Friday, February 28, 2020

Bikes are bad for economic growth

The article below is yet another instance of the wrong conclusions that non-economists routinely come to when they talk about economics.  Politicians routinely propose destructive policies (such as rent control and prohibitions on foreign ownership of land) that seem obviously right to them but are in fact counter-productive.

It's hubris.  What seems obvious can still be wrong and economically destructive.  What the galoot below has obviously never heard of is Jevons paradox.  Jevons formulated it in 1865 so there is no excuse for being unaware of it if you want to pontificate on economic questions.

The basic point of the paradox is that reductions in consumption of a particular thing will lead not to an overall reduction in consumption but to a switch to consumption of other things.  If somebody saves money on something, he might just put that money in the bank but he is much more likely to spend it on something else that he had always wanted.

So if we all saved money by switching from cars to bicycles we would spend the saved money on something else -- better accommodation, for instance.

The idea of a demand deficit was a product of the shallow thinking of John Maynard Keynes but he was another theoretician who knew little about the details of how the world works.  His ideas were politically convenient but usually resulted in inflation whenever resorted to

Simon Kuper

Like many other Europeans, I’ve begun commuting by bike in the past few months, too recently even to show up in official stats.

I bought an excellent new bike, two locks and a helmet for about €300 total. That’s about 1 per cent of the average price of a new car in Europe, and I’ll never need petrol.

Bicycle repairs rarely cost much, and if my bike isn’t stolen, nobody will earn another cent out of my urban transport for another decade or so. That’s wonderful — but the difficulty of making money out of cycling could hamper its growth.

Bikes are green, clean, healthy and take up less space than cars, but without a big industry behind them, they may be too cheap to thrive.

And if cycling does manage to grow, it will (certainly initially) decimate jobs and reduce gross domestic product. In short, the story of the bicycle is the myth of “green growth” in one device.

Europe’s dense cities were built for horses, so they proved perfectly adapted for bikes. In 1949, cycling accounted for more than 14bn vehicle miles travelled in the UK. But in the next 25 years, as driving spread, that figure shrank by about four-fifths.

Now, though, the automobile era is waning in Europe, and not only in cities. New ebikes — which can go up to 25kph — will make cycling practical for most suburbanites too.

Kevin Mayne of Cycling Industries Europe says: “Historically, we talked about cycling as a 5km solution. Now we’re talking about it as a 15km solution. That is transformational.”

For all the hype around electric cars, so far the more significant innovation is the ebike. About 3.3 million pedal-assisted ebikes were sold in the EU last year, or nearly six times the number of plug-in electric car sales, estimates the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (Conebi). And ebikes managed this without company-car subsidies and other tax breaks that prop up carmakers.

In many European cities, bikes are now popping up everywhere the way cars did a century ago, albeit from a similarly tiny base. Walk (or cycle) around London, Paris or Barcelona and you’ll see bike lanes in places where you’d never imagined them before.

Next month, there’ll be more. Lisbon just announced it is banning most cars from the city centre. In Seville, cycling has increased elevenfold in recent years, says Manuel Marsilio of Conebi. Biking keeps getting safer: Oslo (which aims to be carbon neutral by 2030) and Helsinki each recorded zero cyclist deaths last year.

Europe’s mighty car lobby isn’t trying to undermine urban cycling, say Mayne and Marsilio. It is too busy fighting bigger battles, notably surrounding the European Commission’s demand for more electric vehicles. The fiercest opponents of bikes in cities are motorists and small-business owners battling for their parking spaces.

But the car lobby will always outpunch the bike lobby, mostly because cars cost more. Germany’s cycling industry in 2018 had revenues of a bit more than €6bn; the country’s car industry was 70 times bigger. (The figures for both sectors include makers of components.) Even a decent ebike costs only about €1,500, just 5 per cent of the price of a car.

“The problem with a bike is that it’s just too good,” says Ross Douglas, founder of the Parisian urban mobility summit Autonomy. “The technology does not change much, and they last for ever. The car was amazing at creating jobs, as you use about two tonnes of mass and a motor of up to 350hp to move an 80kg occupant.”

Ominously for cycling and other green modes of transport, activities that can be monetised tend to get encouraged. There’s a cigarette industry and a gambling industry, but there isn’t a walking industry.

There’s also scarcely an escooter industry. Partly as a consequence, cities aren’t now building scooter lanes, leaving scooters to annoy pedestrians on pavements.

Carmakers employ millions of mostly blue-collar men, so governments care about them. In the UK, the fate of Nissan’s plant in Sunderland has become a central plot line of Brexit.

Conversely, the absence of serious Dutch and Danish car industries freed Amsterdam and Copenhagen to adopt mass cycling early, says Douglas.

The other danger of the rise of cycling: it may exacerbate the urban-rural divide that is already the bane of our politics.

While bikes proliferate in cities and inner suburbs, they’re fading from the countryside, even in Denmark, notes Mayne, as older people move to villages and bring their cars with them.

In other words, the town mouse and the country mouse are each acquiring their own mode of transport. That could leave carmakers with a rural, ageing and generally poorer customer base.

In the short term at least, we probably won’t see “green growth”. Instead, if we shift from cars to bikes, and buy less stuff, and carry around reusable shopping bags, going green will mean less growth.


"Water towers" are crucial to 1.9 billion people but are at risk

Groan! Another instance of the Green/Left ignoring basic physics.  Global warming would deliver MORE rain and snow so the danger would be floods, not water shortage

Global warming is putting supplies of fresh water to almost a quarter of the world’s population in grave danger.

Around 1.9 billion people on four continents depend on fresh water that originates in the planet’s “water towers” - the mountains where snow and ice melt after winter becomes a steady supply of water to communities downstream.

High mountains contain about half of all the fresh water humans use.

These water towers - in the Himalayas, the Alps, the Rockies and the Andes - act like giant storage tanks with valves.

It works like this: Snow falls, filling the tank, then that ice and snow melts out slowly over days, weeks, months, or years, running into streams then rivers that supply water to millions - for day to day use, irrigation, power generation, and storage for times of drought.

Now, research published in Nature identifies the most important and vulnerable water towers in the world, and ranks their vulnerability to disruption, chiefly from global warming and political upheaval.

The scientists identified 78 water towers, with the Indus basin - fed by the Himalayan, Karakoram, Hindu-Kush, and Ladakh mountain ranges - identified as the most important storage unit on the planet, and its most vulnerable.

The number of people directly dependent on the water it supplies is set to substantially increase from approximately 235 million by 2050. At the same time, regional temperatures are projected to rise by 1.9 degrees, dramatically increasing instability in weather patterns and increasing the risk of drought.

High mountains are warming faster than the world’s average, with temperatures in the high Himalaya having increased 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels, similar to increases seen in the Arctic and Antarctic Peninsula.

Last year was the second warmest in recorded history. Fears are things will become even hotter.

And that spells danger for fragile ecosystems, and usually-reliable water supplies.

Disrupted rainfall in water tower areas, coupled with increased glacier melt, creates myriad risks.

The researchers noted that worldwide, the vast majority of glaciers are losing mass, snow melt dynamics are being altered, and rainfall and snow patterns are shifting, all leading to future changes in the timing and magnitude of mountain water availability.

But it’s not only water supply changes that are a hazard. Climate change also increases the risk of natural disasters such as avalanches and floods.

But the changes in climate and water supply could have a knock-on effect on geopolitical issues in many vulnerable water tower regions.

Increasing demand for diminishing water supplies is just one.

“If, basically, the demand is higher but the supply decreases, then we really have a problem,” said research team-member Dr Tobias Bolch from the University of St Andrews, UK.

“And this is, I think, one of the major strengths of our study - that we have looked closely at both sides, so the supply index and the demand index.” he told the BBC.

In many of the water tower regions, different governments - sometimes hostile to each other - control different parts of the catchment and downstream areas.

The researchers cited the Indus basin as the most important, and most vulnerable, water tower area.

Four nations - Pakistan, India, China and Afghanistan - share the area. The population of approximately 235 million people is projected to increase by 50 per cent by 2050. Annual GDP is projected to increase. The area is getting warmer. Rainfall less certain.

With a growing population, demand for water will increase dramatically.

The researchers then give a stark warning: “Combined with increased climate change pressure on the Indus headwaters, an already high baseline water stress and limited government effectiveness, it is uncertain whether the basin can fulfil its water tower role within its environmental boundaries. It is unlikely that the Indus WTU can sustain this pressure.”


Lights Go Out at Massively Taxpayer-Subsidized Solar Power Tower

Solar thermal sounds a great idea and many plants have been built over the years.  They have all had big problems, however.  Basically, working with very high temperatures is difficult.  Amusingly, some of them CONSUME fossil fuels rather than replacing them

Tonopah, Nevada, is home to one of the most ambitious alternative energy projects ever subsidized by the U.S. government. Due to its unique clean-energy technology, the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project was designed to produce up to 1 megawatt of electricity generate power even when the sun isn’t shining.

The solar plant had 10,347 mirrored panels, called heliostats, each about 1,245 square feet in size (or about 35 feet square), spread over a two-mile-wide circular area in the Nevada desert. Each panel was aimed at the top of a 640-feet tall tower, where reflected light and heat from the sun would be concentrated to generate temperatures high enough to melt 70 million pounds of salt. The molten salt would then then be circulated in the tower to produce steam, which was supposed to generate up to 110 megawatts of electricity at full capacity, enough to furnish power to 75,000 homes during peak periods.

Unfortunately, the plant never came anywhere close to that level of power output during its years of operation, from November 2015 to April 2019, before it was shut down following the catastrophic failure of its molten salt containment technology. It was expected to generate an average of more than 40,000 megawatt-hours of energy each month, but never achieved that level of power output during its operating life.

