Thursday, September 30, 2021

The White House Is Still Considering Carbon Taxes to Pay for Biden's Massive Spending

Speaking to reporters at the White House Tuesday afternoon, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is still considering some kind of carbon tax to help pay for President Biden's big government, domestic agenda.

"There's a range of revenue raisers and options on the table," Psaki said, arguing corporate polluter fees don't violate Biden's promise not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 per year.

Americans for Tax Reform begs to differ.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) confirmed today that the Senate majority leader asked him to craft carbon tax legislation to be included in Democrats' $3.5 trillion tax and spend blowout.

Upon the request of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Wyden is drafting legislation that could create a carbon tax starting as high as $18 per ton and set to increase over time, according to reporting from the New York Times. For context, the Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated that a $20 per ton carbon tax would increase taxes by $1.2 trillion over a decade while the center-left Tax Policy Center found a $20 per ton carbon tax reduces the pre-tax income of households in the lowest income quintile by nearly one percent.

This tax increase would violate President Biden’s pledge not to raise any form of tax on anyone making less than $400,000 per year. A carbon tax would increase the price of gasoline, household energy bills and everyday consumer goods.

The White House has had a hard time convincing Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to go along with Biden's $3.5 trillion spending plan. Manchin specifically is raising questions about carbon taxes already in the bill.

"I just heard about that," Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday. "Any type of a tax is going to be passed on to the people."

"Now if a tax is going to be beneficial to help something and give us more research and development and innovation and technology, it’s something to look at," he said.


Missouri’s largest wind farm isn’t running at night for fear of killing endangered animals

Every night for months, turbines at Missouri’s largest wind farm sit idle to avoid killing endangered and threatened bats.

And now, as the wind farm’s owner, Ameren Missouri, seeks permission to increase customers’ rates, consumer advocates are sounding the alarm. They argue customers shouldn’t have to pay the full costs of the wind farm on their bills if it’s not fully functional. And at least one fears the company won’t meet state standards for renewable energy.

The St. Louis electric utility purchased the High Prairie Renewable Energy Center near Kirksville from a developer and started operations last year. The 175-turbine facility should produce up to 400 megawatts.

But according to testimony filed with regulators who are expected to decide on Ameren’s requested rate increase, High Prairie is not producing at full capacity.

“To be clear, the High Prairie Wind Farm has been curtailed from before dusk to after dawn since April 19, 2021,” Geoff Marke, chief economist for the Missouri Office of the Public Counsel said in sworn testimony filed last week with the Missouri Public Service Commission.

Ameren halted night operations for several weeks this spring after four bats, which are nocturnal, and 52 birds, including a bald eagle, were discovered dead on the property, according to a report submitted to federal wildlife officials.

It received a permit in May from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to operate in a way that seeks to minimize the number of endangered or threatened bats it kills each year. But bats kept turning up on the property.

So despite Ameren’s good faith efforts to protect the bats, in June, it voluntarily stopped running the turbines at night, said Karen Herrington, a field supervisor for the Missouri Ecological Services Field Office of the USFWS.

It’s the only wind farm in Missouri that Herrington said she is aware of that has had to stop operating at night to avoid bat kills.

Ameren is currently seeking a rate increase from customers worth nearly $300 million, including costs from High Prairie that it hopes to recover from ratepayers.

But consumer and business advocates filed testimony estimating that the wind farm is only operational about 75% of the year. They want Ameren to recoup far less of those proceeds.

“To the extent that you have to reduce the output or reduce the operating times of the wind farm so that you’re not running it at night, ratepayers should not be on the hook to pay a return for an asset that can’t fully operate,” said Greg Meyer, a consultant who testified before the PSC on behalf of Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers.

Beyond that, Marke said in testimony, Ameren is at risk of failing to meet a state requirement that, starting this year, utilities generate at least 15% of their power from renewable resources.

In a statement, Ameren’s chief renewable development office, Ajay Arora, said the company stands alongside supporters of clean energy and said growing solar and wind power benefits customers. Achieving net-zero carbon emissions, which Ameren has pledged to do by 2050, “will require significant investments in new wind and solar facilities.”

High Prairie, Arora noted, has been operating for nine months.

“It operates every day for the benefit of all of our customers, and we anticipate it will continue to do so for decades to come,” Arora said. “Throughout siting, construction, permitting, and now generating clean energy at High Prairie, Ameren Missouri has worked closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation.”

High Prairie History

Ameren first sought approval in 2018 for the High Prairie wind farm, which sits in Adair and Schuyler counties in northeast Missouri.

Even at that time, some groups raised concerns about the location, given the prevalence of the endangered Indiana bats and threatened northern long-eared bats, both listed by USFWS. The wind farm’s USFWS permit also covers the little brown bat, which is not listed federally but is a “species of conservation concern” for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“If Ameren Missouri’s project results in fatalities of vulnerable, endangered or protected species, Ameren Missouri could be liable for financial penalties and potential enforced curtailment of generation, which in turn could raise future prudency concerns and would almost certainly include greater scrutiny of future wind projects,” Marke said in testimony in 2018.

Herrington said while USFWS doesn’t have a role in determining where wind facilities can go, the service informed Ameren that the site was a high risk location because of the prevalence of Indiana bats.

Federal data show seven Indiana bats have been killed on the premises since Ameren received its permit. Given the size of the property, there are likely to be more. The company is expected to file a report next week with USFWS to estimate its impact on birds and bats in the area.

Rate case

Both OPC and the Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers are advocating that customers pay a much smaller share of the High Prairie than Ameren proposed in its rate filings.

Marke said in testimony that he feared the reduced hours the wind farm can operate might mean Ameren fails to obtain its renewable energy standard, the state law requiring that it obtain 15% of its power from renewable sources.

“As such, I do not believe ratepayers should be responsible for any costs related to Ameren’s poor managerial decisions in electing to site its wind farm where it did,” Marke said.

Only 75% of the nearly $600 million in costs from the wind farm should be recovered from ratepayers, he wrote.

MIEC, represented by Greg Meyer, proposed cutting more than $8 million from the return Ameren is asking to receive on the investment.

The PSC is months away from hearing Ameren’s rate case, and new rates won’t take effect until next year.



The obituary of coal as an energy source has been written many times, but rumors of coal’s death are premature, as two stories in the news show. In the U.K., Britain is forced to fire up coal plant amid record power prices and winter squeeze.

Like the U.S., Britain has been relying increasingly on wind power. Funny thing about that–it doesn’t work when the wind stops blowing.

Energy prices have spiked to a record high in Britain after calm weather shut down the country’s wind turbines amid a global shortage of natural gas.

Wholesale power costs surged to more than four times their normal level, forcing officials to fire up coal-based plants to handle demand.

It is feared the high prices will continue into winter as the weather gets colder, raising fears over household bills and putting a string of energy suppliers at risk of going bust.

A global natural gas shortage? The U.S. might do something about that, if we had an administration that was not determined to shut down one of our cleanest energy sources, along with nuclear power. More:

Electricity prices reached an all-time high of £240 per megawatt hour on Friday and were trading at £219.46 per MwH on the N2EX exchange on Monday morning.

The squeeze was worsened by a slump in wind output in the UK. It dropped as low as 474 megawatts, compared to a record of 14,286 megawatts on May 21, according to analysis by Bloomberg, as a three-day heatwave settled across much of England and Wales.

Wind now provides about 20pc of the UK’s electricity throughout the year, but this varies hugely day by day.

At 7pm this evening, real time data showed Britain was getting 45.6pc of its power from gas-fired turbines, 13.5pc from nuclear power plants, 5.5pc from wind and 12.3pc from interconnectors to the continent and Northern Ireland. 5.5pc was coming from coal.

National Grid ESO, which balances Great Britain’s power supply, asked EDF to switch on two coal-fired units at its West Burton A station this morning to help meet demand.

Coal has its faults, but unlike wind and solar, it is reliable and cheap.

Global demand for coal continues to grow, and Australia is a major exporter. A representative of the United Nations requested or demanded that Australia stop producing and selling coal. The government told the U.N. to pound sand.

A United Nations demand for Australia to accept coal’s days are numbered was comprehensively rejected Monday with a lawmaker in Canberra promising the future of the vital export and job creator will be “decided by the Australian Government, not a foreign body.”

“If the world does not rapidly phase out coal, climate change will wreak havoc right across the Australian economy: from agriculture to tourism, and right across the services sector,” [Selwin Hart, the U.N.’s assistant secretary-general and special adviser on climate action] said.

Australia’s Resources Minister Keith Pitt shot back by affirming coal would remain a significant contributor to the Australian economy well beyond 2030.

“The future of this crucial industry will be decided by the Australian Government, not a foreign body that wants to shut it down costing thousands of jobs and billions of export dollars for our economy,” Pitt said, according to the Australian Associated Press.

He pointed to three months to July that saw coal exports soar to $12.5 billion – a 26 per cent increase on the previous quarter – as evidence of just how vital the commodity remains to the Australian economy and the jobs that go with it, the AAP report said.

“Coal will continue to generate billions of dollars in royalties and taxes for state and federal governments, and directly employ over 50,000 Australians,” Pitt added, in a direct challenge to climate activists who join the U.N. in demanding Australia cease and desist the practive.

Support for “green” energy is a mile wide and an inch deep. Most people express favorable opinions of “green” energy, which is not surprising since the propaganda begins in kindergarten. But support for wind and solar evaporates quickly when energy prices triple or quadruple, and most of all, when blackouts begin.


Australia: Coal prices are roaring back amid a global energy crunch

Soaring coal prices have placed Australia’s mining and energy exports on track to reach a record $349 billion this year even as the value of the nation’s biggest export, iron ore, appears to have peaked.

Markets for thermal coal, used for power generation, are booming around the world as a global recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic drives up demand for energy. Metallurgical coal used in steel-making has also touched new highs as supply shortages combine with rebounding industrial activity.

Federal government trade data to be released on Thursday reveals an expected 10 per cent rise in resources and energy earnings to hit an all-time high of $349 billion in 2021-22, before falling back to $299 billion in 2022-23.

“The sector has gone from strength to strength and is performing better than it was pre-pandemic,” Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt said.

Coal producers were hit hard in 2020 as the shock of the pandemic pummelled prices and a diplomatic feud led to China banning Australian coal shipments. The sector has also been under mounting pressure as global warming concerns cause investors to flee, while the United Nations, ahead of an upcoming climate summit in Glasgow, is calling on all countries to commit to phasing out thermal coal between 2030-40.

