Thursday, June 30, 2022

Supreme Court Puts Brakes on EPA in Far-Reaching Decision

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal regulators exceeded their authority in seeking to limit emissions from coal plants in a decision that sharply curtails the executive branch’s authority to make policy actions on a range of issues without Congressional direction.

In a blockbuster 6-3 decision penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court said the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped when it devised the Obama-era regulatory scheme, known as the Clean Power Plan. The plan had been challenged by West Virginia and others.

The court said that when federal agencies issue regulations with sweeping economic and political consequences—in this case, rules to address climate change—the regulations are presumptively invalid unless Congress has specifically authorized the action.

“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,” the chief justice wrote, faulting the EPA for finding new powers in “the vague language of a long-extant, but rarely used, statute.”

Beyond the EPA, the decision is likely to rein in President Biden’s ability to use other departments and regulators such as the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address climate change, one of his signature policy initiatives.

Mr. Biden called the court’s ruling “a devastating decision that aims to take our country backwards.”

“I have directed my legal team to work with the Department of Justice and affected agencies to review this decision carefully and find ways that we can, under federal law, continue protecting Americans from harmful pollution, including pollution that causes climate change,” Mr. Biden said.

The principle articulated by the court, known as the “major questions doctrine,” was mentioned in earlier cases but is being recognized more explicitly now, said Gautam Hans, a law professor at Vanderbilt University.

“The court has now really explicitly relied on this doctrine to limit the EPA’s authority, and other regulatory agencies are going to be more cautious now that they have to navigate this,” Mr. Hans said.

With Congress often mired in gridlock, Mr. Biden and his Democratic predecessors have used regulation instead of legislation to advance their policy agendas, Mr. Hans said. “Now it’s going to be much harder for those agency rules to survive judicial scrutiny,” he added.

The EPA ruling is similar to the court’s decision on the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers.

In that ruling, from January, the justices said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had exceeded its authority.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the majority said in an unsigned opinion.

In both cases, the court split along the usual ideological lines, with Chief Justice Roberts finding support from the other five conservatives on the court: Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

The National Mining Association, which was part of West Virginia’s coalition in the case, said the battle was over federal authority.

“While many would have liked to label this as a case about climate, it is not; it is a case about the authority of government agencies and the economic impacts to the states and all Americans when that authority is abused,” the group said.

Scott Nelson, an attorney with Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy group, countered that the ruling would hurt consumers by undercutting federal agencies’ attempts to protect them, while giving businesses and others who might oppose regulations a wide, new lane to challenge them.

“I would tend to expect that any kind of regulatory initiative that anybody has a stake in opposing is going to be characterized as a major question,” Mr. Nelson said.

Most immediately, opponents are likely to bring up the issue in ongoing litigation against vaccine mandates for federal employees, he said. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposal for climate-risk and emissions disclosures is another initiative that may be legally vulnerable because some justices may consider the topic odd for oversight from a financial regulator, he added.

In the case decided Thursday, West Virginia led a coalition of Republican-leaning states and coal producers that asked the Supreme Court to weigh in and clarify the limits of the EPA’s authority.

For half a century, the Clean Air Act has directed the EPA to regulate stationary sources of air pollution that endanger “public health or welfare.” The Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which never went into effect because it was blocked by the Supreme Court in an earlier case, extended that regulatory reach beyond the physical premises of a power plant to allow off-site methods to mitigate pollution.

The Trump administration in 2019 implemented a replacement rule that was more friendly to the coal industry. But in January 2021, on the last day of Mr. Trump’s presidency, a federal appeals court in the District of Columbia struck down the replacement rule, providing the Biden administration with a clean slate to work from in devising its own carbon-emissions rules.

Justice Elena Kagan said in a dissent on Thursday that the Obama-era EPA had exercised broad authority given to it by Congress, and that the Supreme Court keeps thwarting the agency’s lawful efforts to address a climate crisis.

“The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decision-maker on climate policy,” Justice Kagan wrote. “I cannot think of many things more frightening.”

The dissent was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Stephen Breyer, whose retirement became effective Thursday.

The court’s conservatives have increasingly come to invalidate regulatory actions they think amount to new national policies that should be determined by legislators.

“This Court has established at least one firm rule: ‘We expect Congress to speak clearly’ if it wishes to assign to an executive agency decisions ‘of vast economic and political significance,’ ” Justice Gorsuch wrote in January.

Democrats in Congress decried the ruling’s potential to limit the power of the executive branch to react quickly to climate change and other crises.

“This ruling sets a troubling precedent both for what it means to protect public health and the authority regulatory agencies have to protect public health,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said.

Republicans largely cheered the ruling, saying it puts power back in the hands of elected representatives rather than regulatory agencies.

“When Congress acts to address major policy questions affecting Americans and their livelihoods, it says so clearly, explicitly,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s top Republican. “It does not hide sweeping authorities of the Executive Branch in obscure provisions of the law, as the Obama executive branch tried to argue.”

The decision is a warning to regulatory agencies that they should be wary of interpreting old laws to give them broad new powers, said Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

“Finding dormant regulatory authority in pre-existing statutes is something the court disfavors,” Mr. Adler said.


Net zero red tape to be ditched as Britain returns to coal

Fossil fuel power plants are set to be temporarily freed from planned checks on their emissions in a scramble to prevent blackouts as Britain turns back to coal.

Coal and gas stations providing back-up supply in 2023 will not have to get reports on their emissions signed off by an independent expert under changes being proposed by Whitehall officials.

There is growing concern over energy security amid fears Russia will shut off gas supplies to Europe in retaliation for sanctions imposed in response to its war on Ukraine.

The gradual retirement of the UK’s nuclear fleet in coming years as well as problems with France’s nuclear stations are adding to the pressure in energy markets.

Coal-fired plants have already been asked to stay open this winter, while gas quality rules could also be relaxed to allow more from the North Sea into Britain’s pipes.

Under rules from 2019, fossil fuel facilities bidding to take part in National Grid ESO’s market for back-up power supply have to declare their carbon emissions in line with limits.

The Government wants to make it compulsory for these declarations to be independently verified — a service expected to be carried out mostly by niche consultants — but there have been delays in getting enough people accredited to do the verification.

Officials are concerned that if independent verification is compulsory, some plants will not be able qualify to provide back-up supply for the winter of 2023-2024.

Officials now plan to postpone for a year the requirement to have emissions figures verified, meaning plants should be able to take part in the auction for 2023.

It marks the second time the requirement has been delayed.

In consultation papers, officials warned that failure to act could lead to lower competition which could trigger increased prices and “risks to security of supply”.

They added: “We consider this proposal would be a reasonable precaution to take.” The Government believes there is only a “low” risk that plants would falsify their emissions claims.

National Grid’s target for the amount of capacity they need to procure for the 2023-2024 back-up market is likely to be “stretching”, the officials said.

Officials also plan to change criteria to make it easier for mothballed power plants to take part in the market.

Britain does not buy much gas directly from Russia but there are concerns about a significant knock-on impact if Russia cuts off supplies to Europe.

Worst-case scenarios modelled in Whitehall indicate 6m households could face black-outs if this winter if that were the case.

National Grid is now developing plans under which potentially millions of households will be paid if they choose to cut their electricity use at peak times, lessening the strain on the system.

Under plans first reported by The Times, National Grid has asked power suppliers to indicate how many of their customers might shift usage out of peak times if they were paid to do so.

It follows trials with Octopus Energy this year.

National Grid said: “Demand shifting has the potential to save consumers money, reduce carbon emissions and offer greater flexibility on the system.”

A spokesperson for the department for business, energy and industrial strategy said: “The Government is carefully considering respondents’ views and will publish a response setting out next steps in due course.

“The UK has no issues with either gas or electricity supply and the government is fully prepared for any scenario, even those that are extreme and very unlikely to occur.”


Boris Johnson heads for a climate clash over plans for new coal mine

Boris Johnson is set to clash with his climate change advisers over plans to sink Britain’s first new coal mine in 30 years.

Lord Deben, chairman of the climate change committee, said yesterday that excavating for coal off the coast of Cumbria was ‘indefensible’.

This flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s recent statement that he wants to supply the steel industry with UK coal.

Last year’s Cop26 summit in Glasgow, hosted by the UK, resulted in a global pact to ‘phase down’ coal use worldwide and the Government aims to stop using it in power stations by 2024.

But following Russia’s Ukraine invasion, Mr Johnson is keen to make the UK less reliant on fuel imports. Around 40 per cent of our coking coal is from Russia.

Lord Deben, who as John Gummer was environment secretary from 1993 to 1997, said digging the new mine would undermine plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and set a bad example to other countries reluctant to stop using coal. The issue is being considered by the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, who says he will make a decision before July 7.

Last week the Prime Minister made clear he is in favour of the mine by saying it ‘makes no sense’ to import coal for steel when the UK has its own.

But green campaigners say demand for coking coal to make steel has hugely declined in recent years.