Worse, because the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project benefited from $737 million in loan guarantees provided by the Department of Energy, it represents one of the largest failures of a government energy program, surpassing even the Solyndra fiasco. The project’s powerful political backers, it’s worth noting, managed to secure approval for the power plant just one week before the Obama administration’s green energy federal loan program expired in September 2011.

The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project was also an environmental menace. During its operation, the mirrors generated enough heat to cause birds attracted to the glow of the power generating tower to burst into flames while in flight.

While it operated, the plant was phenomenally expensive. According to the non-profit Institute for Energy Research, the cost to generate power at the facility exceeded $132 per megawatt-hour, nearly four times the cost of electricity from an average fossil fuel power plant.

No wonder then that NV Energy, the primary utility customer for power generated by the plant, threw in the towel in October 2019 and terminated its contract with the project because it had “failed to produce the requisite energy levels required.”

Bloomberg Businessweek describes the current state of the project, which is now mired in litigation:

Almost no one associated with Crescent Dunes will talk about it anymore. That includes the once-friendly politicians and regulators, the financiers, and the executives who’ve been in place during its failure. (SolarReserve didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment for this story, and a lawyer representing the company said he wasn’t authorized to comment.)

One exception is Bill Gould, a SolarReserve co-founder who retired as its chief technology officer last year. He blames the contractor. “It was a tragedy of mismanagement,” he says. Spanish company ACS Cobra, he says, delayed necessary work on Crescent Dunes and designed a salt tank that leaked, crippling the plant. SolarReserve similarly blamed ACS Cobra in its Delaware suit but doesn’t appear to have filed any legal claims against the contractor. Grupo Cobra, ACS Cobra’s parent company, didn’t respond to requests for comment....

A buyer might try to bring Crescent Dunes back on line, or its owner could sell it for parts. For now, the plant is mostly a punchline in a part of Nevada that’s seen its share of booms and busts. The nearest town, Tonopah, was the site of a silver rush in the early 1900s. It’s now home to 2,400 people, a motley collection of saloons and casinos, a mining museum, and the Clown Motel, which calls itself “America’s scariest motel” because it’s close to a cemetery and filled with creepy red-nosed tchotchkes.

The solar plant’s workers don’t boost business like they used to, says Linda Taylor, the motel’s manager. “It took our money,” she says of the giant mirror matrix up the road. “It’s dead. But real pretty, though. You can see it for miles.”

For their $737 million contribution, shouldn’t U.S. taxpayers have something more than a useless public art display in the middle of the Nevada desert?


Oregon Republicans blocking cap and trade bill

A day after the Senate Republicans denied quorum over Oregon's cap-and-trade bill and vacated Salem on Tuesday. House Republicans followed suit. In addition, Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. (R-Grants Pass) held a conference call to update reporters.

House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) made this statement in announcing that House Republicans would also deny quorum, halting business completely in Salem:

From the first day of this short session it has been clear that Governor Brown and the majority party have not had an interest in respecting the legislative process and have repeatedly refused to compromise. Each and every amendment we offered on Cap and Trade in committee has been rejected. I had remained optimistic up until yesterday that a compromise could be reached. Unfortunately, our attempts to achieve a bipartisan consensus that would take into account the views of all Oregonians were denied. Oregon House Republicans are taking a stand, with working families, in opposing Cap and Trade and this rigged process. We will continue to keep all lines of communication open.I call on Governor Brown and the majority party to refer Cap and Trade to the people.

Later the same day, Baertschiger held a fiery press conference in which he expressed anger at the governor and legislative leadership for what he described as the Democrats playing politics with the lives of flood victims in Eastern Oregon. Legislation is pending to provide state relief after a major flood in Pendleton and Umatilla earlier this year.

I sent President Courtney a letter early on in the session to get all that work done. They decided to play politics. They knew that this cap and trade would come to a head, but yet they did not bring all this legislation forward earlier so that we could get it all passed before we had a meltdown. This is all planned by them. And what really saddens me is the Governor using flood victims for leverage for cap and trade. She right now has discretionary funds that she could fund those people that lost their houses. Yet the Governor of Oregon is playing politics with people that don't have a place to sleep tonight. I think that is disgusting, and that is not being a governor.
Baertschiger also pointed out that Senate President Peter Courtney was forced to manipulate rules just to get the bill out of the Ways and Means Committee, saying,

We secured enough no votes in the Ways and Means committee to kill it there. We thought it would die there. I think it doesn't meet the intent of the senate rules. It's a way of rigging the vote. I think Oregonians are seeing that.
In the press conference, Baertschiger reported that all but one Republican senator has left the state, but they are prepared to return to the capitol to finish the legislative session if Democratic leadership allows the cap-and-trade bill to be referred to a vote of the people on the November ballot. So far, Governor Kate Brown (D-Portland) and Democratic leadership have signaled no desire to allow that to happen.

Of course, Kate Brown led a similar walkout in 2001 over a disagreement about redistricting when she served in the House of Representatives:

Senate Democratic Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland, called the House Democrats’ actions “very appropriate under the circumstances.”

“Under certain circumstances, it’s fair to say we would use all tools available to us, and stage a similar boycott,” she said.

A day into the denial of quorum walkout, tensions have risen, and there appears no end in sight.


Zero net emissions: Look no further than New Zealand for economic impacts

In some respects, the Labor Party is as Australian as the Magic Pudding, both revel in fantasy. According to past Labor leaders, high public spending won’t raise taxes and, in any case, high taxes won’t damage economic growth. Now we have Labor’s greatest magic pudding yet, we can cut our carbon emissions to zero and no coal miner will lose their job.

The Labor Party refuses to produce numbers to explain this remarkable outcome, but fortunately others have. Last year, New Zealand passed into law a net zero emissions target and in doing so they commissioned actual economic modelling on its impact.

The analysis, by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, evaluates a number of different assumed scenarios. All of these incorporate optimistic assumptions on future technologies, including for example a methane vaccine (which stops sheep from “emitting”). And, in another leap of faith, 50 per cent of trucks go electric by 2050.

Even with these assumptions, the negative impact of net zero emissions on the New Zealand economy is massive. The policy would reduce the size of the New Zealand economy by 10 to 20 per cent. In Australian terms that would amount to a $200 billion to $400 billion annual impact. Employment would fall by 2 to 4 per cent. If that happened in Australia 200,000 to 400,000 people would lose their jobs.

New Zealand’s main industry of agriculture would be smashed. Its dairy industry would reduce by more than half and that leads to a much poorer nation. Depending on technological assumptions, wages reduce by 8 to 28 per cent. In Australian terms, that would mean a $7000 to $24,000 annual hit to an average worker.

Of course, the economic impact on Australia would be bigger given that we have large coal and gas industries, as well as agriculture.

As it turned out, the New Zealand Government ended up exempting agriculture from its net zero emissions target. Agriculture makes up half of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. New Zealand’s “brave” target that was welcomed by environmental activist groups is literally an example of doing things by half.

Here in Australia, however, the Labor party has not ruled out imposing a net zero target on our farmers. A net zero target is a double hit to the agricultural industry. They pay the direct cost of having to pay more for fuel, for feed and for vehicles. They also pay the cost of having productive farmland turned to trees (so we can sequester more carbon) and the loss of future growth opportunities because more land can not be developed.

This is where the “net” part of net zero kicks in. Under “net zero”, rich people can still fly to Davos to lecture others about carbon dioxide emissions. To do so, some pay an “indulgence” to have farming land locked up. Productive farm areas, in effect, would be turned into National Parks to house more weeds and fuel for bushfires.

Net zero emissions means net zero development, net zero jobs but far from net zero hypocrisy.

Labor has been keen to quote the CSIRO’s latest National Outlook report to conclude that net zero emissions is achievable but the CSIRO report does not do what Labor is saying it does. The CSIRO concludes that agricultural production levels “experience a substantial decline once the rising carbon price improves the relative profitability of other land uses such as forestry”. Up to 24 per cent of our agricultural land would be converted plantings on the CSIRO’s analysis.

Nor does the CSIRO measure the net impact of net zero emissions. It measures the economic outcomes of two scenarios, one dominated by a protectionist world with high barriers to trade and the other a world of free trade, global cooperation on climate and magically high productivity. Surprise, surprise, free trade and high productivity lead to higher economic growth. The unique and separate impact of net zero emissions remains unmeasured by the CSIRO’s analysis.

Also, to get to net zero, the CSIRO estimates that a global carbon price of $273 a tonne is required. Once again Labor shows their addiction to a carbon tax.

In The Magic Pudding, the possum and the wombat create a fire to distract Bunyip Bluegum while they steal the pudding. A similar distraction seems to have afflicted the modern Labor Party, where this summer’s fires have distracted them away from their founding mission of defending and protecting workers. Labor once again has not seemed to learn the lesson that you can’t have your cake and eat it too.



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Thursday, February 27, 2020

German teenage climate change skeptic, 19, known as the 'anti-Greta' will speak at Republican CPAC convention this week to promote 'climate realism'

A teenager who has been dubbed the 'anti-Greta' is to speak at a Republican convention is Washington D.C. later this week.

German citizen and climate change skeptic, Naomi Seibt, 19, will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference known as CPAC in the biggest annual Republican convention of its type running from Wednesday until Saturday of this week.

The event will feature Republican lawmakers, officials from the White House and Trump's re-election campaign, members of the conservative media and even a speech from the President himself. 

Seibt has been dubbed as the 'anti-Greta' because of her views on climate change are the polar opposite to those of Swedish environmental campaigner 17-year-old Greta Thunberg.