Although this year’s price rally signifies coal’s enduring near-term demand as an abundant source of energy, the federal Industry Department notes the commodity faces “significant competing forces”.

“Recent revenue surges are likely to run up against longer-term structural issues in the coal market,” it said. ”Investor and policy pressure has grown in recent years, and the global coal-fired power plant construction pipeline has contracted since 2015.”

Still, the share prices of ASX-listed coal miners have been rallying in the past month. Investment bank Morgan Stanley described Whitehaven Coal, whose value has jumped almost 50 per cent since August, as a “cash machine” amid expectations of higher coal prices lasting well into 2022.

Prices for the key steel-making ingredient iron ore, however, have been falling rapidly. China, by far the world’s biggest consumer of the commodity, has been seeking to cut steel mills’ output and tackle carbon emissions for the third straight month.

After hitting a record $US230 a tonne in May, iron ore has had its value slashed in half and is now trading below $US110 a tonne, hammering the share prices of the mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue.

UBS analyst Myles Allsop said Chinese steel production had weakened since July as Beijing put pressure on provinces to materially cut energy consumption and intensity to meet targeted emissions cuts of 3 per cent year-on-year. Problems plaguing top Chinese property developer Evergrande had also triggered a slowdown in construction reducing steel demand, he said.

Australia’s iron ore exports reached a record $153 billion in 2021 on the back of an aggressive infrastructure building blitz in China and weaker iron ore output from mines in Brazil, but is forecast to fall by as much as 35 per cent by 2022-23.




Wednesday, September 29, 2021

No, the UK’s energy woes have not really been caused by net zero

The United Kingdom has a bit of a retro vibe to it right now – and I don’t mean the fashion or music.

Long queues at petrol stations, empty supermarket shelves and soaring electricity bills are evoking memories of the dark, trying days of the 1970s. While Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to play down the seriousness of the situation, nobody can say with certainty that things won’t get even worse.

For [Australian PM] Scott Morrison, the timing is far from helpful. As his government embarks on a fraught internal debate over whether to take a net-zero emissions policy to the COP26 climate summit in November, some MPs are seeking to frame the energy and transport crisis in Britain as a cautionary tale on why taking tougher action on climate change is a bad idea.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan already had a crack at it on Monday by attempting to link a picture of a depleted supermarket shelf to the net-zero agenda. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says Britain has “completely botched” its transition away from coal. And a group of Conservative MPs in Britain also hopes a potential winter of discontent will force Johnson to scale back his green agenda.

But the truth is the UK’s woes have not been caused by decarbonisation. If anything, the turmoil might actually help make the case for a more rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

The crisis squeezing Britain consists of three main problems, and two of them have absolutely nothing to do with climate policy. The supermarket shortages and the long lines at petrol stations are instead down to a simple lack of truck drivers. Without them, goods can’t get to the stores and fuel can’t be delivered to the bowser. Panic buying has only made things worse.

Thousands of service stations across Britain have run dry with a truck delivery shortage sparking panic the nation is running out of petrol.

The Road Haulage Association believes there’s a shortage of about 100,000 drivers in the UK. Thousands of foreign drivers have gone home because of Brexit and more because of coronavirus. The pandemic has also caused a huge backlog for driver testing, and the shortages have been exacerbated by a growing number of truckies retiring.

None of those facts stopped Canavan, a former cabinet minister and economist, from tweeting a picture of empty supermarket shelves with the words ‘Net Zero Emissions...’. Even Canavan’s own colleague, Liberal MP Jason Falinski, can’t let such deception pass without challenge.

“This has been a fundamental feature of the debate in Australia from day one – misappropriation of cause and effect,” Falinski says.

“The mistake made in the past is that those kinds of claims have been allowed to go on unchecked. I think it’s important now that people actually stand up and say, ‘look, there is no relationship between this and the thing you’re arguing against’.”

The transport crisis will probably ease over the coming weeks but the more serious problem revolves around skyrocketing natural gas prices. Unlike Australia, where gas represents a fraction of the overall energy mix, in Britain it makes up nearly 40 per cent. About 85 per cent of homes use gas central heating.

Industry group Oil and Gas UK says wholesale prices have surged 250 per cent since January and a whopping 70 per cent since August alone.

But market forces – not government climate policy – are chiefly to blame. Surging global demand driven by the post-lockdown recovery, lower supply from Russia, fierce bidding for liquefied natural gas by Asia, and Europe’s cold 2020-21 winter has put real pressure on reserves and supply. A fire affecting a key undersea cable used to import electricity from France hasn’t made things any easier.

The UK hasn’t helped itself by storing much less gas than other nations in Europe. However Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who has responsibility for energy policy, says this is a “red herring”.

“There’s no way that any storage in the world will mitigate a quadrupling of the gas price in four months, as we’ve seen,” he told MPs. “The answer to this is getting more diverse sources of supply, more diverse sources of electricity, through non-carbon sources.”

In another complication, there has been a lack of wind to turn thousands of turbines in the North Sea, right when the gas shortage meant renewables were really needed. This is not ideal, but far from the primary cause of the price rises causing so much grief for voters.

That honour rests with the increasing difficulty of importing scarce supplies. And if that doesn’t make the case for a carefully managed increase in domestic renewable capacity and storage – and not a decrease as Canavan and others like to argue – what will?


‘New Yorker’ Mag Pushes Activist Who Calls for ‘Intelligent Sabotage’ to Push Climate Change Agenda

The New Yorker recently featured a left-wing, enviro activist who said that activists should perpetrate “intelligent sabotage” to destroy infrastructure to force governments to institute the radical climate change agenda.

“Andreas Malm insists that the environmental movement rethink its roots in nonviolence and instead embrace ‘intelligent sabotage,’” the New Yorker’s description of the Malm interview states.

Malm, who is a professor from Lund University, tells the New Yorker interviewer that he supports “a call for escalation, a call for the movement to diversify its tactics and move away from an exclusive focus on polite, gentle and perfectly peaceful civil disobedience.”

“I am recommending that the movement continues with mass action and civil disobedience, but also opens up for property destruction,” the extremist environut added.

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Malm went on to insist that destroying property is “morally legitimate” to advance the leftist, pro-communist movement.

“If people in that region were to attack the construction equipment or blow up the pipeline before it’s completed, I would be all in favor of that. I don’t see how that property damage could be considered morally illegitimate given what we know of the consequence of such projects,” Malm continued.

This is a typical leftist, here. Every one of these hard ore leftists support political violence and terrorism. And even when they pretend that they don’t also support murder, they always do when all is said and done.

Regardless, it is impossible to destroy property and at the same time assure that no people are hurt or killed.

And these leftists know it.


Ford Announces Surprise $11 Billion Investment in Electric Cars

The Ford Motor Co. gave the auto industry a jolt Monday with word that it plans to spend $11.4 billion on new production sites in Tennessee and Kentucky where it plans to build electric pickup trucks and cars — and the batteries to power them — on a massive scale.

It will also create 11,000 jobs in the two states that have struggled to recover from the collapse of the coal industry.

Ford projected that by 2030, some 40 percent of his company’s vehicles will be electric. He vowed to make believers out of the skeptics who fear a switch to electric from internal combustion engines means sacrificing power.

Ford Executive Bill Chair suggested that even law enforcement would be involved in the transition.

“I actually don’t think it’ll be that hard once, once they see what these vehicles can do,” Ford said. “For instance, they’re faster than lightning, so to speak off the line, they’re very quick, faster than anything else that’s out there.”

The new battery-powered Ford Mustang Mach-E, which can go from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, is going to be road-tested by the Michigan State Police, he said.

So, even though these cars will be fundamentally different from the vehicles our parents and grandparents grew up with, they’re still going to be fun.


Surging wind industry faces its own green dilemma: landfills

Wind turbines have become a vital source of global green energy but their makers increasingly face an environmental conundrum of their own: how to recycle them.

The European Union's share of electricity from wind power has grown from less than 1% in 2000, when the continent began to curb fossil fuels, to more than 16% today.

As the first wave of windmills reach the end of their lives, ten of thousands of blades are being stacked and buried in landfill sites where they will take centuries to decompose.

Spanish turbine maker Siemens Gamesa this week launched what it called a "game changer" - the first recyclable blades, which use a technology that allows their carbon and glass fibres to be reused in products like screen monitors or car parts.

"We have reached a major milestone in a society that puts care for the environment at its heart," said Andreas Nauen, chief executive of Siemens Gamesa, which expects the blades to become the industry standard.

Europe is the world's second largest producer of wind-generated electricity, making up about 30% of the global capacity, compared to China's 39%, according to the Global Wind Energy Council, an industry trade association.


Wind Europe, a Brussels-based trade association which promotes the use of wind power in Europe, expects 52,000 blades a year to need disposal by 2030, up from about 1,000 today.

"The public want to be reassured that wind energy is fully sustainable and fully circular," said WindEurope's chief executive, Giles Dickson, describing Siemens Gamesa's new recyclable blade as a "significant breakthrough".

While wind turbine blades are not especially toxic, the resulting landfill, if improperly handled, may contribute to dangerous environmental impacts, including the pollution of land and waterways.

All forms of energy have some environmental cost but renewables, almost by definition, cause less damage to the planet, said Martin Gerhardt, Siemens Gamesa's offshore wind chief.

"If you look at oil wells and the spills or if you consider ... methane leaks, compared to the fossil industries, wind is the lesser problem," he said.

Wind power is one of the cleanest forms of energy, with a carbon footprint 99% lower than coal and 75% less than solar, according to a study by Bernstein Research, a U.S.-based research and brokerage firm.

Its emissions come mainly from the production of iron and steel used in turbines and concrete for windmill foundations.

If these were mitigated by techniques such as carbon capture and storage - where carbon dioxide is buried underground - "you'd be able to cut out the carbon footprint completely," said Deepa Venkateswaran, the study's author.


The growing mountains of waste created by old blades has become a rallying point for groups opposed to wind turbines, which they also say are noisy and spoil the countryside.

But landfill is likely to remain the preferred disposal option because it is the cheapest, said Eric Waeyenbergh, advocacy manager at Geocycle, a sustainable waste management firm.

"If you just throw it in the landfill, this is the cheapest price you can have when you're dismantling the windmill. And that's a problem because there's no mandatory recycling or recovery obligation," he said.

