Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Internal Contradictions of the Green New Deal

In case some readers don't get it, Marxists were always talking about the supposed internal contradictions in capitalism

In this post, rather than revisiting the serious problems that the Green New Deal proponents would wreak with their plans, instead I want to highlight how several of their claims contradict each other. In other words, the Green New Deal doesn’t even make sense on its own terms.

No Nuclear

After explaining the urgent need to transition humanity away from greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible, the document from Ocasio-Cortez’s office discusses nuclear:

Is nuclear a part of this?

A Green New Deal is a massive investment in renewable energy production and would not include creating new nuclear plants. It’s unclear if we will be able to decommission every nuclear plant within 10 years, but the plan is to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible. No one has put the full 10-year plan together yet, and if it is possible to get to fully 100% renewable in 10 years, we will do that.

And so just like that, nuclear power has been rolled onto the same chopping block timeframe as coal-fired power plants. Inasmuch as nuclear power is zero-emission and doesn’t suffer from the problems of intermittency that plague wind and solar, and can be distributed anywhere geographically unlike hydro, one might have expected that nuclear would be the go-to solution for those truly worried about saving the planet within 12 years. (In 2017, nuclear accounted for 20% of U.S. electricity, while wind and solar combined only 7.6%.)

As I wrote in a previous post, imagine if a strident group of scientists were warning everybody that a killer asteroid was hurtling toward Earth. Then some people proposed using missiles or lasers to knock it off course. In response, the loud activists said, “No we don’t want to do that, because it would interfere with our messaging on gun control.” In that scenario, would you think those activists actually believe their own rhetoric about the killer asteroid?

Likewise, if Ocasio-Cortez and her staff are trying to decommission nuclear plants just as fast as coal- and natural-gas fired power plants, it should tell you this really isn’t about the negative externality from carbon dioxide emissions. This is about transforming society—as they themselves admit.

If It’s So Good for the Economy, Why Is Coercion Necessary?

The Green New Deal outline also tries to reassure us that its measures will help the economy. For example:

This is massive investment in our economy and society, not expenditure.

•We invested 40-50% of GDP into our economy during World War 2 and created the greatest middle class the US has seen.

•The interstate highway system has returned more than $6 in economic productivity for every $1 it cost

•This is massively expanding existing and building new industries at a rapid pace – growing our economy

As an aside, the “middle class” suffered tremendously in economic terms during World War 2. Using conventional government statistics, the per capita output of private-sector GDP was lower during the height of World War 2 than during the depths of the Great Depression, a decade earlier. Real resources were being diverted into tanks, bombers, and bullets, rather than cars, radios, and nylon stockings. One can argue that fighting World War 2 was a necessary expense, but it definitely made Americans poorer than if the U.S. government hadn’t made those expenditures.

Beyond their historical ignorance, the Green New Dealers are missing something pretty basic: If all of this infrastructure spending—which includes not just highways and other government property, but also revamping every single building in the country (!!)—is so economically efficient, then why does the government have to do it? The government doesn’t have real resources of its own. All it can do is transfer purchasing power (through taxing, borrowing, or the printing press) away from the private sector.

Now if the Green New Dealers come back and say, “Well, private business doesn’t take into account climate change,” fine. That’s the mainstream economics view, of someone like William Nordhaus. But at least those economists have the decency to admit that a carbon tax or other measures to limit emissions, will make Americans poorer relative to a scenario where global warming wasn’t a thing.

In contrast, the logic of the Green New Dealers’ rhetoric implies: “Phew! It’s actually a good thing there’s the existential threat of catastrophic climate change, because now we can do all these things that will create millions of jobs and produce social justice.”

