Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Left’s Opposition to Mining Threatens Its Green Dream

Environmental activists who oppose mining minerals in the United States are threatening the same green agenda they claim to embrace. Among those leading the attack is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, who proposes banning mining on public lands.

Though environmentalists may not realize it, increased domestic production of “critical” minerals would benefit the environment. But existing restrictions on recovering these elements are forcing U.S. firms to purchase these resources overseas.

This can be problematic if our trading partners are unstable, unreliable or unfriendly, as was the case before the fracking revolution when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) dominated the global market for crude oil. Now the United States is a net exporter of oil and natural gas. But we continue to be dependent on imported minerals, not because domestic supplies don’t exist, but because restrictive regulatory policies prevent their recovery.

As a result, the United States today imports 100 percent of the minerals considered critical by the Interior and Defense Departments. We also obtain at least half of many other minerals, ranging from copper, zinc and chromium to lithium, from overseas suppliers; these are the very same minerals needed to produce batteries for electric vehicles, large-scale power storage units and other clean energy technologies.

At the top of the pyramid are the so-called rare earths, a group of 14 elements with names like promethium, neodymium and yttrium, which are found in computer hard drives, electric vehicle batteries, cancer drugs, solar panels, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries, magnets and smartphones. China dominates global rare earth production; it supplies 80 percent of the rare earth elements imported into the United States.

In fact, China is the primary supplier of more than half of the strategically important minerals on which scores of modern products and processes depend. Among the minerals at greatest risk is cobalt, which is used in the production of electric vehicle batteries. Much of the world’s cobalt supply comes from Chinese-owned mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

America’s dependence on imported minerals has doubled in the past 10 years and it’s expected to rise over the next two decades, along with global demands. The World Bank warns that by 2050 the demand for lithium will grow by 965 percent, graphite by 383 percent and nickel by 108 percent. as the production of electric vehicles and other green technologies increases.

As part of its ongoing trade dispute with the United States, China threatened to restrict shipments of rare earths last summer. The newly signed phase one trade deal isn’t going to change that.

The best way to protect our economy and environment from sudden rises in the prices of critical minerals, caused by geopolitical tensions, trade wars or any other OPEC-like supply shock, is by reopening domestic mines and taking advantage of the estimated $6.2 trillion in U.S. mineral resources.

But U.S. mining faces an uncertain future.

Most of the domestic reserves of critical minerals are located in the Mountain West: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. But new mining operations are either restricted or banned on more than half of all federal lands—and Ms. Warren and others want to shut the door completely.

A deal negotiated between the United States and Australia will help offset the risk of China’s weaponization of rare earths, but the surest way to avoid future supply shocks is by utilizing our own mineral deposits.

The difficulty of winning support in Congress for mining reforms cannot be underestimated, but neither can the positive consequences. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican and head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is pushing for changes in the mine-permitting process that would enable domestic companies to open new mines in half the time it now takes.

The mining of critical minerals is not without environmental risks, but if environmentalists want to continue to promote green energy solutions, they must recognize that domestic mineral resources, whether found on private or federal lands, are essential to their green dream.


Trump Administration deep-sixes Obama WOTUS rule

Putting an end to decades of uncertainty over how much regulatory power the federal government has over bodies of water – from ponds to oceans — the Trump administration has overturned and replaced an Obama-era rule that would have imposed federal zoning on millions of acres of private land throughout the country.

Unveiled Jan. 23, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule is the Trump’s administration’s response to the 2015 Obama “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. Presented as an effort to “clarify” Washington’s regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, the Obama rule would have forced landowners to seek permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and/or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to undertake any activity on their property that might affect a nearby body of water, be it a drainage ditch, stock pond, or puddle.

Under the Trump rule, federal jurisdiction over “navigable waters of the United States,” as provided in the Clean Water Act, stays in place. But the Obama-era attempt to extend that jurisdiction to other bodies of water not specifically identified in the 1973 Clean Water Act has been blocked.

Obama’s WOTUS rule was the biggest power grab in EPA’s nearly 50-year history. Now it is gone.

Farmers No Longer Forced to Go to Lawyers and Consultants

“Today, thanks to our new rule, farmers, ranchers, developers, manufacturers, and other landowners can finally focus on providing the food, shelter, and other commodities that Americans rely on every day, instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys and consultants to determine whether waters on their land fall under the control of the federal government,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Wheeler’s point about “attorneys and consultants” is well taken. So confusing is the language of the Clean Water Act that landowners were constantly under threat of being hauled into court either by the feds or by environmentalists for the slightest violation of a statute loaded with imprecise and undefined terms. By design, the Obama WOTUS made things even more confusing, and strengthened EPA’s hand in the process.