Launching a 600-page report yesterday, Lord Deben said: ‘As far as the coal mine goes, it is absolutely indefensible. First of all 80 per cent of the coal it produces will be exported. It is not going to contribute anything to our domestic needs. We do not need this coal mine.’

He also criticised the Department for Transport for not advising business people to take fewer international flights and use video conferencing instead.

And climate change committee chief executive Chris Stark said the Government’s programme to insulate UK homes ‘fell off a cliff’ a decade ago.


New EPA Climate Change Indicator is deceptive

New climate change indicators on the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website are intended to inform science-based decision-making by presenting climate science transparently. But many of the indicators are misleading or deceptive, being based on incomplete evidence or selective data.

A typical example is the indicator for heat waves. This is illustrated in the left panel of the figure below, depicting the EPA’s representation of heat wave frequency in the U.S. from 1961 to 2019. The figure purports to show a steady increase in the occurrence of heat waves, which supposedly tripled from an average of two per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s.

Unfortunately, the chart on the left is highly deceptive in several ways. First, the data is derived from minimum, not maximum, temperatures averaged across 50 American cities. The corresponding chart for maximum temperatures, shown in the right panel above, paints a rather different picture – one in which the heat wave frequency less than doubled from 2.5 per year in the 1960s to 4.5 per year in the 2010s, and actually declined from the 1980s to the 2000s.

This maximum-temperature graph revealing a much smaller increase in heat waves than the minimum-temperature graph displayed so boldly on the EPA website is dishonestly hidden away in its technical documentation.

A second deception is that the starting date of 1961 for both graphs is conveniently cherry-picked during a 30-year period of global cooling from 1940 to 1970. That in itself exaggerates the warming effect since then. Starting instead in 1980, after the current bout of global warming had begun, it can be seen that the heat wave frequency based on maximum temperatures (right panel) barely increased at all from 1981 to 2019. Similar exaggeration and sleight of hand can be seen in the EPA indicators for heat wave duration, season length and intensity.

A third deception is that the 1961 start date ignores the record U.S. heat of the 1930s, a decade characterized by persistent, searing heat waves across North America, especially in 1934 and 1936. The next figure shows the frequency and magnitude of U.S. heatwaves from 1900 to 2018.

The frequency (top panel) is the annual number of calendar days the maximum temperature exceeded the 90th percentile for 1961–1990 for at least six consecutive days. The EPA’s data is calculated for a period of at least four days, while the heat wave index (lower panel) measures the annual magnitude of all heat waves of at least three days in that year combined.

Despite the differences in definition, it’s abundantly clear that heat waves over the last few decades – the ones publicized by the EPA – pale in comparison to those of the 1930s, and even those of other decades such as the 1910s and 1950s. The peak heat wave index in 1936 is a full three times higher than it was in 2012 and up to nine times higher than in many other years.

The heat wave index shown above actually appears on the same EPA website page as the mimimum-temperature chart. But it’s presented as a tiny Figure 3 that is only 20% as large as the much more prominent Figure 1 showing minimum temperatures. As pointed out recently by anotherwriter, a full-size version of the index chart, from 1895 to 2015, was once featured on the website, before the site was updated this year with the new climate change indicators.

The EPA points out that the 1930s heat waves in North America, which were concentrated in the Great Plains states of the U.S. and southern Canada, were exacerbated by Dust Bowl drought that depleted soil moisture and reduced the moderating effects of evaporation. While this is undoubtedly true, it has been suggested by climate scientists that future droughts in a warming world could result in further record-breaking U.S. heat waves. The EPA has no justification for omitting 1930s heat waves from their data record, or for suppressing the heat wave index chart.

Although the Dust Bowl was unique to the U.S. and Canada, there are locations in other parts of North America and in other countries where substantial heat waves occurred before 1961 as well. In the summer of 1930 two record-setting, back-to-back scorchers, each lasting eight days, afflicted Washington, D.C.; while in 1936, the province of Ontario – also well removed from the Great Plains – experienced 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) heat during the longest, deadliest Canadian heat wave on record. In Europe, France was baked during heat waves in both 1930 and 1947, and many eastern European countries suffered prolonged heat waves in 1946.

What all this means is that the EPA’s heat-wave indicator grossly misrepresents the actual science and defeats its stated goal for the indicators of “informing our understanding of climate change.”

See original for graphics




Wednesday, June 29, 2022

West Virginia v. EPA could overturn 2009 carbon endangerment finding that is strangling America’s electricity grid

One more Supreme Court case to keep your eye on this session — especially since the Court now appears willing to strike down prior precedents — is the imminent ruling on West Virginia v. EPA that, if successful, would overturn federal regulations on carbon emissions by power plants.

It also stands to potentially overturn the Court’s 2007 decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, a narrow 5-4 ruling by then-Justice Anthony Kennedy that had opened the door for federal regulation in this area in the first place by stating carbon dioxide could be regulated under the terms of the Clean Air Act even though the law never contemplated doing so.

This is what enabled the 2009 carbon endangerment finding by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the Obama administration, and the EPA rules on new and existing power plants, defining carbon dioxide as a harmful pollutant under the terms of the Clean Air Act, and setting forth a framework to incentivize coal plants to either be retrofitted to be natural gas plants or else be shut down.

In terms of moving the needle, the policy was a “success” in reducing coal-based electricity. In 2007, coal-generated electricity made up 49 percent of the total U.S. grid, while natural gas was just 21 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration. In 2021, natural gas now makes up 38.3 percent of the grid, and coal is down to 21 percent.

In the meantime, we have rising demand for electricity, and yet the U.S. is not producing a single kilowatt hour (kWh) more than it was 15 years ago. Despite the U.S. population growing by 30 million to more than 331 million from 2007 to 2021, overall electricity generation in the U.S. has dropped from 4.005 trillion kWh in 2007 to 3.96 trillion kWh in 2021.

As a result, the Consumer Price Index for electricity has increased by 29 percent since 2007, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In short, we have a self-imposed national electricity shortage, in large part caused by the Supreme Court — and they might be about to undo it.

On the other hand, the Court could always go the other way on the issue. After all, in 1983, the Supreme Court unanimously decided in Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association v. State Farm Mutual that in rescinding a regulation under the Administrative Procedures Act, an agency must provide a reasoned analysis, “for the change beyond that which may be required when an agency does not act in the first instance.”

This leaves every rescission subject to judicial review, where you have to prove not only that rescinding the regulation in question is rational based on the statutory scheme, but prove that enacting it was irrational to begin with. That appears to be one reason why the Trump administration EPA did not go further than it did in watering down the Obama Clean Power Plan regulations.

That is how a ruling allowing carbon emissions to be regulated eventually becomes a precedent requiring carbon emissions to be regulated.

Again, it’s a situation where because of Supreme Court precedents, Congress and presidential administrations appear to be hampered from responding effectively to national crises like energy shortages. It is therefore undemocratic and ultimately prevents political questions from being answered by the elected branches the way their supposed to.

The worst possible outcome would be if the Court once again accepts the central premise that carbon dioxide is a harmful pollutant that must be addressed under the Clean Air Act. At that point, there might not be an easy way to stop something like the Green New Deal’s goals of imposing net zero carbon emissions within 10 years on the U.S. economy.

But we’ll see what happens. This could be another big one. Stay tuned.


New MPG Rule Will Exacerbate Existing Car Shortage

In April, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that automobile manufacturers must adhere to through 2026. Unfortunately, the new rule is likely to lead to a shortage of new gasoline-powered cars in the coming years while massively hiking the price of battery-powered electric vehicles (EV) as well as cars powered by internal combustion engines (ICE).

In 1975, CAFE standards were created by the Energy Policy Conservation Act in response to the oil embargo imposed by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries in 1973. CAFE imposes fines on car and truck manufacturers if they fail to achieve minimum targets for sales-weighted average fuel economy, which is expressed in miles per gallon (mpg).

NHTSA’s new rule requires a massive 40 percent increase in mpg from now to 2026. Fuel efficiency must rise 8 percent in 2024 and 2025 model year automobiles, and 10 percent in 2026 model year automobiles, to a 49-mpg car and truck fleet average. Historically, the most manufacturers have been able to increase mpg year-over-year is about 3 percent. So, surging average mpg by a whopping 10 percent is a tall order.

Adding insult to injury, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has separately set carbon dioxide (CO2) emission limits on automobile fleets. By 2026, cars will have to produce an average of 132 grams of CO2 per mile (g/mile) and light trucks an average of 187 g/mile for a fleet average of 161 g/mile, a 28 percent decrease from 2022. If vehicles do not meet this standard, EPA will not certify them for sale.

The challenge with this ruling is no cars with an internal combustion engine, that is, every automobile that runs on gasoline, currently emit CO2 at this extremely low level. The lowest-emitting car is the 2022 Toyota Prius Eco at 159 g/mile. Trucks like the Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, and the Chevrolet Silverado, the three most popular automobiles in the country in terms of sales, emit 407 to 550 g/mile, depending on engine size.

