Monday, January 31, 2022

Wall Street’s green push exposes new conflicts of interest

The booming business of green finance is being led by an unlikely group of companies that sits at the heart of the financial system.

The giant firms that audit the books, rate the bonds, advise on proxy voting and categorise the world’s companies are spending billions to boost their climate-related operations. That could accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels but could also create a new set of conflicts of interest for industries that struggled to manage them in the past.

In the past two years, US firms in the financial-services sector have spent more than $US3.5bn buying green-ratings companies and data providers, a review by The Wall Street Journal found. The big four audit firms are also moving into the environmental, social and governance, or ESG, arena. PricewaterhouseCoopers last year said ESG was a focus of its $US12bn investment plan.

When the United Nations last year asked the finance industry to back its plans to cut carbon emissions, many banks had to be cajoled into signing up. Financial-services firms eagerly jumped in, according to people involved in the effort.

These firms are betting on big profits as companies, responding to demands by regulators and investors, seek to reduce their carbon emissions and better disclose their ESG practices. The firms have bought up smaller companies to bolster their offerings.

The market for helping companies with corporate ESG reporting alone is worth an estimated $US1.6bn globally, and forecast to increase by 21% a year over the next six years, according to UK-based research firm Verdantix. “The growth rate across several areas of ESG professional services is very strong,” said Kim Knickle, a research director at Verdantix.

In many cases, firms that rate or evaluate companies on things like climate risk also sell services to help companies address these issues. Many of the firms providing these ratings, such as credit raters and auditors, are already managing deep conflicts of interest because they are paid by the companies they judge. Conflicts of interest in the credit-ratings industry were one cause of the financial crisis, according to politicians.

One new set of potential conflicts springs from the widespread practice of selling ESG ratings alongside consulting and other services.

Institutional Shareholder Services, the nation’s biggest shareholder advisory firm, sells to investors its climate-risk ratings for thousands of companies. It also sells to those companies advice on how to increase those scores.

“Improve ESG Ratings,” the Rockville-based firm says in its pitch to the roughly 5,000 businesses it covers. “Stand out among companies that you compete with for capital.”

The financial-services firms’ multiple ESG services create clear potential conflicts of interest, according to Anant Sundaram, a finance professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. “They earn cash flows by selling their services … to the very firms they’re supposed to be unbiasedly scoring and ranking,” he said.

ISS’s general counsel, Steven Friedman, said the firm, owned by German stock exchange operator Deutsche Börse, has taken steps to address potential conflicts of interest in its ESG work, including a firewall separating its ratings and corporate-advisory units. “ISS does not and will not give preferential treatment to any corporate issuer,” Mr. Friedman added.

ESG raters typically get most of their income from investment firms, which package together topscoring companies to create green-branded products that are sold to investors. That creates an incentive to hand out high ESG scores, said Hans Taparia, a business professor at New York University.

“If the raters were to be tough on companies, there wouldn’t be any products to create for investors,” Mr. Taparia said.

Fund-ratings firm Morningstar gives out performance awards that are available only to companies that pay it for an ESG assessment.

Morningstar’s Sustainalytics unit sells companies an “ESG Risk Rating License” for an undisclosed amount. “Showcase that you are rated by a world’s leading ESG Rating agency,” its website states. Only companies that buy the license are eligible to potentially get a “Top-Rated ESG Badge.”

Badge winners include Freehold Royalties, a Canadian firm with a portfolio of oil-and-gas properties. The company isn’t top rated by everyone. It is classified as a “poor” ESG performer, with a score of 23 out of 100, by ratings-firm Refinitiv, owned by London Stock Exchange Group. A Freehold Royalties spokesman declined to comment.


Hedge fund short sellers take aim at green energy stocks

The Greenie dreams are dying

Hedge funds have been cranking up their bets against sustainable energy stocks, wagering that as interest rates rise, investors will be less forgiving of companies with strong environmental credentials but weak earnings.

Shares in sustainable stocks have drawn in billions of dollars of inflows from ethically minded investors in recent years, lifting the valuations of some stocks to eye-watering levels.

Already, some of those stocks have begun to fall back as the Federal Reserve prepares to start withdrawing its pandemic-era support — a process that is pulling down many high-growth assets, especially in the tech sector. But doubters say green stocks have much further to fall.

“In a bear market, a company doesn’t trade at 60 times earnings just because it does something morally good,” said Barry Norris, chief investment officer at Argonaut Capital. “People will be a bit more hard-nosed about it.”

Norris is shorting a number of wind power stocks and has recently increased his bet against Danish wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems.

On Wednesday, the company reported a lower-than-forecast profit margin and said supply chain issues would continue for the rest of the year, having warned in November of an “increasingly challenging global business environment for renewables”.

The shares soared from DKr130 at the start of 2020 to peak briefly above DKr300 a year ago. They have since fallen back, although on Wednesday they were 5 per cent higher at about DKr175. Norris believes Vestas, with contracting margins, is now “the most expensive it has ever been”.

Shares in green companies are not the only ones trading with elevated valuations. Tesla, the electric carmaker, is priced at a forward price to earnings rate of 92 times, while Nvidia, another popular stock in recent years, is priced at 43 times.

Germany’s Nordex has also been targeted by short sellers, with bets against the wind turbine manufacturer soaring from 0.79 per cent of the company’s shares a year ago to more than 7 per cent, according to data group Breakout Point. That makes it one of Europe’s most shorted stocks based on disclosed short positions.

Among hedge funds betting against it are $52bn-in-assets Millennium Management, AKO Capital and Gladstone Capital Management.

It is a risky strategy. Government-supported efforts to shift the global energy reliance away from fossil fuels point to heavy demand for companies in the sector. One executive told the Financial Times their fund “won’t touch” bets against such stocks because of the increasingly favourable regulations and weight of money pouring into the sector.

But hedge funds in the US and UK have been buying the lowly valued shares of oil and gas companies discarded by investors focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.

Betting against companies whose stories of helping the environment are stronger than their earnings, or against those that have exaggerated their ethical credentials, has also become increasingly attractive.

The prospect of four rises in US interest rates this year is also now providing a challenge for lossmaking green stocks. Higher interest rates mean higher borrowing costs for companies and a lower value ascribed to future cash flows.

Funds have targeted hydrogen stocks, with disclosed bets against Norwegian hydrogen technology group Nel, which reported a loss of NKr1.4bn ($156m) in the first nine months of last year, jumping from 1.8 per cent a year ago to 7.8 per cent, according to Breakout Point. Helikon Investments, Crispin Odey’s Odey Asset Management and WorldQuant have short positions against Nel, whose shares have risen from NKr5 three years ago to more than NKr35 a year ago but have since dropped to about NKr11.

“There is no obvious valuation support with Nel,” said James Hanbury, a partner who manages about $1.3bn in assets at Odey, in a note to investors seen by the FT.

The company is “lossmaking, cash consumptive, they continue to fail to win material contracts or partnerships, their medium-term capex needs are not fully funded and, on top of this, the [Odey] team perceive the business to be a commoditised technology offering”, he said.

He added that while hydrogen would play “a big role” in the transition to cleaner energy, there will “inevitably be many companies in the space that will not succeed economically”. Odey declined to comment.

A spokesman for Nel said the company is “the technology and market share leader in an industry that is at the beginning of significant growth and industrialisation”, adding that its investment was “backed by a robust financial position”.


How About A Pilot Project To Demonstrate The Feasibility Of Fully Wind/Solar/Battery Electricity Generation?

At this current crazy moment, most of the “Western” world (Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia) is hell bent on achieving a “net zero” energy system. As I understand this concept, it means that, within two or three decades, all electricity production will be converted from the current mostly-fossil-fuel generation mix to almost entirely wind, solar and storage.

On top of that, all or nearly all energy consumption that is not currently electricity (e.g., transportation, industry, heat, agriculture) must be converted to electricity, so that the energy for these things can also be supplied solely by the wind, sun, and batteries. Since electricity is currently only about a quarter of final energy consumption, that means that we are soon to have an all-electric energy generation and consumption system producing around four times the output of our current electricity system, all from wind and solar, backed up as necessary only by batteries or other storage.

A reasonable question is, has anybody thought to construct a small-to-moderate scale pilot project to demonstrate that this is feasible? Before embarking on “net zero” for a billion people, how about trying it out in a place with, say, 10,000, or 50,000, or 100,000 people. See if it can actually work, and how much it will cost. Then, if it works at reasonable cost, start expanding it.

