Sunday, March 27, 2022

Ice shelf collapses in previously stable East Antarctica

The ineffable Seth Borenstein below is doing his best to spread panic. For a start, ice shelves are mostly floating so if they break off and melt they have no influence on sea levels. Secondly, "the first time in human history" wasn't. There was a major iceberg calving in E. Antarctica in 2014. So history for Seth must start in 2014. The rest of the article is just speculation

Tony Heller has a good takedown of the whole thing

An ice shelf the size of New York City has collapsed in East Antarctica, an area long thought to be stable and not hit much by climate change, concerned scientists said Friday.

The collapse, captured by satellite images, marked the first time in human history that the frigid region had an ice shelf collapse. It happened at the beginning of a freakish warm spell last week when temperatures soared more than 70 degrees (40 Celsius) warmer than normal in some spots of East Antarctica. Satellite photos show the area had been shrinking rapidly the last couple of years, and now scientists wonder if they have been overestimating East Antarctica’s stability and resistance to global warming that has been melting ice rapidly on the smaller western side and the vulnerable peninsula.

The ice shelf, about 460 square miles wide (1200 square kilometers) holding in the Conger and Glenzer glaciers from the warmer water, collapsed between March 14 and 16, said ice scientist Catherine Walker of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. She said scientists have never seen this happen in this part of the continent, making it worrisome.

“The Glenzer Conger ice shelf presumably had been there for thousands of years and it’s not ever going to be there again,” said University of Minnesota ice scientist Peter Neff.

The issue isn’t the amount of ice lost in this collapse, Neff and Walker said. That is negligible. It's more about the where it happened.

Neff said he worries that previous assumptions about East Antarctica’s stability may not be correct. And that’s important because if the water frozen in East Antarctica melted — and that’s a millennia-long process if not longer — it would raise seas across the globe more than 160 feet (50 meters). It’s more than five times the ice in the more vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where scientists have concentrated much of their research.

Helen Amanda Fricker, co-director of the Scripps Polar Center at the University of California San Diego, said researchers have to spend more time looking at that part of the continent.

“East Antarctica is starting to change. There is mass loss starting to happen,” Fricker said. “We need to know how stable each one of the ice shelves are because once one disappears” it means glaciers melt into the warming water and “some of that water will come to San Diego and elsewhere.”

Scientists had been seeing this particular ice shelf — closest to Australia — shrink a bit since the 1970s, Neff said. Then in 2020, the shelf’s ice loss sped up to losing about half of itself every month or so, Walker said.

“We probably are seeing the result of a lot of long time increased ocean warming there,” Walker said. “it’s just been melting and melting.”

Still, one expert thinks that only part of East Antarctica is a concern.

“Most of East Antarctica is relatively secure, relatively invulnerable and there are sectors in it that are vulnerable,” said British Antarctic Survey geophysicist Rob Larter. “The overall effect of climate change around East Antarctica is it’s chipping away at the edges of the ice sheets in some places, but it’s actually adding more snow to the middle.”


Electric Vehicle Makers’ Russia Connection

Elon Musk, who is now spending his time urging the U.S. to increase oil and gas production despite selling electric vehicles, wants you to believe that he is putting his financial interests and environmental ambitions aside in a goodhearted effort to protect America’s national security interests. However, the truth is that today’s heavily subsidized electric vehicles are often built with parts sourced from Russia and that they are not as environmentally friendly as Musk would like you to believe.

Musk promised a $25,000 electric car. Instead, he just raised the price of his electric car — the $44,990 to start Model 3 — by almost 20 percent, in part to compensate for the increased costs of certain raw materials needed to make electric car batteries, such as nickel, palladium and aluminum.

While Musk has warned of inflationary pressures at SpaceX and Tesla because of the situation in Russia, this is far from the first time he has increased costs on the American people. He has made a name for himself by promising cheap prices and then raising them after he secures funding.

This case may be different, however, because as it turns out, Russia is one of the major suppliers of these crucial raw materials — 44 percent of palladium. There are fewer environmental regulatory restrictions in Russia, which makes it less expensive to source them from there. This is also the case with other key raw materials used in EVs, such as cobalt, and lithium, which are also largely sourced from countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo in the case of cobalt, where the environment can be assaulted with impunity while Musk plays the role of the man who is cleaning it up.