Geocycle and WindEurope are lobbying for landfills to be banned across Europe where only four countries - Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland - have outlawed the landfilling of composite materials, such as wind turbine blades.

Geocycle co-runs a cement kiln in Germany, with building industry giant Lafarge, which is partly fuelled by burning thousands of tons of old wind turbines, which create less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels.

Recyclable blades can also be ground up for use in products such as rearview car mirrors and insulation panels, or heat-treated to create materials for roof light panels and gutters.

However, industry groups say these techniques are not currently available at commercial scale or at a price that would make them viable alternatives to landfill.

David Romero Vindel, co-founder of Reciclalia, which cuts and shreds turbine blades for recycling as carbon fibre yarn and fabric, said a landfill ban would help his firm.

"We need the EU to push the sector in this direction of recycling," he said.

Vivian Loonela, a spokeswoman for the European Commission said it will review its landfill policies in 2024.

"The recycling of (windmill) composite fraction remains a challenge due to the low value of the recycled product and the relatively small amount of waste (produced), which does not stimulate the recycling markets," she said.




Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Solar Farm Sale Reveals Green Energy Sorcery

A solar farm sale in New Jersey tells us everything we need to know about solar energy schemes, green eggs and scam and the real value of green energy.

A good friend and guest blogger here sent me a link yesterday to a post at EnviroPolitics that reveals some of the sorcery behind solar energy. The editor of that journal, Frank Brill, is a big fan of solar energy and ran what appears to be a news release from Cushman & Wakefield about their role in a 49-acre Warren County solar farm sale for $3.5 million. I’m would imagine Frank thought this sale was evidence of the growing value of solar and that’s why he published it. But, it demonstrates the opposite.

According to the release, which appeared in several places, these are the facts of the solar farm sale:

The 10-megawatt solar farm, installed and operated by NJR Clean Energy Ventures III, sits on 49 acres just off Exit 3 of Interstate 78 in Pohatcong.

The property is fully leased to NJR, a subsidiary of New Jersey Resources Corp. and the largest owner-operator of solar farms in the state, Cushman & Wakefield said.

The team of Andy Merin, Kyle Schmidt, Andrew Schwartz, Jordan Sobel, and Andre Balthazard represented the seller, RDG at Pohatcong, and procured the buyer, Turner Group, the firm said.

“Considering the enormous barrier to entry and the fact this site took 10 years of planning, negotiating, and constructing to ultimately come online in January 2020, it’s no surprise that we saw strong interest in the I-78 Solar Farm,” Schwartz said.

No information is provided on the buyer, the Turner Group, and there are several entities by that name operating in New Jersey, but it’s safe to assume the buyer invested for the sake of earning a return on its $3.5 million. But, here’s the thing. There was clearly no return for the seller.

That’s because a 10 megawatt facility costs a capacity-weighted $2,544 per kilowatt (that’s $25,440,000 per megawatt for those of you who live in never-never land) to build before considering the value of the land. Do the math and the seller probably put something on the order of $25 million in this 10 MW facility that will only generate power about a quarter to a third of the time and still require 10 megawatts of natural gas fueled power generation available as backup at all times.

The land the facility sits upon is worth at least $16,000 per acre in a vacant condition based on comparable sales in the immediate vicinity (two parcels totaling 57.9 acres sold in 2016 and 2018 for an average of $15,976/acre), so if we deduct that from the sale price we are left with $2.7 million or so, which represents a likely return of capital in the range of 10-11¢ per dollar.

It’s probably a lot less given the 10 years of time it took NJR Clean Energy Ventures III to get the project done, but let’s just go with 10¢ on the dollar. This is the real hard core value of the finished project produced by this solar farm sale. Everything else is phony money with Phil Murphy’s picture on it. Murphy, of course, is the second Goldman Sachs guy out of the last three governors elected by Garden Staters and he knows green eggs and scam inside out. Moreover, Murphy and Corzine (the other Goldman Sachs governor) were separated by a pompous buffoon whose favorite activity was selling out every friend and principle he ever had when he wasn’t saving the solar industry.

If you read that link you’ll see it’s all a shell game. Oh, yes, the good people at NJR, which is primarily a natural gas supplier, will surely pretend it makes economic sense to sell an asset for 10¢ on the dollar. They’ll talk about Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), SRECs, tax credits and every other form of direct and indirect subsidy that arguably makes this a smart financial decision for NJR. It may well be so on paper, of course, because they have no choice but to participate in a pay to play rigged market where renewables are forced onto them to be able to sell natural gas.

That’s how the other 90¢ of this solar farm sale deal was covered and it’s all your money, one way or another; rent grabbed from the government to allow true green believers to signal their virtues but, much more importantly, to make a pile of real money on green eggs and scam for the likes of big money firms invested in selling green bonds and the like. Solar farms make no economic sense whatsoever but they are being forced on all of us to benefit a very few, using unsettled global warming as the excuse. It is disgusting corruption and this solar farm sale at 10¢ on the dollar proves it.


Why are BMW and Daimler being sued over climate change?

German activists have filed a lawsuit against automakers BMW and Daimler for refusing to tighten carbon emissions goals, the first time German citizens have sued private companies for exacerbating climate change.

The lawsuit from the heads of Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), is similar to one being lined up for Volkswagen by the heads of Greenpeace's Germany division in collaboration with Fridays for Future activist Clara Mayer and an unidentified landowner. However, this group has given Volkswagen until Oct. 29 to respond.

DUH also challenged energy firm Wintershall to restrict its emissions targets, but no suit has been filed against the company as of yet.

Here's what the cases mean, and why they matter.


In May last year, Germany's top court ruled the country's climate law was not doing enough to protect future generations. It set carbon emissions budgets for major economic sectors, increased the percentage by which emissions must be reduced from 1990 levels by 2030 to 65% from 55%, and stated that Germany as a country must be carbon-neutral by 2045.

While meeting these demands implies some restrictions to current generations' lifestyles, not meeting them would force future generations to make significantly more drastic sacrifices in order to both survive in a warmer world, and prevent the problem from getting worse, the court argued at the time.

In the same month, environmental groups in the Netherlands won a case against oil company Shell for not doing enough to mitigate its impact on the climate – the first private firm to be ordered by a court to reduce its emissions.

On the back of those two rulings, the German activists are making their case.


This case is important on two levels.

Firstly, because of the legal precedent it could set - namely, that companies are directly responsible for the effect on people's lives of the emissions their products create.

If the defendants win, citizens could be emboldened to sue other companies – from airlines to retailers to energy firms – for not doing enough to mitigate their impact on the planet.

Secondly, because companies will be forced to prove in court that their emissions targets are as watertight as they say they are – stress-testing their claims that they are taking climate change seriously.


Daimler and BMW have set a number of climate-related targets.

Daimler aims to produce purely electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030, and provide an electric alternative for all models by 2025. BMW wants at least half of global sales to be EVs by 2030, and reduce CO2 emissions per vehicle by 40% in the same timeframe. Volkswagen has said it will stop producing fossil fuel-emitting cars by 2035.

All three firms have stated that their targets are in line with the international Paris Agreement on tackling global warming.

But the defendants argue that the companies' goals aren't enough to adhere to the German climate ruling and carbon emissions budgets set by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

By prolonging carbon-emitting activities, the companies are directly responsible for the constraints on individual rights that will have to endured in future if carbon budgets aren't stuck to, the case argues.

These are by no means the only firms to which such an argument could apply - and if DUH wins, more lawsuits could follow.


DUH wants both autos firms to legally commit to ending production of fossil fuel-emitting cars by 2030, and to ensure the CO2 emitted by their activities before those deadlines does not go beyond their fair share.

What do they mean by their fair share? It's a complex calculation – but put simply, the NGO has calculated a personal ‘carbon budget’ for each company, based on a figure put together by the IPCC of how much carbon we can still emit globally without warming the Earth beyond 1.7 degrees Celsius, and how much carbon the companies emitted in 2019.

According to its calculations, the companies' current climate goals aren't enough to keep them within their allocated budget – meaning that even if everyone else sticks to their budgets, these companies' activities would push emissions over the limit.


Daimler said on Monday it did not see any grounds for the case. "We have long provided a clear statement for the path to climate neutrality: it is our aim to be fully electric by the end of the decade - wherever market conditions allow," it said in a statement.

BMW said its climate targets were already at the forefront of the industry, and its goals were in line with the ambition of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees.

Volkswagen said it would consider the case, but that it "does not view suing individual firms as a suitable method to tackle societal challenges."


Sweden’s green dilemma: can cutting down ancient trees be good for the Earth?

Forest-owner Lars-Erik Levin doesn’t seem like an environmental villain. As he walks through his 80 hectares (198 acres) of woodland in southern Sweden, he identifies goldcrests by their song, points out a cauliflower fungus and shows off the aspen in his wood that grouse feed on. This year he’s picked more than 100kg of chanterelles, and even more bilberries.

But this is the part of the property he manages by so-called continuous cover forestry, where he claims he only fells trees with trunks so thick his arms no longer reach around them. On the other side of his farmhouse is a wide-open space the size of two football pitches, where, five years ago, he cut the forest to the stumps. Little now remains but grass, brambles and young, waist-high spruce. “Animals and birds have legs and wings, they can move a little,” he protests when asked what happened to the wildlife.

“It’s devastation,” says Magnus Bondesson, the local officer for the Swedish Forest Agency. “It’s not a good thing for biodiversity.”

Clear-cutting, which sees a total forest area a third larger than Greater London cut to the stumps every single year in Sweden, has become a hot political issue after the EU’s new forest strategy in July said the technique should be “approached with caution”, and called for Sweden to protect more of its forests.

Forestry policy now threatens to cause clashes with the European commission. The Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, declared in a speech to open parliament that “forestry should not be micro-regulated from Brussels”.

The issue also threatens the stability of the government. The Social Democrats’ coalition partner, the Green party, last week refused to bow to a demand from the agrarian Centre party that forest owners’ property rights should be strengthened, as part of its price for propping up the government.

The issue is even splitting the Green party itself, pitting those who see forest products as key to the green transition against those who want to protect biodiversity at all costs.

“I describe it as environmental destruction, the most serious damage ongoing in Sweden,” says Rebecka Le Moine, the radical runner-up in last year’s party leadership contest.

Unlike many other European countries, Sweden doesn’t have a limit on clear-cutting, meaning that areas of more than 100 hectares can be cut in one go, threatening the 2,000 red-listed species connected to the country’s forests.