As far as I can determine, that has never been done anywhere. However, there is something somewhat close. An island called El Hierro, which is one of the Canary Islands and is part of Spain, embarked more than a decade ago on constructing an electricity system consisting only of wind turbines and a pumped-storage water reservoir. El Hierro has a population of about 11,000. It is a very mountainous volcanic island, so it provided a fortuitous location for construction of a large pumped-storage hydro project, with an upper reservoir in an old volcanic crater right up a near-cliff from a lower reservoir just above sea level. The difference in elevation of the two reservoirs is about 660 meters, or more than 2000 feet. Here is a picture of the upper reservoir, looking down to the ocean, to give you an idea of just how favorable a location for pumped-storage hydro this is:

The El Hierro wind/storage system began operations in 2015. How has it done? I would say that it is at best a huge disappointment, really bordering on disaster. It has never come close to realizing the dream of 100% wind/storage electricity for El Hierro, instead averaging 50% or less when averaged over a full year (although it has had some substantial periods over 50%). Moreover, since only about one-quarter of El HIerro’s final energy consumption is electricity, the project has replaced barely 10% of El Hierro’s fossil fuel consumption.

Here is the website of the company that runs the wind/hydro system, Gorona del Viento. Get ready for some excited happy talk:

A wind farm produces energy which is directed into the Island’s electricity grid to satisfy the population’s demand for electricity. The surplus energy that is not consumed directly by the Island’s inhabitants is used to pump water between two reservoirs set at different altitudes. During times of wind shortage, the water stored in the Upper Reservoir is discharged into the Lower Reservoir, where the Wind-Pumped Hydro Power Station is, to generate electricity from its turbines. . . . The diesel-engine-powered Power Station only comes into operation in exceptional circumstances when there is neither sufficient wind or water to produce the energy to meet demand.

Over at the page for production statistics, it’s still more excitement about tons of carbon emissions avoided (15,484 in 2020!) and hours of 100% renewable generation (1293 in 2020!). I think that they’re hoping you don’t know that there are 8784 hours in a 366 day year like 2020.

But how about some real information on how much of the island’s electricity, and of its final energy consumption, this system is able to generate? Follow links on that page for production statistics, and you will find that the system produced some 56% of the electricity for El Hierro in 2018, 54% in 2019, and 42% for 2020. No figures are yet provided for 2021. At least for the last three years of reported data, things seem to be going quite rapidly in the wrong direction. I suspect that that’s not what you had in mind when you read that the diesel generators only come into operation in “exceptional circumstances” when wind generation is low. And with electricity constituting only about 25% of El Hierro’s final energy consumption, the reported generation statistics would mean that the percent of final energy consumption from the wind/storage facility ran about 14% in 2018, 13.5% in 2019, and barely 10% in 2020.

So why don’t they just build the system a little bigger? After all, if this system can provide around 50% +/- of El Hierro’s electricity, can’t you just double it in size to get to 100%? The answer is, absolutely not. The 50% can be achieved only with those diesel generators always present to provide full backup when needed. Without that, you need massively more storage to get you through what could be weeks of wind drought, let alone through wind seasonality that means that you likely need 30 days’ or more full storage. Get out your spreadsheet to figure out how much.

Roger Andrews did the calculation for El Hierro in a January 2018 post on the Energy Matters website. His conclusion: El Hierro would need a pumped-storage reservoir some 40 times the size of the one it had built in order to get rid of the diesel backup. Andrews provides plenty of information as to the basis of his calculations and his assumptions, so feel free to take another crack at his calculations with better assumptions. But unfortunately, his main assumption is that the pattern of wind intermittency for any given year will be just as sporadic as it was for 2017.

Then take a look at the picture and see if you can figure out where or how El Hierro is going to build that 40 times bigger reservoir. Time to look into a few billions of dollars worth of lithium ion batteries — for 11,000 people.

And of course, for those of us here in the rest of the world, we don’t have massive volcanic craters sitting 2000 feet right up a cliff from the sea. For us, it’s batteries or nothing. Or maybe just stick with the fossil fuels for now.

So the closest thing we have to a “demonstration project” of the fully wind/storage electricity has come up woefully short, and really has only proved that the whole concept will necessarily fail on the necessity of far more storage than is remotely practical or affordable. The idea that our political betters plow forward toward “net zero” without any demonstration of feasibility I find completely incomprehensible.


'A spectacular failure of climate leadership': Climate activists hit out at the Biden administration

Biden issued 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling in his first year in office, 900 more than Trump in his first year
Biden's runaway drilling approvals are a spectacular failure of climate leadership,' said the Center for Biological Diversity's Taylor McKinnon

Legal challenges have 'made it impossible for us to stop many of these leases,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed Thursday

Despite lofty promises on environmental goals, President Biden has outpaced even President Trump in issuing new drilling permits on public land.

Biden in his first week in office had issued an executive order halting new leases for oil and gas drilling. But that order was struck down by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Louisiana, and the administration has said its hands were tied and it had to continue issuing the leases.

Biden issued 3,557 permits for oil and gas drilling in his first year in office, 900 more than Trump in his first year, according to federal data compiled by the Center for Biological Diversity.

'Biden's runaway drilling approvals are a spectacular failure of climate leadership,' said the Center for Biological Diversity's Taylor McKinnon in a statement. 'Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires ending new fossil fuel extraction, but Biden is racing in the opposite direction.'

Legal challenges have 'made it impossible for us to stop many of these leases,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a daily briefing on Thursday.

Permits are typically issued for leases that have already been sold, mostly under previous administrations.

'We have an entirely different policy from the Trump administration on addressing ... the climate crisis,' Psaki added.

But climate activists have said that the Biden administration could have found a way to slow drilling, either through litigation or through reopening the environmental review that normally takes place during the leasing process.

'Their hands are not tied,' McKinnon told in response to Psaki's remarks.

'We've gone to great lengths to research how the government can do this under existing laws without Congress. It's disappointing to hear an administration that purports to be leading on climate dismiss that possibility rather than researching how they can do it.'

Nearly 2,000 of the permits were administered by New Mexico's Bureau of Land Management Office. Meanwhile 843 were given to Wyoming, 285 to Montana and 171 to Utah. The Biden administration approved 187 permits for California, more than double the 71 Trump approved in the state in his first year.

Asked about the permits, Department of Interior spokesperson Tyler Cherry told 'Permit reviews are required by law.'

'Interior is conducting a more comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas impacts from potential oil and gas lease sales than ever before,' he said. Cherry added that the department is working on a number of reforms in fossil fuel leasing, including eliminating the preferential financial treatment given to fossil fuel companies by the Trump administration and tightening oil and gas safety standards.

Rising gas prices, inflation and tensions with Russia, meanwhile, clash with Biden's rhetoric on climate change. In November at the COP26 Summit, Biden called climate change an 'existential threat to human existence.'

He has often used climate change to push for his Build Back Better plan, which passed the House and stalled in the Senate, and contains $550 billion for clean energy and climate initiatives. The bill included $320 billion in tax incentives for producers and purchasers of wind, solar and nuclear power, intended to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels.

Since 2018, the U.S. has been the top crude oil producer in the world. But with prices rising at the pump, Biden has not only increased production at home but called on OPEC+ nations to produce more fuel. And as Russia threatens to invade Ukraine and cuts back on its gas exports to Europe, the U.S. has become the number one exporter of natural gas in the world.

The Center for Biological Diversity, together with climate, indigenous and community groups wrote a petition to the Biden administration last week urging them to use executive authority to delay these permits.

Their petition cited a number of different laws that could be used to assert Biden's authority to reassess the permits. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act requires the Department of Interior to 'take[] into account the long-term needs of future generations' in drilling permits.

They also cite the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) specify that the president and secretary of Interior must take into account public good in issuing permits.

The MLA stipulates that leases must contain provisions 'for the protection of the interests of the United States . . . and for the safeguarding of the public welfare.'

The OCSLA charges the president with overseeing 'expeditious and orderly development [of offshore oil and gas resources], subject to environmental safeguards, in a manner which is consistent with the maintenance of competition and other national needs.'




Sunday, January 30, 2022

The article below from 2004 is of obvious interest: A typical Greenie false prophecy. They dream of Armageddon to destroy the society they hate

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.


Saving money on energy bills more important to Britons than saving the planet

More than a third of households care more about cutting their bills than using environmentally friendly alternatives, according to a new poll.

A survey of the British public found that they are expecting a range of household costs to rise this year, including food, motoring and socialising as the country deals with a cost-of-living crisis.

