Friday, May 06, 2022

More Bad News on Gas and Water for California

Back in January, with gasoline prices already on the rise, California governor Gavin Newsom outlined a plan to delay the automatic 5.6 percent hike in the gasoline excise tax due on July 1. “It’s a $523 million dollar gas tax holiday of sorts,” the governor explained, but now embattled Californians won’t be celebrating.

In January, state Republicans immediately introduced a plan to suspend the gas tax. Still, the proposal failed to secure enough votes in March. A delay in the gas-tax hike would now require passage of a bill by the end of April, and none has been introduced. According to the governor’s office, the legislature will not act in time to provide relief and the governor will work with legislators on a “proposal for direct payments to Californians wrestling with rising prices.”

As Californians wait to see how that might work, the state’s water supply may also be taking a hit. A new California Coastal Commission staff report rejects approval of the Poseidon Water desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The California Globe reports, “potentially depriving
Southern California of a major future source of freshwater.”

According to the Globe report, Poseidon Energy has spent some $100 million to get the Huntington Beach desalination plant in place. The highly scrutinized project would provide 50 million gallons to arid southern California and help end the state’s water crisis.

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) is an unelected body that overrides dozens of elected city and county governments on land-use and environmental issues. The CCC has a history of running roughshod over property rights. Commissioner Mark Nathanson served prison time for extorting bribes from Hollywood celebrities and others seeking coastal building permits.

According to Poseidon Energy, if the CCC staff rejection stands, “it will effectively be the death knell for desalination in California.” The Pacific Ocean, the largest body of water in the world, will remain an untapped resource for a thirsty Golden State.

The Coastal Commission rarely votes against the recommendation of its staff, and the decision on the Poseidon desalination plant is due on May 12. As they await the outcome, Californians have more evidence that the state’s ruling class is indifferent to their most basic needs.


“Green” dreams kill people

How many people have died, or will die, as a result of the Left’s “green” fantasies? To begin with, who has taken responsibility for the hundreds of thousands–maybe millions–of Africans who have died because of the Left’s insane banning of DDT? No one, of course. Will there ever be an accounting?

Currently, the war between Russia and Ukraine dominates the headlines. We all know that global petroleum supplies have been disrupted by the war, but perhaps more significant is the war’s impact on agriculture. Ukraine and Russia are two of the top grain-exporting countries in the world. Ukraine has been selling grain to the West since ancient times. With those supplies disrupted, a global food shortage impends, and many are predicting that populations in some vulnerable areas that can’t produce enough food for themselves will starve.

So where are the environmentalists in all this? They are doing their best to reduce agricultural output. In Sri Lanka, the government mandated organic farming, with the result that yields declined catastrophically, prices skyrocketed, and, no doubt, many died.

In the U.K., carbon offset schemes are causing hedge funds to buy up farm land and turn it to a less productive use:

A growing number of farms in Wales are being bought by companies to generate carbon credits.


The Times revealed in February that a tenant farmer with a young family had been prevented from achieving his dream of owning his own sheep farm when he was gazumped by a company planning to plant trees and sell carbon credits. Ian O’Connor, 36, had had an offer accepted for Frongoch, a 270-acre farm in Cwrt-y-Cadno, Carmarthenshire. Two weeks later the estate agent told him the Foresight Group, a private equity company incorporated in Guernsey, had offered 10 per cent more.


Foresight has bought six farms in Wales and estate agents acting for similar companies have been cold-calling Welsh farmers to ask if they want to sell.

Trees are great, but what is happening in the U.K. has nothing to do with either free markets or national interest. The exorbitant demand for carbon credits is government-created as a result of global warming hysteria, and reduced food production is collateral damage.