Seibt's influence is likely to be significantly smaller given that she only has 5,000 Twitter followers compared to Thunberg's 4 million, however being given the seal of approval by CPAC will surely help to bolster her prospects.

A YouTube video created by the Heartland Institute, a think tank which firmly rejects climate change, pitches Seibt against Thunberg.

'I have good news for you. The world is not ending because of climate change,' Seibt says in the video for the lobbying group.

'People are being force-fed a very dystopian agenda of climate alarmism that tells us that we as humans are destroying the planet and that we, the young people especially, have no future.'

In another video entitled 'Naomi Seibt vs. Greta Thunberg: whom should we trust?', footage is seen of both teens as they make their opposing cases.

Greta was named Time magazine's 'Person of the Year' in 2019 after making a speech at the United Nations where she demanded action be taken against climate change by the gathered world's leaders.

'Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money, and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!,' Thunberg bellowed.

Seibt called Thunberg's a proponent of 'climate alarmism.

'I used to be a climate change alarmist myself because, obviously, as a young girl I grew up around the climate change hysteria in the media, in my school books.

'I was an innocent young girl and I thought by hugging the trees I could save the planet, which quite frankly turned out not to be true,' she says in one YouTube video.

Seibt says the current thinking on climate change is an 'insult to science, and the complexity of nature, and freedom of speech' adding 'it is important we keep questioning the narrative that is out there.'

'Climate change alarmism at its very core is a despicably anti-human ideology. We are told to look down on our achievements with guilt, shame, disgust and not even to take into account the many major benefits we have from using fossil fuels as our main energy source.

'Look around. We are living in such an amazing era of fast progress and innovation. We are not allowed to be proud of that at all? Instead debates are being shut down and real scientists lose their jobs.'

Seibt doesn't totally rule out mankind's influence in the planet's climate but believes that it has been overstated.  'Are man-made CO2 emissions having that much impact on the climate? I think that's ridiculous to believe,' she said in the Washington Post.

The Heartland Institute said that Seibt was a 'fantastic voice for free markets and for climate realism.'

'It is important that we keep questioning the narrative that's out there instead of promoting it,' Seibt said. 'These days, climate change science really isn't a science at all.'


USDA announcement on 30 percent biofuel mandate will make U.S. fuel consumption less efficient

Big corn has the ear of a lot of Republicans

Rick Manning today issued the following statement blasting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposal to raise the national biofuel mandate to 30 percent:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement that they are setting a bio-fuels goal of 30 percent of U.S. transportation fuels demonstrates an almost pathological commitment to expanding the least efficient fuel into our nation’s vehicles.

“Increasing ethanol in our fuel will lower vehicle mileage as it burns much less efficiently than non-corn infused gasoline.  What’s more, ethanol is destructive to vehicle engines creating other consumer vehicle costs.  Yet, someone in President Trump’s USDA thinks that creating a threshold that not even the Obama administration was willing to set is a great idea.

“America is awash in oil and natural gas, but the insidious power of major corn producers to influence policy in Congress as well as at the USDA is truly impressive.  If only they would use their power for good.”


Natural Gas Is Crushing Wind and Solar Power

The U.S. Energy Information Administration just announced some spectacular news that should be banner headlines across the country: The price of natural gas has fallen to its lowest February level in 20 years.

The data shows that natural gas prices fell to $1.77 per million British thermal units. In inflation-adjusted terms, the price of gas has plunged by some 80% since its high of $13.60 12 years ago. The price is down 90% since 2005, when prices hit nearly $20. (Quick: Can you think of anything else that now costs one-tenth of what it did 15 years ago?)

The Energy Information Administration also reports that U.S. natural gas production has hit an all-time high this year.

The shale oil and gas revolution keeps rolling on -- but no one is talking about it. This boom in production has affected the economy of every state, from Ohio and Pennsylvania to Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and the Dakotas. By the way, oil prices have also fallen considerably, bringing gas prices at the pump to nearly $2 a gallon in some states. Prices are so low now that the drillers aren't making any money and are starting to shut down wells. They are victims of their own success.

Today's bargain-basement prices are partly due to moderate temperatures on the East Coast this winter, but this has been a long-term trend of cheaper and cheaper energy. America is now the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, and we are exporting more throughout the world than at any previous time in our history. It's hard to believe that a decade ago, we were importing natural gas. Thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling technologies that keep getting more and more efficient, we now have hundreds of years of supply of this fuel.

This spectacular tumble in natural gas prices has been a multibillion-dollar godsend to consumers, homeowners, manufacturers and other businesses. Just last week, a major Texas utility announced it would be sending homeowners cash-back checks because electricity and home heating costs are falling so rapidly. Expect more to do the same in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to reduce its carbon emissions into the atmosphere at a faster pace than virtually any other country in the world. This is because natural gas is not just cheap. It is one of the cleanest ways to produce scalable and dependable electric power for a nation of 329 million people. We don't need brownouts in America as we saw in California, and natural gas is an excellent way to make sure the lights don't go out.

It would be hard to find anything NOT to like about this great American success story. We've achieved energy independence; reliable and inexhaustible supply; low prices; reduced power of the Middle East, Russia and other OPEC nations; and cleaner air than at any other time in at least a century.

Yet liberal environmentalists are grousing about this good news. A recent Bloomberg news story exclaims in its headline: "Cheap Gas Imperils Climate Fight by Undercutting Wind and Solar."

"Gas is such a bargain that it's being viewed less as a bridge fossil fuel, driving the world away from dirtier coal toward a clean-energy future," the story tells us, "and more as a hurdle that could slow the trip down.

Some forecasters are predicting prices will stay low for years, making it tough for states, cities and utilities to achieve their goals of being zero-carbon in power production by 2050 or earlier." Ravina Advani, head of renewable energy at BNP Paribas, complained: "The fact that there's an abundance of it makes the move to complete decarbonization much harder ... (Gas is) reliable, and it's cheap."

And that is bad news, why, exactly? It's like saying a cure for the coronavirus is bad for hospitals and doctors.

Maybe it is high time we admit we have found, for now, the great energy source of the next few decades and celebrate that America is endowed with a vital resource that is abundant and affordable -- just like our best-in-the-world farmland. The left talks about eradicating "poverty," but "energy poverty" is a primary source of deprivation around the world. Now, there is an obvious solution: Natural gas could easily be the primary source of power production for the world as a whole, slashing costs for the poor everywhere on the planet, from sub-Saharan Africa to Bangladesh.

Instead, politicians and government bureaucrats around the world are trying to force-feed the world expensive, unreliable and unscalable wind and solar power. The African Development Bank, for example, is only financing "green energy" projects, not coal or natural gas. It is substituting a cheap form of clean energy for a costly "green" alternative. Why?

In the U.S., this foolishness is happening every day as the federal government, in addition to state governments, is massively subsidizing wind and solar power -- even though they are, in most places, only niche sources of fuel. With more than $100 billion spent already, less than 10% of our energy comes from the wind and the sun, with most of the other 90% coming from good old-fashioned fossil fuels.

For all the talk about the falling costs of solar and wind power -- and yes, they are falling -- without billions of dollars of cash subsidies and tax breaks for the "renewable" energy sector, along with mandates requiring utilities to buy the power at any cost, wind and solar energy would be hopelessly expensive in most areas of the country. As a result, they would quickly surrender market share to natural gas and clean coal. (Don't look now, but coal prices are falling, too.)

It's time to get smart about energy and climate change and throw asunder taxpayer subsidies doled out to all forms of energy production. Let the market, not politicians and environmental groups, choose the safest, cheapest and most reliable energy source. Everyone is making a big bet on battery-operated cars and trucks. But who's to say that trucks and buses fueled by natural gas won't be the wave of the future? No one knows what makes the most sense or where the future will lead us. Nuclear power has great promise. But for now, the markets are shouting out for natural gas on a grander scale.

Fifteen years ago, no one would have thought we would have a superabundance of this wonder-fuel today. But we do. No one is more surprised than politicians. Why do we let them keep betting the farm on the wrong horse?


Taxpayers beware: Republicans have their own green dreams

In an era of trillion-dollar deficits and onerous federal mandates, no political party has a monopoly on bad ideas. For example, we all know about the Democrats’ love for funneling taxpayer dollars into wind and solar energy boondoggles.

Republicans are now responding in kind with handouts to their own preferred “clean” projects. On Feb. 12, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, announced Republican bills that would launch a “trillion trees” gimmick and expand payouts to the already bloated carbon capture and sequestration industry. Leaders from both parties must take a stand against this endless corporate welfare and let taxpayers off the hook from costly “green” energy endeavors.

At the very least, most lawmakers on the right side of the aisle seem to recognize the many follies of subsidizing solar and wind technologies. Most “green” projects on the market rely on the hazardous extraction of rare earth minerals from developing nations, create power-intermittency issues, and are all but impossible to recycle.

But some of the alternatives proposed by the GOP are little more than science fiction. Carbon capture and sequestration technology is frequently touted by members of both parties as a “solution” to (already declining) carbon emissions, despite the findings of a 2019 study published in Energy and Environmental Science that say “it reduces only a small fraction of carbon emissions, and it usually increases air pollution.”

A gas-fired power station has to burn 16% more gas than it otherwise would to capture its own carbon. This is hardly a model of energy efficiency, but the technology’s supporters won’t let evidence or common sense thwart recently introduced legislation that would make permanent the tax credit for capture and sequestration projects and increase payouts by 25%. Even if this wacky technology could somehow save the planet (spoiler alert: it won’t), backers such as Republican Reps. David Schweikert of Arizona and Brad Wenstrup of Ohio can’t seem to explain why the beefed-up tax credit will make the approach viable after more than $1 billion in direct government financing from the Department of Energy failed to do so.