In particular, 75 per cent of respondents are expecting their utility bills to rise over the next few months, with 49 per cent expecting them to rise a lot.

Energy bills are expected to increase about 50 per cent in April, when the price cap is likely to be raised from £1,277 to £1,925, and could rise again in October to £2,400, according to energy analysts.

More than a third of respondents, 38 per cent, said it was more important for them to tackle their household costs than to make choices that were environmentally friendly, according to the poll.

Balancing costs and environmental concerns was of equal importance to 43 per cent of respondents, the survey found.

Only 13 per cent of respondents suggested that it was more important to make environmentally friendly choices, even if it costs more money, with young people and high earners more likely to agree with this.

Among those earning more than £55,000 each year say, 16 per cent said there should be a greater focus on green choices, compared to nine per cent of those earning up to £19,000.

The Government has faced calls to cut green levies from energy bills, with the Conservative Environment Network, a group of 116 MPs, arguing they should be temporarily moved to general taxation.

However, removing the levies will not be enough to offset the significant rise in bills, linked to a global gas crunch.

The Prime Minister has also been urged to help people invest in energy efficiency measures, such as insulation, to help them save on bills as well as reduce their emissions.


Net Zero could wipe out 14,800 Northern Irish beef and sheep farms, MPs warned

Northern Ireland’s plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2045 could wipe out 14,800 beef and sheep farms, the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has told MPs.

UFU president Victor Chestnutt told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that farmers agreed that climate change legislation was necessary to tackle emissions, but added that a fair transition must be ensured.

“Beef and sheep farms operating in less productive land could see a decrease in farm numbers of 98%, that’s 14,800 farms ceasing to operate. Beef and sheep farms operating in the Lowlands could face a fall in numbers of 79%, with 4,100 farms ceasing to operate. The dairy sector could see a decrease of 86%, with 2,250 less farms,” Chestnutt said.

The figures stem from a KPMG report commissioned by stakeholders in the agri-food industry.

“Given a context of 24,000 farms in Northern Ireland, taking over 19,000 out of production? That is why we are so concerned,” he added.

Officials at the devolved Stormont institutions say that the climate strategy for Northern Ireland lags behind the commitments made by Great Britain and Ireland. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland without a climate change act.

Two separate climate bills are currently proceeding through legislative stages in the Assembly — a private member’s bill from Green party NI leader Clare Bailey and one tabled by agriculture and environment minister Edwin Poots.

Bailey’s bill, which is supported by a majority of other Stormont parties, sets a 2045 target for reaching net-zero carbon emissions. Poots’ bill wants to cut emissions by 82% by 2050.

The report added that 13,000 farming jobs in Northern Ireland were at risk under the bill.


Rising energy prices likely to slow demand for electric cars in Britain

Expected removal of Energy Price Cap in April could cause higher electricity bills, making electric cars less attractive

The cost of charging electric cars could rise significantly as a result of moves by regulator OFGEM to raise the Energy Price Cap in April, potentially threatening the rate of EV adoption as consumers weigh up the benefits of switching from petrol or diesel cars.

The cost of electricity is driven mostly by the wholesale price of gas, which UK power stations use to generate between a third and half of the UK’s power. The figure rises when wind farms aren’t generating in calm weather.

Wholesale electricity costs are 300 per cent higher than a year ago and home bills could rise by as much as 50 per cent from April if OFGEM raises the cap as expected.

While many EV owners with smart home chargers benefit from low fixed-rate EV tariffs that offer cut-price off-peak electricity for charging, the Money Saving Expert website reports that most energy providers have pulled their EV tariffs.

EDF and Octopus Energy currently offer the lowest off-peak rates on their EV tariffs of just 4.5p and 7.5p per kWh respectively. EDF says its GoElectric tariff is still open to existing and new customers, and it intends to maintain the rate of 4.5p per kwh off-peak. Octopus raised its rate from 5p late last year, but says it’s committed to low EV tariffs as a ‘loss leader’ to encourage adoption.

Even so, new EV drivers can’t sign up online, and Octopus requires customers to talk to its sales consultants on the phone because some may be better off sticking with their current domestic supplier. That ties in with general consumer advice that EV owners looking for the best deal need to carefully work out the overall cost to change.

Energy UK, the trade body representing providers, said that if problems in the retail market remain and energy prices increase more generally, appetite for off-peak tariffs may decrease, making retailer investment in such models less likely and ultimately hindering longer-term EV uptake.




Friday, January 28, 2022

Mercedes owner 'horrified' to discover new electric battery will cost more than car is worth

Battery costs are a big issue with EVs

A DRIVER was stunned to discover the cost to replace his Mercedes Benz's battery is £15,000 - more than the value of the vehicle itself.

Ranjit Singh, 63, bought the second-hand Mercedes Benz hybrid car four years ago, believing its lower CO2 emissions meant it was greener than the alternatives. The motorist, from Knighton, Leicester, bought it for £27,000 at a Mercedes Benz dealership.

But Ranjit learnt this week the battery had come to the end of its life after just eight years of motoring.

He claims he was quoted £15,000 for a battery replacement - excluding labour costs which he was quoted would be roughly around £200 an hour.

Speaking to Leicestershire Live, the dad said: "I have always been a Mercedes customer and loved the cars they produce and we bought the car for its reliability.

"I'm horrified by what has happened. I feel I now have just two options - scrap the eight-year-old car or spend more than it is worth.

"We checked on Auto Trader and it says the car value now stands at just £12,850."

Mr Singh claims the battery died after just eight years.


Climate activists try to smear & censor Jordan Peterson for climate model claims – But Peterson made accurate scientific claims

Jordan Peterson appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast and made scientific valid claims about climate change. The climate activists and their media supporters tried everything to discredit Peterson’s claims. See UK Guardian: ‘Word salad of nonsense’: scientists denounce Jordan Peterson’s comments on climate models – By Graham Readfearn

Peterson told Rogan that because the climate was so complex, it couldn’t be accurately modeled. He said: “Another problem that bedevils climate modeling, too, which is that as you stretch out the models across time, the errors increase radically. And so maybe you can predict out a week or three weeks or a month or a year, but the farther out you predict, the more your model is in error.

“And that’s a huge problem when you’re trying to model over 100 years because the errors compound just like interest.” Peterson said that if the climate was “about everything” then “your models aren’t right” because they couldn’t include everything.

Climate Depot’s comment: “Jordan Peterson gave a fantastic scientific analysis of climate models that even the United Nations IPCC, UN scientists and many top scientists agree with. The UK Guardian smear piece on Jordan claimed “He has no frickin’ idea” about the climate or climate models. The exact opposite is true and verifiable.”

UN IPCC’s Third Assessment Report admitted: “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future exact climate states is not possible.”


Israel as a water powerhouse

Not bad for a basically arid country

Jordan is pushing ahead with plans to import urgently-needed water from Israel and hopes to complete a feasibility study for a pipeline by September.

Water resources in the country are being stretched because of climate change and a rapidly growing population, according to Water and Irrigation Minister Mohammed Al Najjar.

The study by companies from the United Arab Emirates “will determine the route of pipeline but our preference is to get the water in the northern part of Jordan,” where the capital Amman is located, he said in an interview.
Water Woes

Jordan looks to desalination and imports as its aquifers deplete

Jordan’s struggled to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria in recent years.

Climate change has also hit Jordan’s water supplies, said Najjar. Its aquifers are rapidly depleting and it’s getting 20% less rainfall than it did 50 years ago, causing more land to turn into desert, he said. The government expects unmet demand for water to surge from around 50 million cubic meters in 2021 to 70 million this year.
Water-Solar Swap

In an agreement involving the U.S. and the UAE, Jordan is meant to receive 200 million cubic meters a year of desalinated water from Israel. That’s roughly 20% of what the Jordanian government supplies its citizens and residents with today. Jordan will, in return, allow UAE companies to build 600 megawatts of solar power that will be solely for export to Israel.

The swap deal will partly make up for a shelved multi-billion dollar project to pump water from the Red Sea to the inland Dead Sea on the border of Jordan and Israel.

Jordan also wants to desalinate water itself by 2027, said Najjar. The government has invited five consortiums to bid to build a plant at Aqaba capable of handling 300 million cubic meters a year. The winner will construct a pipeline linking the plant to Amman and other areas.

Without both projects, Najjar said, unmet water demand will rise to 300 million cubic meters annually by 2040.


