Sunday, August 22, 2021

California surrenders to "fossil fuels"


Natural gas is a hydrocarbon, a "fossil fuel"

Richard Lindzen writes:

I think that most of these people realize that there is nothing that the US and Europe can do that will have a discernible impact on climate regardless of what one believes about climate. Under the circumstances, the rational policy would be to do everything possible to increase the wealth of their societies in order to maximize resilience to whatever nature might do for whatever reason. There must be some reason why societies are choosing to do the opposite. Perhaps Fresno thinks that rationality might be preferable – at least in the short run. Maybe they feel that Covid has burdened people about as much as they can tolerate.

California plans to build five temporary natural gas plants to prevent blackouts and one of those plants will be in Fresno County, according to a local lawmaker.

The Department of Water Resources will install five natural gas plant generators at three powerplants in the state, according to the office of Jim Patterson, R-Fresno.

A total of $171.5 million has already been allocated for the implementation, according to the California Department of Finance.

Patterson confirmed news of the plants during a press conference Friday. His office later told The Bee that one of the generators will be installed at Midway Peaking Plant near Mendota in Fresno County.

His office confirmed plants would also be sited in Yuba City in Sutter County and Roseville in Placer County. Two generators will be at Calpine Greenleaf 1 located near Yuba City, Patterson’s office told The Bee late Friday. Two more will be installed at the Roseville Energy Park located near Roseville.

He said the gas-fueled generating plants will consist of a total capacity of 150 megawatts, with 30 megawatts for each unit.

Patterson said his “hunch” is that the state’s use of the plants won’t be temporary, noting that they will be licensed for five years.

The decision to install the five plants has been a result of flawed policies by decision-makers, he said.

“California has been forced to do this because we now have growing demand on a grid that has flattening supplies and that has caused these Flex Alerts,” he said. “Our grid is destabilized because of political decisions.”

From 2009 to 2019, there were two Flex Alerts per year, he said. So far this year alone, he said, the state has had about six Flex Alerts. With high temperatures this year, Californians have been urged to conserve electricity during certain hours.

“Now, as a result of the policies that are coming out of the state Capitol, we are increasingly seeing a grid that is close to being unbalanced,” he said.

Alisha Gallon, a spokeswoman for Patterson’s office, said the office only became aware of the plans through a reporter.

“There have been no official announcements to my knowledge,” she told The Bee. “We have no statement from the Governor or DWR (Department of Water Resources).”

The Department of Water Resources was in the process of procuring, installing and operating the five 30-megawatt generators at the three powerplants, according to an Aug. 10 letter from the California Department of Finance.

“Based on preliminary reporting, Finance has determined that funding for these critical activities must be secured immediately to allow the Department to secure these additional resources for expedited deployment,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, the Director of Finance is allocating $171.5 million from the Disaster Response-Emergency Operations Account.”

The Department of Finance, in the letter, says it has reviewed the information and agrees with the “estimates and need to make an initial allocation to address these immediate needs.”

It’s unclear whether the $171.5 million is just for the initial allocation or the total amount needed.

The Department of Water Resources will began its work related to the generators within 120 days from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July 30 “state of emergency to safeguard the state’s energy system this summer,” according to the letter.

“Now we see the order that these natural gas plants are going to pop up — and one of them in my area here in the Fresno area,” Patterson told reporters.

He said California has been gambling that it can supply the fifth-largest economy in the world with electricity, primarily from wind and solar energy, which are not available at all times.


No, CBS News, Global Warming Did Not Create Taliban Victory

CBS News published an article today claiming global warming was a major factory in the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan and creating murderous chaos throughout the country, rather than political ineptitude. CBS News argues that global warming created horrible weather conditions that decimated crop production during the past 30 years in the country, and the Taliban fed off the misery experienced by Afghan farmers. The objective truth is entirely the opposite.

According to the CBS News article, titled “How climate change helped strengthen the Taliban,” “Rural Afghanistan has been rocked by climate change. The past three decades have brought floods and drought that have destroyed crops and left people hungry. And the Taliban — likely without knowing climate change was the cause — has taken advantage of that pain.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) keeps meticulous crop production data for nations throughout the world, including Afghanistan. In the graph below, the information website The Global Economy presents the UN FAO data on cereal crop yields (corn, wheat, and rice) in Afghanistan, with the left axis showing kilograms per hectare:

Afghanistan crop production, by year

image from

CBS News claims that climate change in Afghanistan during “the last three decades … have destroyed crops and left people hungry.” As you can see, however, Afghanistan has fully doubled its crop yields during the past three decades. Also, Afghan farmers have set new production records on a regular basis, especially during the past few years.