Other members of Congress pine for a prettier approach to combat climate change, proposing the planting of a trillion trees. Introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman, an Arkansas Republican, the “Trillion Trees Act” would condition foreign aid on reforestation and create a National Reforestation Task Force that would create decadal planting targets.

This policy is irresponsible enough applied just to the United States, where an overconcentration of trees has led to devastating wildfires. In recent years, the government has made it far too difficult for harvesters to get anywhere near forests, leading to lax lumber liquidation in America’s lush forests. The results, according to Texas Public Policy Foundation Vice President Chuck DeVore, are predictable: “As timber harvesting permit fees went up and environmental challenges multiplied, the people who earned a living felling and planting trees looked for other lines of work. The combustible fuel load in the forest predictably soared.”

But at least the U.S. doesn’t need to make life-altering trade-offs between preserving forests and feeding its citizenry. Because farmers in less-developed countries such as Mozambique must clear some of the country’s vast forests to grow crops and feed their families, foreign aid policies to incentivize reforestation could lead to tough choices and devastating consequences. Africa is a graveyard of failed, idealistic foreign aid programs, yet policymakers seemingly never learn their lesson in trying to “heal the planet.” Lawmakers must decide if they want a photo-op next to a handful of replanted trees or genuine solutions that prioritize both economy and ecology.

Market-friendly policies and strong property rights protections safeguard the planet, leading to historic prosperity and, yes, carbon emission reductions. Taxpayers need sensible, free market policies, not crony handouts and “woke” posturing by both parties.


Exploration under the gas pump in Victoria, Australia

Green/Left ban on gas exploration is costing Victorians

As gas emerges as the politically palatable alternative to coal, pressure is building from within the Andrews government to end the five-year moratorium on onshore conventional gas exploration in Victoria. The shift by Labor figures follows mounting pressure from unions, industry and consumers.

It comes after Scott Morrison issued a passionate plea for gas supplies in NSW and Victoria to be unlocked, declaring there is “no credible energy transition plan for an economy like Australia which does not involve greater use of gas as an important transition fuel”.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims has repeatedly called on NSW and Victoria to lift their bans, declaring in August: “If we really want permanently lower prices in the south we need more gas in the south.” Santos’s Narrabri project, with potential to fill half of NSW’s domestic supply, has been a particular bone of contention, with approvals continually delayed by the state.

The federal government is pushing for a national gas reservation policy to improve supplies for manufacturers and heavy industry, along with a price measure to the gas export trigger to ensure the national market is operating efficiently. The Australian Energy Market Operator predicts that offshore gas supplies in Bass Strait are unlikely to meet Victoria’s needs ­beyond the next five years. AEMO estimated late last year that coal would contribute less than a third of power supply in the grid by 2040 as demand for gas and other ­renewables surges.

The Morrison government has struck a $2bn deal with the NSW government to pay for carbon abatement and energy projects in return for increased production of natural gas. It says it will not fund a similar deal with Victoria unless the ban on onshore gas exploration is lifted.

With the results of a geological survey of the state’s onshore ­conventional gas resources expected next month, ahead of the expiration of the moratorium on June 30, energy experts say the Victorian government faces a stark choice: it can either cease being the only state with a ban on conventional gas exploration or import more expensive, less environmentally friendly gas from ­interstate.

Far from banning conventional gas exploration, Queensland allows all forms of unconventional gas exploration, including fracking, and is home to almost 90 per cent of Australia’s 2P (proven and probable) gas reserves, and about 63 per cent of Australia’s 2C (best estimate of contingent) reserves. NSW permits conventional and unconventional exploration but the Berejiklian government frequently declares it has the “toughest” regulations in Australia, particularly in relation to fracking of coal-seam gas.

In 2014, the then O’Farrell government froze new CSG exploration licences and introduced exclusion zones, making residential areas in 152 local government areas of the state, including Sydney, “off limits”. While the freeze has since been lifted, no new licences have been granted.

The West Australian, South Australian and Northern Territory governments have all recently lifted their moratoriums on fracking, except in the southeast of South Australia where it is still prohibited. Tasmania maintains a fracking moratorium but allows conventional and unconventional gas exploration.

While Victorian state Labor MPs remain publicly tight-lipped about which way they are leaning on the conventional gas moratorium, internal sources say there is significant support within the right of the party for its overturning, including from Treasurer Tim Pallas, Resources Minister Jaclyn Symes and key factional powerbroker Adem Somyurek.

Energy and Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio — of the Socialist Left faction — has previously supported the moratorium but declined a request from The Australian to clarify her present position.

One source said they would “bet London to a brick” D’Ambrosio would continue to support the moratorium but others said they believed she could be persuaded to support its overturning should more senior members of her faction, including Premier Daniel Andrews, do so. The decision sits within Symes’s resources portfolio.

Australian Workers Union Victorian secretary Ben Davis is one ALP member who has been publicly critical of the moratorium since its inception, saying it is ­costing jobs. “It sends a terrible ­investment signal to gas companies and manufacturers alike,” Davis says. “I look forward to the review of the moratorium, and we’ll be campaigning and agitating to get it lifted.”

NSW-based federal opposition resources spokesman Joel Fitz­gibbon is another within the Labor camp who does not mince words in calling for the Andrews government to not only lift the moratorium on onshore conventional gas but also overturn its ban on ­unconventional gas exploration. “Every project, whether it involves fracking or not, should stand on its merits,” Fitzgibbon says. “Blanket bans make no sense.”

While all forms of gas mining involve the extraction of methane from kilometres below the earth’s surface, conventional gas extraction involves releasing gas trapped in sandstone, under solid rock, with minimal impact on the surrounding geology.

Unconventional gas is trapped in a coal seam or shale and is more difficult to extract, often but not ­always requiring fracking, or fracture stimulation, which involves pumping fluid down the gas well at high pressure to produce small cracks in the target rock reservoir.

Victoria’s moratorium on conventional onshore gas exploration dates back to May 2014, when Napthine government energy minister Russell Northe opted to suspend decisions on all onshore gas exploration in the state until after the November state election, which was won by Labor.

At the time the Coalition feared punishment at the ballot box if it approved a controversial application from Lakes Oil to drill for gas 1500m below Seaspray, in then Nationals leader Peter Ryan’s South Gippsland electorate. Far from lifting the suspension post-election, the new Andrews government maintained it, intro­ducing legislation in 2017 that placed a moratorium on all conventional onshore gas exploration and production until June 30 this year, and permanently banning all unconventional gas mining and exploration, including fracking.

Ahead of the 2018 state election, Andrews went a step further, making a yet-to-be-delivered promise to enshrine a ban on fracking in the state’s constitution. The state Coalition continues to oppose all unconventional gas ­exploration but this week renewed its calls to lift the moratorium on conventional onshore gas.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor says the “great irony” of Victoria importing ­increasing amounts of gas from Queensland is that 20 per cent to 40 per cent of Queensland gas is from coal seams.

“That’s exactly what they’re objecting to with their ban on unconventional gas — which they’re not even considering lifting — and yet they’re OK with importing coal-seam gas,” Taylor says.

Anti-fossil fuels groups are ramping up their campaigns ahead of the moratorium expiring. Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker says he is “very concerned” about the possibility of the ban being lifted. “The greatest concern is the climate change implications of the methane that comes from fugitive emissions,” he says. “Looking to mainstream science, it’s clear that we need to stop producing new ­reserves of fossil fuels if we want to have the hope of keeping temperature rises under 1.5C globally.”

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood says that unless one takes the Friends of The Earth approach of opposing all fossil fuel extraction, there is “no scientific justification” for banning conventional or even all unconventional gas exploration. He concedes lifting the ban on fracking is “too politically sensitive”.

As the June 30 sunset clause on the moratorium approaches, Victorian Lead Scientist Amanda ­Caples, a stakeholder advisory panel and a team of scientists have been commissioned by the Andrews government to complete a three-year, $40m inquiry into ­onshore conventional gas as part of the Victorian Gas Program.

One of the key questions they are addressing — which gas companies say they would have ­answered at no cost to the taxpayer had the moratorium not been imposed — is how much ­unconventional gas there actually is under Victoria, and therefore what impact it might be able to have in terms of keeping a lid on prices, creating regional jobs and saving manufacturing jobs.

As part of the gas program, scientists from the Victorian Geological Survey are developing comprehensive 3D geological models of the Otway and Gippsland basins, where most of Victoria’s onshore gas is believed to be located. The results of that investigation are expected to be made known next month.

Recent discoveries in the South Australian section of the Otway Basin, near Penola, have encouraged companies with acreages in western Victoria, including Beach Energy, Cooper Energy and Vintage Energy, to hold out hope of finding more gas on the eastern side of the state border.

While the decision on whether to lift the moratorium will be made by the politicians, and not the scientists, The Australian understands the Geological Survey team is working to compile “pre-competitive data” on prospective locations for gas wells.

Should the moratorium be lifted, this would allow the industry some minimal compensation for five years of lost work, in the form of being able to restart ahead of where it was when the moratorium was imposed.

‘Plenty of gas’

The gas program stakeholder advisory panel includes representatives from a wide range of interest groups, including the manufacturing industry, AWU, Victorian Farmers Federation, gas company Beach Energy, the Australian ­Industry Group, the Great South Coast Group (which represents councils in the Otway Basin, some of which have publicly voiced their support for lifting the moratorium), as well as green groups ­including Frack Free Moriac and Environment Victoria.

State Resources Minister Jac­lyn Symes says the gas program work will “inform decisions about potential onshore gas exploration”. Symes maintains that Australia “has plenty of gas”, blaming escalating prices on an ­increase in gas exports over the past five years and calling on the federal government to activate its domestic gas security mech­anism to put Australian consumers first.

