bleaching forecast

Prophecies, prophecies. They do this forecast most years.  I come from Australia's Far North, adjoining the reef, and I can in fact remember such earnest forecasts from when I was a kid --60 years ago.  But the reef is still there, much the same as ever.  It has ups and downs but it always bounces back.  It has bounced back recently in fact, something not mentioned below -- which is why they stick to prophecy

Predictions that the Great Barrier Reef could suffer severe coral bleaching by the end of summer is an urgent warning for the Federal Government to take immediate climate action, says the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) tentative forecast, out today, predicts the entire reef has a 60 percent chance of being subject to "bleaching alert level one"—meaning bleaching is likely— by March 2019, with possible coral mortality in some areas.

“How much more of the Great Barrier Reef has to die before the Federal Government acts on climate change?,” said AMCS spokesperson Imogen Zethoven.

“While our Reef is in danger, our politicians continue to ignore the issue of climate change with no credible plan to reduce pollution.

Parts of the southern half of the Reef are on higher alert with coral mortality likely in some areas, according to NOAA. An El Niño event could increase the odds of a severe bleaching event.

“The Reef is already suffering heat impacts. Add drought, bushfires and heatwaves into the mix and all Queenslanders, including our marine life, are in for a tough summer,” said Zethoven.

“The government’s claims that it is looking after the Reef—and the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on this—ultimately count for very little if it continues to ignore the greatest threat to the reef.

“By failing to protect the Reef, the Federal Government is also gambling with the 64,000 jobs that are dependent on the Reef, and the $6 billion that it generates every year for the Queensland economy.”

“The Government knows what the solutions to this are all too well: no new coal mines, including Adani’s monstrous Carmichael mine, a rapid transition to renewable energy, a phase out of all coal-fired power stations by 2030 and an immediate end to all fossil fuel subsidies.”

“But instead of acting on these recommendations, the government continues to pander to the demands of the fossil fuel industry instead of delivering a cleaner, safer future for Australia.

“The Government is on notice ahead of the next election. Australians want the Government to protect the Reef and its amazing wildlife. The time to act is now.”

Greenie Media release. Interviews available from Imogen Zethoven, a Greenie from way back. 0431 565 495



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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