It may be convenient for CBS News to divert attention from the current deadly debacle in Afghanistan by blaming it on climate change. The objective truth, however, is that Afghan crop production has tremendously benefited from a modestly warming world. If global warming has had any impact on Afghan farmer sentiment throughout the country, it has clearly been to make farmers happier, more prosperous, and less vulnerable to the Taliban.


Biden’s Ill-Conceived Executive Order on Electric Vehicles

President Joe Biden issued an executive order Aug. 5 calling for half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. to be zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

A president can’t exactly force Americans to buy an electric vehicle, and Biden largely meant his executive order as a messaging tool to fuel enthusiasm for his climate agenda. But it threatens to ignore customers along the way.

Electric and alternative fuel vehicles arrived on the scene in the past two decades, yet only accounted for 2% of car sales in 2019 despite generous federal and state subsidies. So far, electric vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles have generally been the lifestyle choice of well-off Americans and urbanites.

Studies from the Congressional Research Service and the University of California at Berkeley show the vast majority of tax credits for buying an electric vehicle have gone to corporations and to Americans in top income brackets.

Buying an electric vehicle is a perfectly acceptable choice, but we shouldn’t pretend that electric vehicles, such as they are now, are the “all-American vehicle.”

Nor should we pretend that they don’t come with trade-offs. All transportation options require compromises, because there’s no perfect vehicle or energy resource. For example, if more Americans are driving electric vehicles in the next decade, as Biden wants, when and where you recharge them matters.

High electricity demand equals high stress on grid infrastructure, as Californians and Texans have found out with rolling blackouts and calls to reduce consumption.

Another electric vehicle trade-off is the manufacturing of (and eventually disposal of) batteries. A typical electric vehicle needs six times the mineral inputs as manufacturing a conventional car, according to the International Energy Agency. The vast majority of those minerals are mined in China, with its far more lax labor and environmental protections.

Trade-offs are also exactly why the relationship between customers and businesses is so important. As companies strive to understand the diverse needs, priorities, and preferences of customers, they must innovate to get ahead.

Customers benefit from robust competition and innovation, whether that’s between traditional vehicles, electric vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, or the “next thing” in transportation that hasn’t even been imagined yet.

EPA Along for the Ride

As mentioned earlier, the president can’t make you buy an electric vehicle. But he can make it very difficult for car companies to manufacture and sell alternatives.

The same day Biden issued his executive order on electric vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and trucks.

Acting under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is proposing to require model year 2023 cars to average 55 miles per gallon and trucks 38 miles per gallon. That’s about a 10% increase from model year 2022. The standards would tighten almost 5% annually to 2026, topping out at an average of 63 miles per gallon for cars and 44 miles per gallon for trucks.

In short, the standards would make it that much harder to build and sell a traditional gasoline-fueled car or pickup truck in the U.S. Effectively, they serve to box out the competition for electric vehicles.

The standards, if finalized, would almost certainly raise costs for customers, as previous standards under the Obama administration did.

There’s also a sordid and complicated backstory behind how those numbers were arrived at, the long and short of it being caballing between the state of California, big business, and the EPA, which does not bode well for either customers or representative democracy.

Even so, environmental activists are now saying that’s still not enough.

The Bigger Climate Picture

The president’s executive order and the EPA’s proposed car regulations are all in service of Biden’s commitment as part of the Paris Agreement to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in an effort to reduce global warming. But that isn’t even good climate policy.

There’s a temptation in the U.S. to take a myopic approach to climate policy; that is, to not consider domestic policy in the global context of climate change.

Two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions come from emerging and developing nations. China emits twice as much as America. Even John Kerry, the president’s special climate envoy, has said on several occasions that industrialized nations could eliminate all greenhouse gases and it would have no impact on global temperatures by the end of the century.

Biden’s electric vehicle aspirations and the EPA’s aggressive proposed vehicle emissions standards ignore those realities. And they make Americans poorer (death by a thousand regulatory cuts), which harms their ability to be resilient and adapt to change or adversity, from wherever it comes.