But as AEMO forecasts a 34 per cent decrease in Victorian winter gas production by 2023 because of dwindling supplies in Bass Strait, it is clear the Andrews government is under pressure to increase supply, with new offshore exploration and production licences recently approved at state and commonwealth levels.

The state government, which has jurisdiction to three nautical miles (5.56km) from the coast, ­recently gave the go-ahead to two onshore-to-offshore wells being drilled by Beach Energy in the Otway Basin.

The wells are permitted under the moratorium, despite beginning on clifftops before extending 1.5km out to sea, kilometres under the earth’s surface.

While Victoria does import some gas via pipelines that connect it to the rest of the east coast gas market, it is a net exporter, with about two-thirds of the gas processed locally being used in the state, and the rest sent to neighbouring states.

If the state cannot produce enough of its own gas in coming years — or refuses to do so by maintaining the moratorium — it will need to import gas, predominantly via a pipeline from southwest Queensland, which AEMO has found would need to be seriously upgraded to carry larger volumes to Victoria.

As the ACCC has highlighted, Queensland gas already costs $2-$4 a gigajoule more than Victorian gas — or up to 50 per cent more.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief executive Andrew McConville says the industry remains hopeful that the Andrews government will “see sense” and lift the moratorium, given Victoria’s longstanding requirement for more natural gas, with 80 per cent of the state’s homes connected to more than 31,000km of gas mains distribution pipelines.

“The Victorian government’s renewable energy target (of 50 per cent by 2030) will also see the ­demand for natural gas increase,” McConville says.

“Modelling undertaken for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in 2017 assumes that as other sources of baseload power (coal) no longer become viable they are replaced by natural gas generation capacity.

“Under every scenario modelled for the department, natural gas has a bigger role to play in ­delivering energy stability to Victoria out to 2050.

“Unless new gas resources in Victoria are developed, families and businesses in the state will pay more than those in states continuing to develop new supply.”



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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Warren: Green New Deal Doesn't Go 'Far Enough'

The Green New Deal promised a “massive transformation of our society,” with goals that include eliminating air travel, cars, fossil fuels, and nuclear energy, as well as retrofitting every building in America to be energy efficient. While most sane people understood the plan was a fantasy, albeit a dangerous one, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Thursday she doesn’t believe the $93 trillion proposal goes far enough.

“What I want to see us do is get off an oil economy, and not only for ourselves, but for the rest of the world,” Warren said during a CNN town hall event.

“I want to see us move entirely to green, and let me say on this, I not only support a Green New Deal, I don’t think it goes far enough,” she added. “I also have a blue new deal cause we have got to be thinking about our oceans as well that we need to protect.”

Warren may claim she has lofty goals to save the planet, but her decision to fly around the country on a private jet shows just how committed she is.

Earlier this month the Massachusetts Democrat was caught traveling on a private plane to New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses. When she saw she was being filmed, she quickly stepped behind her staffer to hide.


The Truth Behind Rising Sea Levels and Global Warming

On January 3, 2020, 13 states in the U.S. joined Rhode Island in a lawsuit against oil companies for contributing to climate change and the dangers it poses.

The reason: They believe sea-level rise from climate change threatens their low-lying coastal regions.

An alarmist news site in Honolulu claims, “Warmer air temperatures are causing our oceans to thermally expand and glaciers around the world to melt. This combination leads to global sea level rise.”

However, the real-world situation differs dramatically from these hyped-up, sensationalist claims.

Manmade Global Warming: Not the Primary Driver of Sea-Level Rise

Doomsday proponents suggest that glacial melt induced by global warming can contribute significantly to the rise in sea levels. But a growing number of scientific studies (like this one in 2018) find that manmade global warming is not a primary driver of global sea-level rise.

The reason? Contrary to the media narrative, more factors than glacial melt drive sea-level rise.

Three major sets of natural factors control the rise and fall of sea levels: water temperature and salinity changes (steric), cryosphere/glacial changes (glacio-eustatic), and geological changes in continents and ocean basins (isostatic).

Despite multiple influences on sea levels, some alarmist narratives focus exclusively on glacial melt. Why? To make people panic about melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Moreover, sea-level doomsday reports seldom address sea-level rise in previous centuries and millennia. Avoiding that supports the alarmist narrative, as it portrays the current rise as new and unprecedented.

Sea-Level Rise: Higher and Faster in the Past

A 2014 scientific study did a comprehensive analysis of sea-level measurements from 1,277 tide gauge records since 1807 to estimate trends and acceleration in sea-level rise. In the 20th century, global sea-level rise displayed a linear trend of 1.9 ± 0.3 millimeters (mm) per year.

Sea levels have been much higher in the past and varies regionally.

Whoever has been feeding you false information on unprecedented sea-level rise needs to be redirected to research that documents not only higher sea levels in the past but also more rapid sea-level rise.

Long-term historical analysis of sea-level rise (from around 14,000 BC to the present) in Europe, Australia, Russia, Canada, Eurasia, China, India, Thailand, the Caribbean Islands, Bolivia, and various other places indicates that sea levels were much higher in the past than today.

During the early Holocene (11,719 to 7069 calibrated years before 2019) the sea level rose by 55 to 60 meters and the rate of sea-level rise was 11 to 12 mm/year. In Tahiti, the largest French Polynesian Island in the South Pacific, the sea-level rise was “11.7 mm/year for the period 8950-11,650 before 1950.”

Besides, scientific publications published in the 1980s, before the advent of the global-warming craze, reveal that “many parts of the world provide evidence of higher than present strand lines dating from the late Holocene.”

Is Future Sea-Level Rise a Threat to Islands?

In contrast to the early Holocene period, the global sea-level rise since 1958 has been just around 1.3 to 1.5 mm per year, much lower than the 20th-century average.

We cannot blindly assume that islands will get submerged by future sea-level rise of around 2 mm per year or 0.2 meters (m) per century.

Because even if sea levels around islands or along coastlines go up, the coastal regions may still remain unsubmerged, and might even grow in some cases, due to accretion, i.e., geological changes that increase elevation and extension of landmass by accumulation of sediments, growth of coral, or uplift of the landmass itself.

In order to evaluate the same, scientists conducted studies to analyze the impact of sea-level rise on the Pacific islands — like Tuvalu, Tokelau, and Kiribati — which are often projected by climate alarmists as the first victims of rising sea levels.

The study found out that even with a 0.5 meter and 1 meter rise in the sea level (much higher than the 0.2 meters observed during the entire 20th century), the islands remained unaffected.

The scientists attribute this adaptability to “physical changes in island structure, including both vertical adjustments that influenced island topography and planform movement.” The study concluded that the “islands have the capability to morphodynamically respond to rising sea level through island accretion.”

The impact of relative sea-level rise on any coast can only be discerned after considering the vertical crustal motion, and the accretion of sediments, in the coastal region. The assertions of these scientific studies can also be observed in some islands.

For example, in the Grande Glorieuse Islands, the landmass grew by 7.5 ha (1989–2003) despite an absolute sea-level rise around the island and a 28% erosion of shoreline.

So, it is evident from scientific literature that sea levels have not risen dramatically in the recent past; they have been much higher in the past; and the ongoing rise (and potentially faster ones) poses no problem to the islands and other landmass.

Sadly, the mainstream media and climate activists pay no attention to these peer-reviewed and universally accepted scientific facts about sea levels.


Nations seek biodiversity accord to stave off mass extinction

Just another attempted power grab

Nature experts and government delegates gather this week in Rome to thrash out an international deal for endangered species, trying to avoid a mass extinction event caused by human activity.

Having been hastily relocated from Kunming in China following the coronavirus outbreak, negotiators from more than 140 countries have until February 29 to study a draft text.

The 12-page document, which focuses on goals to be met by mid-century and envisages a stock-take in 2030, should be adopted at the COP15 summit on biodiversity in October.

The United Nations biodiversity panel IPBES last year warned that up to one million species face the risk of extinction as a result of humanity's insatiable desire for land and materials.

"I cannot underscore enough the importance of making progress at this meeting," said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, acting executive secretary for the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity.

"The world is eagerly waiting out there for demonstrable progress towards a clear, actionable and transformative global framework on biodiversity."

While the 2015 Paris agreement saw nations commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to stave off the worst threats of climate change, there is no equivalent accord for the world's endangered species.

The IPBES report highlighted the threats posed to nature from human activity, saying that three-quarters of all land and two-thirds of oceans have already been severely affected by mankind.

The report also demonstrated how the depletion of nature will in turn harm humanity.

"This degradation of nature is unprecedented in the history of mankind," said IPBES executive secretary Anne Larigauderie.

2020 is a crucial year for nature, with the global congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature set for Marseille in June and the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

Negotiators in Rome are focusing on ways to reduce threats to biodiversity, including officially protecting at least 30 percent of land and marine areas and a 50 percent cut in pollution from fertilisers.

It also calls for stricter regulation on plastic pollution and acknowledges the role that the preservation of nature can play in the battle against climate change.

While Louisa Carron, who works for Greenpeace, told AFP the draft was a "good first step", Lin Li of WWF International said she had "mixed feelings".

"The zero draft has not address the drivers of biodiversity at all, for example the consumption/production that really causes causing the loss of nature," said Lin.

Li Shuo, who works on biodiversity issues for Greenpeace, was guarded about the prospects of success in Rome.

"Simply having a 'vision' does not guarantee its fulfilment," he told AFP.

Experts fear progress could be stalled if the plan is to phase out damaging environmental practices on a nation-by-nation basis in roughly the same was as the emissions cuts in the Paris accord.