Le Moine is pushing for her party at its October annual meeting to agree to campaign to limit clear-cuts to two hectares and to push for wood used for heating to no longer be seen as renewable and instead taxed on its emissions, like coal or oil.

Maria Gardfjell, the party’s spokesperson for forestry, who is herself a forest owner, admits the party is split.

“If you look at Green party policy, it’s not the same as what you hear from Rebecka. It’s not our politics,” she says. “If you take the climate law we have in Sweden, you can see that we will need forest products as substitutes for plastic, clothes, fuel and almost every kind of product. But at the same time, we need to promote biodiversity much, much more.”

At Levin’s property, he walks from his lush, natural-seeming continuous cover forest into an area he planted with spruce 30 years ago. It comes as a jolt. Whereas in the continuous cover area there are trees of all ages, and in places thick undergrowth, the spruce forest is a plantation, the trees evenly spaced and all the same age.

“It’s a bit darker,” says Bondesson, while admitting the biodiversity is “zero”. “It wouldn’t feed a mouse. There are mushrooms, but that’s it.”

It is by no means clear, however, which of the two areas brings the most environmental benefits. “The spruce produces 15 to 20 cubic metres of wood per hectare, and the continuous cover produces five,” Bondesson explains. “Do you understand the climate impact? How much more carbon dioxide it is binding?”

According to Tomas Lundmark, a professor of forestry ecology management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, harvesting forests by clear-cutting and then growing trees of the same age absorbs on average as much as 30% more carbon than if you use continuous cover forestry techniques, perhaps even more.

Trees of 30 to 50 years old, like those in Levin’s plantation, absorb the most carbon, while forests untouched for hundreds of years tend to be small net emitters. This is the industry’s big claim to sustainability.

The total volume of standing wood stored in Sweden’s forests has more than doubled over the past century, and its forests are still sucking in a net 48 million tonnes of CO2 a year as they grow, with another 7 million stored in long-lasting products made from Swedish wood. Taken together, that’s enough to make Sweden effectively carbon neutral.

The supply of biofuels in Sweden has tripled over the past 40 years and now provides close to 30% of its total energy supply, helping to halve its consumption of petroleum products.

For Le Moine, however, none of this is worth the loss of natural habitat. “They keep telling us we have more forests now than we had before,” she says. “My reply is we have never had this many trees, but never had such a little amount of forest ecosystem.”

Levin says that when he started doing continuous cover forestry back in the 1980s, he had to keep it secret as it was viewed by the forest agency as “almost criminal”. Now, others are starting to see the advantages. “It’s beautiful,” he says. “It produces money, and berries and mushrooms, and it’s not so much work.”

But he grimaces at the mention of activists such as Skydda Skogen (Save the Forests) or Le Moine, who want clear-cutting stopped altogether.

“They don’t understand that the forests have to do their work,” he says. “They need to make money for people, so that people can live out here.”


Australia: It’s a $50b-a-year export industry. How long until coal’s rivers of gold run dry?

If the end of coal is near, it’s hard to see it among the open pits and billowing cooling towers of Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and the Hunter in NSW.

Canyons of brown and black coal, set between green paddocks and sloping hills, loom large in these mining districts and dominate their economies as a source of great wealth, just as they have for a century or more.

A global push is accelerating to eliminate the use of thermal coal — the worst-emitting source of energy — to restrain the planet’s rising temperature and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

But the mines in Latrobe and the Hunter are still operating around the clock. White steam still rises from the nearby power plants as they burn coal to supply more than two-thirds of Australia’s electricity needs. And, at the ports, huge volumes of coal are still being loaded onto cargo ships bound for Asia, bringing in billions of dollars of export revenue a year.

“The coal industry is just so damn important to the regional centres,” says Peter Jordan, a Cessnock local and mining union official who worked in the sector for more than a decade.

“Our coal mining jobs are well-paid relative to other industries, but they support many others in the mining communities; services, retail, health … most of them wouldn’t exist without coal.”

With 50,000 coal mining jobs nationally, the industry’s head count is relatively modest in contrast to sectors such as manufacturing, which employs 900,000 Australians. But coal has an outsized influence in a handful of seats, where it is a provider of good jobs and rich revenue streams for governments.

“It sends rivers of gold to Sydney in the form of royalties,” Jordan adds, “paying for roads, schools, and hospitals.”

For now, coal is a $50-billion-a-year export industry. How long until its rivers of gold run dry?

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull lost his job over an attempt to reshape energy policy and push down emissions. Scott Morrison went to the last election warning voters that Labor’s “net-zero” target would unleash economic havoc and widespread lay-offs.

Most Australians now say they want stronger emissions curbs, new polling suggests. But fewer than half (49 per cent) think coal power should be phased out within a decade and 44 per cent want to keep mining and exporting coal for as long as buyers want it.

Australia’s coal addiction might seem hard to shake. While 10 coal-fired power plants have shut down in the past decade, coal still generates about 70 per cent of the nation’s electricity.

Winds of change are, however, blowing anyway. The clean energy era is firmly upon us. And powerful forces are radically reshaping coal’s outlook overseas and on the home front.

With 3.3 gigawatts of new wind and solar power capacity plugged into the nation’s main grid in 2020 alone, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has officially declared the transition to be the fastest of anywhere in the world, describing the pace as “absolutely staggering”.

A consequence of more wind and solar farms being built, and more Australians installing rooftop solar panels, is that coal is getting squeezed. In the past 12 months, the flood of cheaper-to-run renewable energy has pummelled daytime wholesale power prices to levels where just about every coal-fired power plant is considered at risk.

This year, EnergyAustralia brought forward the closure of its Yallourn power station to 2028, four years ahead of schedule. Last week, it said it would shut its Mt Piper plant earlier, too, sometime prior to 2040.

Other sites, though, are still licensed to be burning coal until the back half of the 2040s, or even the 2050s, putting Australia at odds with a growing chorus of world leaders calling for a markedly more urgent phase-out plan.

Ahead of the world climate summit in Glasgow, the United Nations has launched a push for all OECD countries to quit coal power by 2030, and non-OECD countries by 2040. “The alarm bells are deafening,” UN secretary-general Antonio Gutteres says.

Is it possible for Australia’s coal-dominated national power market to be rid of coal entirely by 2030? “It depends,” says Lisa Zembrodt of Schneider Electric, an adviser to many of Australia’s largest corporate energy consumers.

Put this question to the power station operators, and they invariably insist 2030 is far too soon and would raise the threat of a “messy” transition that could see price volatility or even blackouts.

AGL, which accounts for 8 per cent of Australia’s total emissions, says nine years is not nearly enough time for replacement capacity to be invested in, built and plugged into the grid.

“We certainly recognise that the date of 2030 is something that is on the table with respect of the UN targets,” AGL chairman Peter Botten says. “I believe that 2030 is a very, very challenging target.”

Still, at its annual investor meeting last Wednesday, more than 50 per cent of AGL’s shareholders including US investment powerhouses BlackRock and Vanguard defied the board and voted to support an activist climate resolution requesting consideration of new goals that would compel accelerated coal plant closures.

What it boils down to, according to Zembrodt, is a choice we have to make as a society: As expensive as it may be, are we prepared to invest in the transition — smart grids, micro-grids, demand-management technology, batteries, energy storage and infrastructure — to fill the gap?

“We should be seeking to phase out coal as quickly as possible … and 2030 is a great aim,” she says. “But we need clear policy, we need market design, we need coordinated efforts between government, the market operators and consumers to enable the transition and support it, rather than prevent it.”

Grattan Institute energy director Tony Wood agrees: Australia could be capable of retiring all its coal plants and replacing them with clean energy by 2030, but it would cost a “huge amount”.

“You would have to do a hell of a lot of things in the shorter-term that you otherwise would only have done in the longer term,” he says.

Because electricity production is a dominant source of emissions, exiting coal would help sharply reduce the country’s carbon footprint. At the same time, however, state and federal ministers have also become acutely aware to the risk of abrupt plant closures leading to undesirable outcomes for consumers.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor is driving development of a so-called “capacity mechanism” designed to spur investment into “dispatchable” assets – those capable of supplying on-demand power when the wind isn’t blowing and sun isn’t shining.

Taylor insists the mechanism would be technology-neutral, with equal opportunity for gas, pumped hydro and batteries. But the policy has drawn fierce criticism from environmental advocates who have dubbed it “CoalKeeper” because it may see coal plants paid to guarantee future supply by remaining in the grid for longer.

NSW thermal coal has rallied this year to $US180 a tonne – a 10-year-high, and a sign of enduring near-term demand despite accelerating emissions goals globally.

As economies re-emerge from COVID-19 and energy consumption rebounds, coal markets are booming. What will happen next, though, is decidedly less certain. Top Australian coal destinations – Japan, China, South Korea – are targeting “net-zero” emissions by 2050-60, which, eventually, will diminish demand for fossil fuel cargoes.

There is much still to be answered. How sharp will the trajectory in those countries be? Will the world seek to limit global temperatures to 2.5 degrees of warming, 2 degrees or the most aspirational 1.5-degree pathway, as targeted by the Paris Agreement? What does that mean for Australian coal?

When the Reserve Bank of Australia considered these questions, it modelled four scenarios. Under one scenario of no change to existing policies in those countries, Australian coal exports rise 17 per cent by 2050. In other scenarios in which temperature rises are kept at 2 degrees or lower, coal falls by up to 80 per cent by mid-century.

“Countries are unlikely to materially alter their energy mix in the near term, and ... demand for coal will likely remain robust this decade, the RBA said. “However, as global appetite for coal tapers off from 2030 onwards under all scenarios except for the baseline, Australian coal-related investments are at risk of becoming ‘stranded assets’.”

Coal producers and analysts say Australian coal – with a relatively high quality and energy content – could face a brighter future than coal from other sources, as countries across Asia retire their older, less-efficient coal generators and move towards lower-emissions facilities.

“If everybody else goes down, we could end up holding a bigger piece of the global coal pie,” says Herd. “But is that who we really want to be? Do we want to be the last coal exporting-nation in the world?”




Costly Energy, Climate Policies in Democrats’ Spending Bill Lack Transparency

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are driving Congress to pass a $3.5 trillion spending package to go along with the more than $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed the Senate in August.

Transparency and debate are all but nonexistent.