$1bn from Australian government to keep the Great Barrier Reef off UN’s danger list

This is a complete waste of money. The reef is in no danger. Only Greenie scaremongering says it is. And the reef is at its most diverse in WARM climates (e.g. the Torres Strait) so global warming would help, not hinder it. Guess why the reef lies almost entirely in the (warm) tropics? Greenies rely on people not knowing even the basics and nobody dares to contradict them. Peter Ridd did and he got the sack

Scott Morrison will inject an ­additional $1bn into protecting the Great Barrier Reef – the largest single investment in the marine park – to avoid the national treasure being listed as an endangered world heritage site.

Three weeks after Anthony Albanese announced Labor would spend an extra $163m over four years to extend the Reef 2050 program, the Prime Minister will unveil the Coalition’s election pledge in Cairns to increase funding for the reef to $3bn.

Mr Morrison’s funding boost for the Great Barrier Reef – a key economic driver in the government-held electorates of Leichhardt, Herbert, Capricornia and Flynn – comes as Labor attempts to wrestle back the central and north Queensland seats.

The reef package is also expected to bolster the government’s environmental credentials across inner-city electorates in Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney where Liberal MPs are facing challenges from cashed-up pro-climate change ­independents at the election due by May.

The major pre-election spending follows a global push and recommendation from UNESCO last year for the 21-country World Heritage Committee to list the Great Barrier Reef as being “in danger”. While the government successfully lobbied against the push, the Morrison government must report to UNESCO by next month about how it is strengthening its Reef 2050 plan.

More than half of the extra $1bn in reef funding, to be spent over nine years, will go towards improving water quality and working with land managers to remediate erosion, improve land condition and reduce nutrient and pesticide run-off.

Efforts to combat threats from the crown of thorns starfish, which has severely damaged large swathes of the reef, will be bolstered by $253m.

The crown of thorns starfish control program, which has already culled more than 275,000 of the marine invertebrates since 2014, will be extended from 253 to 500 reefs.

Mr Morrison said protecting more than 13,000 hectares of coral reef captured under the crown of thorns starfish program required “state of the art on-water management practices”.

“We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, hospitality providers and Queensland communities that are at the heart of the reef economy,” the Prime Minister said.

“This is already the best-­managed reef in the world and today we take our commitment to a new level. Funding will support scientists, farmers and traditional owners, backing in very latest marine science while building ­resilience and reducing threats from pollution in our oceans and predators such as the crown of thorns starfish.”

The Australian understands the Great Barrier Reef Foundation – controversially awarded a $443m grant by Mr Morrison’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2018 – will likely work with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and other government agencies but not play any role in the allocation of funds.

With the Great Barrier Reef supporting 64,000 jobs and generating $6.4bn in annual tourism revenue, veteran Liberal MP Warren Entsch said “the people in Cairns and far north Queensland care about the reef more than anyone”.

“Our tourism operators, local communities and traditional owners are invested in the health of the reef and this funding ­supports their commitment and the future of the world’s greatest natural wonder.”

The Leichhardt MP holds his Cairns-based seat on a margin of 4.2 per cent.

“The reef is an amazing place for people to visit and, particularly as local businesses start to recover, I encourage people to come up and see that for themselves,” Mr Entsch said. “This funding will help us keep it that way and ensure that we remain the best reef managers in the world.”

The government’s existing $2bn 2050 plan has supported management agencies including GBRMPA and the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences maintain the health of the reef.

In addition to water quality and reef management, $92.7m is being funnelled into research and deployment of world-leading reef resilience science and adaptation strategies. A further $74.4m is going towards indigenous and community-led projections including “species protection, habitat restoration, citizen science programs and marine debris”.

Central to the Coalition’s reef management plan is improving the quality of water flowing to the reef, which involves land-­management transformation across a catchment area of about 424,000sq km. About 80 per cent of the catchment area is under agricultural production.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the best science and engagement with communities, industries and indigenous groups would drive record investment.

“From breakthrough science in coral seeding and restoration, to improved water quality, the latest on water management and compliance systems, as well as the protection of native species, we are working across every aspect of the reef,” Ms Ley said. “Our farmers, tourism operators, and fishers are our reef champions and we are supporting them through practical water and land based strategies that will contribute significantly to the health of the reef.”

The Opposition Leader this month launched his Queensland election campaign blitz in the state’s north and promised a Labor government would ensure the key tourist attraction was never classified by the UN as “in danger”.

“That’s what we’re determined to do: make sure that it’s never ever put on that list,” Mr Albanese said. “The way to do that is take the big action that we will take by joining the world in climate policy, once again, not being a pariah sitting in the naughty corner with Saudi Arabia and Brazil and a couple of other countries.”

Mr Albanese also pledged to tear up Mr Turnbull’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation funding arrangement.




Thursday, January 27, 2022

Britain's rejection of domestic gas exploration is 'irresponsible'

The rejection of new gas exploration in the UK by COP26 President Alok Shama has been branded irresponsible and against the interests of the British people by campaign group Net Zero Watch.

In an interview with Sky News, the COP 26 President, Mr Alok Sharma, appointed by Boris Johnson, has refused to support domestic production of natural gas in the North Sea.

This is in spite of the fact that Britain faces a deepening energy crisis, Russian gas-blackmail and the indispensable need for natural gas to support the UK electricity grid, where it guarantees security of supply on dark, cold low wind days, like yesterday (24 January), when wind power falls to extremely low levels across the whole of the UK and much of Europe as well.

Without domestic natural gas the UK will become increasingly exposed to the regional European gas markets and to the political manoeuvring of the Russian state.

Mr Sharma has helpfully laid out the options before the Prime Minister.

One the one hand dogmatic Net Zero zealotry that cannot accept the realities of the UK's policy-driven energy crisis, and on the other the clear, pressing economic and security interests of the British people that require us to expand domestic production of natural gas in the North Sea.

Dr John Constable, Director of Energy for Net Zero Watch, said:

“There is a huge gulf opening up between naïve, jet-setting green dreamers, such as Mr Sharma, and the increasingly hard-pressed British people. The government has to choose a side, and on that choice hangs its future reputation and survival.”

Contact Dr John Constable: e:


It has been a long time since anyone was able to say that the past year was the warmest ever solely due to global warming

Last week the UK Met Office released its measurement of the global temperature of 2021, a year described by the Guardian as one of climate crisis.

The continent of Africa had its warmest January on record. There was torrential rains in Malaysia and Turkey was in the tenth year of drought. In February vicious winter weather hit Texas resulting in ten million people being without power. In March Australia was hit by severe flooding forcing thousands to flee in New South Wales. Come April there were huge sandstorms in China and a hurricane brought record rainfall to some parts of Western Australia. In May the governor of California declared a drought.

June saw a remarkable heatwave in North America, Europe and Asia had their second warmest Junes on record. New Zealand temperatures broke records. The next month Death Valley in California recorded 54.4 C. Torrential rain in India killed over a hundred. In August wildfires broke out in the Mediterranean as well as swathes of Siberia. Floods hit Japan, Turkey and South America. In December floods hit Australia again. Kentucky experienced a devastating tornado.

Despite all this the data for 2021 showed it to be the seventh warmest year on record. Announcing the global temperature the Met Office emphasised that global temperatures were temporarily cooled by successive La Niña events at either end of the year.

There was a little reticence in proclaiming the news that 2021 was far from being a record breaking year. The explanation is that 2021 was very warm but it came after a few years whose temperatures were boosted by a super El Nino event. 2021, it is claimed, continues a long-term trend, super El Nino notwithstanding.

Dr Colin Morice, of the Met Office, said: “2021 is one of the warmest years on record, continuing a series of measurements of a world that is warming under the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. This extends a streak of notably warm years from 2015 to 2021 – the warmest seven years in over 170 years of measurements.”

Emphasising the long-term trend Prof Tim Osborn, of the University of East Anglia, added: “Each year tends to be a little below or a little above the underlying long-term global warming. Global temperature data analysed by the Met Office and UEA’s Climatic Research Unit show 2021 was a little below, while 2020 had been a little above, the underlying warming trend. All years, including 2021, are consistent with long-standing predictions of warming due to human activities.”

“WMO Secretary-General, Prof. Petteri Taalas commented, “Back-to-back La Niña events mean that 2021 warming was relatively less pronounced compared to recent years. Even so, it was still warmer than previous years influenced by La Niña. The overall long-term warming as a result of greenhouse gases is now far larger than the year-to-year variability caused by naturally occurring climate drivers.”