Meeting these new NHTSA and EPA standards so quickly will require manufacturers to dramatically increase expenditures on research and development, which will increase the price of new ICE-powered vehicles and force manufacturers to build an extensive portfolio of EV models.

Another factor that will exacerbate this shortage is the waiver provided to California to make the Golden State exempt from Section 209 of the Clean Air Act, which prohibits any state from adopting emissions standards more stringent than the federal standard. California’s Advanced Clean Cars Program requires that 35 percent of car sales in the state must be EV sales by 2026, rising to 50 percent of all sales in 2030. What’s more, 16 states and the District of Columbia have opted in to California’s program.

NHTSA, EPA, and California are essentially pushing manufacturers to eliminate ICE-vehicle production in favor of EVs. Naturally, this will accelerate the demand for commodities required to manufacture car batteries, which will increase the cost of EVs. Ford recently announced that due to rising material costs, the Mach E EV costs $25,000 more to manufacture than the equivalent sized gasoline-powered Edge. Nationally, the average price of EVs is currently more than $15,000 higher than the cost of gasoline-powered vehicles, and the gap is widening.

Moreover, we are likely looking at a shortage of ICE-powered vehicles, as there will be few models that meet the new emissions requirements. Vehicle affordability will be made worse with rising interest rates. With a smaller volume of sales, manufacturers will be forced to increase prices on both EVs and gasoline-powered vehicles. Customers priced out of the market will keep their older, less-safe vehicles that have higher emissions and consume more fuel. Of course, the lack of new vehicles will likely intensify the shortage of used vehicles, which has led to soaring prices for used vehicles in recent months.

The law of unintended consequences almost always follows even the best-intentioned law or regulation, and that will certainly be the case here. Few people have any concept of what the total impact of these regulations will be, though we will all certainly find out soon. My advice is simple: prepare to pay a whole lot more for a new car in the coming years, if you’re able to find one.


Gas Drilling Projects Resurrected Around Europe

Besides diversification, saving energy, or pushing for renewables, some countries have opted to expand existing gas drilling sites or exploit unused reserves as the EU prepares to end its dependency on Russian gas.

While the European Commission has shared three main ways to reduce Russian energy dependency – energy savings, renewables and diversification – many countries opted for their methods, including the revival of fossil fuel projects.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently warned EU member states not to backtrack on their long-term drive to cut fossil fuel use as a handful of nations turned to coal following a decision by Russia to limit their gas supplies.

Other countries decided to speed up or expand gas drilling initiatives, and some U-turned on previous decisions against drilling.

One example is the joint Dutch-German North Sea drilling operation. The project has been planned for some time now, but the German state of Lower Saxony government decided against issuing permits. The Dutch Ministry recently announced that Lower Saxony “is now making a different decision because of the war in Ukraine,” and drilling is set to begin in 2024.

Locked Reserves? Change The Law!

The push for the expansion of gas drilling activity is also happening in Italy. The country produces around 3.3 billion cubic metres of gas annually, and the government estimates there are reserves of 70-90 billion cubic metres in Italian subsoil. However, reserves are currently locked by law, and gas cannot be extracted.

In February, in response to the energy crisis and rising energy bills, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government started reasoning on the hypothesis of doubling extraction.

The war in Ukraine has accelerated the discussion on the country’s energy strategy to exploit its resources. After Gazprom cut supplies to Italy, Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani opened up to a review of drilling activity, calling it a “mistake to have gone from 20 percent domestic gas in 2000 to 3-4 percent in 2020.”

Romania is the biggest oil producer among EU member states and also has proven offshore gas reserves. Until April, these reserves have been locked. The governing coalition, however, agreed to change the offshore law and allowed investors to exploit the reserves.

Norway has traditionally been the second most important gas supplier for the EU. After the invasion of Ukraine, Norway vowed to help the EU reduce its dependency on Russian gas.

To replace Russian gas, the Norwegian government authorised an increase in production, which was met with strong disapproval from the left-wing opposition, warning of the lock-in of investments in the fossil fuel projects.

Small Countries, Big Dreams

Plans for gas drilling projects are popping up not only in big countries with a tradition of drilling but also in smaller ones. Slovakia is one of the most gasified countries in the EU, with 5 billion cubic metres consumed annually. A few years ago, a gas deposit was discovered, which could cover about 10 percent of domestic consumption, according to estimates.

In the past, drilling has been strongly opposed by environmentalists who argued that the project was harmful and unnecessary. War has changed that, and the project is back on the table. According to investors, drilling could start in two years if everything goes as planned. Government officials have not ruled the project out.

Albania currently does not consume, produce, or import any gas. It does, however, hold reserves, and the government is pushing for gasification both in production and energy use with several extraction projects due to start as well as LNG floating terminals off the southern coast.

Not All

Despite these initiatives, not all countries chose to exploit their gas reserves. Bulgaria has an estimated 480 billion cubic metres of shale, but current legislation prevents exploitation, and the government has no plans to change the status quo.

France has a significant potential for offshore and on-shore reserves, but as in Bulgaria or Italy, the law prohibits granting new permits. With the notable exception of MP David Habib, who pleads for the reopening of gas fields in Alsace, there is no push to change the situation.


Australia unfairly demononized by Greenies

When Australians eventually reach the Pearly Gates they may, whatever their earthly sins, finally receive some redemption for their efforts to save the world from climate change. After decades of persecution for not doing enough they may at last be recognised for doing more than most.

As the rest of the world suffers collective amnesia, Australia faithfully continues its missionary work to achieve its 2030 and 2050 Paris and Glasgow emission reduction delusions.

While China lifts its annual coal output by 300 million tonnes, (two-thirds Australia’s total production), Australia imposes a virtual moratorium on new mines. State bans, together with native title and environmental opposition, have also largely stopped new coal-seam gas drilling and fracking.

No coal plants are under construction in Australia with the largest, Eraring, due to close seven years early. The existing fleet is ageing and, with the end in sight, it is suffering predictable neglect. At the start of winter, one-quarter of Australia’s coal generation was offline. Not so China. It is building 43 new coal-fired power stations. Nor in Europe, where several countries, together with Britain, are bringing retired coal plants back online and are planning new mines.

Japan, always mindful of its national interest, has stalled its withdrawal from fossil fuels.

But, to Australian critics, none of this matters. Who cares if Australians spend four to five times more per capita on renewable energy than China, the EU, Japan and the United States? Or that Australia’s fossil fuel energy mix for 2020 was 76 per cent compared to China’s 84 per cent, the EU’s, 85 per cent (which includes burning wood), Japan’s 88 per cent and America’s 84 per cent?

Confirming Australia’s pariah status, the latest Climate Change Performance rankings published by advocacy group Germanwatch, rank Australia 59th out of 63 nations on greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy.

The environment charity, Greenfleet, notes that ‘when it emerged that Australia contributed only 1.3 per cent of total global CO2 emissions, many people were led to believe that as a nation, we were already doing enough’. Not so it cautions. Australia’s coal exports accounted for more than a quarter of the nation’s total exports over the last decade and most of our electricity is still powered by fossil fuels. On that basis, Australia contributed about 3.6 per cent to global emissions.

Moreover, that number doesn’t include emissions from other mineral exports or consider the emissions produced as a result of those exports. By taking these into account, and Australia’s population being around 0.33 per cent of the world’s population, instead of being virtuous, Aussies are among the highest emitters on the planet.

Australian bumbling, we learn, has led to it shunning its closest neighbours’ plea for an end to the coal industry and to contributing to the climate change plight of Pacific Islands nations. This is why the Solomon Islands nation has become a virtual Chinese colony.

As new Foreign Minister, Penny Wong now acknowledges, Australia previously ‘disrespected’ the struggle of Pacific nations as they grappled with the consequences of climate change.

But, what struggle is she referring to? The reality is that in the 30 years since 1990, a period characterised by consistent satellite observation, tropical cyclone activity in the Pacific has been decreasing. Moreover, rather than facing existential threats from rising sea levels, the latest satellite imaging shows 80 per cent of Pacific Islands, are growing or stable.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese sides with the nation’s critics and hopes some day, ‘Australia will once again be a trusted global partner on climate action’.

Is it intellectual cowardice or crass ignorance which drives Australia’s political class on its suicidal mission? It’s certainly not the science.

At least the leftist Potsdam Institute’s Professor Ottmar Edenhofer has the courage to say out loud what is becoming more obvious by the day. ‘One has to free oneself,’ he says, ‘from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. Instead, climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth’.

Assuming he was talking about redistribution from the rich to the poor, the reality is, it’s going the other way. Renewable energy rent-seekers, particularly Big Wind, have colluded with climate activists to bully governments into paying them massive subsidies and to levy imposts on electricity consumers.

Energy expert, Dr Alan Moran, observes ‘government no longer publicises the extent of these, but they come to about $7 billion a year. This gives wind and solar double the price which coal receives and it is this that is driving coal out of the market’.

