Friday, May 31, 2019

Japan finds a huge cache of scarce rare-earth minerals

Essential to much "Green" technology

Japan looks to replace China as the primary source of critical metals.  Enough rare earth minerals have been found off Japan to last centuries.Rare earths are important materials for green technology, as well as medicine and manufacturing. Where would we be without all of our rare-earth magnets?

Rare earth elements are a set of 17 metals that are integral to our modern lifestyle and efforts to produce ever-greener technologies. The "rare" designation is a bit of a misnomer: It's not that they're not plentiful, but rather that they're found in small concentrations, and are especially difficult to successfully extract since they blend in with and resemble other minerals in the ground.

China currently produces over 90% of the world's supply of rare metals, with seven other countries mining the rest. So though they're not precisely "rare," they are scarce. In 2010, the U.S. Department of energy issued a report that warned of a critical shortage of five of the elements. Now, however, Japan has found a massive deposit of rare earths sufficient to supply the world's needs for hundred of years.

The rare earth metals can be mostly found in the second row from the bottom in the Table of Elements. According to the Rare Earth Technology Alliance, due to the "unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, these elements help make many technologies perform with reduced weight, reduced emissions, and energy consumption; or give them greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability."

Japan located the rare earths about 1,850 kilometers off the shore of Minamitori Island. Engineers located the minerals in 10-meter-deep cores taken from sea floor sediment. Mapping the cores revealed and area of approximately 2,500 square kilometers containing rare earths.

Japan's engineers estimate there's 16 million tons of rare earths down there. That's five times the amount of the rare earth elements ever mined since 1900. According to Business Insider, there's "enough yttrium to meet the global demand for 780 years, dysprosium for 730 years, europium for 620 years, and terbium for 420 years."

The bad news, of course, is that Japan has to figure out how to extract the minerals from 6-12 feet under the seabed four miles beneath the ocean surface — that's the next step for the country's engineers. The good news is that the location sits squarely within Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone, so their rights to the lucrative discovery will be undisputed.


Trump to Replace Alarmist Climate Models With Sound Science

The president taps a Princeton scientist to head his new climate-review panel. 

Given the fact that extremist climate-change-prognostication models have been wildly inaccurate, it would be wise to avoid basing any serious environmental policy on them. In fact, anyone interested in following the sound and time-tested scientific method would demand nothing less, and yet the Leftmedia is up in arms over President Donald Trump’s recent decision to do just that. The New York Times blows its climate alarmist’s dog whistle with the headline, “Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science.” Hardly.

The Times fallaciously asserts that “the attack on science is underway,” supposedly evidenced by Trump’s appointment of geologist and former astronaut James Reilly as the director of the United States Geological Survey. And how is Reilly “attacking science”? By insisting upon the practice of sound science. The Times huffs, “Reilly … has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously.”

In reality, Trump is pushing for the government to return to adhering to sound scientific practice for informing policy decisions, rather than agenda-driven hysterics. James Hewitt, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, explained, “The previous use of inaccurate modeling that focuses on worst-case emissions scenarios [and] that does not reflect real-world conditions needs to be thoroughly reexamined and tested if such information is going to serve as the scientific foundation of nationwide decision-making now and in the future.”

The Trump administration is also creating a new climate-review panel to be headed by respected Princeton University scientist William Happer. Long an outspoken critic of the alarmism surrounding rising CO2 levels, Happer has argued, “The public in general doesn’t realize that from the point of view of geological history, we are in a CO2 famine. … There is no problem from CO2. The world has lots and lots of problems, but increasing CO2 is not one of the problems. So [the Paris accord] dignifies it by getting all these yahoos who don’t know a damn thing about climate saying, ‘This is a problem, and we’re going to solve it.’ All this virtue signaling.”

No more Chicken Little climate alarmism dictating policy. It’s time to return to sound, verifiable scientific practices that don’t elevate worst-case predictions as a means of pushing for ever-more government regulation.


Gasoline tax propsals versus a carbon tax

There are an increasing number of reports about the business community’s growing support for a carbon tax.  Americans for Carbon Dividends, CERES, and the CEO Climate Dialogue along with several environmental groups are urging Congress to pass legislation that would put a price on carbon—CO2 emissions.

According to Axios, 69% of republicans are concerned that “their party’s position on climate will hurt them with younger voters and 43 % …said that their concern about climate change has increased in the past year.”  David Doniger at the Natural Resources Defense Council told Axios…“They see a rising public demand for action and they’re smart enough to know this extreme denial of the Trump era will not last and may be coming to a halt in 2020.”