Delivering on candidate Trump’s 2016 campaign promise, the administration has brought clarity to the statute and relief to landowners. In Step One, announced in September, the White House repealed the Obama WOTUS rule in total. Federal courts had already struck down large sections of the rule, and now the whole monstrosity has been scrapped. Now, in Step Two, the administration is actually defining key waters-related terms of the law whose lack of definition have bedeviled farmers, ranchers, and others rural landowners for decades.

Providing Definitions

The new rule, which will go into effect on March 24, defines four types of hydrological features that will fall under federal regulatory jurisdiction – territorial seas and navigable waters, tributaries, lakes and ponds, and adjacent wetlands – and lists 12 types of waters that are excluded from the rule, including groundwater, ephemeral pools, and stormwater runoff. Prior converted cropland has been exempted from federal regulation. Yet because there has been no definition of prior converted cropland, farmers often found themselves subject to regulation and litigation anyway. With its new rule, the Trump administration had provided a clear definition of prior converted cropland. Similar definitions have been provided for such terms as “ephemeral,” “Intermittent,” and “adjacent and non-adjacent wetlands.”

The administration’s move was welcomed by such organizations as the American Farm Bureau, National Homebuilders Association, and National Association of Manufacturers, as well as by hundreds of elected officials, ranging from county commissioners to governors and members of Congress.

Deprived of a tool to harasses farmers, ranchers, and other rural landowners, environmental groups blasted the administration.

“With the Dirty Water Rule, the administration has put the interests of polluters over those of the public and our drinking water,” fumed John Rumpler, program director of Environment America (Washington Times, Jan. 24).

The new rule has nothing to do with drinking water, which is regulated under an entirely different statute, the Safe Drinking Water Act.


California files lawsuit to remain a national security risk

California has chosen to be the only state in America that imports most of its oil needs from foreign countries and relies on the U.S. Navy. This to pay a steep price keeping an aircraft carrier with escorts on station to deter attacks on oil tanker traffic operating in and around the Persian Gulf.

The state of California is suing President Donald Trump’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in an attempt to block the opening of more than 1 million acres of public land to oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Conservation groups sued BLM over a California fracking plan that would allow drilling and fracking on public lands across eight counties in California’s Central Valley and Central Coast: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura.

Regarding the crude oil demands for the state, there are scary similarities between Governor Newsom’s goals for California and Vladimir Putin’s objectives. Both support California being more and more dependent on imported foreign oil and both support anti-fracking in California. Obviously, any successful fracking enterprise would lessen the states’ dependency on that foreign oil. Does the Governor know his actions are supportive of California’s 5th largest economy in the world being a National Security risk to America?

California and Hawaii are the only two states who cannot participate in the sharing of excess oil the U.S. is producing and being enjoyed by the other 48 states. Hawaii is a true island, but California is an energy island, as the Sierra Mountains are a natural barrier that prevents the state from pipeline access to any of that excess oil. Hawaii is a different story altogether so let’s focus on California.

The Golden State’s position on crude oil production fits right in with Putin’s goal to control energy. Russia is adamantly against U.S. fracking efforts and very supportive of any environmentalist group or wealthy individual efforts to slow or stop crude oil and natural gas exploration and production within the U.S. and European borders. Recently a Russian funded environmental group gave millions to anti-fracking groups to stop, curtail or severely weaken US fracking of crude oil and natural gas in states like Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.

California’s love of foreign crude oil is obvious. According to the Energy Information Administration, except for California which remains as the only state that imports most of its crude oil from foreign countries, the nation reduced imports and is now a net exporter of crude oil. In 1992 CA and AK accounted for 95% of the state’s demand for crude oil, today CA and AK account for a lowly 43% with the balance of 57% from foreign countries. California increased imports from foreign countries from 5 percent to 57 percent of total consumption. The imported crude oil cost California more than $60 million dollars a day being paid to oil-rich foreign countries, depriving Californians of jobs and business opportunities.

In addition to the anti-fracking position of the state, they are seriously considering Assembly Bill AB-345 (Muratsuchi), “Oil and gas: operations: location restrictions,” which would require, commencing January 1, 2020, all new oil and gas development outside federal land, to be located at least 2,500 feet (nearly half a mile) from any residence, school, childcare facility, playground, hospital, or health clinic. The bill would define re-drilling of a previously plugged and abandoned well, or other rework operations, as a new development.