Until now, the average Australian has felt removed from the complexities of energy and climate change politics. For those who can afford the capital outlay, subsidised roof solar panels have provided an incentive to support renewables. For others, rising electricity prices have been philosophically absorbed, offset, in part, by rising wages and declining interest rates. Most have broadly accepted climate change propaganda and left the esoteric scientific arguments for the elite to sort out.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine have changed all that. The West’s ageing coal fleet and dependence on renewables was always an accident waiting to happen. So when supply shortages hit a world ripe for inflation courtesy of years of reckless fiscal and monetary policies, household budgets were hit hard with the poor suffering most. Many will become jobless and in winter have to choose between heating their homes or buying groceries.

Globally, Australians are among the first to experience this, but its governments stubbornly refuse to change tack. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews believes, ‘It’s wrong to be doing anything else other than forging ahead’ and, new Energy Minister, Chris Bowen agrees. For him, nuclear power is an expensive ‘joke’. Batteries and band-aids are better and cheaper.

Still, shivering Aussies should take comfort that when their time comes, their fruitless sacrifices to save the planet may at least be acknowledged by St. Peter.




Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Climate change could be REDUCING the likelihood of tropical cyclones: Study shows frequency decreased by about 13% in the 20th century

Climate change appears to be reducing the likelihood of tropical cyclones across the world, researchers suggest. They found that the annual number of such storms decreased by about 13 per cent during the 20th century, compared with the period between 1850 and 1900.

For most tropical cyclone basins, this decline has accelerated since the 1950s, which the authors of the new study suggest is mainly because of a weakening of tropical atmospheric circulation. It supports the theory that climate change leads to a decrease in the number of tropical cyclones, they said.

However, the University of Melbourne-led experts warned that frequency is just one factor in the dangers tropical cyclones pose. They did not study changes in intensity or location.

The researchers said it was also not clear how cyclones change under human emissions because a warming ocean is expected to intensify storms, while some changes in atmospheric circulation are thought to prevent storm formation.

As their name suggests, tropical cyclones have long been characterised by the fact that they form almost exclusively over seas located at low-latitudes.

Key to these storms are warm sea surface temperatures of at least 81°F (27°C) and converging low-level winds that force air to rise and form storm clouds.

As long as the burgeoning system has enough distance from the equator, planetary spin will interact with the flow of moist rising air, causing it to rotate cyclonically.

And just as cyclones do not form too close to the equator, their range is bounded at higher latitudes by the jet streams, which have long confined them to the tropics.

Providing historical context to the frequency of cyclones is challenging because the observational record is not complete, especially before 1950, so the experts used a combination of past records and modelling.

Savin Chand and colleagues at the Federation University Australia discovered declining trends in the annual number of tropical cyclones since 1850 at both global and regional scales.

The only exception to this trend is the North Atlantic basin, where the number of tropical cyclones has increased over recent decades.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.


The SEC Should Not Be Setting Corporate Climate Policy

This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will take the next step in demanding that businesses disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and other climate-related information. The SEC’s proposed rule claims to adopt an investor-led approach to climate issues. By mandating the release of climate-related information, the rule would allow investors to take the driver’s seat in urging businesses to respond to climate change and thus enhance their long-term value—or so the theory goes.

But the theory is wrong. To see why it is important to set the record straight. The SEC claims the rule will help investors do something they cannot do now: obtain climate-related information from businesses. But investors are already free to demand such information and to invest only in companies that provide it.

In fact, the rule would bar companies from entering public capital markets unless they make climate disclosures, thereby stopping retail investors from investing in companies that decline to make climate disclosures. (Wealthy accredited investors, who operate outside the public markets, would still be able to invest in such companies.) In other words, the rule would limit the options of the many retail investors who do not want climate disclosures.

There are many reasons not to want them. One is their staggering cost. By the Commission’s own estimates, the proposal would increase the cost of yearly corporate disclosures more than all previous SEC rules combined. This extraordinary burden would drive companies away from public markets; companies would wait to go public, relying in the interim on private funds and accredited investors who (instead of retail investors) would capture the benefits of successful companies’ early-stage growth. Companies that must bear the rule’s costs would pass them on in the form of lower returns to investors and higher prices for consumers at a time when Americans can ill afford either.

But the rule would cause damage far beyond the Commission’s estimates. It would require many companies to disclose not just their greenhouse gas emissions but also those of their suppliers and customers, many of which are small businesses. Public companies would have no choice but to pressure their suppliers and customers to track and pass along their emissions data. This would be impossible for small businesses, which lack access to high-priced environmental consultants or economies of scale in reporting. The harm to small businesses abandoned by the larger economy does not feature in the proposed rule.

Also unassessed in the rule is the harm done to communities that may be deemed “climate-exposed,” or subject to increased risk of severe weather years or decades from now. The rule requires companies to disclose potential risks to facilities in such regions. Rather than raise red flags for investors, many companies would simply abandon these regions entirely. Widespread unemployment, with the accompanying blight all too familiar to Rust Belt towns, will take hold in these places as old employers leave and new employers refuse to move in for fear of tainting their balance sheets. The Commission admits that companies may avoid certain regions in response to its rule but refuses to predict the cost, financial or human, of that change.

Investors should greet the rule skeptically for another reason: it would sidetrack companies from attending to their core mission of producing the vital goods and services that make American life the envy of the world. The disclosure regime Congress enacted in the 1930s is straightforward. Company boards and management may run their businesses as they see fit; the securities laws require simply that they disclose to investors the opportunities and obstacles that may impact their bottom line. This approach, sanctioned by the Supreme Court, is known as the “materiality” standard. But the rule would chart a different course, requiring all companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and much else besides—even when that information does not affect risks and returns.

The effect of these disclosures is easy to predict. No one likes to look like a bad apple. Even companies whose emissions are immaterial will feel pressure to lower them by shutting down older facilities, installing costly emission-control technology, or discontinuing products and services. The rule would effectively divert corporate resources toward the pursuit of aggressive climate policies, at the expense of core missions such as growing food, developing new medicines, or fixing our crumbling supply chains.

Nowhere is this co-opting clearer than in the astounding requirement to disclose how often a company’s board speaks privately about climate-related risks. This provision, a first in this country, would hijack companies’ most sensitive deliberations and give the SEC a seat in corporate boardrooms across America. You may wonder how a provision compelling speech about speech could pass muster under the First Amendment. It’s a good question. But even if courts strike it down, that the SEC would even propose this provision tells us all we need to know about the agency’s approach to rulemaking.

Of course, some Americans would celebrate the deployment of corporate America against climate change through a disclosure-based regime. That policy has its advocates in Congress. But so far, they have not convinced the American people that it is the right way to go, which is why lawmakers have already refused to enact that policy. The SEC has no business setting a climate policy that the people’s representatives in Congress have rejected.


UK: Fracking could restart in weeks as crunch report into reopening drill sites due in days

A British Geological Survey paper examining the safety of drilling for energy is expected on Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s desk.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng could give the greenlight to restart fracking within weeks

He said he would “consider the next steps” — but insisted he would only give it the go-ahead if locals backed it

In a speech yesterday he vowed Britain should “use all the tools at our disposal to ensure our energy security”.

And he said that when Russian tanks rolled into Eastern Ukraine it focused minds on to generating “the fossil fuels we need here at home”.

Mr Kwarteng said: “It’s an imperative, it’s not a mere option. We have always been clear that shale gas could be part of our future energy mix.

“But we need to be led by the science and above all we need to have the ongoing support of local communities.”

Green campaigners say Britain should not be digging for more dirty and polluting fossil fuels, which are destroying the planet.

But those in favour of fracking, which was suspended in 2019, welcomed the news.

Ex-Brexit chief Lord Frost said: “The decision about fracking can’t be delegated to scientists.

“Ministers have to make their minds up, on the basis of scientific advice, but also broader factors like energy security and whether people can afford their energy bills.

“The Government has to take a lead and do the right thing — which is to resume fracking.”


Energy crisis won’t be solved by wind and sun

Nigerian Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo recently lambasted the rich West for its hypocrisy on energy policy. Writing in The Economist, he declared “rich countries, especially in Europe, have repeatedly called for African states to use only renewable power sources”.

Objecting to the patronising efforts of Westerners to prod Nigerians into “leapfrogging” over fossil fuels into wind and solar, Osinbajo points out that a moratorium on fossil fuel sentences Nigeria to poverty. “Though solar will provide most of our power in the future, we still need natural gas for baseload power.”

Osinbajo is right with regard to the African continent, but rich Westerners are hypocritical at home as well. Advocates of new-generation renewables will often argue that we must choose wind or solar – or submit to the ravages of a changing climate.

But this is a false choice. Some European countries get more than 90 per cent of their electricity from low carbon dioxide sources, such as France (nuclear energy) and Norway (hydropower). Yet no country gets most of their electricity from wind or solar.