Maybe they are right and a turning point has been reached but don’t bet on it.  The recent election in Australia is one piece of evidence.  Voters there had a clear choice between pro-growth policies and policies of higher taxes and income distribution.  Growth won.  One way to test the public’s receptiveness for a carbon tax is for Congress to propose and try to pass something like a 25 or 50 cent increase in the gasoline tax since that would apply directly to CO2 emissions.

The reason for skepticism is the reality of how voters are reacting to proposals to raise state gasoline taxes.  Proposals in Ohio, Missouri, and Minnesota for example have run into to fierce resistance from voters.

A study by two European economists captured the reality well.  Given concerns about climate change, “the option of raising gasoline taxes has received greater consideration in the American public policy debate. …Gasoline tax increases remain nevertheless highly unpopular. Public resistance to them is at least partly explained by their adverse distributional effects. In developed economies …gasoline is generally a necessity good in household consumption. Therefore, gasoline price increases tend to affect the poor more than the wealthy in relative terms. That is, they tend to be regressive.”

While the rhetoric surrounding a carbon tax might initially produce public support, especially given promises returning some proceeds to individuals in the form of cash dividends, the realities of carbon taxes can only be hidden for so long.  The public would soon realize that the taxing mechanism would give Congress another way to feed its spending appetite, would not be as simple and straight forward as promised, and would be gamed by crony capitalists.

So, if Congress can get the public to buy into a gasoline tax increase that would set predicate for moving onto a carbon tax in spite of the fact that it is a scam.  The impact on global CO2 emissions would be trivial since they are increasing as a result of coal fired power units being built by China, India, and other countries while US emissions peaked in 2005.


Why predictions go wrong

Credentialed authorities are comically bad at predicting the future. But reliable forecasting is possible -- from non-experts

The idea for the most important study ever conducted of expert predictions was sparked in 1984, at a meeting of a National Research Council committee on American-Soviet relations. The psychologist and political scientist Philip E. Tetlock was 30 years old, by far the most junior committee member. He listened intently as other members discussed Soviet intentions and American policies. Renowned experts delivered authoritative predictions, and Tetlock was struck by how many perfectly contradicted one another and were impervious to counterarguments.

Tetlock decided to put expert political and economic predictions to the test. With the Cold War in full swing, he collected forecasts from 284 highly educated experts who averaged more than 12 years of experience in their specialties. To ensure that the predictions were concrete, experts had to give specific probabilities of future events. Tetlock had to collect enough predictions that he could separate lucky and unlucky streaks from true skill. The project lasted 20 years, and comprised 82,361 probability estimates about the future.

The result: The experts were, by and large, horrific forecasters. Their areas of specialty, years of experience, and (for some) access to classified information made no difference. They were bad at short-term forecasting and bad at long-term forecasting. They were bad at forecasting in every domain. When experts declared that future events were impossible or nearly impossible, 15 percent of them occurred nonetheless. When they declared events to be a sure thing, more than one-quarter of them failed to transpire. As the Danish proverb warns, “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Even faced with their results, many experts never admitted systematic flaws in their judgment. When they missed wildly, it was a near miss; if just one little thing had gone differently, they would have nailed it. “There is often a curiously inverse relationship,” Tetlock concluded, “between how well forecasters thought they were doing and how well they did.”

Early predictions in Tetlock’s research pertained to the future of the Soviet Union. Some experts (usually liberals) saw Mikhail Gorbachev as an earnest reformer who would be able to change the Soviet Union and keep it intact for a while, and other experts (usually conservatives) felt that the Soviet Union was immune to reform and losing legitimacy. Both sides were partly right and partly wrong. Gorbachev did bring real reform, opening the Soviet Union to the world and empowering citizens. But those reforms unleashed pent-up forces in the republics outside Russia, where the system had lost legitimacy. The forces blew the Soviet Union apart. Both camps of experts were blindsided by the swift demise of the U.S.S.R.

One subgroup of scholars, however, did manage to see more of what was coming. Unlike Ehrlich and Simon, they were not vested in a single discipline. They took from each argument and integrated apparently contradictory worldviews. They agreed that Gorbachev was a real reformer and that the Soviet Union had lost legitimacy outside Russia. A few of those integrators saw that the end of the Soviet Union was close at hand and that real reforms would be the catalyst.