As far as energy and environment issues are concerned, the long and short of it is, these bills are the Green New Deal by another name and Congress’ bid to implement President Joe Biden’s Paris climate commitments to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Looking at the committee proposals in the House of Representatives, there are five main buckets of policy:

A Clean Electricity Performance Plan, which would pay power companies $150 per megawatt-hour to increase renewable electricity generation by at least 4% each year, and penalize companies that don’t at $40 per megawatt-hour.

Energy tax credits, extended and expanded for green energy technologies, fuels, and vehicles.

Federally funded grants, loans, research and development, and demonstration of green energy.

A new Climate Conservation Corps.

New penalties on oil, gas, and coal companies, such as a ban on production off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and a punitive fee on methane emissions.

Combined with the infrastructure bill, this includes a $6 billion bailout of existing nuclear power plants, a carbon dioxide reduction mandate on states implemented through the Department of Transportation, and tens of billions of dollars on green energy research and development, commercialization, and federal procurement.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in August that “the Green New Deal is in the DNA of this green budget resolution.”

Additionally, the Biden administration has moved expeditiously to propose new climate regulations in nearly every agency—but particularly from the Environmental Protection Agency, the departments of Energy and Interior, and the Securities and Exchange Commission—to prop up green energy and target nearly every aspect of the oil, gas, and coal industries.

As others have noted, some of these pieces don’t fit logically together into coherent policy and don’t take into account what states and the private sector are already doing.

Complexity is not the friend of transparency, and taxpayers are likely to bear the brunt of it.

For example, it’s possible that a power company with a lot of nuclear power generation could really bring in the bucks with the nuclear energy bailout in Congress’ infrastructure bill, state subsidies for nuclear and renewables (for example, Illinois’ recently passed bailout), and the Clean Electricity Performance Plan payments to meet the net-zero goals many utilities have already voluntarily committed to.

What does this add up to? Assuming Washington can successfully dictate the behavior and choices of Americans as it’s proposing to do, Americans can expect a moderation of global temperatures of 0.04 of a degree Celsius by the end of the century using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s assumptions (problematic as they may be) about the nature and pace of global warming.

Setting aside whether you think 0.04 of a degree Celsius is a worthy goal, the cost effectiveness of how Congress is proposing to achieve it through these bills is an issue that even some moderate Democrats are rightly flagging.

That is, just as cost is not an irrelevant strategic factor in acquiring defense assets and new capabilities, cost is not irrelevant when it comes to climate response.

One can look at cost in at least two ways.

First is the dollar amount, which—according to fact sheets from the House Natural Resources Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee—tallies up to roughly $270 billion. Further, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the House’s green energy tax policies will lose $235 billion in tax revenues over the next decade.

However, many of the programs that liberals are pushing forward are “temporary,” hiding their true long-term cost.

Just as important are costs in the loss of decision-making power of American families, businesses, and states as the size and scope of the federal government grows.

Along with the administration, Congress is trying to frame and narrow the choices Americans are allowed to make.

For example, there’s nothing wrong with electric vehicles as a choice Americans can make, but federal policies are trying to make it hard to choose anything else.

Instead, robust competition in the marketplace has served Americans well for centuries and driven innovation to newer and better technology.

Right along with free enterprise being a foundational piece of what has made the U.S. a great country to live in is the idea of federalism; namely, that California can run its experiment, Texas can try something else, as can Rhode Island and every other state while they learn from these laboratories of democracy.

But the proposed expansions of the federal government in these bills further destroy that system of diversity within unity.

The left has oversimplified the problems of—and solutions to—climate policies, and is trying to persuade Americans that commitment to living within our fiscal means and holding fast to founding principles must be abandoned. That’s a costly endeavor.


Energy crisis puts world’s most ambitious climate plan to test

The record spike in energy prices could hardly have come at a worse time for Europe’s ambitious new climate plan, with politicians just beginning to talk about how they’re going to implement the world’s most sweeping emissions-cutting strategy.

The energy crisis is threatening double-digit increases in consumer electricity bills months before the winter freeze and it’s also squeezing industrial giants. As European governments scrambled to blunt the impact on consumers — Greece promised subsidies on power bills, for example — threats of blackouts in the U.K. this past week were a vivid reminder of the fragility of energy supplies.

For the European Union, which is proposing to ban new fossil-fueled cars by 2035 and impose new costs on dirty home heating, the steep costs of such an ambitious plan will be an even tougher sell to voters already reeling from hikes in utility bills.

“Of course the current level of energy prices has the potential to make discussions on the climate package more complex,” said Peter Vis, a senior adviser at the Rud Pedersen Public Affairs consultancy and a former political aide to the EU’s first climate commissioner. “But to weaken the package due to the energy crunch today would detract from the longer-term solution of reducing Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels without addressing the cause of the gas supply squeeze.”

Natural gas and power prices are surging to all-time highs in the 27-nation region, as the bloc’s economies rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. The surge in demand comes amid limited gas imports from Norway and Russia, with some countries accusing Moscow of manipulating supplies. At the same time, the EU strategy to accelerate emissions cuts in every sector from transport to manufacturing and agriculture boosted demand for carbon permits, with prices more than doubling over the past two years to new records.

The EU wants to lead the global fight against climate change, setting an example for other major emitters such as the U.S. and China. Its overarching goal in the Green Deal strategy is to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The green package unveiled in July aims to align the economy with stricter binding goal of reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels. The laws need to be approved by the European Parliament and member states in the Council of the EU, with each institution entitled to amending the plan, in a process likely to take around two years.

But for Europe’s lower-income countries — as well for the continent’s energy-intensive industries — the pain of any transition will be significant, and the EU will be under pressure to help cushion the blow from the current price jump.

As the political talks get underway, governments from Madrid to Amsterdam are taking steps to alleviate the immediate impact of the energy crisis and prevent backlash against carbon-cutting policies. Measures to reduce emissions “may not stand a sustained period of abusive electricity prices,” Spain told the EU in a letter on Sept. 20, recalling the yellow vests protests that shook France two years ago.

The gas crisis already hijacked this week’s meeting of energy ministers, called to discuss draft laws to increase the share of renewables and boost energy savings. While the EU has limited powers in the area of energy policy, which largely remains in the hands of member states, the European Commission pledged to publish in the coming weeks guidelines on what short-term tools nations can use in line with the bloc’s law. Options include reducing value added tax and excise on energy.

In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis earlier pledged to grant a power subsidy in the fourth quarter for all households aimed at covering most of the expected price spike in power bills. He also announced a reduction of sales tax until June 2022 for coffee, transport, nonalcoholic drinks, cinemas, gyms, dance schools and tourism packages.

The Netherlands amended the country’s budget to include €500 million ($586 million) to lower energy costs for companies and households. Spain will slap a windfall tax on power utilities and cap consumers’ energy bills, a move that critics said could limit investment in renewables.

“That is not sustainable,” Ignacio Galan, the chief executive officer of Spanish power company Iberdrola SA, said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “That puts at risk the whole energy transition.”

But European governments are limited in what they can do to tackle the power crunch — without making their climate goals even harder to reach.

“It feels unlikely that politicians will reverse track and go back to coal generation or make changes to the approach to carbon,” said John Musk, an analyst at RBC Europe Ltd. “It is hard to see what measures can be adopted to alleviate near term supply-demand constraints on gas and power. There are likely to be a couple of difficult years to navigate in terms of consumer prices and there may have to be some measures to help consumers here and there.”

The biggest industrial energy users are particularly exposed to the immediate impact of the price spike. Zinc producer Nyrstar NV said on Thursday it is cutting output at a major Dutch plant during peak times of day. For regional aluminum producers, electricity costs could equate to about 80% of the commodity’s overall price, the metals industry association Eurometaux said in a letter to the EU energy chief Kadri Simson, urging further support for the sector.

“These rising electricity prices have already led to curtailments and could lead to further relocation of our sector outside Europe if not addressed,” the lobby said. “More broadly, we’re also concerned that if electricity remains too expensive, it will disincentivize industrial electrification as a decarbonization route, undermining the EU’s Green Deal objectives.”


Can We Really Model Climate Change?

Hardly a day goes by when we are not assailed by claims of doom and gloom over “climate change,” with some well-known politicians warning us that our world will cease to exist as we know it by 2035 (a short 14 years from now!).

Just a few weeks ago, representatives of the government blamed the catastrophic flooding in New York and New Jersey in the aftermath of Ida on “climate change,” as did another member who earlier blamed another natural weather phenomenon on “climate change.” Apparently, neither understands the difference between “weather” (the cause of fires in California, hurricanes like Ida, tornadoes, etc.) and “climate” (longer-term swings in temperature, precipitation, etc.).

The fact is that, statistically, such “weather” events (e.g., tornadoes) are no more frequent or intense than they have been in the past. Accordingly, you should be excused for asking about the bases of these extravagant claims.

Do the claimants have a magical crystal ball with which they can see the future more clearly than the rest of us, or is it simply the blind leading the blind with some of the blind being more vocal than others? After all, paleontologists and earth scientists will tell you that Earth’s climate has been changing since time immemorial and it has changed drastically and cyclically during the approximately 2.5-million-year history of the human species.

However, at issue is a more subtle phenomenon related to changes induced by the human species themselves. Humankind has had that capacity for less than 300 years (since the start of the Industrial Revolution, from the mid-1700s).

But, you may say, 300 years is just a “blink of an eye” within typically climatic (not weather) cycles that occur over thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of years. For example, 300 years of CO2-producing industrialization represents just 0.3 percent of a 100,000-year ice-age cycle.

My point is that the climate is an exceedingly complex physico-chemical system, and we must ask the question: Do climate models faithfully include each of these phenomena, in a deterministic manner with sufficient detail that they can be described by the relevant constitutive equations and natural law constraints in a form that renders the predictions reliable (see below)? Or are we again being led by the blind?

To be clear, my goal is not to pass judgment on any specific climate model, for that would entail a much deeper analysis than that which I present here. I simply wish to make the reader aware of the stringent conditions that must be met when modeling complex physico-chemical systems, such as our climate, the results of which may impact how future multi-trillion-dollar investments are made.

Hopefully, this discourse will prompt people to ask the right questions before approving such expenditures.

Two great philosophies exist with respect to prediction: empiricism, which is the philosophy that everything that we can ever know we must have experienced; and determinism, which posits that we can predict the future from the past upon the basis of the known physical laws (“Laws of Nature”). Thus, all scientists collect data that are converted into knowledge, and that knowledge is eventually used to formulate the Laws of Nature that, unlike the Laws of Man, are inviolate and are true under all circumstances everywhere in the universe.