In fact, the percentage of the world’s electricity that comes from clean sources has remained stagnant since the 1980s. Although there has been a boom in investment in wind and solar, there has been a lack of investment in nuclear. When nuclear plants shut down, coal-powered plants tend to replace them. Unfortunately, this lack of investment in nuclear has cancelled out the reductions in CO2 emissions made by new-generation renewables. In 1985, 35 per cent of the world’s electricity came from low-CO2 sources; by last year it was just 38.26 per cent.

One of the greatest lies told about climate change is that solving the problem is simply a matter of willpower. If only governments around the world would listen to Greta Thunberg and Simon Holmes a Court, and install solar panels and wind turbines at a faster rate, then temperatures would stabilise. Unfortunately, the problem of climate change is not simply a matter of goodwill. If it were, the Germans would not be reopening their mothballed coal-fired power plants after pledging to be coal-free by 2030.

The Dutch and the Austrians, similarly, would not be following the Germans in reopening their coal-fired plants as well, a week after Russia halted gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

“The cabinet has decided to im­mediately withdraw the restriction on production for coal-fired power stations from 2002 to 2024,” Dutch Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten told media.

“The situation is serious,” said German Economic Affairs and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck. “It is obviously Putin’s strategy to upset us, to drive prices upwards and to divide us … We won’t allow this to happen.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that one of the biggest catastrophes of modern geopolitics has been Europe’s entanglement with Russia over energy. During the past five years, while the West was busy taking policy advice from a teenager, Russia was at work fracking and drilling for oil.

Back home in Australia, our politicians persist with the fanciful notion that an entire country’s electricity grid can be powered by wind turbines and solar panels.

On June 16, Andrew Wilkie tweeted: “While the Aus Govt’s target to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 is a step forward, it’s still not good enough. We need a 75% reduction by 2030 & net-zero by 2035. The only way to do this is to quickly phase out coal, gas & oil & fast-track to 100% renewables.”

When Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen was asked by Nine journalist Chris Uhlmann about whether the solution to Australia’s recent energy crisis (during which the Australian Energy Market Operator suspended the electricity market to ensure supply) was to invest in the continued maintenance of our coal-fired plants, Bowen fired off an angrily defensive reply. Yet just a week later, emergency powers were invoked to block the export of coal in the event of such a crisis happening again.

In response to our recent power crisis, environmentalists at home have called for a blockage on gas exports, a gas export tax and increased government subsidies for battery storage technologies. Yet these are simply Band-Aid solutions. To ensure energy security, Australia needs to extract more gas, invest in and maintain our existing coal-fired power plants, and think seriously about a long-term transition to nuclear energy.

While nuclear energy is often dismissed as being too costly, the question is: compared with what? The battery storage required to power the whole of Australia has been estimated to cost $6.5 trillion. If this is a cost-effective solution, then God help us all.

An inconvenient truth is that the push for wind and solar may have other motivations than simply concern about climate change.

Last year, The Economist constructed a portfolio of companies that would benefit from the world’s energy transition and estimated that these companies had a total market value of $US3.7 trillion. Tracking these companies’ economic performance, it found that since the start of 2020, they had performed twice as well as the S&P 500, with the “greenest 25% of firms (seeing) their share prices rise by 110%”. But the problem is, according to The Economist, that 30 per cent of these companies do not yet turn a profit.

Just as the cryptocurrency bubble has burst this year, the new-generation renewable energy bubble is likely to burst in the foreseeable future. While big money has piled into the push to transition energy – and this investor exuberance has led to increased pressure on politicians to “transition faster” – the real world presents obstacles in the form of physics and thugs such as Vladimir Putin.

When Putin continues to use energy as a weapon against Europeans, a Nigerian vice-president calls out the hypocrisy of Western leaders, and when countries such as Australia are threatened by blackouts, more people will start to see through the wind and solar hype. The question is, will Australian politicians continue living in a fantasy or will they have the courage to face up to reality?




Monday, June 27, 2022

Climate pledges abandoned as Putin sparks global coal crunch

It has been a striking reversal of commitments. Just seven months ago world leaders convened in Glasgow and decided to “phase-down” coal, marking a landmark agreement in the push to tackle climate change. Now, officials and power company bosses are grappling with the opposite challenge: where can they get more of it?

Countries from the UK to China and the Netherlands are scrambling for supplies of the fossil fuel to help keep the lights on this winter as Russia’s war on Ukraine tightens the squeeze on global energy markets. For the first time, the prospect of Russian gas to Europe being cut off is being taken seriously.

Yet after years of being told to shut mines in favour of more environmentally friendly energy sources, coal is in short supply globally.

Coal prices in Europe hit an all-time high of $430 (£350) per tonne in May, about four times higher than long term averages. There is little sign of cooling, with Russian imports set to be choked off by sanctions and rival exporters beset by their own challenges.

It offers little relief for households around the world stuck with high household energy bills, as the backsliding towards coal, albeit temporary, exposes further fragilities in the global energy system.

“If you want extra coal, you’re going to have to pay a lot,” says Steve Hulton, coal expert at Rystad Energy. “If you are paying a lot for your coal, and gas is incredibly expensive, then expect power prices to be really high. That's going to hurt everyone.”

Efforts to push coal to the sidelines have intensified in recent years, with politicians, investors and banks trying to clamp down on coal-fired power stations which account for about 30pc of the energy sector’s emissions.

The UK has pledged to stop using coal in power stations by 2024, while China last year said it would stop funding overseas coal projects. Yet demand has remained stubbornly high: expensive gas prices since last summer, due to shortages, have pushed many to coal.

Global power generation from coal jumped to an all-time high of 10,350 terawatt-hours in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), generating about 36pc of global electricity. With supply restricted by the pullback in investment, benchmark Australian thermal coal hit an all-time high of $261.11 on January 28.

Russia’s war on Ukraine has added to the pressure, as traders cope with disruption and brace for loss of supply from one of the world’s biggest coal and gas exporters, due to sanctions or retaliation to them.

Last week state-owned Gazprom restricted gas sent through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany. It had already cut off supplies to the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to meet demands to pay in roubles.

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, warned that Russia was using gas supplies to gain leverage over Europe, and said he wouldn’t rule out a total cut off. Europe “needs contingency plans” for that scenario, he added.

Using coal instead of gas features heavily so far in those contingency plans, with renewable power not yet able to pick up the slack. The UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Italy are all turning to coal-fired power to help provide supplies this winter.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK’s business secretary, wrote to coal plant owners EDF, Uniper and Drax last month urging them to stay open for back-up supply. Coal-fired power generation in Germany is already about 20pc higher year-on-year, according to Rystad Energy. Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, from the Green Party, has described the situation as “bitter”.

Some plants in Europe use a particularly dirty, domestically produced form of coal, called lignite. Others need cleaner, less sulphurous, hard fuel, which has typically been heavily sourced from Russia. Many have continued to tap that source despite the war.

Russian coal exports are at record levels, from 9.8m tonnes in January to 13.6m tonnes in May and are on course for 13.2m tonnes this month. While more is going to China and India, imports into Europe have also been “unusually high” according to one senior industry source. The figures suggest stockpiling ahead of an EU ban on Russian coal imports in August.

They will still need more.


Boris Johnson forced to slash Net Zero targets in bid to tackle cost of living crisis

Boris Johnson has slashed his net-zero targets in a bid to tackle the cost of living crunch – by reducing the amount of biofuel produced in the UK.

The Prime Minister has hit the brakes in the push for green fuel, citing concerns that the drive may contribute to spiralling inflation.

Biofuel requires wheat and maize – land that Mr Johnson believes could be better used for food production to combat soaring prices. Land used globally to grow crops for the UK biofuel market could feed 3.5 million people if it was converted to food production.

The PM will call on G7 leaders to review their biofuel use, arguing that it could help mitigate the global food crisis and supply chain issues exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Johnson said: ‘While Vladimir Putin continues his futile and unprovoked war in Ukraine and cravenly blockades millions of tonnes of grain, the world’s poorest people are inching closer to starvation.

He added: ‘From emergency food aid to reviewing our own biofuel use, the UK is playing its part to address this pernicious global crisis.’

The push for green fuel was one of the key pillars of the government’s net zero ambitions but now it is set to push for the amount of biofuel used globally to be cut by 10 per cent at Sunday’s G7 summit.

Government sources have stressed that the primary purpose of the Prime Minister’s review is to ensure people in poor countries have access to grain.

Britain sources more than 20 per cent of the ethanol used to create its biofuel from Ukraine. Land used globally to grow crops for the UK biofuel market could feed 3.5 million people if it was converted to food.


Europe’s Search for Natural Gas Runs Up Against Climate Goals

Europe’s scramble to replace Russian natural gas has set in motion plans for new gas production and infrastructure world-wide that critics say risk throwing the world off track in meeting the Paris accord’s climate targets.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe is moving quickly to set up new import terminals for liquefied natural gas from elsewhere. U.S. producers are expanding their export facilities as Europe’s thirst for gas adds to already-strong Asian demand. Such infrastructure can take years to build and is usually predicated on lifespans lasting decades. European utilities, meanwhile, are negotiating long-term supply deals with gas exporters in the U.S., the Middle East and Africa.

