Saturday, April 11, 2020

The ethanol lobby, which is already subsidized up to its neck, asks for a coronavirus bailout

You never know when it will rain. You never know what prices will do. You never know when war, a drought, a flood, or a pandemic will disrupt demand or supply.

Almost the only predictable thing in agriculture is that when things are going poorly in the United States, the ethanol industry will come asking for a bailout.

So it is with the coronavirus crisis. The companies that turn grain into an inferior fuel are already subsidized up to their necks by state and federal governments, and they are already eligible for the coronavirus relief available to all businesses. Yet they want more — they want their own special coronavirus bailout.

Yes, the ethanol industry is now lobbying the Trump administration for a bailout, Reuters is reporting.

“The U.S. biofuel industry has asked the Trump administration for funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation to help it survive a demand slump triggered by the coronavirus outbreak, according to a letter seen by Reuters.”

People aren't driving because they are staying home to avoid spreading the coronavirus — or because they have been laid off. This has caused demand for gasoline to crater. Ethanol is a plant-based alcohol that refiners are forced by law to blend into their gasoline, and so when gasoline demand drops, so does ethanol demand. That's why things are bad right now for the ethanol industry.

But things are bad right now for every industry. That’s why Congress created many hundreds of billions of dollars in spending to rescue American businesses. Small employers (fewer than 501 employees) can get federal grants through the Paycheck Protection Program. Large employers can get federal loans.

The Agriculture Department, meanwhile, will continue handing out its regular farm subsidies. The Renewable Fuel Standard (that is, the ethanol mandate) will continue creating artificial demand for ethanol. States will continue subsidizing ethanol at every level.

But these everyday ethanol subsidies and universal business subsidies apparently aren’t enough for the industry.

This is what always happens.

High corn prices and low gasoline prices in 2009? There was a push for an ethanol bailout.

Financial crisis in 2008? Push for an ethanol bailout.

Oversupply in 2007? Lobby for an ethanol bailout.

Another glut in 2010? Lobby for an ethanol bailout.

These days, every industry needs help. But the ethanol industry has been getting it all along and doesn't deserve special treatment now.


Equal Warming, 1900 to 1950 versus 1950 to 2018: Why the UN Knows the First Half was Natural

Prof. Rossiter below accepts the alarmist claim that atmospheric CO2 raises the global temperature and points out that recent temperatures are no warmer than in the early 20th century, even though the CO2 levels are much higher now than then -- which contradicts the alarmist claims

CO2 has a logarithmic effect on temperature. Using log math, CO2 levels from 1950 to 2018 have 5.23 times the impact of levels from 1900 to 1950. That means there was no measurable warming from industrial CO2 emissions in the earlier period. Recorded temperature rose the same amount in both periods, and rates of extreme weather and sea-level rise were also the same in both. Hence the data to date do not support claims of a CO2-caused “climate crisis.”

The public often hears about a “consensus” of scientists on climate change. Studies making that claim all concern not the existence of a current or future “climate crisis,” but rather the cause of the half-degree Celsius rise in the average measured global surface temperature since 1950. Here is the key claim in the executive summary of the latest UN IPCC report: “It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in GHG concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.” (GHG stands for greenhouse gases, of which CO2 is by far the most important human source.)

The IPCC is a political body of UN member governments. It bases its confidence on there being at least a quarter (its half of a half) degree of warming since 1950 on the expert opinion of the government-appointed scientists who draft IPCC reports. Interestingly, the IPCC maintains a deafening silence in its reports about the cause of the equal half degree of observed warming from 1900 to 1950. Why? Probably because that warming was almost entirely natural. UN member governments who promote a “climate crisis” narrative appear to be embarrassed by the UN data that show warming and rates of extreme weather and sea-level rise are the same in both periods, the all-natural earlier one and the latter one it claims was mostly man-made.

The reason the earlier period is almost entirely natural is that there was only a 15.6 parts per million increase in the share of the atmosphere that is CO2 from 1900 to 1950, compared to a six-times greater 96.1 ppm increase since 1950, as the world industrialized after World War II.

If the impact of CO2 on temperature were “linear,” meaning the same impact on temperature for every additional molecule, that would cause the latter period to have 6.16 times more warming than the earlier one. Since the IPCC is confident of only a quarter of a degree from industrial CO2 for the latter period, it could only attribute a four one-hundredths degree increase in the former period to CO2, an amount far too small to be measured within the error bands of its estimates.

But specialists agree that the CO2-temperature relationship is not linear. Like many physical relationships it is logarithmic, meaning that each added CO2 molecule causes a little less warming than the previous one.