Consider though that in these climate conscious times it has been a long time since anyone was able to say that the past year was the warmest ever solely due to global warming. What’s more, new research by a group of Chinese scientists from the Ministry of Natural Resources to be published in the Journal of Climate suggest that the above or below the long-term trend line argument might be too simplistic.

By looking at all available global temperature datasets and a comprehensive span of durations and start and end times they find that the so-called global warming hiatus of the 2000s and beyond was real. Moreover, they find that the rapid warming of the late 1900s and the hiatus of the 2000s are statistically incompatible.

The ending of the hiatus is also interesting. It ended with a (record) El Nino since which global temperatures have not increased.


Greenies worldwide furious at Joe Manchin

Within the brutal machinations of US politics, Joe Manchin has been elevated to a status of supreme decision-maker, the man who could make or break Joe Biden’s presidency.

Internationally, however, the Democratic senator’s new fame has been received with puzzlement and growing bitterness, as countries already ravaged by the climate crisis brace themselves for the US – history’s largest ever emitter of planet-heating gases – again failing to pass major climate legislation.

For six months, Manchin has refused to support a sweeping bill to lower emissions, stymieing its progress in an evenly split US Senate where Republicans uniformly oppose climate action. Failure to pass the Build Back Better Act risks wounding Biden politically but the ramifications reverberate far beyond Washington, particularly in developing countries increasingly at the mercy of disastrous climate change.

“He’s a villain, he’s a threat to the globe,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh. “If you talk to the average citizen in Dhaka, they will know who Joe Manchin is. The level of knowledge of American politics here is absolutely amazing, we know about the filibuster and the Senate and so on.

“What the Americans do or don’t do on climate will impact the world and it’s incredible that this one coal lobbyist is holding things up. It will cause very bad consequences for us in Bangladesh, unfortunately.”

The often tortuous negotiations between Manchin, the White House and Democratic leaders appeared doomed on 19 December when the West Virginia senator said he could not support the $1.75tn bill, citing concerns over inflation and the national debt. The latest twist caused anguish to those who see their futures being decided by a previously obscure politician located thousands of miles away.

“I’ve been following the situation closely,” said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a low-lying Pacific nation that risks being wiped out by rising sea levels. “We have to halve emissions in this decade and can’t do it without strong, immediate action by the US.”

Stege said the Marshall Islands was already suffering the impacts of the climate crisis and if the US doesn’t slash its emissions “the outcomes for countries like mine are unthinkable.”

Even America’s closest allies have looked on in dismay as a single lawmaker from Biden’s own party has stalled what would be the biggest – and arguably first – piece of climate legislation in the US’s plodding, and often rancorous, history of dealing with escalating global heating.

“Biden has done a fair bit in very challenging circumstances [but] in Canada we look on with bewilderment because it’s such a different political context. It’s very bizarre,” said Catherine McKenna, who was environment minister in Justin Trudeau’s government that introduced carbon pricing in 2019. “Politics is hard but I don’t think anyone has given up. We just really hope they are able to get a deal.”

McKenna said she was vilified by some Canadian provincial premiers who “fought to the death” against carbon pricing but that there was now broader support for climate action across the country, including within industry, than in the US. “It’s unfortunate that it’s just one person that is holding up something that’s so critically important,” she said of Manchin.

“Joe Manchin is a problem, and I think he needs to be called out,” said Ed Davey, a British MP who was previously the UK’s secretary of state for energy and climate change. “It’s in the US interest, in the interest of West Virginia and elsewhere, to take advantage of green zero-carbon technology, which is the future.”

Davey, who is now leader of the Liberal Democrats, warned that the US risks ceding leadership in clean energy to China if it doesn’t act. “People will end up paying higher prices, jobs will go and not be created, the security of America will be reduced, Beijing will be laughing,” he said, adding that Manchin was in effect “working on behalf of the Chinese government” by not supporting the transition away from fossil fuels.

China used last year’s Cop26 climate talks in Scotland to “insidiously point out to every country that US just can’t implement”, said Rachel Kyte, an expert in international affairs at Tufts University and a climate adviser to the UN secretary general. Kyte said many governments believe Biden is well-meaning but cannot follow through on his commitments, a frustration compounded by a lack of American action on related areas, such as climate finance for poorer countries.

“There’s almost a resentment that the US just can’t deliver,” she added. “There’s this sinking feeling about the politics of America. You can’t turn your back on the US because it’s still the biggest economy, but what are countries supposed to do?”

Much of this angst is now being channeled towards Manchin.

After more than a decade in national politics, the 74-year-old senator has suddenly garnered a level of infamy far beyond his fiefdom of West Virginia, where the centrist Democrat has served as governor and senator while reaping millions of dollars through his personal investments and campaign contributions from a coal industry that continues to loom large in his state. It’s a situation that has caused bafflement overseas.

“Who is Manchin, the Dem senator from West Virginia who betrayed Biden?” La Repubblica in Italy has demanded.

Clarín, a newspaper in Argentina, has called Manchin a “rebelde” and a “tycoon with ties to the mining structure of West Virginia, the other Virginia of the USA”. Helsingin Sanomat, a Danish newspaper, also noted Manchin’s links to the fossil fuel industry and lamented that he has “disagreed with the most ambitious climate action” put forward by the US.

The negotiations with Manchin involve stakes far greater than any normal political maneuvering in Washington. The world is already being strafed by wildfires, heatwaves, floods and societal instability wrought by the climate crisis and rising temperatures are on track to breach limits set by governments in the Paris climate accords, a situation that would push some parts of the world beyond human livability.

Salvaging this situation will be virtually impossible without swift action by the US, the world’s second largest carbon polluter and a major oil and gas exporter. Analysts say the half a trillion dollars of support for renewable energy and electric cars in the Build Back Better bill would give the US a decent chance of cutting its emissions in half this decade, which Biden and scientists say is imperative to avoid climate breakdown.

But Manchin’s opposition has already ensured the removal of a key element of the bill, a plan to force utilities to phase in clean energy over time, and the prospect of him joining Republicans to block the overall package has seen him come under intense criticism within the US.

Climate activists have confronted Manchin in Washington and kayaked to his yacht to remonstrate with him. Some fellow Democrats say he has “failed the American people”. Even the Sunday Gazette, the local paper of Charleston, West Virginia, has run a headline of ‘We need this so bad’, in reference to the bill.

All this has been to little effect, although Manchin did say earlier this month there could still be agreement on “the climate thing”, offering some vague hope to activists while not quite quelling their anger. “Senator Manchin is a fossil-fueled sociopath on a Maserati joyride while he lets the world burn,” said Janet Redman, climate campaign director at Greenpeace USA. “At the end of the day, Manchin cares less about his constituents than he does about the fossil fuel industry.”

The current, floundering attempt to pass climate legislation is a grimly familiar episode in a lengthy record of American inadequacy. Donald Trump donned a coal miner’s helmet on the campaign trail and removed the US from the Paris climate deal. Barack Obama failed to get cap-and-trade legislation past a recalcitrant Congress. George W Bush rejected the Kyoto climate accords. In 1993, a previous Democratic senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, blocked a Bill Clinton plan to tax carbon emissions.

Manchin is, in some respects, a “fall guy” for a deeper American political dysfunction over the climate crisis, Kyte said. “If Republicans weren’t in the lock-grip of certain vested interests, if they had a policy on climate adaptation or green jobs for the future, Joe Manchin wouldn’t have the influence he has,” she said.

“Joe Manchin has become the personification of a problem and removing him doesn’t solve it,” Kyte added. “It doesn’t give us a bipartisan agreement of the danger we are in. A political culture that allows you to enrich yourself and your family from industries you regulate and not declare a conflict of interest lies beyond Joe Manchin, it’s bigger than just him.”

Even if American political inertia hasn’t changed, the world certainly has – the last seven years were the planet’s hottest on record, cataclysmic wildfires are now year-round events in the US west and deadly flooding swamps basements in New York, picturesque towns in Germany and subways in China. There is mounting fear that the world, including the US, does not have the time for yet another futile American effort to address the unraveling climate crisis.

“Unfortunately, politicians getting fossil fuel money are standing in the way and sacrificing the rest of us once again,” said Vanessa Nakate, a climate justice activist from Uganda. Nakate pointed out that Africa was suffering from climate change even though it is responsible for just a small fraction of global emissions.

“We are so reliant on the choices others make,” she said. “Our lives are literally in their hands.”