Musk and other EV makers to offload the environmental costs of his electric cars onto other countries and other people while he imposes higher costs on those who buy his electric cars. As always, Elon likes to look good, almost as much as he likes making money. But electric cars don't look very good when you look at them closely, and yet he wants the taxpayers to subsidize them.

Most people have no idea just how many environmentally unfriendly materials go into each electric car. A Tesla Model 3, for instance, is laden with more than 1,000 pounds of battery pack, containing materials that are as "green" as the damaged reactors at Fukushima. Lithium-ion is highly reactive, meaning it can, and often does, burn. It's one of the reasons why electric cars catch on fire with what ought to be alarming regularity.

These fires are sometimes spontaneous — the car goes up in smoke when it's parked in someone's garage. And they burn much hotter than an ordinary gasoline fire because they are chemical fires.

That’s not so great for the environment.

Similarly, not much thought has been given to how to deal with the prospect of millions of EV battery packs in circulation, which will eventually sit in old electric cars — many of which will leach their caustic contents into the environment.

Which brings us back to what comes out of the environment.

Musk and EV partisans tout the lack of harmful or even any emissions emanating from the tailpipes of electric cars, which haven't got tailpipes. But where did the materials that make the electric cars come from? How were they made into electric cars? Where does the electricity which powers electric cars come from?

In the United States, about 40 percent of the electricity available is generated by coal-fired utility plants; the bulk of the remainder by oil/gas-fired plants, along with some (but not much) nuclear - the latter having been actively discouraged by non-issuance of permits to build more nuclear-generating plants.

The diminishing nuclear contribution excepted, the remainder generates enough C02 to make up for all the C02 not emitted at the tailpipe of electric cars, which are energy hogs. With the sole exception of the Nissan Leaf, every electric car available touts how quick it is. Teslas especially. You have probably heard about their "ludicrous" speed. But it takes ludicrous power to deliver that speed, and that's why Teslas carry around 1,000-plus pounds of environmentally toxic materials and need 400-800 volts of electricity to "fast" charge (in 45 minutes) so they can go fast again.

Which brings up how all those electric cars will be "fast" charged. It can't be done at home because very few homes are wired to handle 400-800 volts of power surging through the wiring. The wiring panel would melt or the house would catch on fire. It will take re-wiring houses and neighborhoods to make this work, and that will take more power and more raw materials. Not to mention more money.

Meanwhile, Elon collects more money — first from the government, then from the people who buy his cars.

The EV crowd wants you to believe that they’re for clean energy but most of them are not — they’re for subsidizing a business model that is profitable for them. Even when it means putting money in Russia’s pocket. And there’s nothing less patriotic than that.


SEC goes woke on climate change, abandons mission to protect investors and markets

With Democratic appointees at the helm and the Biden administration’s encouragement, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has gone fully woke on climate change.

Stepping well outside its legal mission to protect investors from fraud and the markets from insider trading and manipulation, the SEC has decided it knows what the managers of publicly traded companies, portfolio and fund managers, and investors should be most concerned about: climate change.

The SEC has no particular expertise in climate science. Moreover, I see no evidence it is staffed by people known to be able to predict the future. Yet, that hasn’t stopped the SEC from dictating to investors and businesses that they must account for climate change.

The SEC’s proposals would require publicly traded companies to track and report on the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from their own operations, the operations of companies in their supply chain, and the operations of the electric utilities that supply them power. In addition, if these rules are finalized, companies will have to report on how climate change is impacting their businesses now, how it is likely to affect them in the future, and what they are doing in response, including steps they are taking to reduce emissions.

These rules will take hundreds of millions (possibly billions) of dollars away from businesses’ core operations so they can carry out the SEC’s mandate to account for how future climate change might fiscally impact a business’ operations. Not to mention the requirement to act as their brother’s keepers by tracking their power companies’ and suppliers’ emissions as well as their own.

The factors likely to materially impact the success or failure of publicly traded companies are best known to the officers and managers of the firms themselves, not the SEC or any other agency or activist group not actively involved in the relevant business.