With the COP15 still set to take place in Kunming, the Rome talks are likely to play a large role in how effective a global deal on biodiversity will be. "We do not expect a failure," said Mrema.


Keeping Africa on the brink of starvation

UN and EU government agencies – and tax-exempt NGOs – have brought a plague of locusts

Paul Driessen

Billions of desert locusts have descended again on East Africa. Crawling first, then sprouting wings and flying in hungry hoards of 40-150 million or more, they are devastating crops and threatening tens of millions of people with lost livelihoods and starvation. This latest locust plague, says the United Nations, is the worst in 70 years for Kenya, the worst in 25 years for Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia.

Locust swarms can blanket scores or hundreds of square miles at a time, travel 80 miles a day, and consume more than 400 million pounds of vegetation daily, Africa Fighting Malaria cofounder Richard Tren notes. The insects increase their numbers logarithmically, meaning numbers can be 500 times higher in six months. In Ethiopia, on January 9, a massive swarm nearly brought down a Boeing 737 jetliner.

Many fear the voracious insects could soon reach croplands in South Sudan, Uganda, and even Asia.

Despite past history, UN Food and Agricultural Organization officials say this is an “unprecedented threat” to food security, one “of international dimensions.” It’s “a far more serious emergency than we had earlier anticipated,” an African official said. “Please do not wait to act,” FAO Deputy-Director-General Helena Semedo pleaded at a February 7 gathering of “international experts” and African leaders.

Desperate Africans are responding with “time-tested” methods: whistling and shouting loudly, banging on metal buckets, waving blankets and sticks, crushing the bugs – perhaps even roasting and eating them, under UN-approved nutrition programs. In Eritrea, they are using “more advanced” methods: hand-held and truck-mounted sprayers. In Kenya, police are firing machine guns and tear gas into the swarms!

Fenitrothion is a highly effective pesticide against locust swarms. But only in Ethiopia, it seems, are they spraying pesticides from small airplanes. Fenitrothion supplies are extremely limited – and aerial spraying is too expensive for cash-strapped countries, too dangerous in areas wracked by radical Muslim insurgencies, and minimally effective against such massive swarms with so few available aircraft. And it takes days for pesticide-phobic farmers to move cattle and goats out of areas that could be sprayed.

In this era of incredible modern agricultural and insect control technologies, when American farmers get 3-5 times more crop yields per acre than 50 years ago­­ – how is it possible that Africa remains perpetually on the brink of starvation? That Africa faces yet another locust plague of biblical pharaoh proportions? That Africans must rely on absurd “time-tested,” almost totally ineffective locust control methods?

Incredibly, this looming catastrophe is due to policies and programs that have been officially adopted and deliberately implemented by the very UN agencies that are now crying loudest about the horrific situation.

For years now, the FAO, UN Development Programme and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have been working in cahoots with some of the most radical environmentalist pressure groups on Earth to devise and impose “agroecology” – a perverse combination of socialism, pseudo-ecology and primitive, anti-technology agriculture. The program is financed and advanced by the UN, by European governments via their development agencies and funding of environmentalist NGOs – and even by US taxpayers, who provide 22% of UN funding and underwrite grants to and tax-exempt status for environmentalist groups.

Agroecology is above all political. It rejects virtually everything that has enabled modern agriculture to feed billions more people from less acreage. It rabidly opposes monoculture farming, hybrid seeds, synthetic/non-organic insecticides and fertilizers, biotechnology ... and even mechanized equipment like tractors! It claims Dr. Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution, which saved a billion people from starvation, did little more than put global food production “under the control of a few transnational corporations.”

Acceptance of agroecology tenets and restrictions has become a condition for poor farmers getting seeds, and their countries and local communities getting development loans and food aid. Mid-level bureaucrats get cushy jobs overseeing and propagandizing agroecology campaigns, while ruling elites get more opportunities to siphon off additional millions in international aid money. They still erect roadblocks to Golden Rice, which could save 2 million parents and children a year from blindness and death.

AgroEcology advocates extol “food sovereignty” and the “right to subsistence farming.” They promote “indigenous agricultural knowledge and practices,” to the exclusion of knowledge, practices, technologies and equipment that have been developed in recent decades – and could help end Africa’s perpetual poverty, malnutrition, disease, joblessness and early death. They sow fear about pesticides and GM food.

Instead of transforming and modernizing African agriculture, the UN, FAO, UNEP, and radical groups like Food First, La Via Campesina, Greenpeace and IFOAM Organics International demand “culturally appropriate” food produced through “ecologically sound and sustainable methods,” as only they can twist those terms to serve their sick determination to negate and roll back human progress.

FAO Steering Committee member Miguel Altieri insists that all this will promote “resiliency” in African food production. The locust plague and imminent starvation underscore just how “resilient” agroecology has made East Africa. There’s barely enough food for good times, much less days of droughts and locusts. Modern agriculture could turn much of Africa into a bread basket – but the lunatics won’t allow it.

In 2012, Kenya banned biotech (GM or GMO) food, even as highly successful pilot projects were doubling and tripling crop yields for Kenyan and South African farmers, and ending plant diseases that had devastated papaya and cassava crops. Now, even as locusts wipe out staple food crops, rabid NGOs are pressuring Kenya’s Parliament to ban over 200 pesticides that have been approved as safe for crops, wildlife and people by Kenyan authorities and by regulators in the USA, Canada and other nations.

Meanwhile, well-fed Uhura Kenyatta, president of Kenya since 2013, resorts to the typical cop-out: the locust plague is the result of climate change. And Kenya’s Ministry of Health says, even if there is a severe famine and a threat to loss of life, “every effort” will be made to “source [imported] food from non-GMO sources, failing which emergency GM food may be allowed in.” Shades of Zambia 2002!

Adding to the insanity, in late January the United Nations claimed it needed “more than $70 million from donors” to address the locust crisis. For 2020, the UN budget is $3.1 billion; the FAO’s is $1 billion; the UNEP’s $790 million; and the Green Climate Fund has some $2 billion, plus pledges of some $6 billion.

Surely, these outfits can find a measly $70 million in these bloated treasuries to address a genuine humanitarian crisis – even if they have to claw it away from agroecology and similarly useless programs.

And what about the rights of African farmers who don’t want to practice agroecology, who want to use modern seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and machinery? Do the FAO and UN Human Rights Commission support those rights of self-determination? Why isn’t the HRC blasting the NGOs, EU countries and UN agencies for these human rights violations and the misery, malnutrition, disease and death they cause?

Agroecology burdens African farmers “with systems that my grandfather gave up on 125 years ago,” Indiana farmer and US Ambassador to the FAO and other Rome-based UN agencies Kip Tom told people attending the February 20 USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum dinner. Whereas previous FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva was deeply involved in the agroecology movement, thankfully his replacement (Qu Dongyu of China) is a scientist who seems “willing to work with” American farmers and the Trump Administration “to feed a growing and hungry world,” Ambassador Tom added.

Agroecology represents eco-imperialism at its worst. Under any fair and balanced application of their own beliefs and standards, today’s “woke” environmental, campus and progressive activists would charge the organizations imposing agroecology on Africa with eco-manslaughter. But that will never happen.

President Trump, the Agriculture Department and Congress should loudly and publicly stigmatize the FAO, UN and EU and their NGOs – and terminate any funding and tax exemptions that support agroecology. US agencies should devote their resources to rooting out this perverse system and helping Africa bring modern agriculture, disease control, health and living standards to its mistreated families.

Via email

Great Australian Bight: Equinor abandons plans to drill for oil

Norwegian oil company announces it has scrapped its $200m plan to deepwater drill in Great Australian Bight Marine Park

After extensive Greenie harassment

Norwegian oil giant Equinor has abandoned plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, declaring the controversial project did not make commercial sense.

The company said on Tuesday it had told federal, South Australian and local authorities it had decided to scrap the $200m project to deepwater drill in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park.

It is the third major oil company to abandon plans to drill in the bight, following BP and Chevron.

“Following a holistic review of its exploration portfolio, Equinor has concluded that the project’s potential is not commercially competitive compared with other exploration opportunities in the company,’’ the company’s country manager for Australia, Jone Stangeland, said in a statement.

The decision is a significant win for environment groups and other opponents of the project, including Indigenous elders and local councils. The proposal sparked protests supported by tens of thousands of people opposed to fossil fuel extraction in a marine wilderness area.

Equinor’s announcement comes shortly after the proposed Stromlo-1 well site, in water more than 2.2km deep and nearly 400km off the South Australian coast, was granted environmental approval by the federal offshore petroleum regulator. The Wilderness Society launched legal action challenging the decision last month, arguing opponents had not been properly consulted.

Peter Owen, the Wilderness Society’s South Australian director, welcomed Equinor’s decision to “responsibly withdraw” from the project.

“It’s been a while coming, but the right decision is the right decision, and we have no doubt that the hundreds of thousands of people that have supported the campaign to fight for the Bight will be both delighted and relieved to hear this news,” he said.

Owen called on the Morrison government to “listen to the people and permanently protect the unique waters of the Great Australian Bight from drilling for good”.

The federal minister for resources, Keith Pitt, said the government was disappointed about Equinor’s decision, but pleased the company had made clear it would still be part of the oil and gas industry in Australia. It said the decision would be “particularly hard for South Australia”.

He said the government remained committed to “encouraging the safe development of Australia’s offshore petroleum resources. “The Bight basin remains one of Australia’s frontier basins and any proposals for new oil and gas fields in this area will be assessed fairly and independently,” he said.

