Friday, July 03, 2020

Coal's black cloud has a silver lining for the arid American west

This would appear to be very shallow thinking.  Water used for cooling does not vanish. Some evaporates but most of it reverts to room temperature and can be used for other purposes

The transition from coal power to natural gas and renewables in the West is picking up steam. That shift has important implications for carbon mitigation, but it also has produced an often overlooked yet suddenly significant development: the release of water previously needed for cooling coal-fired power plants for other uses.

Access to water, in large part supervised by the federal government’s Bureau of Land Management, is perhaps the major issue in the arid West. Unlike in the water-abundant East, where property owners are free to draw at will from streams, rivers, and lakes, in the West, water is allocated under a prior appropriation doctrine, which assigns water rights to people located upstream, provided it is taken for “beneficial use.” Conflict is inevitable without well-functioning markets for water rights.

As coal plants across the West, from Arizona to Oregon and Washington, continue to close as a result of competition from cheap natural gas and subsidies for solar and wind power, small towns like Craig, Colorado, located on the western slope of the Rockies with nearly 9,000 residents, hundreds of whom work in the coal industry, will have the option of buying the coal plant’s water rights when it is mothballed in 2030.

Craig’s local economy can be transformed by the availability of new water supplies. The same possibility is opening in many other cities and towns throughout the West. The transformation is underway at a time when water conservation is an unusually high priority because years of drought have left rivers, lakes, and reservoirs alarmingly low. Cooling a coal plant uses huge amounts of water. The one in Craig consumes an average 16,000 acre-feet of water every year, sucking up water that could supply as many as 32,000 households.

The bad news from coal’s demise is that thousands more coal industry workers nationwide will lose their jobs. (Industry employment is down by roughly 100,000 since the late 1980s). The good news is that once the last western coal plant is closed, more water will be available for residential and recreational use as well as for ranching and farming.

Power companies have cut their use of coal drastically, shutting down plants or converting them to natural gas. One reason for coal’s demise is rising public concern over climate change. The carbon content of natural gas is half that of coal.

A more important reason is found in market forces: the fracking revolution has made natural gas much cheaper than coal, supplying strong incentives for power plants to switch to gas-fired turbines. The substitution of gas for coal has been dramatic: natural gas nowadays is the nation’s leading fuel for electricity generation.

The Energy Information Administration says that additional supplies of natural gas will be needed to meet the nation’s ever-growing demand for electricity. Since 2005, when the shale revolution caught fire, gas consumption has soared. Moreover, natural gas is an indispensable backup for solar and wind power: gas-fired turbines can ramp up quickly 24/7 to generate electricity when the sun and wind are offline. In fact, fracking for natural gas opened the way for the growth of solar and wind power, and it has reduced U.S. carbon emissions to mid-1990s levels, the fastest and sharpest decline anywhere in the world.

Despite fracking’s considerable economic and environmental value, several politicians want to ban it. Joe Biden, who sees the writing on the wall for coal, is moving in a different direction. Biden opposes a fracking ban but wants to stop new oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Most oil and gas drilling takes place on private and state lands.

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What’s important to recognize is that in arid West energy production and water are intertwined with many local economies. Water is a precious commodity. Where it flows — whether to a residential tap, a power plant, or down a river for recreational use — and how it will be reallocated after coal goes the way of the dinosaur will say a lot about the future of the American West.


Climate Alarmist Apologizes, but I Still Want Reparations From Al Gore

There are times when the climate hoax alarmists are so tedious that I almost wish they were not only right, but that the planet would die really, really soon. Just so I can escape them.

I’m of a certain age and can remember when the looming climate crisis was supposed to have us all freezing to death and being buried in the ice until invading intergalactic aliens discover our fossils millennia from now.

Then, of course, the climate scare was all about Earth having, as Al Gore so infamously put it, “a fever” and being on the brink of boiling to death. In the fourteen years since Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth made that claim, “global warming” has become “climate change,” largely because the alarmists keep being wrong about everything and they needed a malleable catch-all phrase to better market their snake oil.

As has been written by me and many others, the climate change hoax movement has become the secular Left’s religion. It does not tolerate heretics. The Climate Church imposes its will on academia by controlling the grant money purse, effectively purging dissent.

It’s a heckuva racket, I will grudgingly admit.

Those who go against the grain and dispute any of the accepted climate teaching are branded “anti-science,” even though “climate science” has more to do with a bunch of computer models that keep being wrong than actual science. One of the more bizarre attacks that is deployed against skeptics is to say we “don’t believe in climate.”

Not we “don’t believe in climate change,” but that we don’t believe in climate at all.

Spoiler alert: every skeptic believes in climate and knows that climate changes.

On Tuesday, Rick wrote a post about a former climate alarmist who has dared to deviate from orthodoxy:

Michael Shellenberger has been a climate activist for 30 years, a liberal activist who went to Nicaragua in the 1980s to help the Sandinistas. He’s traveled the world for liberal causes, pushed the “existential threat” of global warming, but is now apologizing for promoting “climate alarmism.”

Shellenberger’s story is an interesting one. He admits that he was quiet for as long as he was because he was “scared” and that he “suffered harsh consequences” when he tried to speak his own truth about climate science. He also debunks a lot of the regular talking points that Al Gore and Co. trot out to pimp their agenda.