President Xi Jinping is clear that climate change goals will not be allowed to impact energy security and economic growth targets

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China's ambitious low-carbon goals should not come at the expense of energy and food security or the "normal life" of ordinary people, President Xi Jinping said, signalling a more cautious approach to climate change as the economy slows.

China, the world's biggest source of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions, has been under pressure to "enhance ambition" and take more drastic action to tackle global warming.

But amid mounting economic challenges, China is worried about the risk to jobs and growth, especially as it prepares to hold a key Communist Party conclave that is expected to extend Xi's rule.

Xi told senior Communist Party leaders in a speech published late on Monday that China needed to "overcome the notion of rapid success" and proceed gradually.

"Reducing emissions is not about reducing productivity, and it is not about not emitting at all," Xi was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying.

"We must stick to the overall planning and ensure energy security, industrial supply chain security and food security at the same time as cutting carbon emissions," he said.

Since a national economic work meeting held at the end of last year, Chinese policymakers have repeatedly stressed that the country would "prioritise stability" in 2022.

The approach has already started to feed into policy making, with Zhang Bo, Chief Engineer of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, telling reporters earlier this week that the country would not impose strict water quality targets on local governments, and would instead encourage them to "consolidate" previous gains.

With energy supplies still a major concern after a wave of shortages hit manufacturers last year, Xi also told Party leaders that "the gradual withdrawal of traditional energy must be based on the safe and reliable replacement by new energy."

China has promised to accelerate the shift to renewables, but will only start to reduce coal consumption - a major source of CO2 - after 2025.

China's state planning agency also said in December that it will loosen blanket restrictions on energy consumption in order to ensure environmental targets do not erode growth.




Wednesday, January 26, 2022

An Australian perspective on sea levels

Australia is a good place to study sea level change. Unlike Britain, Australia wasn’t covered in an ice sheet during the last ice age. Ice sheets complicate things because when all the ice melts – as Scotland’s ice sheet did a little over 9,000 years ago – part of the landmass may gradually rebound dragging its bottom half under. So, the north of the British Isles is rising, while the south has been sinking up to 0.6mm per year for the last 1,000 years – about 60 centimetres in total since the time of William the Conqueror. The sinking of this landmass is sometimes confused with rising sea levels, and it is claimed that this is occurring due to rising carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

Where I live, about halfway down the east coast of Australia, sea levels began to rise about 16,000 years ago with the melting of Antarctica. By 9,000 years ago, sea levels around the world had risen by 12,000 centimetres, or 120 metres, the equivalent of a 25-storey building! The extent of this rise dwarfs the 36-centimetre rise that occurred over the last 150 years and the subsidence in places like Lincolnshire which adds up to just a few centimetres over the same period, both of which are worrying the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Indeed, it is uncontroversial, at least in peer-reviewed journals, that global sea level rise at the end of the last ice age occurred at a rate 10 times faster than the modern rate of about 3mm per year – which is about how much Scotland is rising due to isostatic rebound.

After being buried under several kilometres of ice, much of Europe and North America is experiencing uplift. For example, the ice retreated from Sweden 9,900 to 10,300 years ago and large-scale uplift is still occurring to the extent that the tidal gauge in Stockholm shows sea levels have fallen by about 50 cm over the last 129 years — an average annual rate of fall of 3.9mm per year. The uplift at Juneau, in Alaska, is even more extreme: in just 80 years sea levels have fallen by 120cm at a steady rate of minus 15mm per year. This reality jars with the notion of catastrophic sea level rise, so the IPCC ‘detrends’ the measurements from these tidal gauges, until they show sea level rise.

These numbers don’t make easy reading and may seem extraordinary, but sea levels really did rise globally by 120 metres at the end of the last ice age. Yet this inconvenient fact tends to be excluded from political summaries on climate change that rely on remodelled data.

According to the latest IPCC report on climate change – Assessment Report 6, published just before the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow late last year – global temperatures are the warmest they have been for at least the last 125,000 years. There is no mention that in between it got quite cold, and Scotland (where that meeting was held) was covered in a lot of ice.

Given the landmass of Australia has not sunk or risen much over this time period, if the IPCC report is correct the waves should cover my favourite 125,000-year-old platform each high tide and I should be washed away.

The highest tide for this year was forecast for Monday 3 January at 8.27am. A four-metre-high swell was also forecast because ex-tropical Seth was lingering just off-shore. That morning, I wondered: am I finally going to be washed away?

I scrambled down from the lookout and put my drone up. It captured footage of the huge swells, which did make it to the very bottom of the cliff face and washed over the very wide platform I usually stand on.

But I wasn’t washed away. I had positioned myself up a ledge. There are ledges at three different heights in Noosa National Park – and along the coastline all the way to Sydney. This is evidence etched in stone that there have been times in the past when sea levels were even higher than they are now. Why? Because the climate has always changed.


EPA Finalizes Aggressive Vehicle Emissions Standards for 2023 and Beyond

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new, more stringent emissions regulations on everyday passenger cars and light duty trucks to be imposed on the model years 2023 through 2026.

The EPA says the updated standards were necessary to carry out President Joe Biden’s August 2021 Executive Order 13990 “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” and to meet the goals contained in his August 5 Executive Order, “Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks.” The latter order set a goal of 50 percent of all new passenger vehicle sales in the United States being zero emission vehicles by 2030.

The revision represents a shift from the Trump administration’s ‘‘The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,’’ which focused on moderate carbon dioxide emission reductions while keeping affordability and vehicle safety at the forefront.

Toughest Emissions Standards Yet

The EPA’s news release says the new standards are more stringent than any in American history.

Under the new rules average fleet emissions would have decline substantially each year between model years 2023 to 2026, for cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks releasing an average of 161 grams of carbon dioxide per mile by 2026. This is equivalent to a roughly 40 mpg fuel economy standard across the fleet of vehicles sold.

“The standards finalized today are the most ambitious vehicle emissions standards for greenhouse gases ever established for the light-duty vehicle sector in the United States.” The EPA Press Office said.

The final rule emphasizes the EPA’s efforts to concentrate more on greenhouse gas emissions, and less on the costs of implementation and compliance.

“In this rule, the agency is changing its 2020 position and restoring its previous approach by finding … that it is more appropriate to place greater weight on the magnitude and benefits of reducing emissions that endanger public health and welfare, while continuing to consider compliance costs, lead time, and other relevant factors” the EPA said in the rule.

The EPA estimated the rule will result in sales of zero emission car sales rising from approximately 5 percent of all sales today to 20 percent by 2026.

EPA Ignores Safety Concerns

In pursuit of the Biden administration’s climate goals, the EPA ignored long-recognized safety concerns related to increasing fuel economy standards, says Devin Watkins, an attorney with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

“In issuing these new rules, EPA has failed to even address what its own independent scientific experts said,” Watkins said, “The EPA’s claims of PM 2.5 harms had ‘unstated, untested, unverified, or mistaken assumptions’ including the failure ‘to distinguish between true exposure values and estimated exposure values in analyzing and presenting information,’ the agency’s expert reviewers wrote.

The EPA also ignored the unnecessary injuries and deaths research has shown past increases in fuel economy standards have resulted in, an issued raised by CEI during the comment period on the rules and in lawsuits, says Watkins.

“Additionally, EPA fails to even mention, let alone explain, the thousands of additional lives that could be saved with a less stringent standard.” Watkins said. “EPA inappropriately dismissed safety concerns raised by CEI in our public comments on the proposal.

“CEI sued EPA to have it address these safety concerns, and EPA asked the court to put that case on hold, allowing it time to addresses this problem in this new rulemaking, which it has now failed to do,” Watkins said.


Australia's wind leader is actually running on gas and coal

Approaching breakfast-time SA is importing half of its power from Victoria and 94% of the local generation is gas. The turbines are running at 2% of capacity and providing 5% of demand.

Victoria is generating a small excess of power but not enough to prop up SA without help from Tasmania and NSW. The Victorian windmills are running at 12%, just above wind drought level, and providing 8% of local generation, with coal delivering three quarters of the supply and gas 5%.

Across the NEM the wind is delivering 3.7% of consumption, running at 8% capacity and the fossils are giving 83% (coal 75%).

RE enthusiasts need to realise that SA is the leader in demonstrating that we will never run on wind and solar power until the storage issue is resolved and that is nowhere in sight, certainly not in the next decade or three.