Therefore, doubling CO2 concentrations from 200 ppm to 400 ppm produces the same surface-temperature increase as doubling again from 400 ppm to 800 ppm, even though the second doubling requires twice as much CO2 as the first. This is because CO2 molecules absorb and emit thermal radiation when the frequency with which they vibrate matches the frequency of infrared waves leaving the earth. These frequency bands become “saturated” because previous molecules have already produced close to the maximum possible change. The logarithmic relationship is non-controversial and well-documented with spectroscopy and measurements of radiative flux.

The table on page 3 shows why the warming impact of CO2 levels was 5.23 times greater from 1950 to 2018 than from 1900 to 1950. Here’s how:

Moving from the left-hand side, the table first finds the relative percentages of CO2 increase in the two periods and places those percentages on a doubling scale. Then it applies logarithms to these increases and takes the ratio of the logs for the two periods, finding 5.23. The table includes a simpler, more elegant form of this relationship: log (latter increase/earlier increase), which of course provides the same 5.23 result.

Finally, on the far right, the table illustrates the diminishing logarithmic return to the increase by tenths of the amount of CO2 during a doubling. For example, the first tenth of the way accounts for 13.8 percent of warming impact, and the last tenth only 7.4 percent, illustrating the logarithmic relationship.

The policy implication of this mathematical reality is that, indeed, the IPCC is right not to attribute to CO2 emissions any of the half degree of warming from 1900 to 1950, as the world came out of the Little Ice Age that ended in the 19th century. That warming was entirely natural. As I have testified before Congress, IPCC and U.S. Government data show no increase in rates of sea-level rise, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods from the period of natural warming (1900 to 1950) to the period the IPCC claims is one of largely human-caused warming (1950 to 2018). This calls into question not just claims of current CO2-driven “climate crisis” but projections of future damage.


Radical Environmentalists’ Giddiness During Pandemic Exposes Their True Aims

As Americans are trapped in their homes, unable to work, and struggling to pay bills due to the threat of a global pandemic, the left has a reminder for us.

The real threat is climate change.

 “We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial. All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall.”

That was the message in a March 31 tweet by former President Barack Obama in response to the Trump administration’s rolling back Obama’s fuel economy standards in March.

While the country and really the whole world is enmeshed in stopping the COVID-19 pandemic, Obama and many others on the left are desperately trying to get Americans to embrace their agenda.

Incredibly, and certainly revealingly, some on the left even tout our current crisis as some kind of model for how we can address climate change.

Numerous media outlets have published pieces like this touting how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a decrease in carbon emissions.

“The sweeping halt of economic activity around the world has governments scrambling to provide adequate relief for vulnerable industries and people,” a report in The Hill notes. “But one silver lining is emerging from this economic freeze: carbon emissions are down. And scientists estimate that they could fall even farther, specifically to pre-World War II levels.”

Vox writer David Roberts said on Twitter in late March that COVID-19 actually has saved countless lives in China because air pollution wasn’t as bad as it normally would have been.

This is not only a disturbing contention but also underestimates what are almost certainly vastly higher death tolls from COVID-19 than the Chinese communist government admits.

Some environmental activists are clearly excited at the possibilities of “degrowth,” as one environmental economist called the widespread economic contractions that have become possible in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ed Conway, the economics editor of Sky News, had a particularly disturbing take.

“Don’t take this the wrong way but if you were a young, hardline environmentalist looking for the ultimate weapon against climate change, you could hardly design anything better than [the] coronavirus,” Conway wrote. “Unlike most other such diseases, it kills mostly the old who, let’s face it, are more likely to be climate sceptics. It spares the young. Most of all, it stymies the forces that have been generating greenhouse gases for decades.”

Wow. Could this make environmentalists seem any more like comic book villains?

The current economic curtailments are just a taste of what extreme environmentalists actually want for the economy and our way of life. Their goals necessitate these kinds of shutdowns; they want degrowth as our world transitions to its green future.

And some don’t want to let this crisis go to waste, demanding that we pass some variant of the Green New Deal and turn the entire economy over to top-down government planning. If it seems remarkably like socialism, that’s because it is.

But despite the unhealthy excitement among some environmentalists, this moment hardly portends America’s sudden embrace of their radical suggestions.

Just look at how fast the plastic bag bans have been collapsing in the wake of the pandemic.

These bans were already of little utility besides virtue signaling, but when combined with the health hazard of using reusable bags, they have been done away with around the country.

Even progressive San Francisco lifted its plastic bag ban, and in true progressive fashion, made reusable bags illegal.

Typical. Whatever isn’t mandatory must be banned, it seems.

But this pandemic likely will have a far greater impact on the minds and actions of Americans than rethinking bag bans.