How about the U.S.? Our farmers produce more food than anyone. But here, too, environmentalist fantasies are reducing food production. Countless acres of productive farm land are being taken over for wind and solar installations. Wisconsin Congressman Tom Tiffany and my colleague Isaac Orr collaborated on this piece in the Washington Examiner. It advocates for Tiffany’s proposed FARM Act:

By strangling U.S. energy producers, the White House has fueled skyrocketing oil prices and enriched Russia’s rulers. An added consequence: Americans are now grappling with the highest gas prices ever recorded. And the pain doesn’t stop at the pump. Food prices, in particular wheat, have soared to record-breaking levels as well.

That’s why our response to Moscow’s aggression must be to maximize our ability to produce the energy and food the world desperately needs right here at home. That starts with preserving farmland for future generations.

Thanks to the dizzying array of renewable energy carve-outs that litter our tax code, taxpayers are forced to underwrite generous “green energy” giveaways, allowing power companies to effectively tap the public treasury to subsidize unreliable wind and solar farms. As a result, prime agricultural land is often taken out of production, posing a long-term threat to America’s ability to feed the world.

Industrial solar and wind facilities are land-hungry ways to generate electricity that often fail to show up when we need them most. It takes approximately 8 acres of land per megawatt of installed solar capacity and an average of 106 acres per megawatt of wind energy. While it is possible to “farm around” wind turbines, this is not possible with solar panels.

This means increasing our reliance on unreliable wind and solar energy will consume enormous quantities of land while paradoxically making us more reliant on foreign countries for the power we need to heat our homes and run our factories.

The amount of land needed for unreliable, intermittent wind and solar installations (which always must be backed up by natural gas plants that supply electricity most of the time, when wind and solar are idle) is immense. Robert Bryce, in a paper written for American Experiment, calculated that it would require an area more than twice the size of California to meet America’s existing electricity needs (not all energy needs) with wind turbines. Of course that isn’t going to happen. But as the destructive Green Machine rolls on, the land devoted to turbines and solar panels won’t be in cities or suburbs. It will be farm land.

Congressman Tiffany has proposed legislation to prevent government subsidies from destroying farm land:

That’s why we are working to enact the Future Agriculture Retention and Management or FARM Act, which would get taxpayers out of the business of transforming actual farms into wind and solar farms.

Some critics have argued that this bill is anti-wind and anti-solar. But that simply isn’t true. If electric companies want to build wind turbines or solar panels, nothing in the bill prevents them from doing so. But it does prevent taxpayer funds from tipping the scales in favor of wind and solar development at the expense of food production.

Wind and solar are not remotely competitive. They exist only because of government subsidies and, worse, mandates. The FARM act would at least ensure that we, the taxpayers, are not paying to destroy farm land at a time when the world needs all of the food America can produce.


Benny Peiser in Australia

I arrive in Sydney only to rush to the Sky News studio to be interviewed on the Outsiders show. After years of following Rowan Dean, Rita Panahi and James Morrow on YouTube I am meeting the brilliant team in person at last.

The interview goes well. The main story news outlets are reporting is about my warning about Putin’s useful idiots in Europe and elsewhere who are trying to stop domestic energy extraction.

I am staying in wonderful Rose Bay. It’s election time but I notice that the lamp posts in Wentworth are full of posters from one candidate only – Allegra Spender. I am told that she represents a blue-green or ‘teal’ movement. It was set up and is heavily funded by renewable energy investors who are hoping to make a killing from their political investment. They must have been inspired by European subsidy sharks who have adopted similar funding models for years and very successfully.

On my first day in Sydney I join a walk around Watsons Bay where we meet campaigners for this turquoise party. We stop to talk to them and I’m trying to figure out what they’re all about. Why shouldn’t people vote for the Green Party, I ask, given that they look like, talk like and walk like greens?

A campaigner explains that they are Liberals and not lefties. But isn’t the Liberal MP a green Net Zero supporter himself, I ask? Not Net Zero enough, I’m told. It will be interesting to see how this plot to undermine eco-liberal MPs will pan out.