The International Energy Agency (a green organization) is projecting record coal consumption this year with coal consumption holding up past 2040. The fossil fuel contribution to worldwide energy use has declined all of 2% from about 87% to 85% over recent years despite the tens of billions that have been spent to make power more expensive and less reliable


Team Biden seeks to stop yet another pipeline even as gas prices rise

If you needed any more proof that the anti-American, pro-Russia, pro-Iran, pro-China, anti-Israel wing of the Democrat Party has captured the White House flag, last week we learned Team Biden plans to put the kibosh on a natural-gas pipeline with US involvement that would reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.

The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Pipeline, which would carry Israeli and Cypriot natural gas, is yet another energy resource serving America’s strategic interests that the Biden White House wants gone. EastMed joins a long list that started on Day One with the Keystone XL pipeline, a ban on oil and gas leases on public lands and the October federal court ruling that ended drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

All these actions, demanded by “climate change” alarmists, have reversed America’s long-sought energy independence won at great political cost by President Donald Trump.

They have not only made us dependent once again on foreign oil; they have sent oil prices skyrocketing, enriching America’s adversaries in Russia and Iran.

The EastMed pipeline would offset supplies that otherwise would come from Russia.

The Trump administration backed the $7 billion EastMed pipeline, a project of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, well before it was signed in January 2020. The 1,200-mile-long pipeline would bring 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Israel’s Leviathan and Tamar offshore to Europe, offsetting supplies that otherwise would come from Russia. Plans called for doubling capacity in future years.

US oil major Chevron is the main operator of the Israeli gas fields. And thanks to the Abraham Accords that opened trade and diplomatic relations between Israel and four of its Arab neighbors, the United Arab Emirates bought a 22% stake in the Tamar field from Israeli interests in May.

But Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to undermine the deal from the start. His foreign ministry called it “the latest instance of futile steps, aiming to exclude Turkey and the [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] from the region. Any project disregarding Turkey . . . cannot succeed.”

Erdogan sent warships and deep-sea exploration vessels to put teeth into that threat, conducting military patrols in disputed waters between Greece and Turkey. In December 2019, he signed an agreement with the disputed government in Tripoli, Libya, that created a “maritime corridor” between Turkey and Libya that essentially cut off Israel from any access to Europe.

So Erdogan flexed his muscles at both Israel and Cyprus — and Team Biden’s move is to reward him.

The State Department sent its newly minted adviser for global energy security, Amos Hochstein, to Israel in November to give a heads up on the administration’s plans to ditch support for the pipeline.

And this month, it quietly sent a “non-paper” to the government of Greece, which leaked to the Greek and Turkish press, warning that the pipeline posed a security threat to the region. The US embassy in Athens finally clarified the American position: “We remain committed to physically interconnecting East Med energy to Europe,” its statement read, but “are shifting our focus to electricity interconnectors that can support both gas and renewable energy sources.”

Funny: The president didn’t have a problem giving waivers to Russia’s non-green pipeline to Europe, Nord Stream 2.

Erdogan crowed out loud. If Israeli gas “will be brought to Europe, it can only be done through Turkey,” he told journalists last week, saying Israeli President Isaac Herzog “could visit us in Turkey” to discuss the pipeline.

America’s relationship with Turkey soured mightily during the final Trump years when it booted Turkey from the F-35 program because Ankara was buying Russian S-300 and S-400 missile-defense systems and could not provide guarantees it would not share sensitive US technology with the Kremlin.

While Erdogan revels in throwing his weight around, he also is desperate to get back in America’s good graces, meeting with Biden at the G20 summit in Rome in October in an attempt to patch things up.

And Biden? His woke national-security and foreign-policy B-team seem more eager to subsidize electric cars for the rich than to provide cheap oil and gas to the American middle class or to deter America’s adversaries.




Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Brandon Wanted to Spend Nearly $30 Billion on a “Civilian Climate Corps”

At a time when inflation is becoming a major problem, the government is tens of trillions of dollars in debt, and the money supply has increased by about 20% in one year alone, it would make sense to start pinching taxpayer pennies and not spending money on random pipe dreams.

Unfortunately for America, Brandon fully intends on spending taxpayer money on such random pipe dreams, blowing both what the tax collectors have brought in and what Jerome Powell’s money printers have printed on random leftist objectives.

One random such objective is a “Civilian Climate Corps,” which would have been like FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps, except completely useless because it would have focused not on building and marking trails in the wilderness or preparing America’s young adults to follow orders, but instead on the phantom menace of global warming.

As Brandon’s Executive Order put it, the Civilian Climate Corps “shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.”

All noble objectives to be sure, as most relate to the great outdoors, but those are things that volunteers normally do, not government bureaucrats.

And how much did Brandon want to pay for the Civilian Climate Corps, which would theoretically be doing activities that volunteers normally do? A massive $27 billion. As RealClearPolicy reports:

In Biden’s Build Back Better proposal, he calls for hiring 300,000 Americans at a cost of anywhere from $10 to $30 billion for his Climate Corps, at a cost of between $40,000 to $70,000 per member. That’s low for some Congressional Democrats. Sen. Ed Markey and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez have introduced the Civilian Climate Corps for Jobs and Justice Act, asking for $132 billion for a corps of 1.5 million members.

The CCC is currently in Biden’s Build Back Better proposal that passed the House of Representatives on November 19, 2021, and includes about $7 billion for staffing the CCC. The bill stalled in the Senate after Sen. Joe Manchin announced he wouldn’t vote for it, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to call a vote on it again.

The real CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, was created by FDR in 1933 and performed all manner of tasks, from cutting trails to building roads and infrastructure. It employed millions of people in the 9 years it existed, built hundreds of thousands of dams, constructed about 100,000 miles of roads and trails, and built tens of thousands of bridges.

It was a roaring success, building many pieces of infrastructure that America needed and employing hundreds of thousands of Americans a year at a time when the Depression was still ravaging the economy and keeping people out of work.

Focused as it is on a leftist pipe dream rather than realistic infrastructure objectives, it’s doubtful Brandon’s CCC program would be as effective as FDR’s. It probably won’t help that there’s Brandon, a senile, gaffe-prone fool, in charge, rather than a brilliant politician like FDR.


U.S. fossil fuel production set to hit record highs in 2023

America’s production of fossil fuels is expected to hit a record high in 2023, as continued improvements in drilling efficiency in oil and gas and high enough oil prices will support increased output of all fossil fuels, including coal, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Friday.

The combined production of fossil fuels—natural gas, crude oil, and coal—rose in 2021 by 2 percent to 77.14 quadrillion British thermal units, following a decline in 2020, when the pandemic hit. The administration expects U.S. fossil fuel production to continue rising both this year and next, exceeding 2019 production levels and reaching a new record in 2023.

Last year, dry natural gas accounted for the largest share, 46 percent, of the total U.S. fossil fuel production. Crude oil accounted for 30 percent, coal for 15 percent, and natural gas plant liquids (NGPLs) for 9 percent. Those shares to remain similar through 2023, the EIA said.

Dry natural gas production rose by 2 percent last year in 2021, the administration estimates, and predicts that improvements in drilling efficiency and new-well production will contribute to production increases of 3 percent in 2022 and 2 percent in 2023.

Coal production last year is estimated to have jumped by 7 percent due to higher demand for electricity generation on the back of rising natural gas prices. This year, coal production is set to rise by 6 percent as coal-fired electricity generators rebuild inventory levels. In 2023, coal production will rise by only 1 percent as demand for coal in the electric power sector declines, the EIA said.


What Solution Do Renewable Energy Advocates Offer For The Problem Of Storage?

The import of all of these studies is that as renewables come to dominate the mix of electricity generation, and particularly as their share of generation goes above 50% and on towards 100%, and fossil fuel backup gets phased out, then the cost of necessary storage becomes far and away the dominant cost of the overall system. Therefore, any meaningful proposal to replace fossil fuel generation with renewables must grapple with this issue.

So what is the solution that the dissenting commenters offer for the problem of increasing need for expensive storage? They don’t offer any at all. Instead, they appear to think that the whole problem can be assumed away or ignored.

The dissenting commenters were three in number, and posted under the pseudonyms “Johnathan Galt,” “GKam,” and “reneawbleguy.” Galt and GKam each posted only one comment, but “reneawbleguy” posted over forty.

The gist of all these comments really comes down to the same thing, namely that the renewables are rapidly becoming cheaper than fossil fuels to generate electricity, if they are not so already, and therefore fossil fuels are a dying industry. Mixed in with this point is a good deal of snide and accusatory language, essentially asserting that anyone who may disagree as to the relative full cost of renewables must necessarily be both ignorant and politically motivated. (e.g., GKam: “More science nonsense from this group of political hacks. . . . Give it up You have already lost.”). Meanwhile, all three fail to deal in any real way with the storage problem inherent in expansion of generation from the renewables.