There are more than 8,000 active or newly permitted oil and gas wells located within a 2,500’ buffer of sensitive sites, that represents about 30% of the 30,000 active wells in California.  These setbacks would further reduce California crude oil production to the point that the foreign imports needed to make up for the in-state reduction would drive up the monthly cost to more than $80 million dollars a day being sent to oil rich foreign countries, at current crude oil pricing.

In pursuit of going green at any cost, like Germany, California continues to decease its in-state crude oil production and its in-state electricity generation. The states’ dependency of foreign countries for crude oil and dependency on other states for electricity is accelerating.

Obviously, our California leaders have limited knowledge that electricity cannot exist without fossil fuels as all the parts for wind and solar renewables are made with fossil fuels. Noticeable by their absence from turbines and solar panels, are those crude oil chemicals and by-products that account for everything in our society and supports the militaries, aviation, merchant ships, and all the transportation infrastructures needed by commerce around the world.


Any climate policy change is going to be slow burn

Comment from Australia

Climate politics is global. This is the ultimate message from the worldwide reaction to Australia’s bushfire tragedy. The backdrop to the demands that Australia do more on climate change is that the world is not doing enough and that the Paris Agreement is in serious trouble and may fail.

The global story is stark: the scientists intensify their alarm but governments are not responding. The gulf between the scientific consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the pledges made by the ­governments of the major emitters grows only larger and soon will verge on gargantuan.

The US, following President Donald Trump’s decision, withdraws from the Paris Agreement on November 4, at the time of the presidential election. If Trump is re-elected it means no American return and that will cast an ominous shadow over the agreement’s structure and credibility. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says “we are still losing the climate race” but then feels obliged to sound an optimistic note: “But we can choose another path.”

The idea that nations will choose another path seems remote. Below the surface you sense the desperation from the architects and champions of a global model that isn’t working and was always a third-best solution. It is now more than 20 years since the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated with its binding targets only on rich, industrialised nations. It is ­almost 10 years since the failure of the Copenhagen conference to ­secure a legally binding global agreement, and almost five since the patch-up job in Paris — a weak fallback — asking nations to submit voluntary targets as nationally determined contributions.

Last year’s UN Emissions Gap Report, along with other UN documents, finds a “bleak” picture. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising. There is “no sign” they will peak in the next few years. By 2030 emissions will need to be 25 per cent and 55 per cent lower than in 2018 to limit warming to below 2C and 1.5C, the Paris requirements. The gulf between country pledges and what is needed remains “large” and growing, with countries needing to increase their pledges “threefold” to achieve the temperature goals.

The UN analysis says: “Essentially there has been no real change in the global emissions pathway in the last decade. The ­effects of climate policies have been too small to offset the impact of key drivers of emissions such as economic growth and population growth.” Understand what this means: the already “baked in” ­absence of progress means the steeper scale of adjustment needed in coming years will be so great it “risks seriously damaging the global economy” — decoded that warns about a global recession.

Paris is not a legally binding agreement; it has no compliance mechanism and no penalties for noncompliance. How does such a system work? By political pressure, public, media, peer group pressure and moral suasion. Invoke the Pope or Prince Charles or Greta Thunberg or the better ­angels of our nature. Pivotal to the political pressure is the fear of extinction or Armageddon. Guterres has bet his UN leadership on climate change ­action. Operating as a global politician, he told the General Assem­bly that unless big emitters act “we are doomed”. Big emitters will determine the fate of the Paris Agreement and our trajectory points to failure.

In this situation, the Australian bushfires become a test case, at home and globally. Guterres slotted the fires into “an existential climate crisis” where “our planet is burning” while governments “fiddle” as the globe “is edging closer to the point of no return”.

The raging bushfires, deaths, property destruction and terrifying pictures naturally prompted demands for action. Climate change constitutes a moral challenge for Australia and all nations to take stronger action. But media demands that Australia must now become a world leader on climate action or that more ambition on Australia’s part is a solution in its own right to our bushfire challenge are unrealistic, irrational and misleading.

The contradiction at the heart of the Paris deal now reverberates through the politics of the democracies. National pledges under Paris are utterly insufficient, as judged by the science. Every analysis shows this. In country after country the climate change champions demand greater action but national governments — essentially the big emitters — refuse to act with the urgency the scientists and the UN demand with doomsday scenarios.

