Thursday, August 20, 2020

Environmentalists should not oppose natural gas

Opposition to infrastructure investment for the production and transport of conventional energy is de rigueur on the environmentalist left, a stance widely justified as an important bulwark for the protection of environmental quality. This is part of the “keep-it-in-the-ground” dimension of the ideological opposition to fossil fuels, itself a deeply anti-human drive intended explicitly to hinder economic growth and increased flourishing among the world’s poorest.

The “environmental-protection” rationale for that opposition to investment is silly, a reality demonstrated by only one observation: New energy-infrastructure investment by definition replaces older facilities and provides alternatives that are cleaner, environmentally safer, and less dangerous for workers and communities. The shutdown of older infrastructure without replacement incontrovertibly leads to a reduction in the stock of productive capital, a reduction in the supply of energy and the economic value of the natural-resource base, and less aggregate wealth. How a poorer society can protect environmental quality more effectively than a wealthier one has never been explained, except for the incoherent argument that the substitution of utterly inefficient, unreliable, and expensive “clean” (actually, very dirty) wind and solar electricity in place of fossil-fired power will effect that end.

In light of these realities, continued investment in infrastructure for the production and transport of conventional energy is an absolute necessity both economically and environmentally. That is why the ideological opposition to new pipeline investment is perverse, a central component of the larger political opposition to fossil fuels. Recent examples of this resistance include opposition to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, as well as the Atlantic Coast and Northeast Supply Enhancement gas pipelines. An environmental-safety comparison of alternative-transport systems — pipelines, railroads, and trucks — is complex, but there is substantial evidence that pipeline transport is safer under a broad range of conditions.

And it is not as if there is no regulatory oversight of pipeline-construction projects. Consider the Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP), a 430-mile project currently under construction, which will transport gas produced in west Texas to the Gulf Coast. Apart from the eternal resistance of the environmental lobby, the project also faces opposition from the residents of Texas Hill Country, who are politically active and would prefer that the pipeline be routed elsewhere. (They have been joined in that opposition by those famous musicians and noted experts on energy policy, Willie Nelson and Paul Simon.) Political pressures and litigation threats lead regulators to exercise oversight over minute details: Since March, the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) has conducted more than 75 inspections of welding, coating, trench integrity, safety issues, and recordkeeping. At a more general level, the RRC has the right political incentives precisely because of the underlying politics (it prefers to avoid future embarrassment), and can anyone doubt that the pipeline operator (Kinder Morgan) would prefer to take appropriate cautions now so as to avoid major problems after operations begin?

Such an extensive inspection and review process is appropriate as a means of providing confidence that future environmental issues will prove minor as they emerge. It is a vast improvement over the legalisms of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), reform of which has been proposed by the Trump administration. NEPA for decades has been a source of massive delay and cost increases for federal projects. Like much environmental legislation, it has yielded actual environmental harm because of its inherent bias toward the status quo over new investment promising improved environmental outcomes. NEPA is a useful tool for opposition to new infrastructure projects even as the underlying arguments presented in support of such opposition are largely spurious.

A sharp reduction in investment in energy infrastructure would make the economy poorer, and in the long run poorer is dirtier. Such an investment decline would leave older, more environmentally harmful, and more dangerous infrastructure in place. Pipelines largely are safer and more benign environmentally than other infrastructure. A rigorous and continuing inspection regime is vastly more consistent with environmental protection than opposition through litigation. And both regulators and private-sector operators have powerful incentives to pursue safety and benign environmental outcomes.


Hawaii beach property linked to Obama, a climate alarmist, bypasses coastal protection laws

A beachfront compound in Hawaii where former President Barack Obama reportedly plans to retire has used a planning loophole to retain a seawall that is likely causing beach erosion, according to ProPublica.

State officials and community members told the outlet that Obama plans to reside in the $8.7 million compound on Oahu's Waimanalo Beach, which was purchased by his close friend Marty Nesbitt in 2015.

The Obamas made a big home buy of their own last year: an $11.75 million waterfront mansion on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., in December 2019.

Permits obtained by ProPublica reportedly show that Hawaii developers are building three homes, two pools and a security perimeter on the property after tearing down the site's mansion, which was famous for being the house from "Magnum, P.I."

However, a century-old seawall is set to remain thanks to a loophole that allowed the sellers to obtain an easement on the seawall for a one-time payment of $61,400, despite environmental experts who warn it could cause coastal damage and beach erosion, according to ProPublica.

The easement, reportedly acquired through Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources, allows developers to essentially lease the public land that sits under the seawall for the next 55 years.

An investigation by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica found that state officials have awarded seawall easements to more than 120 property owners over the past two decades. They include business and real state executives from Hawaii, the mainland U.S. and Japan, a former Honolulu City Council chairman, and a former managing director of a large hedge fund. Some have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to bypass rules designed to protect the public shoreline.

In addition, building permits show that developers are pursuing an expansion of the seawall. Local residents have noted that the existing beach along the property has nearly disappeared, according to the ProPublica report.

The Revised Ordinances of Honolulu states that, for the purpose of shoreline setbacks, it is "a primary policy of the city to protect and preserve the natural shoreline, especially sandy beaches; to protect and preserve public pedestrian access laterally along the shoreline and to the sea; and to protect and preserve open space along the shoreline."

According to research from Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth, Science and Technology, however, multi-agency seawall building on eroding shores approved by the state has resulted in the loss of one quarter of beaches around the island of Oahu.

"Had city, state, and federal staff operated in an integrated fashion, focused on a single over-riding policy to ―to protect and preserve the natural shoreline, this unconscionable level of environmental destruction probably would not have happened," researchers wrote.