The impacts of climate change 20, 50, or 100 years from now are unknowable. Climate model projections of future conditions cannot be trusted. The models have consistently misstated temperatures and misidentified various climate conditions. Thus, projections of the future made by climate modelers should be taken with a huge grain of salt by companies and their investors.

Publicly traded companies exist to make a profit for their owners, although the managers may also list other reasons for a company’s or mutual fund’s formation in its statements of incorporation and disclosures. As such, the managers of publicly traded companies should endeavor to maximize profits for their investors. The politics of a company’s managers should not enter into its business or investment decisions, unless the company explicitly states in their articles of incorporation and public disclosures that business and investment decisions will be driven by a particular ideological point of view or set of political concerns.

Anyone who wishes a company to consider climate change risks and opportunities in its business decisions can purchase stocks or bonds issued by the company, as all investors do. Then, at annual board meetings, they can express their desires. They can try to convince company or fund managers to consider climate change risks and potential rewards.

Failing at that, they can introduce climate-related resolutions and offer candidates for the Board of Directors concerned about climate change. They can also try to convince a majority of stock owners to support these resolutions, directives, and slate of candidates. Thousands of climate-related resolutions, and candidates for board positions focused on climate concerns, have been offered over the past few decades. This mechanism—not likely illegal SEC mandates—is the appropriate way to have companies take climate concerns seriously.

The SEC notes many businesses are already tracking their carbon dioxide emissions and anticipating the impacts of climate change on their operations. Companies that choose to ignore emissions or climate change as a business factor should be allowed to do so. Which course of action is better? I don’t know; neither does the SEC. In truth, it probably depends on the line of business a company is in or where its operations are located.

Those concerned about climate change can form their own companies, complete with public stock offerings, to compete directly with the businesses they believe are not taking climate change seriously. Thousands of such “green” companies exist. This lets the public express their concern for the environment directly through their purchases of goods and services, as well as the investment decisions they make.

The SEC’s role in these matters should be limited to ensuring “truth in advertising,” a policing function. Rather than developing or enforcing some uniform standard for what it means for a company to take climate seriously, it should police those companies that profess to be climate friendly, or committed to reducing their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, as a business strategy and a way to attract investors. The SEC should require transparency. Such companies should be required to state specifically what practices they are undertaking to respond to climate change and how and on what timeline their efforts should be judged.

Beyond ensuring the transparency of allegedly climate-friendly practices, the SEC should, as part of its public mandate, police businesses claiming to embrace “green” policies, as they do with other promises made to investors by businesses. SEC should also respond to complaints from investors about companies failing to carry out their stated mission and work with the Department of Justice to ensure the companies’ officers, employees, and investors are not involved in illegal business practices.

The SEC has no climate expertise, nor has it evinced thus far the ability to predict the future with regularity. As such, the SEC’s proposal that businesses account for climate risks is purely political, a fetishistic obsession of SEC bureaucrats and their patrons, not based on business concerns. It should stick to regulating insider trading and false business claims and leave the decisions about how to maximize business prospects to those actually running businesses and their owners.


Sanctions, Climate Policy, ESG, and Energy Dependence

President Biden’s latest effort to impose a cordon upon the Russian economy and place pressure upon the regime of President Vladimir Putin comes in the form of executive order 14066, which blocks the import of all Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum fuel, oil derivatives, liquefied natural gas, coal, and coal products. In 2021, the United States purchased approximately 670,000 barrels of petroleum per day from the Russian Federation, representing 8 percent of our total petroleum imports.

The White House’s short-term solution to this impending shortfall and the highest gas prices in American history is two-pronged. First, Biden plans to release 30 million barrels from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. U.S. petroleum consumption rested at approximately 20 million barrels per day in 2021; such a release would—in a vacuum—sustain this demand for a grand total of 1.5 days.

To make up the remainder, Biden has begun negotiating with Venezuela, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Iran and Venezuela are already under stringent U.S. sanctions, which would be partially lifted to enable a potential energy deal.