Respecting Rights

Finally, I found this statement from the draft legislation to be touching yet contradictory:

(M) obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties an agreements with indigenous peoples, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples;

Why would we allow indigenous peoples to threaten the planet? After all, the Green New Dealers aren’t getting the free, prior, and informed consent from the owners of coal-fired power plants before ruining their way of life. And it’s not merely a matter of “sovereignty” broadly defined—the Green New Dealers want “border tax adjustments” to punish those foreigners who don’t elect governments to do the same policies to themselves as the Green New Dealers want to impose on Americans. Why is it OK to use economic warfare to influence what other governments do in that way, but not when it comes to indigenous peoples here?

The obvious answer is that this has little to do with climate change, but instead is a wish-list of leftist social and economic goals. In their book, indigenous peoples are on the side of the good guys, while business owners and the Chinese people aren’t such a big deal.


In short, not only is the Green New Deal chock-full of economic absurdities and disastrous proposals, it isn’t even internally consistent. This is yet more evidence of the lack of intellectual rigor behind the proposal.


Yes, Indoor Agriculture Can Feed the World. And for many food crops, it already does

So we are not going to run out of food after all!

I recently toured The Netherlands with a delegation from California tasked to collaborate with the Dutch on Climate Smart Agriculture. In the several years that I’ve studied the food system, I’ve heard much about how the Dutch were growing an enormous amount of plants and vegetables in climate controlled indoor environments. In fact, The Netherlands is second only to the United States as the world’s leading agricultural exporter, and 80% of its land under cultivation is inside greenhouses. Many of these exports are vegetables to the EU: tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, blackberries, herbs, and leafy greens.

After seeing first-hand the scale of production and the attention paid to climate and sustainability across the entire value chain of production, it was with great regret that I read Dr. Jonathan Foley’s essay, “No, Vertical Farms Won’t Feed the World.” While it won’t “feed the world” all by itself (no one farming system will), indoor agriculture is hardly “a fad” as Dr. Foley calls it. On the contrary, it has a very important role to play in a food system that makes us resilient to climate change.

Controlled Environment Agriculture Defined

The “vertical farming” that Dr. Foley writes about is only a tiny subset of a much, much larger industry called Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). CEA has existed for more than a century and refers to any attempt to control the growing environment for a crop. It spans the spectrum from plastic hoop houses that protect from sun to glass greenhouses that use ambient light and heat from outside to recreate the perfect growing conditions for a crop. Most recently, it also includes a new kind of indoor growing architecture called “vertical farms.” Vertical farms are fully enclosed environments using only artificial lighting and growing crops in vertically stacked rows or towers.

CEA is Already a Large Ag Sector

For more detail, I highly recommend reading “Let’s Talk About Market Size” by Allison Kopf, CEO at Agrilyst. In it, she describes the different type of indoor farms and the size of the market in greater detail. The point I wish to make here is that CEA is already a huge and profitable industry — worth $14B in the United States alone (as of 2016). According to Rabbobank, the world’s leading agriculture bank, the United States is a tiny player with only 911 hectares (2,221 acres) compared to countries like Spain (70,000 hectares) or China (82,000 hectares and growing) or even The Netherlands (11,500 hectares).

The CEA sector is already growing food you eat everyday. For example, nearly 60% of the tomatoes you consume in North America are grown in CEA. The Dutch yields average 20 times more tomatoes per acre than US outdoor growers. This is because indoor cultivation enables us to have year round production. Peppers, cucumbers, herbs, mushrooms, cannabis, and increasingly leafy greens are grown this way. In The Netherlands add strawberries, flowers, and blackberries to the commercial production list. In the vast research greenhouses at the world’s leading agriculture university, Wageningen, I personally witnessed peppercorns, vanilla, bananas, and papaya in research for commercial production. For the banana, learning to grow indoor and out of soil may save it from extinction as a soil fungus is currently decimating southeast Asia’s outdoor production, as The Guardian reported, “The First Dutch Bananas Could Help Tackle Fungal Threat,” on December 14.