Nesbitt, now chair of the Obama Foundation board and co-CEO of a Chicago-based private-equity firm, told ProPublica in a written response to questions that the steps he’s taken to redevelop the property and expand the seawall are “consistent with and informed by the analysis of our consultants, and the laws, regulations and perspectives of the State of Hawaii” and that any damage the structure caused to Waimnalao Beach occurred decades ago and "is no longer relevant."

Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources, Nesbitt, and Obama's personal office did not immediately return FOX News' requests for comment.


DNC Panelist Admits: The Green New Deal is About Destroying Capitalism

Surrogates for former Vice President Joe Biden are falling all over themselves in an attempt to frame the candidate and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, as a "moderate" ticket worthy of running the White House.

But delegates and DNC participants are telling a different story. During a panel discussion on the opening day of the convention, one woman admitted that the Green New Deal is about destroying capitalism.

More on the Marxist foundation of the Green New Deal:

In Europe, you will often hear politically savvy people refer to Green Party politicians as "watermelons." The reason is that although they might be environmentalist "green" on the outside, these leftists are secretly communist red if you look beneath the surface.

They typically resort to such subterfuge because environmentalism is more popular than Marxism. A former East German communist is bound to be unpopular, but perhaps not so much if he rehabilitates himself as a renewable energy enthusiast.

The case of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, is different in that she openly advertised herself as a socialist in a country with a well-grounded historical aversion to such alien ideologies. But her grand policy initiative, the $93 trillion Green New Deal, was still billed as if it were a legitimate environmentalist idea. We were supposedly trying to save the world from imminent destruction. As Ocasio-Cortez herself put it, "We're, like, the world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change."

Democrat vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris is an official sponsor of the legislation, spearheaded by far left Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

“We need a Green New Deal based in climate and environmental justice, which means building a clean economy that protects communities that have been neglected by policymakers for far too long. I’m proud to work with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez on this comprehensive proposal, and I’m hopeful that it brings a Green New Deal closer to reality," Harris said in July 2019 when she officially announced her partnership with AOC.

During a campaign stop during the Democrat primary, Harris said she unequivocally supports the goals of the Green New Deal and argued the United States needs to "figure out a way" to get there.

The facade of the "moderate" Democrat ticket continues to crumble.


Canada: departure of finance minister suggests Trudeau will pursue ‘green’ recovery plan

With a projected C$343bn (US$260bn) Covid-shaped deficit, a collapsing oil and gas sector, and a province on the verge of bankruptcy over a botched energy project, Canada is at a crossroads.

Does it pursue an ambitious “green” post-pandemic economic recovery plan that goes against the wishes of a number of influential and powerful industries – not to mention several provincial leaders – or does the tenuous Justin Trudeau-led minority government freeze in the headlights?

The apparently acrimonious departure of the finance minister, Bill Morneau, late on Monday, suggests Trudeau has made his choice.

Over his five-year tenure, Morneau was seen by many Canadians as taking a conservative approach to spending on environment – and more recently, on Covid relief. Trudeau, in contrast, made environmental promises a centerpiece of last year’s re-election campaign. It was inevitable that the two would eventually arrive at an impasse.

Now, Trudeau’s right-hand woman Chrystia Freeland will take over the finance portfolio in addition to her role as deputy prime minister. As one of the key architects of the new Nafta agreement, Freeland has experience marrying economic objectives to broader social and environmental goals, making her better-positioned to carry out Trudeau’s environmental promises.

But the road ahead still won’t be easy., said Bruce Laurie, the president of the environmental thinktank the Ivey Foundation as well as a member of a taskforce advocating for a green post-Covid recovery.

“When you have politicians in three or four provinces that are just emerging from climate denialism, and a system of federation where the provinces at the end of the day have almost full responsibility for environmental, resource and energy decisions, it creates a virtually unmanageable country,” he said. “That’s a bigger challenge than Morneau and finance.”

Canada’s post-pandemic recovery is creating a moment of reckoning, one in which Trudeau has to decide whether to pursue his ambitious green aspirations even if they come at a political cost.

For years, he has been accused of talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to energy, investing in solar, wind and hydro but also building new pipelines.

Under the Paris agreement, Canada vowed to reduce greenhouse gases by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 – a goal that will probably be impossible to meet with so much of the economy presently relying on Alberta’s oil sands. It will be even tougher if the Trans Mountain, Coastal GasLink and Keystone XL pipelines go ahead.

Related: What if Canada had spent $200bn on wind energy instead of oil?

Kyla Tienhaara, the Canada Research Chair in economy and environment and an assistant professor in environmental studies at Queen’s University, told the Guardian that a majority of Canadians still support federal investment in green sectors such as wind and solar energy despite the country’s deficit.

Further, Tienhaara said Alberta’s recent economic hardship is not purely a consequence of Covid: companies such as Shell have been leaving the region for years.

“That’s because the oil there is very costly to extract, both environmentally and economically. It’s the first type of oil that is going to go in the transition, and the transition is inevitable. Renewable energy is just becoming so much more economically sensible,” she said.

Laurie, meanwhile, has briefed key Liberal caucus ministers on his taskforce’s “five bold moves” to make sure Canada’s post-Covid recovery is as sustainable and resilient as possible. The reception was positive, he said, and Trudeau is “100% committed” to acting on climate change.

The challenge is rounding up the cavalry – and making a decision about Morneau is essential to a strong showing, especially in Trudeau’s minority government.

This is the time, said Lourie, for the Liberals to show leadership by pitching an economic model that delivers on the country’s environmental responsibilities.



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