The integrators outperformed their colleagues in pretty much every way, but especially trounced them on long-term predictions. Eventually, Tetlock bestowed nicknames (borrowed from the philosopher Isaiah Berlin) on the experts he’d observed: The highly specialized hedgehogs knew “one big thing,” while the integrator foxes knew “many little things.”

Hedgehogs are deeply and tightly focused. Some have spent their career studying one problem. Like Ehrlich and Simon, they fashion tidy theories of how the world works based on observations through the single lens of their specialty. Foxes, meanwhile, “draw from an eclectic array of traditions, and accept ambiguity and contradiction,” Tetlock wrote. Where hedgehogs represent narrowness, foxes embody breadth.

Incredibly, the hedgehogs performed especially poorly on long-term predictions within their specialty. They got worse as they accumulated experience and credentials in their field. The more information they had to work with, the more easily they could fit any story into their worldview.

Unfortunately, the world’s most prominent specialists are rarely held accountable for their predictions, so we continue to rely on them even when their track records make clear that we should not. One study compiled a decade of annual dollar-to-euro exchange-rate predictions made by 22 international banks: Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and others. Each year, every bank predicted the end-of-year exchange rate. The banks missed every single change of direction in the exchange rate. In six of the 10 years, the true exchange rate fell outside the entire range of all 22 bank forecasts.

In 2005, tetlock published his results, and they caught the attention of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA, a government organization that supports research on the U.S. intelligence community’s most difficult challenges. In 2011, IARPA launched a four-year prediction tournament in which five researcher-led teams competed. Each team could recruit, train, and experiment however it saw fit. Predictions were due at 9 a.m. every day. The questions were hard: Will a European Union member withdraw by a target date? Will the Nikkei close above 9,500?

Tetlock, along with his wife and collaborator, the psychologist Barbara Mellers, ran a team named the Good Judgment Project. Rather than recruit decorated experts, they issued an open call for volunteers. After a simple screening, they invited 3,200 people to start forecasting. Among those, they identified a small group of the foxiest forecasters—bright people with extremely wide-ranging interests and unusually expansive reading habits, but no particular relevant background—and weighted team forecasts toward their predictions. They destroyed the competition.

Tetlock and Mellers found that not only were the best forecasters foxy as individuals, but they tended to have qualities that made them particularly effective collaborators. They were “curious about, well, really everything,” as one of the top forecasters told me. They crossed disciplines, and viewed their teammates as sources for learning, rather than peers to be convinced. When those foxes were later grouped into much smaller teams—12 members each—they became even more accurate. They outperformed—by a lot—a group of experienced intelligence analysts with access to classified data.

In Tetlock’s 20-year study, both the broad foxes and the narrow hedgehogs were quick to let a successful prediction reinforce their beliefs. But when an outcome took them by surprise, foxes were much more likely to adjust their ideas. Hedgehogs barely budged. Some made authoritative predictions that turned out to be wildly wrong—then updated their theories in the wrong direction. They became even more convinced of the original beliefs that had led them astray. The best forecasters, by contrast, view their own ideas as hypotheses in need of testing. If they make a bet and lose, they embrace the logic of a loss just as they would the reinforcement of a win. This is called, in a word, learning.


Australia: Adani coalmine in path of more than one endangered species in Queensland

Dilemma:  Approving the mine would cost the State Labor government its deputy leader at the next election and give the seat to the Greens. Premier Annastacia with deputy Jackie Trad (in pink) above

Well fancy that. After months of dithering on Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin and refusing to intervene in an approval process that saw the company frustrated at every turn, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has suddenly found her voice again. And here we were thinking Annastacia had a case of aphasia.

Saying she was “fed up” with the delays, Palaszczuk announced deadlines of May 31 and June 13 for the mine’s bird protection and groundwater management plans respectively. You might say when it comes to the demands of anti-Adani activists, Palaszczuk is desperately trying to give the appearance of not giving a flying finch.

“Well I think everyone’s had a gutful, so that’s why we have moved — why I have moved quickly — to resolve this issue,” she stated.

Notice the nuance? Actually, it was more an extended middle finger to Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad, the leader of the dominant left faction which controls Cabinet and has constantly hindered Adani. At a press conference last weekend at the Gold Coast’s Sea World, the pair attempted to portray party unity.

With an election just over a year away, it is not just the government’s future at stake. In 2017, Trad’s formerly safe Labor inner-city seat of South Brisbane suffered an 11.7 per cent swing to the Greens. She holds the seat by only a 3.6 per cent margin thanks to the Liberal National Party’s preferencing Labor over the Greens in 2017 — a decision the LNP has announced it will not be repeating at the next election. Worst still for Trad, the national election showed this Greens incursion has increased, with some federal booths within her seat registering a swing as high as 15 per cent.