CEA is Experiencing an Innovation Revolution

Driven by innovations in the energy efficiency of LED lights, increasingly sophisticated yet inexpensive sensors, advances in robotics, and the legalization of cannabis there has been a wave of innovation in CEA. This has enabled experimentation of potential new architectures for indoor farms: vertically stacked trays, aquaponics (a form that integrates the symbiotic growing of fish with the growing of plants), vertical towers, etc. This has also led to experimentation on new crop types: fish, insects, cocoa, vanilla, the aforementioned bananas, and more.

What will the winning architecture be — Dutch greenhouses, hi-tech vertical farms, integrated aquaponics, etc? What crops will we grow? Does indoor growing make new crops, like insects, commercially viable? We don’t know yet, but advances are being made…every day. And that’s a good thing.

More Food. Less Waste. Healthier Food. Safer Food. Less Land.

As Dr. Foley points out, indoor farms are expensive to build and operate. True. Starting any new farm from scratch (whether indoor or outdoor)is capital intensive. Much of the innovation happening in indoor agriculture is decreasing not only the upfront capital costs, but — most importantly — the ongoing operating costs. As the Dutch have demonstrated, CEA farms are profitable at large commercial scale and produce fruits and vegetables at competitive prices to the average consumer. Twenty years ago, under the rallying cry “twice as much food using half as many resources,” the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture. Now, 80% of their cultivated land is CEA. More food.

One of the recent business model innovations in indoor farming is to build the farms closer to the consumer. As Dr. Foley points out, the travel distance contributes little to a crop’s carbon footprint. However, growing produce closer to the point of consumption results in less food spoilage during transport and a longer shelf life in your fridge. More food. Less waste.

That longer shelf life also means food that is denser with its nutrients instead of days or weeks degraded while being transported. More food. Less waste. Healthier food.

Because water is recycled and reused, growing indoors uses 90% less water, on average. This is also means there is no runoff of nitrates and pesticides into your ground water. Speaking of pesticides: it uses 97% less pesticides. More food. Less waste. Healthier food. Safer food.

CEA has a smaller footprint on the land: 1 acre of indoor farming for leafy greens can produce in 1 year what 10 acres of farmland produces outside. The Netherlands is second to the United States in agricultural exports yet has 1/270th of the land. More food. Less waste. Healthier food. Safer food. Less land.

Looking to the Future

Vertical farms are a new innovation in the Controlled Environment Agriculture sector. Many innovations start out unscalable and inefficient. Yes, vertical farms require more innovation to bring down energy costs, but if we just abandon CEA because vertical farms alone seem unscalable, we stifle innovation for all farming — vertical, indoor, outdoor and otherwise. Through the new innovations in vertical farming, the entire agriculture industry is addressing energy efficiency, water efficiency, automation (labor efficiency), new business models, shorter supply chains, and new crop types. These are exactly the agricultural problems that need solving across the entire food system, and it’s promising to see the capital and brain power that is addressing them.


States Falling for Electoral Platitudes Now Face Future Energy Trauma

Governors of California, New York, et al have been issuing electoral platitudes that can only be expected to yield future energy trauma for their citizens.

Last week, New York City area utility Consolidated Edison notified regulators that, as of March 15, it would accept no new natural gas customers in Westchester County due to supply shortages.  It is possible that cutoffs in the City itself may follow.  While this is happening, New York City is requiring customers to switch out of dirtier burning fuel oil.  Most are seeking natural gas.

Already, over 5,000 buildings in the City have made the switch.  Meanwhile, as prior commentary in this blog has noted, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration have stymied all attempts to build a new pipeline that would be capable of supplying the City and other areas, like New England, with plentiful and inexpensive natural gas from the nearby Marcellus Shale region.

Once again we are seeing the Alice in Wonderland effects of New York State environmental incoherence.  It desperately needs energy to grow, and also to improve environmental air quality, but does everything possible to prevent that energy from being available.