Both moves threaten to lock Europe into a new dependency on non-Russian gas at a time when the West has promised to start pivoting from hydrocarbons to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists say are causing the earth to warm.

“This push for gas is much, much bigger than replacing Russian gas,” said Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, a nonpartisan climate-science group. “That risks a lock-in of very high levels of carbon dioxide emissions.”

Democratic members of Congress including Senators Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and lawmakers from the European Parliament wrote in a joint letter last month that “further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the United States and Europe is destined to set us back during a moment when we should be doing everything within our power to avert climate catastrophe.”

For many capitals, the urgent need to find enough supplies to replace Russian gas is outweighing longer-term goals to slash emissions. Gas from Russia, Europe’s biggest supplier, heats homes and powers factories across the continent.

European officials have emphasized gas as a transitional fuel: not ideal, but better than higher-emitting fuels such as coal. Burning natural gas produces around half the carbon dioxide of coal. The European Union is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 14% by 2030 compared with 2020 by massively expanding wind and solar power and using energy more efficiently.

Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria have all said they are now preparing to burn more coal in the next few years after Russia throttled gas supplies to the continent last week. And Europe is doubling down on gas from other parts of the world.

Plans for more than 20 liquefied natural gas import projects have been announced, relaunched or sped up across Europe since Russia invaded Ukraine, according to a recent analysis by FTI Consulting. Analysts said those projects have the potential to contribute an additional 128 billion cubic meters in natural-gas import capacity over the coming years, roughly the equivalent of 83% of the EU’s total 2021 imports from Russia.

Germany, which didn’t have any LNG import terminals before the war in Ukraine began, is taking some of the most aggressive steps to develop new infrastructure. The German government recently passed legislation to fast-track LNG developments, and pledged 2.94 billion euros, equivalent to about $3.09 billion, to put several floating terminals into operation.

The French utility Engie SA in May announced a 15-year contract to buy LNG from an export facility under construction in Brownsville, Texas. That came a year-and-a-half after the company pulled out of talks to buy gas from the project under pressure from environmentalists and the French government. It also recently struck a deal with Cheniere Energy Inc. for increased gas deliveries that would continue beyond 2040. A separate 15-year deal between Cheniere and Norway’s Equinor ASA was announced earlier this month, with deliveries to begin in 2026.

European officials and industry executives say that new LNG import terminals and other gas infrastructure can eventually be converted to handle hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel that can be produced using renewable energy. That, backers say, means building the infrastructure now doesn’t necessarily lock the continent into using more gas for years to come.

“We are firm believers that natural gas and LNG, done the right way, is an enabling partner to renewables,” said Anatol Feygin, chief commercial officer of Cheniere, which owns LNG export facilities in Texas and Louisiana. “We think that’ll be the case for decades to come.”

European officials are also fanning out to ask for gas from countries with untapped reserves. Critics say that could encourage production that might otherwise never get developed.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz traveled to Senegal in May and said his government was interested in helping the West African nation develop its offshore natural gas reserves. Italian officials have signed deals with Angola and Congo to boost gas supplies. The EU announced plans to work with Israel and Egypt to increase exports of natural gas to the bloc.

Climate scientists warn that the world has little leeway to produce and burn more gas while at the same time complying with the Paris accord. Most of the world’s countries have agreed to the deal, which calls for governments to collectively reduce emissions to levels that scientists hope will limit warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The latest United Nations climate-science report estimates that global gas use in electricity and heating should fall 10% by 2030 compared with 2020 and 45% by 2050 to meet the 1.5-degree target.

LNG poses a double challenge. It is natural gas that has been supercooled so it can be transported as a liquid across long distances. It is turned back into a gas after it arrives at LNG import facilities. Tankers that transport it can be big emitters of methane—a powerful greenhouse gas—adding to overall emissions related to the fuel.


Australia: AgForce chief Michael Guerin questions climate science, blasts NZ pledge to cut farm emissions

The head of Queensland's peak rural lobby group AgForce says the science is not settled on climate change as he criticises New Zealand's plan to reduce agricultural emissions.

New Zealand farmers have worked with government on a proposed farm-level levy system as an alternative to the industry being included in the country's emissions trading scheme.

Queensland AgForce chief executive Michael Guerin said he was "horrified" by the plan.

"One of the things I believe very strongly, having spent a lot of time working with scientists — and I'm not a scientist — but the belief I have is that the science is never settled," he said.

"By its very definition it's a process of continuous learning, so climate change is real [but] it's coming from a number of sources, the scientists tell us.

"There are a lot of examples where things have been decided in the past where [they have] changed their mind with updated science."

He said his personal views on climate change did not affect the work he did in his role representing the state's farmers.

"What I do is represent now about 6,500 members, and through a committee process represent their collective views into the core issues," he said.

"There are various views about where climate change comes from, but there's an unanimous view that we want to work collaboratively and productively with science and with government in some of these issues."

Carbon sequestration in cattle

Mr Guerin said agriculture was the only industry in Australia that had made a tangible reduction in net emissions since 1995, but he acknowledged there was more to do.

"It's a powerfully positive story that can be accelerated through incentives, rather than slowed up through taxes," he said.

He said grazing animals contributed to carbon sequestration and a new project, AgCarE (Agriculture, Carbon and the Environment), demonstrated that much of Queensland's cattle industry was positive sequesters.




Sunday, June 26, 2022

Climate Change Reconsidered

National Public Radio (NPR) recently ran an article discussing the results of a poll it conducted claiming that Americans are suffering from extreme weather events due to climate change. Although because of the mainstream media’s claims the public may be under the impression that every weather event is due to climate change, this impression is wrong. Data demonstrate no trend of increasing extreme weather events, mainstream media assertions to the contrary. The public, most of which does experience one or more instances of extreme weather each year, is being misled to believe climate change is making weather worse. Polls are no replacement for facts in science, and science has measured little if any climate change impact on weather.

An NPR article titled “You’ve likely been affected by climate change. Your long-term finances might be, too,” written by NPR “Science Desk” reporter Rebecca Hersher, discusses the results of a recent poll conducted by NPR. NPR sampled Americans views concerning about their perception of weather events from the last five years.

“More than three-quarters of adults in the United States say they have experienced extreme weather in the last five years, including hurricanes, wildfires, floods and heat waves, the survey found,” Hersher writes “And most people who suffer major weather damage or financial problems do not receive money from the federal government.”

Setting aside the issue of how expensive weather damage to homes and businesses can be, which Climate Realism has previously explained cannot be blamed on climate change (here, here, and here, for example), the connection between incidences of extreme weather and climate change that NPR is trying to make lacks a basis measurable evidence.

It is not surprising at all that people living across a large country composed of many ecoregions experience a wide variety of weather conditions. Every region experiences extreme weather at one time of another, and some place somewhere will most likely be experiencing some form of extreme weather at any given time. Extreme weather events are common throughout all of history and are entirely natural in origin. What is unusual are extended periods of extreme weather absences, like the record low in tornadoes in 2018, 2020, and 2021 as detailed by Climate Realism here. Another example is the absence of strong hurricane landfalls from 2005 to 2017—nearly 12 years without a Category 3 or greater hurricane in the United States

NPR’s article also says that “[p]eople who experience extreme weather are also more likely to consider climate change a crisis or major problem.” A group of peoples beliefs about the causes of a particular extreme weather event are not evidence of a causal connection, except in their own mind—in this case, an idea likely fostered by years of alarmist, inaccurate corporate media reports asserting that the two are linked. What the poll does seem to be measuring is the unscientific impact of climate alarmist propaganda on Americans. When every weather event is breathlessly blamed on climate change in the media, as Climate Realism constantly reports and refutes, is it any wonder?

Other polls that incorporate topics besides climate change show a less alarming picture. Americans consistently rank climate change as pretty low on the concern-totem-poll, for example see this recent Gallup survey about American environmental concerns discussed at Climate Realism, here. In that poll, drinking water pollution was ranked as Americans’ top concern, while climate change or global warming ranked dead last.

Continuing to beat the drum, NPR says “[t]he results underscore how ubiquitous and dangerous climate change is for Americans, as the hottest part of the year gets underway, and people across the country gird themselves for another year of severe hurricanes, floods, fires, and heat waves.”

Regarding heat waves, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s U.S. Climate Reference Network data do not show a trend of increasing maximum temperature anomalies, seen in the figure below. Even as the media reports on high temperatures in parts of the Midwest, the Northeast and Northwest coasts recently experienced unusually cold springs, as discussed at Climate Realism here, and here.