It also forgets a reality Americans should be very proud of. Over the past 40 years, air pollution has declined more than 70%, even as more Americans are driving more miles than ever before.

Air quality in the U.S. is among the best in the world. We have a lot to celebrate.

The federal government should not be the locus of supply and demand for cars. That kind of centralized control isn’t good for customers—who, as we noted, have diverse needs, priorities, and preferences—and it narrows the scope of innovation to government-preferred ends.

But that’s not how Biden and many of his allies see things, and it’s time Congress took back the wheel.


Biden Admits Green New Deal Is a Dream

Last week, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ordered a “code red,” releasing a “landmark” report warning that global warming was an existential threat to humanity, “unequivocally” blaming humans for the problem, and demanding rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“What the IPCC told us is what President [Joe] Biden has believed all along,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted last Tuesday. “Climate change is an urgent threat that requires bold action.”

The very next day, the Biden administration released a statement imploring the OPEC cartel to increase production of oil to help lower worldwide gas prices. “Higher gasoline costs,” the White House said, “if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery.” The White House wants OPEC to go above the 400,000-barrels-per-day increase it already promised to implement, which doesn’t seem to jibe with the notion that we are on the precipice of the apocalypse.

As an economic matter, of course, the request makes total sense: By pressuring exporters to pump more oil, a fungible commodity, we lower costs worldwide.

Even though technology continues to create efficiencies that lower emissions, modernity relies heavily on affordable and reliable energy. Economies would collapse without it. And for emerging nations, affordable fossil fuel remains a prerequisite for lifting billions of people out of poverty.

As a political matter, it might seem odd, to say the least, that President Joe Biden is imploring foreign nations to increase supply. Firstly, such a position runs contrary to virtually every “green” plan in existence—almost all of which intentionally, through mandates or bans or taxes or contrived “markets,” exist to make fossil fuels more expensive and reduce use.

Clean energy advocates, including the president, argue that, in the aggregate, going green would be an economic plus. But if slightly higher prices threaten the world’s economic health, what would complete weaning from fossil fuels do to the economy? Biden has promised a “100% clean energy economy” with “net-zero emissions” in only a few decades. Without some technological miracle, this is a fantastical, not to mention suicidal, goal.

The reality is that Biden couldn’t go a year in office without pleading with oilocracies to hike production. In his defense, one assumes, people will point out that COVID-19 presents a historically unique situation. As far as the economics of recovery go, not really. In fact, this manmade downturn should be easier to mend than most. And this is certainly not the last recession or downturn or pandemic or world event that is going to affect the energy market.

Though it’s probably an unpopular position, I’d be content importing cheap oil, or allowing others to flood the market, while saving our own supply for a time when new drilling becomes more economically feasible. But the hypocrisy of all this is that Biden works to restrict energy trade only in North America.

Earlier this year, the president rescinded oil and gas lease sales from most of the nation’s massive state-owned lands and waters, citing climate change as the reason. He then shut down the Keystone XL pipeline, revoking a permit that was needed to build a 1,200-mile project that would have carried around 830,000 barrels per day of Alberta oil sands crude into the United States—probably more than enough to avoid begging OPEC for oil—again citing climate change as the reason.

At the same time, Biden lifted United States sanctions that would have blocked completion of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that will transport fuel from Russia to Germany, which, like us, is a signee of the Paris Agreement.

Most European nations aren’t abiding by that agreement (well, without the help of an economy-paralyzing pandemic). Which is a reminder that to merely keep pace with the IPCC recommendations on carbon emissions, Americans, who use around 20 million barrels of petroleum every day, would be compelled to induce a pandemic-level shutdown of the economy every year for 30 years.

Americans, despite what they tell pollsters about climate change, demand affordable gas. You might recall that, despite his best efforts to undermine U.S. energy production, former President Barack Obama took credit for the domestic oil and gas boom. “That was me, people,” he told a crowd in 2018. Political pressure is also why the White House made sure its OPEC statement on gas prices was for public consumption, rather than simply making those requests of OPEC through diplomatic channels.

The Green New Deal, whatever iteration of the plan you care to support, is unfeasible. Biden’s request is just another reminder.




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