The energy dilemma cannot just be wished away.  The implications of not building pipelines and securing our energy future are real and starting to bite.  Without reliable energy supply, regions can’t grow.  Without growth, there will be no jobs for an expanding population.  Intellectual discussions and arguments about the large job opportunities available in the renewable sector are nice, but where are they?  More to the point, where is the consistent supply of energy that will be provided by these renewable sources?

Out west in Oregon, newly reelected Governor Kate Brown, who ran on a progressive, clean energy platform, faces a challenge from her left with a new Clean Energy Jobs bill.  Back in 2007, Oregon set goals for reducing its carbon emissions in 2010, 2020 and 2050.  It met its goals for 2010 but admits it will not do so for 2020.  In fact, the Oregon Global Warming Commission predicts the State will over-pollute in 2020 by 20%.  There is an interim goal for 2035, but lawmakers may choose to ignore that and concentrate on 2050.  This has environmental advocates alarmed.

Ironically, one proven way for the environmental advocates to reduce CO2 emissions is through increased use of natural gas.  They have not been inclined to accept that option, however, putting all their eggs in the basket of renewables.  Governor Brown then likely will face the problem Governor Cuomo faces.  She will run a left-leaning state with a well-meaning yet unrealistic program for achieving goals about which most of us can agree.  Governor Cuomo has chosen one path.  It won him electoral platitudes but now faces future trauma.  It will be interesting to see which way Governor Brown goes.

In Pennsylvania, the long battle over the Mariner East 2 pipeline appears over.  Last week the Public Utility Commission ruled that a landowner group had failed to show that safety concerns necessitated an emergency shutdown of the pipeline.  In typical fashion for this matter, two days later another sinkhole exposed a section of the older Mariner 1 pipeline.  Chester County emergency service officials stressed there was no damage to the pipeline and no danger, but the entire situation continues to be messy and delicate.  It does not help public perception that a horrific gasoline pipeline explosion in central Mexico predated the Mariner 1 sinkhole occurrence by a few days.

Internationally, and ironically, the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela, falls deeper and deeper into turmoil.  President Nicolas Maduro’s security forces put down another mini-uprising Monday, but nationwide demonstrations have been called for Wednesday, the anniversary of the end of the most recent military dictatorship in 1958.  Venezuela’s oil production has plummeted along with the rest of its economy, and President Maduro has given away large amounts of it to Russia in exchange for needed foreign reserve to service its enormous debt.

Despite starving his nation, Maduro retains the loyalty of large segments of the military command. Those commanders don’t carry the guns that fire on the starving people, however. The weapons themselves are in the hands of individual soldiers commanded on the street by junior officers. It remains a confounding question as to why the opposition, which still exists in Venezuela, has been so unsuccessful in convincing the junior officers that their long term interests do not lie with Maduro and the senior military commanders but with the starving people in the streets.

Of course, should Maduro’s regime eventually fall, it would set in motion the need for some fancy diplomatic footwork and military readiness, something neither the Trump Administration, nor its predecessor, have shown much capability to implement. Under those circumstances, energy markets would be thrown another huge curve ball. Both our government and companies retaining any interest in Venezuela, either directly or indirectly, should be planning for these scenarios right now.


Goodbye to a misguided war on coal

The unexpected departure of Dr. Jim Yong Kim as president of the World Bank gives President Donald J. Trump the perfect opportunity to reverse the anti-fossil fuel, energy poverty agenda the bank has pursued since Dr. Kim’s appointment by President Barack Obama in 2012.

The World Bank is the world’s premier development bank. Its knowledge of developing countries means that its participation is often essential to leverage private sector investment into some of the world’s poorest countries.

Rather than development, Dr. Kim saw the bank’s principal job as waging President Obama’s war on coal across the developing world. One of his first acts was instituting a ban on World Bank participation in any funding of new electrical generation projects using coal, other than in the most exceptional circumstances.

The United States is the bank’s largest funder, but Dr. Kim behaved as if Hillary Clinton had won Barack Obama’s third term in the 2016 presidential election. In no area was the policy rupture between the two administrations sharper than on energy, where Mr. Obama’s war on coal has been replaced by the Trump administration’s doctrine of American energy dominance.