Equinor was granted a petroleum title over areas in the Bight in 2011. In December, it cleared the second of four regulatory hurdles it needed to pass before it could start drilling, when the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, known as Nopsema, granted its environmental approval.

The company described the decision as an important milestone that followed more than 400 meetings with community and other organisations. Environmentalists, local councils and elders of the traditional owners of the Bight, the Mirning people, denied they had been properly consulted and vowed to continue to fight the project.

Industry body the Australian Petroleum and Production and Exploration Association said the company’s decision to drop the project was disappointing for South Australians, who would have benefited economically, and for the “wider Australian community”, which needed new energy supplies.

Matthew Doman, the association’s chief executive, said: “The proposed exploration activity had been subject to an extreme campaign of false and exaggerated claims that deliberately overstated the risks and ignored the potential benefits.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s chief executive, David Ritter, said the decision was an “incredible win for people power and nature”. He said it followed years of relentless campaigning by coastal communities, Indigenous traditional owners, surfers, the seafood industry, tourism operators and local businesses.

“Never doubt the power and determination of the Australian people,” Ritter said.

Sarah Hanson Young, the Greens environment spokeswoman and a South Australian senator, called on other parties to back Greens’ legislation that would put the Bight forward for world heritage protection.

“Opening a new fossil fuel basin in the middle of our ocean was always madness,” she said. Moving to net zero emissions by 2050 means we must reduce pollution now, not give the green light to new polluting projects.”

Noah Schultz-Byard, South Australian director of the Australia Institute, said polling suggested an overwhelming majority of people would support world heritage listing for the Bight.

Stangeland said Equinor said it still held an offshore exploration permit in Western Australia and would maintain “other ongoing interests and activities in Australia”.



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


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Are plastic bag bans helping the environment? A look at results

Bans on single-use plastic bags -- one of the most pervasive sources of pollution -- are taking effect in cities and states across the U.S. as efforts to combat global plastic production pick up.

But while the moves are being lauded by environmentalists and the local governments that support them, some are questioning whether the move will be effective, primarily because of the unintended environmental consequences associated with replacement materials such as paper, thick plastic and reusable bags.

What the skeptics say

The shift from plastic to reusable and paper bags has been met with skepticism by some consumers, manufacturers and industry experts, who fear banning plastic will result in additional environmental problems and hurt consumers.

A 2017 study conducted by Recyc-Québec, a government recycling agency in Canada, looked at the life cycles of different disposable bags used within the province.

Results indicate that though conventional plastic bags tend to have higher environmental impacts when released into the environment, when compared to alternatives (such as compostable bioplastic, paper, thick plastic, and oxo-degradable plastic bags), they appear to have the least overall environmental impact (except as litter).

“Because of its thinness and lightness, being designed for a single use, its life cycle requires little material and energy,” the report says. “In addition, it avoids the production of garbage bags since it is commonly used for this function as well.”

The study, which looks at human health, quality of ecosystems, use of fossil fuels and abandonment in the environment, indicates that paper was the lowest-performing type of single-use bag with potential environmental impacts ranging 4 to 28 times that of a standard plastic grocery bag.

Also, reusables made from cotton, woven and non-woven polypropylene bags require tens to thousands of uses before they become more environmentally efficient than single-use plastic bags, the study says.

From Recyc-Quebec to the United Kingdom's Environment Agency other studies highlight the necessity of prolonged use when using reusable bags in order for their environmental benefits to exceed that of single-use plastic bags.

Research conducted by Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) suggests compostable materials can often result in greater environmental costs than non-compostable alternatives because of the impacts associated with extracting, processing, and manufacturing raw materials during onset production.

David Allaway, a senior policy analyst at DEQ’s Materials Management Program, said that in the case of 90% of manufactured items, most impact occurs when producing the product rather than when it goes to the landfill or gets recycled.

“The public believes materials come to us free of impact, and all we have to think about is compositing versus landfilling or recycling. In reality, it’s not quite true. By the time we buy this stuff most of the environmental impact has been done.”

Allaway points to the importance of assessing materials based on their intended purpose.

"I don’t think that a clear case can be made that either recycled paper or virgin plastic grocery bags are universally “better” or “worse” for the environment. Most life cycle assessments generally point to plastic grocery bags having fewer impacts than paper, but that isn’t always the case. Depending on which environmental issue you prioritize - litter, climate change, air toxins, marine debris, water consumption, etc. - you might favor one material over the other. There is no consistent or universal winner."

For Sarah Nichols, sustainable Maine project director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the decision to ban single-use plastic bags was one she struggled with for the past six years.

Virgin plastic, she explained, is ultimately a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry and is kept a low-cost material, allowing it to be made abundantly. As fossil fuels are major contributors to climate change, Nicholas says she has come to believe banning plastic bags altogether is the right thing to do. Similar to California and Oregon's bans, she believes people in Maine will not only adhere to the restriction, but reap its benefits.

“Every independent life cycle assessment that has looked at various bagging options has found that the common plastic grocery bag, when disposed of properly, has the least environmental impact," Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance said. "Paper has its purposes and should be an option that consumers can choose from, but there is no doubt that it takes more material, energy and water to manufacture than plastic, and its weight and bulkiness necessitate seven trucks to transport the same number of bags that can be hauled in just one truck of plastic.”

And Adrian Hong, president of Island Plastic Bags, Inc. in Hawaii, believes grocery bags should be available for a fee rather than ultimately banned because of the impact on manufacturers.

“I don’t think replacing plastic with other materials makes the planet better off,” he said, “You have to look at the life-cycle of the materials to see what’s best.”


Waste problems from wind and solar? Yes, it’s why we need proper decommissioning

This week Bloomberg Energy issued an attention-grabbing report on a serious waste problem with wind turbines: retired turbine blades are clogging up landfills.

This problem is only going to get worse, as Bloomberg reports, because right now the blades at the end of their lifespan are from wind power built over a decade ago. There’s been a fivefold increase in installing wind turbines since, powered in large part by federal and state incentives and mandates. What are we going to do when all those turbine blades reach their end?

This problem isn’t news to John Locke Foundation readers. We discussed the huge problem of turbine blade disposal in January. In December research intern Nick Wilkinson wrote about wind power’s noise pollution, visual pollution, disruptions of aircraft and military radar, and turbine blade waste. We’ve also recently discussed two Harvard studies that found transitioning to wind and solar would require so much land that it would actually contribute to global warming.

JLF readers have also read about studies showing that transitioning away from nuclear energy costs lives, that transitioning into more expensive energy costs lives, and that because of intermittency issues, wind and solar are actually the most costly ways of reducing emissions. We have also discussed the problem of wind power “takings.” That’s the euphemism used by the Obama-era U.S. Fish and Wildlife Division to refer to eagles slaughtered by wind turbines, as the division approved permits for such slaughter for 30 years, up from five.

What makes disposing of wind turbine blades so bad for landfills and the environment? All these things:

They’re huge, from 100 feet long to the length of a football field

They can’t be hauled away without being cut into pieces right there on site

Cutting them requires very expensive, specialized equipment
It takes a tractor-trailer to haul off a blade once it’s been cut into pieces. It takes one tractor-trailer per blade

So much trucking contributes to emissions

Over the next four year, the U.S. will be removing 8,000 blades per year

Future years will see much greater number of blade retirements, as five times as many turbines are being installed now than before

The European Union requires blades to be burned in kilns or power plants. Burning them contributes to emissions

They can’t be recycled. They’re made of resin and fiberglass and currently can’t be repurposed

They’re made to withstand hurricane-force winds — so they can’t be crushed for efficient landfill storage

Landfills don’t really have the space for them. Obtaining permitting for new landfills is also very expensive

In the next 20 years, the U.S. will have over 720,000 tons of waste blade material

Studies project increased global warming from wind power’s land-use requirements

Those studies don’t account for the additional land that would be needed for landfills for wind turbine blade disposal

Wind turbine blades are “forever waste”

In short, disposing of wind turbines is a significant problem, with negative impacts on communities and the environment.

It is reminiscent of the negative community and environmental impacts of solar panel disposal. Carolina Journal has reported for years about chemical waste components from used solar panels, including such things as gallium arsenide, tellurium, silver, crystalline silicon, lead, and also GenX and related compounds in solar panel components.

Dangerous waste underscores the need for decommissioning and financial assurance

It is for these reasons that JLF has written for years about the prudent and reasonable policy of decommissioning and reclamation bonds for solar and wind facilities. It is something that was added to House Bill 589 in 2017, a significant electricity reform and compromise bill, but the solar lobby succeeded in having that section removed.

Decommission and reclamation are standard environmental protection for other land uses. It’s so noncontroversial, in fact, that the Bureau of Land Management under President Barack Obama required full reclamation bonding for solar and wind energy projects on public lands.

Fortunately, last year the General Assembly passed decommissioning for solar and wind facilities. HB 329 requires the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) to come up with rules for the decommissioning of solar and wind power plants by January 1, 2022. The law requires EMC to consider many factors in determining the rules for decommissioning, including such considerations as:

Do solar panels, batteries, or materials used in solar and wind facilities exhibit characteristics of hazardous waste?

Can they be reused, refurbished, recycled, safely deposited in landfills, or safely disposed as hazardous waste?

How much of the state’s landfill capacity will be taken up by solar cells, wind turbines, and batteries?

How do other states and the federal government regulate these issues, including decommissioning and financial assurance?

How much financial assurance should be required to ensure proper decommissioning?

Watch out that special interests don’t capture the process

The key to EMC drawing up proper regulations governing decommissioning and reclamation of wind and solar facilities, however, is to make sure that the renewable energy lobby, solar and wind companies, and solar and wind advocates don’t capture this regulatory process.