The American public may believe that their weather woes are caused by the nebulous specter of climate change, but that doesn’t mean they are correct. Extreme weather is natural and should be expected and prepared for. NPR and the legacy media should be ashamed of themselves for pushing polling data as some kind of proof of the impact of climate change. What they actually show is that their misleading coverage of weather is having a negative impact on Americans’ understanding of the natural world and the present known facts about climate change.


CO2 Coalition files amicus brief in 5th Circuit Court

CO2 Coalition Tells Court Carbon Regulation “Scientifically Invalid”

President Biden’s Social Cost of Carbon rule is “scientifically invalid and will be disastrous for the poor people worldwide, future generations and the United States,” according to a court brief by two physics professors at Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the CO2 Coalition.

Filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the amicus curie brief said, “There is overwhelming scientific evidence that fossil fuels and CO2 provide enormous social benefits.” It asked that the rule be enjoined from further use pending outcome of a hearing by a trial court.

The lawsuit before the appeals court — the State of Louisiana versus Biden — seeks to stop the use of “temporary rules” that are implemented by presidential order. The Biden administration’s SCC rule directs regulators to include the purported projected “global cost” of every ton of carbon dioxide emissions from a wide array of projects where federal funding or approvals are needed, from transportation, to housing, to energy and infrastructure.

The academicians named in the brief are Dr. William Happer, chairman of the CO2 Coalition and professor emeritus of Princeton University’s Department of Physics; and Dr. Richard S. Linden, professor emeritus in the MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and a CO2 Coalition member and past chairman.

The brief says that a district court’s preliminary injunction should be reinstated because the technical document supporting the SCC and President Biden’s executive order imposing the regulation “are scientifically invalid and will be disastrous for the poor people worldwide, future generations and the United States.”

“Reliable scientific theories come from validating theoretical predictions with observations, not consensus, government opinion, peer review or manipulated data,” says the brief. The brief says the U.S. Supreme Court has adopted essentially the CO2 Coalition’s view of what constitutes valid science.

However, the brief notes, predictions supporting an SCC — particularly climate forecasts generated by computer models — have regularly failed the test of real-world observation. Meanwhile, the brief says, supporters promote an SCC on the basis of claims of a consensus, the favoring of governmental opinion over scientific challenge, endorsements by peers, the manipulation of some data and the omission of other information.

A glaring omission in the administration’s proposed regulation are the benefits of carbon dioxide and of the fossil fuels whose burning in the generation of electricity and industrial processes emit the gas.

“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that fossil fuels and CO2 provide enormous social benefits for the poor, people worldwide, future generations and the United States, and therefore it would be disastrous to reduce or eliminate them,” the brief says.

The brief notes that warmth and moderately higher carbon dioxide levels in recent decades have correlated with an overall greening of Earth and record crop harvests. The document shows that per capita gross domestic product has increased over the last 2,000 years from a few dollars to approximately $7,000, closely tracking the increased use of coal, oil and natural gas in recent centuries.

The brief says that the president’s order violates a congressional directive requiring that benefits as well as costs be included in environmental considerations and that it exceeds the president’s authority by unilaterally creating new law.

The CO2 Coalition, based in Arlington, Va., is an organization of approximately 95 scientists and researchers engaged in educating thought leaders, policy makers, and the public about the important contribution made by carbon dioxide to people’s lives and the economy.



Three articles below

Divisive Greenies put reconciliation in peril

PM Albanese spoke well to the matter but the flag is a side-issue. The hopelessly impractical Greenie climate policies are the big issue. And the Greens now have substantial representation in both houses of parliament so those policies matter.

The temptation for the Left is to ally with the Greens as both of them wish destruction on us. So we can only hope that Albo gets enough support for saner policies from the conservatives to resist that temptation

Anthony Albanese says the push for reconciliation risks being undermined by the refusal of Greens leader Adam Bandt to stand in front of the Australian flag.

The Prime Minister said every parliamentarian should be proud to stand in front of the national flag, urging Mr Bandt to “reconsider his position and work to promote unity and work to promote reconciliation”.

“Reconciliation is about bringing people together on the journey that we need to undertake.

“It is undermined if people look for division rather than look for unity,” Mr Albanese said.

The criticism of the Greens escalated further on Wednesday after the party’s First Nations spokeswoman, Lidia Thorpe, said she was only in the parliament to “infiltrate” the “colonial project”.

Incoming Northern Territory Country Liberal Party senator Jacinta Price said Governor-General David Hurley should investigate whether there were grounds to dismiss Senator Thorpe from parliament. “I think she has nothing but contempt for the Australian people and she doesn’t respect the position she is in,” Ms Price said.

“I personally feel that the ­Governor-General should take a closer look at what her real ­intentions are and consider whether this is possible grounds for dismissal.

“She doesn’t see herself as an Australian, she doesn’t see herself as being represented by the Australian flag. Therefore she is not the right person to be in a position to represent the Australian people nor does it indicate she has Aus­tralia’s best interests at heart.”

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine said he was “flabbergasted” by Senator Thorpe’s comments.

“She is carrying on like she is in a five-year-old’s spy game,” Mr Mundine said.

“I just shake my head at these people. We have got so many problems with Indigenous communities … They have got to have jobs and businesses operating, and education.

“So is she there to blow the place up? It is just bizarre.”

On Tuesday night, Senator Thorpe said both the flag and the parliament “does not represent me or my people”.

“It represents the colonisation of these lands. And it has no permission to be here. There’s been no consent,” Senator Thorpe told Network Ten’s The Project.

“I’m there to infiltrate.

“I signed up to become a senator in the colonial project and that wasn’t an easy decision for me personally, and it wasn’t an easy decision for my family either to support me in this. However, we need voices like this to question the illegitimate occupation of the colonial system in this country.”

RSL Australia president Greg Melick said Mr Bandt’s action on the flag was disrespectful to ­Australian service personnel and veterans. “The RSL condemns the ­actions of Mr Bandt in the strongest possible terms,” he said.

“Australians have served under our national flag, irrespective of their race, religion or political views, and it and all our present and past service personnel deserve the highest respect.

“Mr Bandt’s move was dis­respectful to all these people and the RSL rejects it as unfitting of a member of our national ­parliament.”

Labor Left senator Tim Ayres said Mr Bandt’s flag policy was “some of the most empty gesture politics”.

“University, Trotskyite-sort of politics,” Senator Ayres told the ABC.

“There ought to be a bit of growing up around the place and a bit of self-reflection is absolutely in order for Mr Bandt and his ­colleagues.


Energy reality is now biting hard

Turning a blind eye to the limits of "renewables" no longer works. We may be getting close to their practical limit

Energy crises have a useful ambiguity to them. Each crisis creates an opportunity for everyone to claim that, ‘It would never have happened if we’d just done what they said all along!’

Everyone, that is, except the people who actually did do what they said – they have to sit down and explain why it was both unforeseeable but will resolve if we just continue doing what they say.

Reality always wins. Politicians can argue, investors can throw around money, and journalists can spin dramatic headlines. Energy does not care.

What we knew was coming

Several years ago, I attended a Lunch & Learn by the CEO of the Clean Energy Council. He put up a slide listing all the Australian coal-fired power stations that would be reaching the end of their design life in the next thirty years. It looked something like this:

He then put a question to the group: ‘Why wouldn’t we replace these with the cheapest form of energy available?’ It sounds obvious. At the time, a wind farm had been approved with an agreed price of only $55/MWh, which is a very low cost.

The problem with this argument (as I previously pointed out here) is that you may be paying less for wind and solar, but you aren’t getting the same thing. Coal-fired power stations not only provide energy, they provide available capacity when the wind isn’t blowing, frequency stabilisation, and a single connection for a large energy supply.

If we replace them with wind then we need wind farms, but we also need energy storage, frequency control systems, multiple connections – some of those with long transmission lines.

I challenged the speaker with expensive reality after his presentation. He replied, ‘Yes, but nobody knows the cost of those things.’ How is that an acceptable answer? If nobody knows the cost, you can’t just assume it is zero. That is beyond moronic, it is flagrantly dishonest.

Here is a useful bit of information – the larger the portion of supply that comes from wind and solar, the more supplementary infrastructure is required.

When renewables are supplying less than 20 per cent of total capacity, their shortcomings can be accommodated elsewhere in the electricity network. Above this, they begin to create significant issues.

South Australia had to install a battery, synchronous condensers, additional backup generation, and relies heavily on its connection to the rest of the NEM through an interconnector. The Grattan Institute report Go for net zero showed that even achieving 90 per cent renewable would be significantly easier than 100 per cent.

For this reason, after attending the IEA lunch, my conclusion was this: For now, we may be able to replace the coal generation we have lost with a combination of renewables, supplementary infrastructure, and other flexible backup generation (i.e. gas-fired open-circuit generators). So far we have indeed handled the closures of one-third of our coal plants, equivalent to about 20 per cent of energy supply.

This is unlikely to continue.

The sheer volume of energy that we will need to displace is large. The question is not whether the network can handle more renewables, but where they will even be installed and whether they can be built fast enough.