Indeed, I like to define “science” as the process of transitioning from empiricism (what we observe) to determinism (what we know and can predict) upon the formulation of the Natural Laws. Thus, the Natural Laws represent the condensation of all scientific experience so that when we invoke such a law it contains knowledge extending back thousands of years, to before Aristotle and Archimedes.

Impeding the transition from empiricism to determinism is “complexity.” Volumes have been written on complexity, and space does not allow even a cursory review of the subject here.

“Complexity” is like driving on a highway on a foggy night. The fog obscures your vision and allows you to see just a short distance along your path. Now you switch on your high beams, and lo and behold, you can see much farther. Thus, you have used an instrument (the high beams of your automobile) to allow you to see farther and with greater clarity.

So it is in science; in fact, it is fair to say that the digital computer (our “high beams”) has allowed us to advance science more over the past four decades than science had advanced throughout previous history. In other words, the computer has greatly extended our intellects, which is the role of models!

The development of models in human intellectual pursuits is a very complex subject that extends well beyond this op-ed, but an excellent, somewhat technical review is given by Frigg and Hartmann [1]. I will focus on deterministic models, as their predictive powers are so much greater than those of empirical models since “prediction” is the single most important attribute that climate models claim to possess.

All deterministic models have a common structure, either explicitly or implicitly. All deterministic models must have a theoretical basis that is, itself, based upon observation. These observations may be presented as postulates or assumptions, with postulates being based directly on observation.

Thus, it is important to note that a theory can be no more valid than the postulates and assumptions upon which it is based. Also, the postulates must not presuppose the output of the model; that is, the postulates must not accept as an empirical fact that human-induced global warming is occurring.

Thus, if one starts with a postulate that states that the climate is changing and that humans are responsible for that change, the chances are that the model will predict exactly that, but the prediction will be invalid because of the input of even unrecognized bias.

The prediction environment is also problematic, because what is sought is a reliable difference between two large, fluctuating numbers: the climate as we now know it (including human impact) and the unknown climate that might have existed were there no human impact. We can measure how the climate is changing in current time using a variety of techniques, but how do we measure the climate as it might have existed over the same period sans human impact? The short answer is that we cannot!

Unfortunately, only the former is commonly reported in newspapers, giving the impression to non-experts that it is all due to human impact. It is not, and the human impact component is normally only minor, but nevertheless, it is an important component. The headlines would not be as dramatic or fear-inducing if the readers were reminded that the human component is the difference between what we observe and what we model in the absence of human impact, and that is normally small.

Thus, we are concerned with changes in temperature due to human impact of a few tenths of a degree Celsius on a background that fluctuates several tens of degrees Celsius daily to monthly (due to the weather) and even more (typically 30 to 45oC) over the seasons of the year.

That is not to dismiss the possible seriousness of human-induced climate change if, in fact, it is actually occurring at the rate claimed by the doomsayers. That is the still unanswered challenge.

There is no question that climate change modeling exists at the very edge of feasible modeling, and it is for this reason that the nature of the models employed must be critically examined. You see, part of the problem is that the art and science of modeling is seldom taught in universities; somehow, students are expected to know how to model complex physico-chemical systems as though it was part of the human genome.

The author became so concerned with the lack of modeling skills among graduate students that he, while a Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University, taught a course titled “Theories and Models in Science and Engineering.” I don’t recall anyone involved in climate change taking the course.

I began this op-ed with the question “Can We Really Model Climate Change?” and I will end with a considered opinion. The answer is a qualified “yes,” but only, in my humble opinion, if the modelers adhere to certain rules. The modelers must:

Carefully describe the theoretical bases of the model, clearly state all postulates and assumptions, and demonstrate that they do not reflect any preconceived bias toward a certain result.

List and describe the constitutive equations and constraints, demonstrate that all equations are independent, and demonstrate that there are a sufficient number of equations to cover all unknowns.

Refrain from introducing “ad hoc” factors (“crook’s constant” in my student days) to make the model “work.”

Ensure that any calibrating data are known from independent experiment and are known to be true within well-established bounds.

Carefully define “success,” and ensure that the scientific method of prediction and assessment is strictly adhered to, including the rejection of the model if only one incorrect prediction is made that cannot be corrected by valid reassessment of model parameters and input data.

I emphasize that the “rules” of modeling outlined above have been established by numerous scientific philosophers over thousands of years of collective work and have been instilled into the transition from empiricism to determinism that I call “science.”

As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” The emphasis on the natural laws renders these rules in compliance with previous scientific experience and must be recognized in any attempt to model complex physico-chemical systems in a deterministic manner, including (and especially) Earth’s climate. To ignore them is to do so at your (and our) peril.


Australian PM refuses to commit to phasing out fossil fuels

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to commit to phasing out fossil fuels as a major climate conference approaches, while his deputy doubled down on opposing targets for net zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

Australia, the world's top coal and a major gas exporter, is under growing pressure to come up with emissions reduction targets ahead of November's COP26 United Nations climate conference in Scotland.

The International Monetary Fund called on Australia to set a "time bound" target to reach net zero emissions on Friday, when the country's treasurer warned that Australia must brace for much higher borrowing costs if it fails to commit to a net zero target by 2050, as many peers have done.

In interviews with Australian media after a summit in Washington, Morrison said his government was still working on its emissions plans, declining to commit to curbing fossil fuels that account for a major part of Australia's export revenue.

He told broadcaster SBS in an interview that aired on Saturday night that he was not prepared to pull back any fossil fuel industries immediately.

"We don't have to, because that change will take place over time," he said. "We are working on the transition technologies and fuels and the ultimate technologies that will be there over the next 20, 30 years that can get us to net zero... This doesn't happen overnight."

Morrison, who has a largely undefined slogan of "technology not taxes", was part of a government that torpedoed a carbon pricing scheme after winning the 2013 election while opposing the mechanism as a tax.

His deputy prime minister, climate change sceptic Barnaby Joyce, dug in on Sunday against a net zero target.

"We look at it through the eyes of making sure there is not an unreasonable, or any loss of... regional jobs," Joyce, whose National party represents largely rural voters, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Joyce said proceeds from mining and agriculture industries were vital for people in regional towns, from hairdressers to auto service providers.

"You've got to remember, fossil fuels are your nation's largest export and if you take away your nation's largest export, you've got to accept a lower standard of living," he said.




Sunday, September 26, 2021

With 1,000 coal-fired power stations (and climbing) China's energy pollution mocks the world's bid to combat climate change

The billowing clouds of steam and smoke are visible from miles away. As night falls and the lights turn the sky neon bright as far as the eye can see, the chimneys keep remorselessly pumping out their toxic fumes.

This is the Ningdong Energy and Chemical Industry Base, one of the biggest industrial complexes in the world.

Sprawling in semi-desert far to the west of Beijing, it covers an area so vast — 341 square miles, more than two thirds the size of Los Angeles — it is almost unimaginable.

Much of The Base, as it is known locally, is home to mines, which produce 130 million metric tonnes of coal a year — about the same as the annual total dug from all 233 deep mines still in use in Britain when coal was our biggest energy source in the 1970s.

The coal — the most polluting of all fossil fuels — is fed into an array of huge power stations at the complex, which have the capacity to generate 17.3 gigawatts. That would be enough to satisfy a third of the UK’s peak demand for electricity.

Also to be found at The Base are 32 companies that use coal to make chemicals, so generating still more carbon pollution.

And on top of all this is the showpiece: the world’s largest coal-to-liquid (CTL) plant, run by the state-owned Shenhua Ningxia Coal Industry Group.

Simply burning coal is dirty enough, producing more carbon dioxide than any other method of generating electricity — almost twice as much as burning natural gas. But making oil from coal is far worse: it can double the amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere from every unit of energy.

Yet China’s Shenhua group — now restructured as part of China Energy — has been investing heavily in this hugely polluting CTL plant.

No Western journalist has ever been allowed to visit the site. But in 2017 a Chinese researcher, Xing Zhang, was given a tour by the firm’s vice chairman, Dr Yao Min.

Her findings, written up in a blog for the International Energy Agency (IEA), revealed that Shenhua had by then invested 55 billion yuan — or £6.2 billion — in the CTL plant alone. Each year, the plant turns 20 million tonnes of coal into four million tonnes of oil products; 2.7 million tonnes of diesel; a million tonnes of naptha petroleum; and 340,000 tonnes of liquid gas.

And The Base is not China’s only large CTL plant. There are at least six others in the country that are already built or under construction — and China says it plans to build still more in nations where it has lavished investment, such as Pakistan.

Yet The Base accounts for just a fraction of China’s coal dependency. Its coal power station fleet grew five-fold between 2000 and 2020, and now accounts for almost half the world’s consumption — more than three times its closest rival, the U.S. It is said to have 1,080 separate plants with a total capacity last year of 1,005 gigawatts — and is building more.

Britain, in contrast, has just four coal-fuelled plants left, with a joint output of 5.4 gigawatts. This week, in his apocalyptic climate change speech to the United Nations, Boris Johnson urged China — by far the world’s worst emitter of greenhouse gases, producing as much as 28 per cent of the global total — to end its domestic use of coal.

Mr Johnson is only too aware that if Cop26, the UN climate conference to be held in Glasgow in November, is not to be regarded as a dismal failure, China must be persuaded to make meaningful cuts in CO2 emissions.

But far from carbon emissions slowing down in China, they are increasing ever more rapidly.

This is a country with a mind-boggling pace of development. Between 2011 and 2013, China used more cement than the U.S. did in the entire 20th century. It produces almost 60 per cent of the world’s steel and its oil refinery capacity has tripled since 2000.

Even though it promised last week to stop building coal power stations abroad, China continues to do just that at home. Last year, its coal-powered capacity rose by 38 gigawatts, while the rest of the world cut capacity by 17 gigawatts.

China has a further 105 gigawatts of new coal capacity in the construction pipeline — more than the entire generating capacity of the UK from all sources, including nuclear and renewables.

Last month, the Workers’ Daily reported that in coal-rich Inner Mongolia, 38 mothballed coal mines have been reopened, with an annual production of 60 million tonnes. Last year, Inner Mongolia dug up more than a billion tonnes of coal — and this did not even make it China’s biggest coal province: that honour belonged to Shanxi.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, claimed last year that although Chinese emissions would keep rising until 2030, they would then reach their peak and decline, eventually reaching Net Zero by 2060 — ten years after Britain.