The political battle is waged at the national and global level in constant interaction with each other. Guterres, like the ­activists, says the people are demanding “much stronger ambition”. Are they? Maybe, but global results don’t show it. At home Anthony Albanese backs coal exports and says Labor’s 45 per cent emissions target was a mistake.

For progressives, the bushfires are decisive. They show the climate is changing; that the threat is here, not just in the future. With quasi-religious belief they depict the fires as a “game changer” — the event that shifts public opinion towards greater action. These are declarations of faith. Do they pronounce too much? In reality, it will take many months to determine whether the fires are a game changer. The politics of climate change in Australia has fluctuated wildly over 15 years and fluctuations are likely to recur.

The human brain isn’t good at responding to a predicted catastrophe some time in the future. The domestic test is whether the bushfires have repudiated the May 2019 election settlement and made Scott Morrison’s modest 26 per cent emission reduction stance untenable with the public. The international test is whether Australia, having experienced fires of such notoriety, remains unmoved in its Paris Agreement pledges or concedes the growing threat by declaring more ambitious targets.

There is one certainty. Morrison will take his time on this judgment. He does not subscribe — at least so far — to the “game changer” conclusion of the commentators who demand he change his policy. His caution is understandable. What would be the political consequences for Morrison if, acting on the fires, he now announced a more ambitious emission reduction target?

First, he would never satisfy his opponents, who would pocket the concession, demand more and renew their attacks on his government. Second, he would inflame and alienate many of his own ­supporters, who would attack him for cracking under pressure, surrendering to his opponents, betraying his election mandate and dividing, perhaps fatally, his own side of politics.

In short, it would be meagre gain for truckloads of pain — that’s the political equation. At this stage it doesn’t make sense. Morrison’s aim is to hold his government and his voting base together. That may mean policy change at some point. But that will come only down the track after intense internal management and will surely involve targets beyond 2030.

In the interim, Morrison will make clear he accepts the reality of climate change, that he wants Australia to exceed the 26 per cent 2030 emission reduction target, that he prefers this be achieved without carry-over of credits and that he wants a new national framework for combating fires with greater emphasis on adaptation and resilience building.

Every sign is that Morrison will stick by his stance saying he wants power prices cut and won’t take further action on climate change if it hurts the economy and means higher power prices. But that is ­exactly what it means. The UN is talking about “transforming” policy change. That’s what the science requires. Wealthy Liberal electorates might accept this in principle but there is scant evidence most of the country will.

There is no escape from the fact that on climate Australia is a 1.3 per cent nation. This is our contribution to global emissions. It is wrong to say we don’t matter and don’t have obligations. But it is equally wrong to pretend that ­action by Australia makes any meaningful difference to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet nothing seems to agitate climate activists as much as this truth.

It doesn’t negate the case for Australia doing more — in moral, diplomatic and self-interested terms. It is vital to avoid any trade or financial retaliation that singles us out from other rich commodity-based exporters (think Canada and New Zealand) by trying to claim we were doing less and should be penalised.

The climate change lobby demands, after the bushfires, a transformational policy change. That won’t happen because neither the policy nor political argument for such transformation exists. That may change. For the present, climate change policy will reflect a series of Morrison-judged compromises amid shifting reassessments involving the economy, energy, emissions reduction and prices, the bushfire legacy and how public opinion evolves, particularly within the Coalition vote.


Greyhound cuts ties with Adani coal mine after backlash from climate Nazis

The bus company Greyhound Australia has ruled out any extension of work on the controversial Adani coal project after a backlash from climate change campaigners.

On Sunday the SchoolStrike4Climate group launched a campaign to boycott travel with the company until it publicly ruled out working on the mine.

Guardian Australia revealed last week that Greyhound had written to staff warning they could be caught “in the crossfire” of anti-Adani campaigners after the company took a three-month contract at the coal project, with an option to extend.

The Indian-owned Adani mine and railway project is the first to begin work to extract the vast coal reserves of Queensland’s Galilee basin.

Greyhound is providing transport to workers for the construction company BMD, which is building the railway to take the coal to Adani’s Abbot Point port.

In a statement, Greyhound Australia said it had “received numerous messages, emails and phone calls from people expressing their thoughts both for and against the Carmichael Rail Network and Adani Carmichael project”.

It said: “Following considered deliberation, and in the best interests of our staff, customers, and partners, Greyhound Australia has decided to not enter into a contractual agreement with BMD to service construction of the Carmichael Rail Network beyond our preliminary 31 March 2020 commitment.”

The company declined to comment further.



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