The bill requires EMC to “establish a stakeholder process for development of the regulatory program.” The problem there is, in practice the reliance on “stakeholders” is an invitation to regulatory capture.

The term “stakeholder” is misleading. If you have a business interest is in the regulated industry, you’re considered a stakeholder. If you’re an ordinary person going about your daily business living and breathing the air and drinking the water and paying taxes and utility bills, you’re not:

Politically speaking, the citizens themselves — though they have the most at stake — aren’t thought of as stakeholders. In Lincoln’s memorable description, the American system is “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” On the other hand, stakeholders tend to be of the lobbies, by the politicians, for the special interests.

Even if there is a consumer advocate involved, their single voice is given equal weight to the chorus of all the many other, lesser stakeholders involved. If democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for lunch, then regulation via “stakeholders” is a wolf, a coyote, a lion, a jackal, and a lamb choosing whose constituency bears which costs of providing dinner.

Last year, for example, Gov. Roy Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality identified 164 “stakeholders” in Cooper’s “Clean Energy Plan.” These were “experts and key stakeholders with a vested interest in clean energy.” It took two pages to list them all.

Despite all that, only 7 percent of those lesser stakeholders considered Affordability in electricity a “value to prioritize.” C’mon. You can bet that ordinary people have a radically different opinion on the need for affordable electricity than those “key stakeholders”!

Legislators need to be wary of what ideas come from this stakeholder process. The cronies and special interests have a vested interest in trying to avoid — or barring that, downplay — standard environmental cleanup and restoration of land used for industrial purposes. They’ve beat back decommissioning and reclamation before. The elected representatives of the people will have to keep their focus on which stakeholders they represent.


Pressure Campaign: House Dems Tell Banks Not To Finance Arctic Drilling

A swath of House Democrats wants bank CEOs to follow the lead of Goldman Sachs in pledging to stop funding new drilling and oil explorations in the Arctic.

Thirty-three House Democrats on Thursday sent a letter to five bank leaders asking that their companies back off spending on oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“You have an opportunity to be more expansive: to reject not just this specific oil drilling program but to prevent the financing of gas exploration, other drilling infrastructure, and to wind down the industry’s participation in the ongoing operations of existing oil and gas projects in the region,” said the letter, spearheaded by Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat.

“Roads, pipelines, gravel mines, airstrips, and other facilities that would be developed to support exploration and development on the coastal plain would fragment habitat, displace wildlife, and undermine the wilderness character of the Refuge,” said the letter.

“Millions of gallons of freshwater needed to support drilling activities could be drained from fragile Arctic rivers. And oil spills, which already occur on the North Slope, would harm fish and wildlife.”

But that approach didn’t sit well with Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican.

“Frankly, it’s sad that House Democrats continue to not only get involved in the business of the Alaska Natives who actually live near ANWR’s coastal plain, but they’re now trying to further involve themselves in the economy too,” Young told the Washington Examiner in an email statement.

“Alaskans can be trusted to responsibly develop energy on our lands, and using scare tactics against private companies won’t change that fact.”

Senate Democrats made a similar demand of the financial institutions earlier this month, prompting criticism by Sen. Dan. Sullivan, another Alaska Republican.

“I’m going to be a little partisan here because it’s always coming from the Democrats [who] seem to always want to tell me and my state how to manage Alaska’s environment,” Sullivan said during a Feb. 6 committee hearing.

“And then, you take the train [up the East Coast corridor], and you’re like, ‘Holy crap! You’re telling me how to manage my environment? Look at this environmental wasteland.’”

ANWR has been in the middle of a political tug of war between Republicans and Democrats for 40 years, pitting energy development advocates against environmentalists.

The 19.6-million-acre Arctic refuge was the focus of a measure within the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that authorized energy development on 2,000 federal acres of ANWR.

House Democrats now aim to reverse plans to drill oil in the Arctic and passed a bill largely along party lines last September banning oil exploration in ANWR. The bill, however, was not picked up by the Republican-led Senate.


Study: Carbon Sinks Won’t Cause A Massive Methane Bomb

glacier ice cores antarcticaPermafrost in the soil and methane hydrates deep in the ocean are large reservoirs of ancient carbon.

As soil and ocean temperatures rise, the reservoirs have the potential to break down, releasing enormous quantities of the potent greenhouse gas methane. But would this methane actually make it to the atmosphere?

Researchers at the University of Rochester—including Michael Dyonisius, a graduate student in the lab of Vasilii Petrenko, professor of earth and environmental sciences—and their collaborators studied methane emissions from a period in Earth’s history partly analogous to the warming of Earth today.

Their research, published in Science, indicates that even if methane is released from these large natural stores in response to warming, very little actually reaches the atmosphere.

“One of our take-home points is that we need to be more concerned about the anthropogenic emissions—those originating from human activities—than the natural feedbacks,” Dyonisius says.

What are methane hydrates and permafrost?

When plants die, they decompose into carbon-based organic matter in the soil. In extremely cold conditions, the carbon in the organic matter freezes and becomes trapped instead of being emitted into the atmosphere.

This forms permafrost, soil that has been continuously frozen—even during the summer—for more than one year. Permafrost is mostly found on land, mainly in Siberia, Alaska, and Northern Canada.

Along with organic carbon, there is also an abundance of water ice in permafrost. When the permafrost thaws in rising temperatures, the ice melts, and the underlying soil becomes waterlogged, helping to create low-oxygen conditions—the perfect environment for microbes in the soil to consume the carbon and produce methane.

Methane hydrates, on the other hand, are mostly found in ocean sediments along the continental margins. In methane hydrates, cages of water molecules trap methane molecules inside.

Methane hydrates can only form under high pressures and low temperatures, so they are mainly found deep in the ocean.

If ocean temperatures rise, so will the temperature of the ocean sediments where the methane hydrates are located. The hydrates will then destabilize, fall apart, and release the methane gas.

“If even a fraction of that destabilizes rapidly and that methane is transferred to the atmosphere, we would have a huge greenhouse impact because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas,” Petrenko says. “The concern really has to do with releasing a truly massive amount of carbon from these stocks into the atmosphere as the climate continues to warm.”

Gathering data from ice cores

In order to determine how much methane from ancient carbon deposits might be released to the atmosphere in warming conditions, Dyonisius and his colleagues turned to patterns in Earth’s past.

They drilled and collected ice cores from Taylor Glacier in Antarctica. The ice core samples act like time capsules: they contain tiny air bubbles with small quantities of ancient air trapped inside.

The researchers use a melting chamber to extract the ancient air from the bubbles and then study its chemical composition.

Dyonisius’s research focused on measuring the composition of air from the time of Earth’s last deglaciation, 8,000-15,000 years ago.

“The time period is a partial analog to today, when Earth went from a cold state to a warmer state,” Dyonisius says. “But during the last deglaciation, the change was natural. Now the change is driven by human activity, and we’re going from a warm state to an even warmer state.”

Analyzing the carbon-14 isotope of methane in the samples, the group found that methane emissions from the ancient carbon reservoirs were small. Thus, Dyonisius concludes, “the likelihood of these old carbon reservoirs destabilizing and creating a large positive warming feedback in the present day is also low.”

Dyonisius and his collaborators also concluded that the methane released doesn’t reach the atmosphere in large quantities. The researchers believe this is due to several natural “buffers.”

Buffers protect against release to the atmosphere

In the case of methane hydrates, if the methane is released in the deep ocean, most of it is dissolved and oxidized by ocean microbes before it ever reaches the atmosphere.

If the methane in permafrost forms deep enough in the soil, it may be oxidized by bacteria that eat the methane, or the carbon in the permafrost may never turn into methane and may instead be released as carbon dioxide.

“It seems like whatever natural buffers are in place are ensuring there’s not much methane that gets released,” Petrenko says.


Frogs be dammed … Australia needs more water

It is no surprise that with a continent as dry as Australia our most precious resource would be water.

If that is a given, how is it that it is well nigh impossible to build a dam in this country? We had a brilliant start with the Snowy River Scheme, but it is almost as if we completed that and decided to rest on our laurels.

Those laurels are getting pretty parched now. It is a forlorn task to find a site for a new dam that the Greens might support. Greens opposition to new dams is implacable and, when combined with the understandable hysteria of those who will be displaced because their properties lie within the area to be flooded to create the new dam, you have the perfect confluence of forces to create the big media campaigns that can terrify governments and send them weak at the knees. Too many pollies run at the first whiff of grapeshot and opportunities are lost.

Michael McCormack, the leader of the Nationals, and Barnaby Joyce, the man who wants to be leader of the Nationals, and Matt Canavan, the man who should be leader of the Nationals, are the only politicians who seem to have any interest in building more dams. The Greens can always find an endangered frog that should be saved at the expense of human ­beings’ need for clean water, so there are guaranteed to be plenty of citizens death-riding any plans to construct a dam.

I hope we find someone in power somewhere prepared to tell the nay-sayers where to get off. It would be wonderful if Scott Morrison could find the courage to build a dam as well as finance a new coal-fired power station on the east coast of Australia. If he showed that kind of courage, Anthony Albanese would be flat out ever beating him.

Any pollie with the ticker to defy the noisy frontline of demonstrators that opposes building almost anything and go ahead with real nation-building infrastructure projects will experience a surge in support. The punters love action but they don’t get much of it. Australians are getting to the point, after a period of stable economic growth, to look for a leader prepared to drag us back up towards the top of the developed world’s list of countries that make things happen.

Gladys Berejiklian has shown us the way on infrastructure and that is why she is winning. Whether it’s road or rail, her government has plans in place that, once implemented, will keep NSW ahead of the game in the decades to come. The big plays do matter and she gets it that every parent has an eye on the kind of future being built for their children.



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