As Kevin Williamson aptly noted in National Review:

"The current crisis in the U.S. economy is, in miniature but concentrated form, precisely what the Left has in mind in response to climate change: shutting down large sectors of the domestic and global economies through official writ, social pressure, and indirect means, in response to a crisis with potentially devastating and wide-ranging consequences for human life and human flourishing."

Spot on.

Our current difficulties only reveal just how much Americans and people across the globe will have to upend their lives to counter climate change the way activists say is necessary to save the planet.

Temporary shutdowns may be necessary to flatten the curve of the coronavirus outbreak, but they are both deeply costly and unsustainable in the long run.

Even with the almost total lockdown of our national and world economy, where millions find themselves unemployed and countless businesses have shut down, it’s still not enough for climate activists who have unreasonable goals and demands.

And as countries emerge from this morass, they are unlikely to eagerly embrace policies that make renewal almost impossible.

The reality is, countries enduring extreme economic hardship are less likely to be mindful of the environment. It’s natural that desperate people who struggle to put food on the table aren’t going to welcome deep economic restrictions that prevent them from improving their own well-being.

In fact, freer, more prosperous societies are more likely to willingly make efforts to clean up the environment.

It’s illuminating to see so many on the environmentalist left looking at the results of economic paralysis as a silver lining in this catastrophe.

Americans want to get back to work, and they will. Radical environmentalism provides no path to prosperity, only degrowth and stagnation.


Massachusetts v. EPA: After 13 years, it's time for climate policy review

Today marks 13 years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA upholding the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases, the gases attributed to the warming of the planet. The ruling touched off a fierce debate over the science underlining climate change and the policies needed to address it.

In 2009, using legal authorities recognized by the Supreme Court, EPA issued its Endangerment Finding (“EF”), which is the factual and scientific underpinning that justified numerous regulations covering automobiles, oil and gas, manufacturing and power plants.

While the regulations were litigated, the EF was not directly litigated.

The policy debate over climate change may be fiercer today than ever. The Democratic presidential candidates claim “scientists are telling us” we have about a decade to act before “irreparable damage” is done to the planet. Democrats propose spending trillions of dollars to save the planet through, among other measures, the Green New Deal and the elimination of fossil fuels.

President Trump and other skeptics question the underlying science. They assert that the cost and the regulations will destroy the economy. Moreover, the president has acted aggressively to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, an international accord addressing global warning. The Trump administration is also repealing many Obama-era climate regulations.

While the fight plays out on the political stage, the real fight is over the validity of the models predicting harm to the planet. Both sides believe their positions are absolutely right. So far, both sides have embellished their bluster but have avoided having their conclusions directly tested through independent analysis or cross-examination.

This stalemate may change. On March 9, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (“the Center”) filed a petition asking EPA to repeal its 2009 Endangerment Finding. This petition provides EPA with an opportunity to reevaluate its models after 13 years of real-world experience.

The Center’s petition concedes:

There is no debate that atmospheric carbon dioxide (“CO2”) is a greenhouse gas;
There is also no debate that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 has risen over the past two centuries; and
There is no debate that global temperatures are warmer today than they were 50, 100 or even 200 years ago.
The Center states that the real question is whether the increases in atmospheric CO2 are causing dangerous global warming, warming so severe that it is threatening life all across the planet.

The Center also asserts that EPA’s model-based temperature projections artificially inflate warming by a factor of three; that observations reveal that claimed adverse effects of greenhouse gases are not occurring; and the models are invalid as to claims associated with greenhouse gas-induced warming.

The most unfortunate part of the climate change debate is that while the evidentiary basis for the EF was subject to informal public comment, EPA’s models and science have not been subjected to independent, expert analysis or tested by the rigors of cross-examination in a trial-like setting.

Granting the Center’s petition would give EPA a chance to confirm its initial determinations or change course if the science does not support its EF.

EPA has several options. It can reject the petition, in which case the Center will likely sue. If EPA cannot persuade the court to dismiss the lawsuit, there will likely be a trial on the science of climate change.

EPA could grant the petition and take public comment in another informal hearing; again, without any direct evidentiary challenge to the models. Whatever the outcome, the reasonableness of EPA’s decision will be subject to court review and likely upheld.

A final, but rarely used option would be for EPA to conduct a “formal rule-making” in which the agency appoints an administrative law judge to hear evidence, take witness testimony and allow cross-examination to test the evidence.

Such a process would allow the parties to test the scientific validity of the models used to make climate policy. For the first time the assumptions and predictions of its models would be tested against real-world facts by probing the soundness of the assumptions, reproducibility of the models and accuracy of the predictions.

With 13 years of additional data, EPA has a chance to either affirm, modify or repeal its endangerment findings based on real-world data. Before this nation spends trillions of dollars it does not have to radically change life in the U.S., responsible decision-making requires EPA to use the highest quality data available. It owes that to the nation.



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

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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