But he has given few details on how this might be achieved, and there are ominous signs that he has no intention of keeping his word. When President Biden’s climate change envoy, John Kerry, went to Beijing this month to put pressure on the regime on carbon emissions, he was humiliated.

Kerry was forced to hold his meetings via Zoom — he might as well have stayed in Washington — and China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, politicised the encounter, warning him that if America wanted China to talk seriously about emissions, it must first stop treating it as ‘a threat and a rival’.

‘Climate change cannot be separated from the larger People’s Republic of China–U.S. relations environment,’ Mr Wang added. By this, he meant China would not contemplate making new pledges on emissions if the U.S. continued to raise awkward issues such as the crushing of democracy in Hong Kong, the militarisation of the South China Sea and the enslavement of Muslim Uighurs.

Alok Sharma, the UK minister in charge of Cop26, has admitted he doesn’t know whether President Xi will even show up at the event. An editorial in Chinese Communist newspaper the Global Times told Mr Sharma that if he wants the conference to succeed, he must not let it be ‘held hostage by U.S. political ideologues’.

But while China obfuscates, we in Britain are cutting carbon emissions to the bone, inflicting deep harm on our economy.

The dizzying rise in household bills, and the bankruptcy of so many gas companies, is part of the price we are paying for giving up coal in our rush towards green energy.

As this newspaper reported last month, while we do our bit to slow climate change, it is estimated the cost of our transition to Net Zero will run into trillions of pounds.

Yet even though Britain accounts for less than 1 per cent of global emissions — one 28th as much as China — we still treat the regime with kid gloves, arguing that China deserves leeway because it is still a ‘developing’ country.

Even the eco-protesters blocking our motorways pay no attention to the fact China is pumping out pollution on an unprecedented scale.

Last week, when a BBC reporter asked the group that spawned them, Extinction Rebellion, why they were not demonstrating outside the Chinese embassy, he was accused of ‘perpetuating anti-Chinese racist stereotypes’.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which has members in 20 countries, told me this week that ‘governments across the free world have been utterly supine’.

He added: ‘China may say their emissions will peak by 2030 but meanwhile they are building all the new coal-fired power stations they need, to do whatever they please.

‘Yet they are being let off the hook while other countries are being asked to step up to measures that will have an incalculable economic impact. China will watch while we collapse our economies and they become all-powerful.’

Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB union, thousands of whose members have lost their jobs to Chinese competitors, puts it more succinctly: ‘We are importing virtue and exporting jobs.’

Let us look at how emissions compare with Western countries. China’s total emissions have far outstripped America’s. Indeed, they amount to more than the rest of the developed world put together — although admittedly they are still lower by one measure: America still emits more per head of population.

However, that ceased to be true of Britain in 2014 — and by 2018 China was well ahead, with 6.84 tonnes of CO2 emitted per capita, against 5.3 tonnes in Britain.

To appreciate how fast China’s economy and emissions have grown, consider that in 1990 we emitted 9.6 tonnes per head and China just 1.84 tonnes.

Since 2018, our emissions have continued to fall while China’s have increased. In total, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says, they have risen in China by 365 per cent since 1990. In the same period, Britain’s fell by 35 per cent.

Two further indicators reveal how great the impact of cheap energy has been on China’s economy — and give the lie to the claim they are still a ‘developing country’ which deserves to be indulged.

First, carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere a long time, taking up to 200 years to be absorbed by the oceans. This means the emissions a country generates accumulate over time. The quantity of accumulated emissions reveals the degree to which China already dominates world manufacturing.

From 1990 to 2019, China’s accumulated emissions amounted to 167 billion tonnes of CO2. Britain’s were just 14 billion tonnes.

The second point is that the IEA, which produces this data, relies on figures supplied by the Chinese government — and many claim they are unreliable.

In 2019, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post — then still a newspaper that could publish material critical of the Communist regime — reported that the Chinese environment ministry was ‘frequently presented with fake data and fabricated documents’, citing dozens of cases of fraud.

‘The party committee of Bozhou district in Zunyi, southern China, was found to have fabricated notes for ten meetings — part of the work requirement under the new environmental targets — in a bid to cheat the inspectors,’ the paper said.

Which explains why some sources, including Carbon Brief (a green news service) and the Rhodium Group (a New York think-tank), say China’s emissions are far higher than those cited by the IEA.

It is true that China is building wind and solar renewables. But their share of China’s energy mix remains negligible (see graph on previous page), while its coal, gas and oil use expand inexorably.

There are those who say that, despite all this, we should trust China — and Xi’s promise that its emissions will start to fall and eventually reach Net Zero.

Former U.S. vice president and green campaigner Al Gore is an enthusiastic advocate: ‘I think they will overachieve that goal,’ he gushed earlier this year. ‘They put out goals only when they are absolutely certain they can reach them, and they often overachieve.’

Others are more doubtful, none more so than Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong. Speaking to the Mail this week, he recalled how he used to voice scepticism about China in the Nineties, only to be told by diplomat Sir Percy Cradock, a prominent apologist for the country: ‘They may be thuggish dictators but they are men of their word.’

On the contrary, he said this week, ‘they are thuggish dictators but they are NOT men of their word’.

China, he added, has flagrantly breached the Hong Kong handover treaty, which guaranteed basic freedoms for at least 50 years. It has broken its pledges over trade.

And most recently, in the Covid pandemic, it broke the promises it made after the 2002 SARS outbreak to be transparent and notify the World Health Organisation within 24 hours if it discovered a new deadly disease.

‘The idea that you can believe what they say about environmental targets is for the birds,’ Lord Patten said. ‘Again and again, they rat on what they promise. Yet we are told we must be nice to them or they won’t keep their word.

‘I’m sure there are groups in China that want to see a reduction in emissions. That is not the concern of the Communist leadership, which wants to keep on growing, dominate global markets and ensure that Chinese standards of living increase.’

Former Chancellor Lord Lawson, founder of the Global Warming Policy Forum, warned that Boris Johnson cannot afford to be naive. ‘If China doesn’t sign up to immediate cuts in its emissions, instead of continuing to expand the use of the coal on which its industrial stranglehold depends, Cop26 is going to be a stage in an unfolding catastrophe.

‘The soaring price of energy in Britain is already wreaking havoc and it is set to get much worse, leading to bankruptcies, inflation and unemployment. Yet China is getting away with voicing green intentions while its actions demonstrate the reverse.

‘Britain’s acts of self-harm will not help save the planet but merely outsource more jobs to a country wallowing in cheap, coal-fired power. If we want China to realise Xi Jinping’s stated goal of becoming the world’s only superpower by 2049, this is a great way to do it.’

Sir Iain Duncan Smith agreed: ‘We are heading for a great historical disaster. The free world is emasculating itself while China gets stronger and more dominant. They will soon be impossible to resist.’


Uranium: what the explosion in prices means for the nuclear industry

It is a year since Horizon Nuclear Power, a company owned by Hitachi, confirmed it was pulling out of building the £20 billion Wylfa nuclear power plant on Anglesey in north Wales. The Japanese industrial conglomerate cited the failure to reach a funding deal with the UK government over escalating costs, and the government is still in negotiations with other players to try and take the project forward.

Hitachi’s share price duly went up 10%, reflecting investors’ negative sentiment towards building complex, highly regulated large nuclear power plants. With governments reluctant to subsidise nuclear power because of the high costs, particularly since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the market has undervalued the potential of this technology to tackle the climate emergency by providing abundant and reliable low-carbon electricity.

Uranium prices long reflected this reality. The primary fuel for nuclear plants was sliding for much of the 2010s, with no signs of a major turnaround. Yet since mid-August, prices have surged by around 60% as investors and speculators scramble to snap up the commodity. The price is around US$48 per pound (453g), having been as cheap as US$28.99 on August 16. So what lies behind this rally, and what does it mean for nuclear power?

The demand for uranium is limited to nuclear power production and medical equipment. Annual global demand is 150 million pounds, with nuclear power plants looking to secure contracts roughly two years ahead of use.

While uranium demand is not immune to economic downturns, it is less exposed than other industrial metals and commodities. The bulk of demand is distributed across some 445 nuclear power plants operating in 32 countries, with supply concentrated in a handful of mines. Kazakhstan is easily the largest producer with over 40% of output, followed by Australia (13%) and Namibia (11%).

Since most mined uranium is used as fuel by nuclear power plants, its intrinsic value is closely tied to both current demand and future potential from this industry. The market includes not only uranium consumers but also speculators, who buy when they think the price is cheap, potentially bidding up the price. One such long-term speculator is Toronto-based Sprott Physical Uranium Trust, which has bought nearly 6 million pounds (or US$240 million worth) of uranium in recent weeks.

Why investor optimism may be rising

While it is widely believed that nuclear energy should play an integral role in the clean energy transition, the high costs have made it uncompetitive compared with other energy sources. But thanks to sharp rises in energy prices, nuclear’s competitiveness is improving. We are also seeing greater commitment to new nuclear power stations from China and elsewhere. Meanwhile, innovative nuclear technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs), which are being developed in countries including China, the US, UK and Poland, promise to reduce upfront capital costs.

Combined with recent optimistic releases about nuclear power from the World Nuclear Association and the International Atomic Energy Agency (the IAEA upped its projections for future nuclear-power use for the first time since Fukushima) this is all making investors more bullish about future uranium demand.


The Energy Future Needs Cleaner Batteries

To deal with climate change and power the cars of tomorrow, we’ll have to solve the cobalt problem.

Batteries rely on the specific qualities of certain elements to work. The highest-performing lithium-ion batteries on the market today require cobalt, and cobalt is hard to come by. Most of the known reserves lie under Congo, a country plagued by corruption and frequent wars, where mining often occurs in dangerous, deadly conditions, and not infrequently is done by children. Chinese companies own most of Congo’s mines—clean energy, like dirty energy, has its geopolitics. The metal’s price has fluctuated wildly in recent years.

Solving the climate problem requires solving the battery problem, and solving the battery problem requires solving the cobalt problem.