In what can only be described as a case of chronic denialism, both Palaszczuk and Trad have denied the delays in the Carmichael mine approval process had anything to do with Labor’s federal election rout in Queensland, “I think the Carmichael mine … was part of that message, but it wasn’t the entire message,” Trad told ABC radio last week.

To reiterate: Adani had planned to begin construction of the mine prior to Christmas last year, but this was delayed when the government ordered an independent review into the company’s environmental management plans for the black-throated finch. “We are now seeing more processes and actions coming in at the eleventh hour when we have been working on this for the best part of 18 months,” said an exasperated Adani mining chief executive, Lucas Dow, in December.

As if intentionally exacerbating this situation, the government rejected Adani’s management plan at the beginning of this month, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science claiming it “did not meet requirements”. This is the same department that last July appointed anti-Adani activist Dr Tim Seelig as an adviser, along with Greens candidates Kirsten Lovejoy and Gary Kane.

But all this has nothing to do with federal Labor’s primary vote in Queensland dropping to 27.3 per cent, right? Wrong. Palaszczuk and Trad have dug a hole for themselves so big it would have inspired Jules Verne, had he still been alive, to write a sequel to Journey to the Centre of the Earth. This bureaucratic and political farce is about protecting an endangered species alright, but it is the squawking Member for South Brisbane the government is concerned about, not the black-throated finch.

The party charade of trying to appease anti-Adani voters in the inner-city while attempting to convince those in the regions it is pro-mining intensified on the eve of the 2017 election. At that time, polling revealed that the Greens led Labor 51 per cent to 49 per cent on a two-party preferred basis in Trad’s seat.

Around the same time, Palaszczuk, to the disbelief of many, announced she had exercised a “veto” not to support an application by Adani for a $1 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loan. The ostensible basis for this was that she wanted to remove any perception of a conflict of interest, as her then partner, Shaun Drabsch, worked on the application to the NAIF with his employer, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which acted for Adani.

In attempting to defend her arbitrary decision, Palaszczuk cited that she had relied on advice from the Queensland Integrity Commissioner, Dr Nikola Stepanov. But as Jamie Walker of The Australian revealed, the commissioner’s advice was merely that Palaszczuk should exclude herself from Cabinet deliberations concerning the NAIF loan. In fact, ministers had, during a crisis Cabinet meeting five months before the Premier’s announcement, resolved not to support the NAIF loan bid.

Undoubtedly, Palaszczuk had succumbed to pressure from Trad, who later had the chutzpah to criticise the federal government’s NAIF program, saying it “has not yet seen a single dollar go to a Queensland project”. Earlier that year Trad had intervened to scotch Palaszczuk and then Treasurer Curtis Pitt’s agreement with Adani which would have seen royalties limited to $2m annually for the first seven years of the mine’s operation.

“I have never been anti-coal,” Trad told the Australian Financial Review in 2015. “I actually think it’s ridiculous to think we don’t use our natural resources — it’s one of our strengths”. Yet in February this year she told parliament “markets are moving away from thermal coal, communities are moving away from thermal coal, nation states are moving away from thermal coal”.

Translation: inner-city seats are moving away from Labor to the Greens.

“What we need to do as a coal exporter is understand that, and equip our communities with the best possible chance of re-skilling, and that’s why we’re focused on other materials,” she said. Contrast this West End insouciance with the urgency of a group of Labor regional MPs that, as The Courier-Mail reported this week, is threatening to form a sub-caucus.

One wonders how long, were it not for the federal election forcing its hand, the Queensland government was prepared to prolong this debacle. Put simply, it cannot have had a viable exit strategy, for Adani has committed far too much to abandon the project. In the event the government refuses approval, it has, through its intransigence and decisions based on ulterior motives, left itself open to a compensation claim amounting to hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions.

It would be a legal battle that would take years to finalise. Of course, that will affect neither Palaszczuk nor Trad. By then they will be enjoying retirement and a generous taxpayer-funded pension.

Palaszczuk appears destined for Opposition unless she can clear the way for Adani quickly. Of course that would mean Trad would lose her seat, but the Deputy Premier need not despair. After all, there is always re-skilling.



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1 comment:

Bird of Paradise said...

Eco-Freakos create more problems then ever