Yet Dr. Kim decided to defy his host government and largest funder. At the December 2017 climate summit, France’s President Macron threw to celebrate the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement, Dr. Kim announced that the World Bank was extending its financing ban to upstream oil and gas. To cap it all, in October 2017 Dr. Kim said the bank would be withdrawing its support for its sole remaining coal project, a badly needed clean coal plant in Kosovo, a struggling country in the Balkans.

It’s not only that Dr. Kim misread the politics. On the fundamentals of what is good for developing countries’ economic development and human welfare, the Trump administration is right and Dr. Kim wrong. The centralized electrical grid is the single most beneficial innovation of the 20th century. In developed countries, it is what separates the 20th century from the 19th century.

It’s hardly surprising that FDR’s rural electrification program in the 1930s was one of the most popular and lasting parts of the New Deal. Rural farmers and small towns wanted all the benefits that only reliable, grid-connected electricity can provide and that city and suburban dwellers were already enjoying.

A study out this month by the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation shows why. In the 1920s and 1930s, small-scale generation and local distribution grids were increasingly replaced by much larger coal-fired power stations connected by a national grid. In those two decades, electricity prices more than halved, something that hasn’t happened again.

This is the energy transition developing countries want and need, but is being denied them by First World environmentalists. Because Dr. Kim was out of his depth at the World Bank, he allowed the bank to be captured by climate activists prioritizing green ideology over the interests of the world’s poor.

Only last month, the World Bank announced it would be committing $200 billion to climate action. “This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future,” Dr. Kim declared. That’s not going to make energy cheaper or more accessible or keep the lights on and the refrigerator chilled.

Wind and solar power are inherently unreliable and are not a substitute for a proper grid and thermal power generation. Despite Elon Musk’s claims, the developed world has not cracked the inherent intermittency of generating electricity from the weather.

For developing countries, the economics of wind and solar mean that the more renewables they have, the more it costs to build out a proper grid and invest in reliable generation. It is simply immoral to expect developing countries to solve the intermittency problem that has defied solution by the best brains in the West and inflict higher energy costs on those who can least afford them.

Dr. Kim’s departure opens the opportunity to end the World Bank’s walk on the dark side. In selecting the U.S. candidate to succeed him, the Trump administration will have the support of developing nations angry at the West’s climate imperialism and its attempts to obstruct their economic development. It will also have the support of energy-realist nations such as Japan and Australia, while China, consuming half the world’s coal, can hardly object. On energy realism, energy access and economic development, the goals and interests of developing nations and the United States are strongly aligned.


Australia: 'Inner-city, green elitism gone mad': Farmers' fury after Labor MP blames 'meat-eating MEN' for climate change

Irate farmers have labelled a State MP a 'green communist' after she blamed 'meat-eating' men for climate change while praising vegans.

Lisa Baker, the Labor member for Maylands in Perth, told the State Parliament her Government should promote reduced meat consumption.

She went onto state meat-eating men tend to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than vegan women.

Gary Buller, who breeds Angus cattle in WA's south-west, said Ms Baker needs to get a 'grip on reality'. 'There is much too much emotion in this whole debate and not enough dealing with the facts,' Mr Buller told the West Australian. 'People with these views are away with the fairies — they are green communists.' 

Trevor Whittington, the WA Farmers chief executive, agreed with Buller. He believes Ms Baker's outspoken views were an example of 'inner-city, green elitism gone mad'. 'Her world is a simple one of vegans, good, meat eaters bad,' he said.

'We will watch with interest to see if she (Baker) manages to convince her colleagues to take her views to the next election.'

David Littleproud was equally scathing in his criticism, with the Federal Agriculture Minister saying Ms Baker's comments were 'laughable.'

A spokesperson for Ms Baker told Daily Mail Australia the State MP stands by her comments and clarified she wasn’t a vegan.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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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