As we all know, that agenda is to use climate hysteria to institute a money-grabbing New World Order. Well, in Gore’s case it’s just to make himself a buck; he’s using all of them. Gore and his ilk have successfully terrorized a generation of children into believing that their futures are doomed and worthless because of the threat of climate change. Yes, Greta Thunberg is annoying, but the adults responsible for her being that way are criminal.

Heaven help the Republic if the Democrats come to complete power and we’re saddled with a “green new deal” that ultimately makes us part of the climate freak commie world order.

The sea levels can’t rise quickly enough if that happens.


Florida Court Tosses Youth Climate Lawsuit

In another in a string of defeats of lawsuits in which youth plaintiffs are attempting to force governments to take action to fight climate change, Florida Circuit Court Judge Kevin Carroll dismissed a lawsuit brought by eight Florida youths against Gov. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

This defeat tracks the history of cases brought by climate activist law firms on behalf youths in Alaska, Montana, Oregon, Washington state, and in a federal case dismissed earlier this year. In those cases, as in the Florida decision, the courts found legislative bodies, not the courts, are the appropriate forum in which to shape states’ and the nation’s climate and energy policies.

No Constitutional Violations

In the case, Reynolds v. State of Florida, the plaintiffs, ranging in age from 12 to 22, alleged state political leaders had violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment and the public trust doctrine to manage natural resources responsibly, by not taking serious action to prevent climate change and by supporting the continued development and use of fossil fuels.

Florida’s Attorney General’s office argued the state’s public trust doctrine applies only to certain waterways and some shorelines, not the air, and matters of climate and energy policies are for voters and the legislature, not courts, to decide.

Carroll agreed, rejecting the case before it went to trial, saying he concluded climate concerns were more appropriately settled in state capitols and by governors, rather than judges.

“We can’t rely on judges to be dictators of public policy because, at the end of the day, a dictator in a black robe isn’t any better than a dictator in a suit or in a military uniform,” wrote Carroll in the June 1 ruling dismissing the case.


U.S. Supreme Court Rules U.S. Forest Service Can Approve Pipeline Under National Trail

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal appeals court ruling that held the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lacked the authority to allow a permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to cross beneath a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

The $8 billion ACP would carry natural gas 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina to provide fuel for electric power along the east coast.

Where Authority Lies

The ACP would cross several federal lands, including national forests. The USFS granted federal permits along the route. Environmental groups sued to block the pipeline, saying the USFS lacked the authority to allow the ACP to cross under a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Under the 1968 Trails Act, the Department of the Interior designated the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Maine to Georgia, as under the management of the National Park Service.

In 2019, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond, agreed with plaintiff environmental groups, ruling the Appalachian Trail fell under the authority of the NPS, which the court found was barred by federal law from granting rights of way for energy development.

Led by Dominion Energy, the consortium of companies building ACP appealed the lower court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the Trump administration joining,  on both substantive and legal grounds.

Industry groups argued the pipeline would neither harm the environment nor disturb hikers, as it would be constructed 600 feet below the trail, going underground a half-mile before crossing beneath the trail and exiting a half-mile beyond the trail.

The Trump administration and the consortium also argued the 1920 Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) granted USFS, in this instance, the authority to approve rights-of-way for oil and gas production and transport.

USFS Authorization Affirmed

Joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Clarence Thomas authored a majority opinion reversing the 4th Circuit Court’s ruling, holding the Trails Act did not alter the USFS’s authority under the MLA to permit pipeline construction under the trail.

“We hold that the Mineral Leasing Act does grant the Forest Service that authority and therefore reverse the judgment” of the lower court, Thomas wrote.

The pipeline will have not harm the environment, said ACP spokesperson Ann Nallo in a statement issued after the Supreme Court’s decision.

“For decades, more than 50 other pipelines have safely crossed the trail without disturbing its public use,” said Nallo. “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be no different.”

Having resolved this dispute, the consortium building ACP will now proceed to obtain the final permits for completion, saying it expects the pipeline to be operating by 2022.

Impact on Another Pipeline

It is likely the Supreme Court’s decision will reach beyond ACP’s particular case to allow the completion of a second pipeline.

The nearly completed 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), running from West Virginia to southern Virginia, crosses the Appalachian Trail in the Jefferson National Forest. Work on it was halted after the 4th Circuit Court’s ACP ruling. With that decision overturned and the same authority at issue in the MVP case, the pipeline should now be able to proceed to completion.

Clarifying Authority

The new decision appropriately places permitting authority for crossing the Appalachian Trail where it belongs with the USFS, providing certainty to oil and gas developers, says Mark Burghardt, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, in a statement.

“This decision is very good for natural gas producers, pipeline companies, and natural gas consumers,” said Burghardt. “In the short term, it will allow development of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline [and] long term, it allows pipeline companies to plan routes with certainty on how to cross the 780-mile Appalachian Trail and will allow the development of natural gas fields in less-populated areas to the west.

“The environmental groups challenging the pipeline were not worried about damage to the trail, since this pipeline is located far underground. [They] are simply against fossil fuels,” Burghardt’s statement said. “This is the right decision. It is a common-sense, practical decision that adheres to the text and purpose of the Trails Act [which] simply does not express the intent to transfer control of the property at issue from the Forest Service to the National Park Service.”



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