Putting aside these regimes’ sparkling track records of terrorism sponsorship, journalist executions, and human rights atrocities, this deal would directly strengthen countries that are clearly diametric opponents of U.S. strategic interests. Moreover, Venezuela and Iran are long-time allies of Moscow, and have been heavily bolstering their ties to Russia and China in recent years.

What is to stop Venezuela and Iran from buying Russian oil once their sanctions have been lifted, and then selling that oil to the United States for higher prices? Nothing like turning a profit at the expense of Uncle Sam, which can in turn be used to fund Hezbollah.

Everybody but the United States wins from that deal—including Russia; Moscow will simply be able to transfer its oil exports to its allies. As the Heritage Foundation’s Jim Carafano recently wrote, “If you’re doing business with the friends of Russia, you’re helping out Russians. It’s that simple.”

Just as this shift from Putin to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei or Venezuelan President Nicol├ís Maduro would prove counterproductive, it is also unlikely to substantially mitigate our domestic energy costs. The damage has already been done.

When Biden took office, gas prices sat at approximately $2.48. On his first day at the Resolute desk, Biden signed executive order 13990, which canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL would have supplied Texas refineries with 800,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada per day.

Further, Biden has blocked oil and gas companies from leasing new property on federal land, significantly increased regulations across the industry, and restricted drilling for new oil on substantial swathes of federal property, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Our current gas price of $4.33 represents a 74.6 percent increase in just 14 months, heavily correlating to the highest inflation rate since the 1970s. As was the case during 1970s stagflation, energy has been a primary driver of the overall inflation rate.

If Biden truly wants to reduce energy prices, reversing his misguided policies is where he should begin. Yet, as economically damaging as these aforementioned short-term price shocks are, Biden’s pandering to the international climate movement carries equally problematic long-term implications for our energy dependence.

Biden’s overarching environmental agenda is to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The aforementioned executive actions implemented by the Biden administration are one principal mechanism for achieving these goals.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scoring is the other mechanism. These scores are essentially a social credit framework for a company’s sustainability reporting. A company’s risk profile is subjectively determined by amalgamating both financial and non-financial aspects into an overall score, which then determines whether that company is an attractive target for investment.

The Biden administration has worked with global financial elites, Wall Street titans, and international organizations to institutionalize ESG within our economic infrastructure. Due to this network’s combined influence and leverage, 98 percent of U.S. companies now report ESG metrics.

One of ESG’s main targets is undoubtedly the U.S. fossil fuel industry. ESG metrics are inundated with green energy objectives. One prominently used system has 16 metrics related to climate themes, including Impact of Air Pollution, Land Use and Ecological Sensitivity, Paris-aligned GHG Emissions Targets, and Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

So, if a traditional energy company is slapped with a low ESG score, it will not be seen as an attractive target for investment.

Let’s bring this full circle in the context of oil dependence.

Under the Trump administration, the United States experienced an energy renaissance based not only upon increased drilling and lax regulations, but also unprecedented innovations in drilling technology, especially hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking gives us access to vast new crude oil deposits. Crude oil, however, is not a homogenous product, often differentiated by its density and sulfur content. Most newly accessible U.S. deposits yield “light” and “sweet” crude oil, whereas countries such as Canada, Venezuela, Russia, and Iran yield heavier varieties.

The problem is that most U.S. oil refineries are designed to process heavy crude oil. This is why we still rely upon foreign sources—these refinery characteristics have made it more economically efficient to import heavy crude, and export the light crude we naturally produce.

A logical solution that would result in long-term U.S. energy independence would be re-purposing some of our refineries to process light crude, despite its initial short-term costs. We could both sustain domestic demand, and export surplus for a profit.

Yet—Biden’s policies restrict energy companies’ abilities to tap into our domestic resources, which also disincentivizes companies to overhaul their refineries. Why change the refinery if there isn’t much surplus to refine?

In tandem, the ESG system disincentivizes investors from contributing to energy companies, which could use such funds to finance research and development geared towards optimizing existing technologies, innovation, and refinery updates.

If we desire true energy dominance­—not to mention economic superiority, lower prices, higher standard of living, and enhanced national security—there is a simple solution: Allow energy companies to operate in the free market, according to the laws of supply and demand.




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