We are meeting Alan Jones at his apartment-cum-office overlooking Sydney Opera House. He discusses his dumping from his prime-time programme. Alan predicts that Piers Morgan, his replacement, won’t ever get the viewing figures that he will generate on his new streaming show that is launching this week. He is convinced that the Liberal party will lose the election. In contrast, most people I ask about it remain hesitant and undecided.

The next day, my hosts’s son and I take the ferry to Manly and arrive just in time for the Anzac Day service at the War Memorial on the Corso. The ceremony is very moving. My dad, who was a Royal Engineer in the 8th Army fighting in North Africa, would have loved it.

Another ferry takes us to Circular Quay. The pubs are packed. There is yelling and screaming and I am trying to understand what’s going on. Large crowds of people watch and cheer as coins are thrown in the air and my host explains the rules of Two-up, the coin flipping gambling game that is only played on Anzac Day.

In the evening the Roseville branch of the Liberal party has organised a dinner and speaking event with Ian Plimer and myself, moderated by Rowan Dean. I am told they are actual Conservatives notorious for inviting speakers who hold unfashionable views and speak their mind. I’m surprised this has not been banned yet. Ian Plimer speaks about his new book, Green Murder, while I am warning about the European war, the Net Zero cost crisis and what happens when utopian policies and wishful thinking make contact with reality.

In Brisbane Graham Young and the Australian Institute for Progress have organised a couple of speaking events where I meet entrepreneurs and executives extremely concerned about the rising cost of energy and the impact on the economy.

I wake up to the news that the Nationals senator Matt Canavan has declared Net Zero ‘dead’ and admire his nerve to stick his head above the parapet. He is certainly right that European governments and even the Biden administration are beginning to prioritise energy cost and national security over the Net Zero agenda. Many countries are planning to burn more coal and extend the life of coal-fired power plants. In fact, there is a global coal boom. European coal power plants which had been decommissioned are now considered for re-opening. The coal boom is expected to continue for years to come. Mr Canavan has simply stated the obvious.

I’m trying to get my head around Australia’s voting system. I ask people how the preferential voting system actually works, but receive contrasting answers. I start to wonder how the Liberal/National party could ever obtain an absolute majority. At a meeting in his office, Malcolm Roberts, the One Nation Senator, explains that what he calls freedom parties on the right habitually give their preferences to the Liberals. Not comprehensively this time, it would appear. Hours after the meeting I hear on the news that his party is preferencing some Labor candidates.

In Melbourne, Speccie columnist Alan Moran, and his fellow directors of the Australian Environment Foundation, have invited me to give this year’s Bob Carter Memorial Lecture. The late Bob Carter (who died in 2016) was a good friend and one of Australia’s most eminent palaeontologist/marine geologists. He was deeply involved in the climate science debate for nearly 20 years and was the first victim of James Cook University’s notorious cancel culture which cancelled him because his scientific research findings violated their dogmatic stance and entrenched views.

Just before the lecture I am interviewed by Sky News presenter Peta Credlin. Most Australians, I tell her, are clearly unaware of the disastrous energy crisis and energy cost crisis in Europe. Energy bills in the UK have nearly doubled in the last 12 months and are threatening to triple by the end of the year. It is estimated that a quarter of UK households won’t be able to pay their energy bills in December. We are facing the worst energy crisis since World War II. This is likely to get much worse as the war in Ukraine intensifies. Aussies would be well advised not to follow our disastrous path.

Australia has some insulation from this peril because it is blessed with enormous fossil fuel resources that are buffering the economy. Policy makers face punishment if they tried too quickly to shut them down. But Australians, notwithstanding their subterranean wealth, have only a few years respite unless they learn the harsh lessons of Europe’s Net Zero fiasco.


Australia: Teal power a luxury the poor can ill-afford

In 2019, Yale PhD candidate and former US Air Force veteran Rob Henderson coined the term “luxury beliefs” to describe attitudes that operate as status symbols for the rich but that in practice are costly for the poor. Drawing on sociologist Thorstein Veblen’s concept of conspicuous consumption, Henderson argued that while in the past the upper-middle class displayed their wealth via luxury goods such as fur coats, today they signal their status with luxury beliefs.