Eventually, the storage problem will be revealed as just that – a problem. We may have to hold our noses and build more coal-fired generators. If we aren’t willing to do that then the only remaining compromise, as conservative commentators have been saying forever… may be to build some nuclear power plants.

Yet the clear and loud objective of the clean energy council (which is a lobby) and many other parties, is to ensure this doesn’t happen. Their firm belief is that we can replace our fossil fuel generation with renewables. Worse, however, the attitude of many is that if they directly oppose coal-fired power, then they will force the change that they want.

Last year, when the International Energy Agency released its first Net Zero by 2050 report, it said the following: ‘There is no need for new investment in fossil fuel supply in our Net Zero pathway.’

In the pathway, there were two milestones for 2021: ‘No new unabated coal plants approved for development’ and ‘no new oil and gas fields approved for development’. Considering the two energy crises that have occurred in 2022 – oil and gas shortages and coal shortages – they appear to be getting what they wanted.

The Australian energy stalemate

The future of our existing fossil-fuel assets has been topical for a long time. Back in 2017, it raised its head with the announcement of the closure of Liddell. You may recall that several conservative politicians (Tony Abbott, George Christensen, etc.) fought for Liddell to remain online and tabled nationalising it as a means to force its sale rather than closure. This was based on a kind of compromised view – if we are not going to build any new coal power, then at least we must try to get our current coal power to last as long as possible, to reduce the shock to the system.

Some green idealists, however, responded with the opposite aim. They desire to close the coal plants as fast as possible to fulfil their primary goal – leaving coal in the ground. The most notable manifestation of this view is Mike Cannon-Brookes’ recent actions. Having earned billions from software development, he tried to team up with a Canadian investment company Brookefields to purchase AGL. The stated aim was to accelerate coal power-plant closures.

AGL rejected his bid, and the board advanced a demerger proposal. The demerger would result in two companies, only one of which would hold all the coal generation assets. AGL has been responsible for building and managing a large number of renewables projects all around Australia, yet because they also own coal assets, they are demonised and considered untouchable for green investment. In response, Mike Cannon-Brookes bought 10 per cent of the company and sent a letter to the rest of the shareholders asking them to vote against the demerger. The board gave up the plan for the demerger, and several board members announced their impending resignations.

AGL is in an unworkable position – no one wants to invest in their work. At the same time, as a major generator, they have obligations to the market operator. They are required to retain generation capacity or replace capacity that they remove, without compromising grid stability.

Further evidence of the stalemate that has existed in the energy business over the last few years is the Kurri-Kurri project. When the federal government realised that the NEM would need more generation capacity once Liddell closes, they were essentially forced to construct the new Kurri-Kurri power plant themselves, because the private sector wouldn’t do it. It should have been the safest investment around – critical infrastructure with government backing. And yet the political and social climate has everyone terrified of putting money into fossil fuels.

The project has faced continuous negative media, including Matt Kean.

Hopefully, the projects detractors can now feel egg dripping off their chins. The current energy crisis is clear evidence that additional generation capacity will be welcome and possible not even enough (SA’s state-owned diesel generator has certainly been getting a workout over the last month!)

Machines don’t suddenly fail the day that they reach their design life. Power plants are really just giant engines, similar to the one in your car. Imagine you were driving your car continuously for 50 years. Would you expect it to start needing maintenance at the end of that? Eventually, your car would need so much care that the maintenance costs would exceed the value that the car returns, and you are better off getting a new one.

Currently, we have two simultaneous crises. The first is international. The entire world is facing a fuel availability crisis caused simultaneously by the after-shocks of the Covid pandemic (demand recovered at a rapid rate after the pandemic) and the Russia-Ukraine war. This has been exacerbated by some government policies and a hostile investment climate. The latter two issues work together in a negative feedback loop stoked by green activists – the more government policy is hostile, the more reluctant everyone is to invest. This international energy problem is felt mainly through the current high prices.

The second crisis is local. The energy market operator reports on reserve capacity. This is the amount of additional electricity generation that is available to the market if needed. If reserve capacity becomes less than the two largest generators in the system, this is called a Loss of Reserve (LOR) level 1 event. This means that if we had a sudden shutdown of our two largest generators, the system would have insufficient capacity to meet demand.

If capacity goes below the single largest generator, this is called a LOR 2, and means that losing the largest generator could trigger a supply shortfall. LOR 3 occurs when there is an insufficient reserve, and the operator expects to have to trigger intentional blackouts for load-shedding.

This local crisis is only tangentially related to the international one. It occurred mainly because some ageing infrastructure had issues and needed to shut down. As can be seen on the following graph, Bayswater, one of the largest suppliers to the system, lost two generators between June 7-9, reducing it to a third of its registered capacity (one of them came back online just two days ago). Since late May, Liddell has been running only 2 of its 4 generator trains. Gladstone in Queensland is also operating well below its registered capacity.

Writers for The Guardian, RenewEconomy, many journalists at the ABC, and probably every Teal Independent, argue that the current crisis proves that coal is the problem. After all, the coal infrastructure is to blame, so we wouldn’t have these issues if it wasn’t there, right? But the current issue is being caused by only a partial supply shortfall of coal power. What if we lost it all?

At the risk of repeating myself, I must stress: wind and solar can’t solve this problem. 100 per cent supply shortfalls of solar are a daily occurrence. It’s called nighttime. Supply shortfalls of wind are a weekly occurrence at least. The NEM was operating on only 1 per cent wind just two days ago. Comparing solar/wind supply with coal is to make a category error. One cannot replace the other until we have bulk energy storage infrastructure, which currently, simply, does not exist.


Last year, the IEA ‘Net Zero’ roadmap received two different receptions. Some perceived it as what it claimed to be: a pathway for Net Zero 2050. Where the report said that all government, people, private sector across the whole world would have to ‘work together’ to ‘act immediately’, they believed that this is what must surely happen because Net Zero by 2050 is the only option.

Others (like me) received the report as a clear statement that Net Zero by 2050 is doomed. When it listed seven things that would all have to happen in order to achieve Net Zero by 2050, and all of them were virtually impossible, and on further inspection, its assessment of the state of technology was even optimistic… It didn’t look like a roadmap to a place this planet is going anytime soon. In my view, unless a significant technological advancement comes along, we will not be achieving Net Zero by 2050.

The current buzzword is ‘the energy transition’. Note the definite article ‘the’ – it is spoken about as if it is a fact, and yet it is not a transition driven by natural causes. Any natural drivers for change – such as scarcity or competitiveness of new technology – are many decades away. This is a transition that requires a forced change. Hence, the persistent focus of its proponents on government action and divestment.

Yet this is our power supply that they are messing with. When there are supply shortfalls in the electricity market, people die. And they don’t die in twenty years due to global temperature rises, they die tomorrow. Unlike the ‘climate emergency’, electricity supply shortfalls actually meet the definition of an emergency.

If Australian billionaires and investors wish to effect an energy transition, then they are free to build the technology needed to do it. They can build batteries and develop tidal technology, geothermal, or solar, they can support better housing insulation, they can make hydrogen or ammonia or biogas, they can make electric vehicles… They can do whatever floats their boats. But until they have, they need to stop demonising and sabotaging the infrastructure that already exists and is keeping us alive.

That’s the reality, and reality always wins.


Australia: The greenest lemmings in the world?

Viv Forbes

Australia’s new ALP/Green/Teal government has a Zero Emissions plan, putting them on track to be the victor in the Great Green Lemming Race.

America’s John Kerry was previously a strong contender to win the Great Green Lemming race, but he was given a stiff handicap by United Nations organisers due to America having access to reliable coal, oil, gas, hydro, and nuclear power, not to mention plus cross-border pipelines and power lines.

Biden is trying to close these loopholes. Literally.

Eight nations have withdrawn from the Green Lemming Race. Russia has joined China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Iran, and Turkey in forming a new and powerful G8. This hard-headed group ignore Net Zero dogma unless that suits their business plan. The G8 members have diverse reliable energy supplies – oil, coal, gas, hydro. and nuclear. They use wind and solar primarily for virtue-signalling or to earn billions making and selling millions of green toys to Net Zero Lemmings like us.

Europeans were disqualified from the Great Green Lemming Race when they were caught cheating. They pretended to run on intermittent energy from windmills and sunbeams, but whenever these failed they quickly filled the power shortfall with reliable energy from French nuclear, Scandinavian hydro, Polish and German coal, Iceland geothermal, North Sea natural gas, and (sanctions permitting) Russian gas, oil, and coal.

Australia has ageing coal plants (marked for demolition), wildly unstable supplies of disruptive and intermittent green electricity, oodles of gas (but unwelcome in local markets), and abundant uranium for export (but none for local nuclear power). Australia is also a remote island with no extension cords to neighbours with reliable energy. They remain a clear favourite in the Great Green Lemming Race.

Sometime soon, at dinner time on a cold still night, the Aussie winners of the Great Green Lemming Race will be acclaimed by widespread blackouts and a failing economy.