One way to think about chemical reactions is as the trafficking of electrons. Elements that tend to shed electrons (sodium, for example) react with others that tend to gain them (like chlorine) and are transformed (in that case, into table salt). A battery is a technology for getting in the middle of a reaction like that and detouring the electrons to do work. The battery cell’s negative end, or anode, is made of materials looking to get rid of electrons, and the positive electrode, or cathode, is made from materials looking to acquire them. Between the two is an electrolyte-soaked separator that, impervious to electrons, frustrates the two materials’ desire to react. But when the battery is snapped into a flashlight or TV remote, that device’s circuitry forms a loop placing the battery cell’s two ends in contact. Electrons flow out from the anode and through the wiring, powering the device as they make their roundabout way to the battery cell’s other, positive end. The now ionized atoms that lost those electrons make a parallel trip, migrating directly through the electrolyte membrane to balance out the charge of the cathode’s accumulating electrons. (Otherwise the process would grind to a halt.)

In 1977 an English chemist named M. Stanley Whittingham, then at Exxon Research and Engineering Co., patented a rechargeable battery using lithium as the active mobile ion. Among the discoveries made by Goodenough and protégés such as Manthiram was that the sturdy layered crystal lattice cobalt forms when bonded to oxygen is almost uniquely effective as cathode material. Layered nickel oxide works similarly, but it’s much harder to work with and will degrade more quickly. And cobalt-based cathodes have a further advantage: Thanks to the element’s thermal stability, they’re less likely to light themselves on fire. Sony Corp. adapted Goodenough’s cobalt-oxide design and, in 1991, released a camcorder that was the first of many consumer electronic devices to run on it. (It’s difficult to imagine the iPhone ever catching on if you had to keep replacing the batteries.) In 2019, Whittingham, Goodenough, and Sony’s Akira Yoshino shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their battery work. Goodenough, who was 97, asked Manthiram to give his Nobel lecture for him.

Different electric vehicles use different battery chemistries, but in general the amount of cobalt in them has declined with each new design. Customers less concerned about power and range can buy electric cars with a different cathode design using lithium iron phosphate, a concept Manthiram and Goodenough developed in the ’80s. For years, though, attempts to remove cobalt entirely without degrading battery performance failed.

Cobalt is almost always mixed in with larger deposits of other ores, including nickel, copper, and sometimes platinum group elements. And though cobalt is currently the most valuable battery metal, and the one with the most concerning supply chain, building enough powertrains for a global post-internal-combustion car fleet is going to require a lot more of a lot of metals: nickel and lithium for the cathodes, copper for the wiring, rare earths for the powerful magnets that turn the battery’s electrical energy into torque. Add up all of that, and subtract the world’s known reserves, and you get $10 trillion in what House calls “missing metals.”

It’s important to understand exactly what that means. Cobalt isn’t actually rare. “There’s enough cobalt in the upper 1 kilometer of the Earth’s crust on the continents to build a million electric vehicles for every person on the planet,” House points out. But processing the trace amounts in which almost all of that exists would be economically ruinous. Minerals exploration is about finding the places where the twists and turns of geology have created ore concentrations freakishly large enough that it’s profitable to mine them at today’s metal prices and with today’s extraction and refining methods. “What you need is that nature goes and scavenges the copper and cobalt from a large volume of rock, then creates new rocks that are more like 1% copper or 1% nickel or 1% cobalt,” says Goldman, who serves as both KoBold’s chief financial and chief technology officer. “That’s a really unusual thing.”

What makes finding those deposits difficult is the same fundamental problem metal hunters have faced since the Bronze Age, namely that the Earth’s surface is opaque. Up until modern times, mineral discoveries were made by spotting deposits that were sticking out of the ground: outcrops colored red from oxidized iron or malachite green from copper. Such finds are still in production. North central Europe’s massive Kupferschiefer deposit has been continuously mined since at least 1200 A.D. and likely for thousands of years before.

Today’s explorers have an arsenal of newer tools for divining what lies underground, whether it’s fleets of satellites gathering spectral imagery and gravitational field data or giant metal detector coils towed by helicopters. Even with all that, however, the vast majority of discoveries up until now have been at or near the surface. And in recent years, no matter how much money has been spent on exploration, the trend in discoveries has been steadily downward. “We’re just at this point,” Goldman says, “where the exploration methodologies that allowed us to discover the easy-to-find ore deposits have been nearly exhausted.”

The limited resource, in KoBold’s diagnosis, isn’t ore but human cognitive power. As deposits get farther from the surface, the signals from below get too sparse and faint to be pieced together by even the best geologists. Metal deposits tend to be in remote, hostile places, and existing information about the subsurface is fragmented, inconsistent, and frequently wrong. Collecting new data by sending up an airplane with a magnetometer or shipping a drill rig to the Arctic to drill exploratory boreholes can be slow and very expensive. “These are sparse data environments,” House says, even for a data science company. “This is hugely different from a social media company where people just give them information all the time and they’re awash in it.”

KoBold’s approach is to take the kind of geologists who traditionally lead exploration efforts and yoke their expertise to the methods of data science. The company has created a database for itself out of geological information hoovered up from public and private sources all around the world: everything including academic papers, drill hole chemistry results, airborne and satellite measurements, and barely legible hand-scrawled field reports deciphered by optical character recognition. “People aren’t trying to make these easy to mine for data or easy to consume,” says Joanne Wood, the company’s director of data engineering. “Because essentially if they found something interesting, they would prefer not to share that with the general field.” The trove is searchable by KoBold’s geologists and data scientists, and it forms the corpus on which the company is training a powerful machine-learning algorithm to look for ore.

KoBold isn’t making software to sell to someone else. It’s staked claims, either solely or in joint ventures, in around 20 areas across Australia, Canada, the Central African Copperbelt, Greenland, and the U.S. In early September it announced an exploration alliance with BHP Group Ltd., the world’s second-largest mining group. Those ventures will either turn up ore or they will not. “What I love about KoBold,” says Jef Caers, a Stanford geophysics professor who is a research partner and shareholder in the company, “is that they will face the consequences of their machine learning.”

Caers has worked with KoBold to develop an algorithm for determining the size and shape of an ore body using the fewest possible drill holes. Jake Edman, an atmospheric physicist who’s the company’s director of machine learning, has developed a similar algorithm to choreograph the flyovers of its airborne electromagnetic surveys (the helicopter with the giant metal detector), based on what it does or doesn’t find as it goes. “I know their approach works, because I’ve done it by hand,” says M. Stephen Enders, a 45-year industry veteran who heads the department of mining engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. “I’ve gone into parts of West Africa and South America and other parts of the world with teams of geoscientists and all this data. It’s just really labor-intensive that way.” The speed and scale at which KoBold can explore, he argues, “is potentially very powerful.”


Biden’s Climate Plan Would Help Make the Taliban, China More Powerful Than Ever

As President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats continue their push to impose sweeping reforms meant to tackle climate change, the Taliban—with substantial help from China—is positioning itself to take advantage.

In August, Biden signed an executive order designed to drag the United States toward widespread adoption of electric vehicles. The White House says its order aims to make 50% of vehicles sold in America electric or hybrids by 2030.

To call Biden’s goal ambitious would be an incredible understatement. According to sales data recorded in June, fewer than 4% of new cars purchased by Americans were electric or plug-in hybrids, and only a fraction of the electric vehicle infrastructure needed to support millions of additional electric cars is now in place.

To meet Biden’s electric vehicles target—as well as his other climate-related policy objectives, such as making the U.S. energy grid largely dependent on wind and solar power—the U.S. economy would need to be radically transformed.

Far-left Democrats had hoped the infrastructure packages making their way through Congress would be a good start. The $1 trillion infrastructure legislation passed by the Senate included $7.5 billion for new electric vehicle charging stations, and progressive and socialists members of Congress have said they won’t allow infrastructure legislation to pass unless it includes massive new tax credits meant to make electric vehicles more affordable.

For now, both the $1 trillion and $3.5 trillion infrastructure bills have stalled on Capitol Hill, but if Democrats and President Biden have it their way and these bills, along with other legislation and regulatory changes meant to shove America toward wind and solar power, are passed, the Taliban could end up becoming one of the world’s biggest beneficiaries.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations on earth. In order to maintain its new chokehold over the country, the Taliban knows it needs to develop steady streams of income and economic alliances. The push by American and European progressives and socialists to impose so-called “green” energy on households might provide the economic opportunities the Taliban desperately needs.

If the United States and Europe were to rely substantially more on electric vehicles and wind and solar generation, it would require millions of tons of rare earth minerals and batteries.

To give you a sense of just how dramatic the need would be, consider that the BBC found “to switch Britain’s 31.5 million petrol and diesel vehicles over to a battery-electric fleet would take an estimated 207,900 tonnes of cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate, 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, and 2,362,500 tonnes of copper.”

There are more than 272 million vehicles in the United States, more than 99% of which run on fossil fuels. Based on the BBC’s analysis of Britain, switching all of America’s gasoline-powered fleet to an electric-only fleet—a long-term goal for Democrats—would require more than 20 million tons of copper, 1.7 million tons of cobalt, and 2.2 million tons of lithium.

The mining and processing demands that would result from a transition to so-called “renewable” energy sources would drive up the price of numerous metals and rare earth minerals around the world, allowing the Taliban to become exceptionally wealthy.

Afghanistan is believed to be home to $1 trillion in mineral deposits, and perhaps the largest lithium deposit on the planet. The Taliban doesn’t have the resources, infrastructure, or skilled workers to mine these valuable assets, but China does, and Chinese officials have already signaled that they have struck a deal with the Taliban to participate “in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Not only has top Chinese diplomats been meeting with the Taliban for months, China is the world’s number-one supplier of batteries, producing about 79% of the global supply. Additionally, 85% of the world’s capacity to process rare earth minerals exists in China, according to a report by Reuters.

Of course, the United States could attempt to expand its own processing capacity of rare earth minerals, and it could conduct more mining operations domestically as well, but neither is something that could happen at any point in the near future, and both actions would likely face severe opposition from environmental groups hellbent on stopping virtually all mining operations in the United States.

China already processes five times more rare earth minerals than the rest of the world combined, so catching up prior to President Biden’s plan to scale up electric car use would be essentially impossible.

If Joe Biden and Democrats have their way, China and the Taliban will eventually be much richer and more powerful than they are today, and China’s control of America’s energy supply would expand immensely. That’s a stunning reversal from the Trump administration’s platform of prioritizing domestic energy development and limiting foreign reliance, one that would pose substantial foreign policy challenges that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.