Here is “reneawbleguy” on the relative cost of fossil fuel electricity generation versus renewables:

Energy costs savings. RE will be cheaper that FF business as usual. 10.43 cents per kw-hr FF 7.81 cents per kw-hr RE. Dollars into our pockets is a clear difference favoring RE. Clear difference.
Money cost savings per person.

No source is cited, but I would agree that approximately these numbers can be found in some studies of relative costs of the renewables versus fossil fuels. But the studies that get these numbers do so by ignoring the entire storage problem completely.

Similarly, from Galt:

[T]he only consideration to consumers is, was, and always will be “what is the delivered cost to me?” That is neatly quantified in Lazard’s excellent publication providing LCOE.

As I have pointed out on this blog numerous times, the Lazard numbers for “LCOE” (Levelized Cost of Energy) specifically omit any inherent costs of necessary storage. Since the cost of storage is the dominant cost of the all-renewable system, LCOE is the opposite of a “neat quantification” of comparative electricity generation costs, and rapidly becomes completely misleading as the percentage generated from renewables increases beyond 50%.

GKam is even less sophisticated, simply relying on his own personal experience with a home getting its power from rooftop solar panels:

My entire household and both electric cars are powered by the PV system on our roof, as "Galt" can tell you, and it gives us free power having paid back in three years.

GKam does not enlighten us as to how he gets his electricity at night, or overcast days in the winter, or whether he has purchased batteries sufficient to store up power from the summer for use during those long winter nights. If he lives in the United States, it is almost certain that he relies on his local grid — in other words, on fossil fuel backup, with perhaps some nuclear thrown in — for power during those times.

Of the three dissenting commenters, the only one who addresses the storage issue at all is Galt. He asserts, with great confidence, that new battery technologies are coming to make the storage problem go away:

At least two separate technologies, Ambri and Form Energy, will almost certainly have their first large factories up and running within 5 years. Both use common materials (antimony and calcium, iron), both are environmentally safe. Ambri’s battery is 100% recyclable, and in theory may last more than 100 years. Form Energy’s product is likewise 100% recyclable, should cost only 20% that of Lithium Ion, and although the lifespan is not yet advertised it has the potential for similar lifetime of use (simply a “reversible rusting” process).

So the proposal is that a government-mandated total transformation of the entire energy system of our economy should depend on one or another of two not-yet-invented-or demonstrated-at-scale technologies, which may or may not work, and the cost projections of which may be wildly off. Galt does not do any actual numerical calculations. But at a cost of “20% that of Lithium ion” the storage systems he is talking about would still imply a cost of around $100 trillion in Ken Gregory’s spreadsheet, some 5 times current U.S. GDP. Shouldn’t this be acknowledged as a problem? And how can you advocate use of Lazard’s “LCOE” numbers for relative costs of energy sources when those calculations omit a $100 trillion item applicable to wind and solar but not to fossil fuels?

So I say to these three commenters: it’s time to step up your game. Don’t just make unsupported assertions that wind and solar are cheaper. Give us a spreadsheet with a numerical demonstration of how much storage a fully wind/solar/storage electricity system for the U.S. will need, what technology will be used to provide it, and how much that will cost. Without that, you are just dealing in fantasy. I for one will be happy to have the all-renewable system if someone can demonstrate that it can be built and will work at reasonable cost.


A ban on conservatories is exactly the sort of idiocy that could finish off Boris and ‘net zero’

The clue’s in the name: the Conservative Party. How can the Conservative Party even think of banning conservatories? Did they miss the memo? How could they be unaware that an attack on conservatory-dwellers is an attack on everything it means to be a Conservative: aspirational, home-owning, family-oriented – and rather proud of the garden? The proposed restrictions on conservatory building in the name of “net zero” are a red rag to the already enraged core of Britain’s Tory voters.

Such obvious facts are no longer visible from the inner ring of the death spiral that Boris Johnson’s premiership appears to have entered. Instead of throwing things desperately out of the tornado, in the hope that they will catch onto something – Boats! Sonic blasts! Ghana! The BBC! – No 10 ought to reflect upon why the Boris operation is so damnably short of grappling hooks.

Here and there it drifts, sustained only by the occasional outburst of brilliant oratory, like air blasted into a hot-air balloon. The only thing needed to burst the bubble was the pinprick of a scandal like Partygate and hey ho, down it goes.

Soon, however, if Mr Johnson can last that long, the party rage will be spent and he will have an opportunity to do something other than flounder. Here is something he could actually do that would genuinely improve people’s lives: he could start to solve the critical situation in our energy supply.

This situation, unlike supply chain congestion, is entirely a mess of our own making. Rising household bills are now one of the main contributors to inflation, which is outstripping wage growth. Later this year, in spite of the price cap, costs are expected to smash all records set over the last decade, taking us from an average annual bill of around £1,200 to one potentially over £1,500.

At present, the debate on what to do about this centres on fiddling about with VAT, which accounts for 5 per cent of your bill, or company profits, which account for 1-2 per cent. Thanks for nothing, Westminster.

Politicians could move the dial a bit by suspending various green levies and boiler schemes. But the “social” costs loaded onto consumers are in fact mostly made up of redistributive policies like giving discounts to poor households. That is not something it would be wise to suspend during a price spike.

By far the biggest share of our bills is made up of the simple cost of energy on the open market. If the Government is not prepared to pull any levers that increase our energy supply, then there is little it can do to bring down costs.

In fact, for 20 years, governments have been doing the opposite: shutting down coal generation and only partially replacing it with renewable generation, which depends on the weather. They claimed they were “diversifying” supply by building up our ability to import gas. But guess what: it turns out that when gas is choked off at one end of the European continent by pernicious Russian policy, it affects us at the other end, no matter how many pipelines and terminals we have built.

Fortunately for Boris, there is something he could do about this relatively quickly. He could put together a package of incentives to ramp up exploration and production of gas in the North Sea.

Gas producers wouldn’t be able to fill demand in time to affect prices this year, but they could almost certainly raise production enough in the next few years to take the pressure off households and stabilise energy costs for the next decade, giving us valuable time to build a large-scale nuclear energy programme to replace all those coal plants that were hastily shut down.

After all, Norway, whose gas explorers operate just the other side of the North Sea, has managed to keep its reserves steady over the past 30 years, while Britain’s gas industry, treated recklessly as a cash cow by successive governments, has gone into sharp decline.

Nor would this approach mean junking the Government’s net zero aspirations. At present, we import more than a fifth of our gas in liquid form on tankers, one of the most energy inefficient and expensive ways to use the fuel. Domestic production would simply displace a large slice of that consumption and see us through to the low-carbon era.

In the long run, a far more ambitious nuclear programme, improvements in energy storage and a carbon tariff to prevent emissions being moved offshore would enable the UK to deliver lower emissions without becoming the poster-child for how to impoverish yourself through reckless green policies.

There is only one reason why a Conservative Government would shy away from this policy: it’s afraid of the environmentalist movement.

Green protesters are peculiarly parochial in their view of carbon emissions. They think that if the UK produces more of its own gas, it mechanically increases the amount of gas the world uses, ignoring the fact that markets are dynamic. There is no point trying to convince the most zealous of these believers. There will always be another bevy of them waiting to throw themselves onto motorways or block bridges. And if the Government gets serious about reviving domestic energy markets, you can bet the Extinction crew will stop at nothing to sabotage the plan.

Rather than cowering before their roadblocks, Boris should go into battle. It is unacceptable that a tiny minority should determine policy for the rest of the country when households are struggling to manage an extraordinary hit to living standards.

Voters want to see a Prime Minister willing to stand up for their interests with policies that will deliver a noticeable improvement to their lives. They would warm to someone who is tough enough to take a battering dished out by the green establishment. They are tired of instead listening to a dithering man without a plan promising he will “unleash Britain’s potential” by banning conservatories and kiboshing our gas hobs.

I’m among those who believe that a shift to “net zero” energy production is necessary and that Britain can benefit from being at the forefront of it. But there is no future for this agenda if it simply becomes a proxy for a sustained assault on our quality of life, first through our gas bills and then via our home improvements. And there is no future for a prime minister who follows up outrage and scandal with platitudes and joyless, environmentalist finger-wagging.

It’s time to stop telling us what we can’t do and start telling us what we can and will do to improve our lot. Otherwise, Boris might as well just give up now.