What might a luxury belief be? In the context of our upcoming election, a luxury belief might be a policy platform that is likely to make rich voters feel good about themselves at the ballot box while driving up the cost of living for the poor. The policy platform of the teal independents – the 22 upper-middle-class women running on a platform of action on climate change, gender equality and integrity reform – fits this description perfectly.

While climate change is an important issue that needs to be addressed by our politicians, and while we do need to scale up our use of clean energy, the teal independents propose fanciful solutions that, if implemented, would unfairly punish those who can least afford it.

Evidence is accumulating around the world that renewables drive up overall energy prices. The general problem with renewables is that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, and without ways of storing energy – such as batteries – solar power has to be blocked on particularly sunny days so power grids are not blown out.

Electricity markets are incredibly complex. But the basic problem is that solar panels and wind turbines generate too much energy when we don’t need it and not enough when we do. And this drives up power prices.

Today, we have examples from around the world of what happens when an aggressive renewables energy agenda is pursued, and the results are not what we should be hoping to replicate here in Australia.

Germany, for example, leads the world in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable technologies. Yet it still gets only 12 per cent of its total energy from renewable sources, and its electricity prices are among the highest in Europe. Energy prices today in Germany are 52 per cent higher than they were just a year ago, following record price rises last year.

In the US, California has been the state to lead the charge in transitioning to renewable energies. Electricity prices there are some of the highest in that nation, rising 42-78 per cent between 2010 and 2020. Observers now are arguing these price rises have contributed to the state’s horrific poverty problem.

A 2019 working paper by economists at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago found, in the US, policies that mandated use of renewable energy – adopted by 29 states and Washington DC – led to considerable increases in electricity prices while delivering only a marginal reduction in overall CO2 emissions. They concluded that implementing policies that mandated renewable energy usage was an expensive way of achieving greenhouse gas reductions.

The unreliability of renewable energy technologies does not mean we have to give up on mitigating climate change. There is a source of clean energy that is incredibly reliable. That source of energy is nuclear power.

For some reason, however, the teal independents remain mute on the power of nuclear energy to deliver reliable clean energy, safely and securely. If you look at Allegra Spender’s, Kate Chaney’s or Kylea Tink’s websites for information on nuclear energy you will find nothing. Zali Steggall has gone further and has opposed lifting the moratorium on developing small modular nuclear reactors in Australia.

If one sincerely believes we are in a “climate emergency” why would one oppose the development of clean energy that can scale? Could it be because the main financial backer of the teal independents does not have investments in nuclear energy – while having many in renewables? It is impossible to know for sure, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

At the same time, however, we should make strong efforts to resist the Americanisation of our politics whereby well-funded lobbyists distort democratic processes for their own benefit.

Writing in Quillette, Henderson has observed: “The chief purpose of luxury beliefs is to indicate evidence of the believer’s social class and education … Affluent people promote (certain ideas) because it advances their social standing, not least because they know that the adoption of those policies will cost them less than others.

The logic is akin to conspicuous consumption – if you’re a student who has a large subsidy from your parents and I do not, you can afford to waste $900 and I can’t, so wearing a Canada Goose jacket is a good way of advertising your superior wealth and status. Proposing policies that will cost you as a member of the upper class less than they would cost me serve the same function.”

Advocating for solar and wind technologies as a solution to climate change serves the same function. Supporting a teal independent signals that you are educated and care about the correct moral issues of our time. But, more than that, it also signals that you are wealthy.

When energy prices rise, as they are likely to do, it will not matter to you as much as it will matter to the single mother or the student struggling to pay their bills. In advocating for these policies, the teal independents are running on a platform of luxury beliefs. Perhaps a more appropriate descriptor for them is the lobby for green white privilege.




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