Monday, June 20, 2022

Lockdowns for hot weather now

Region in France bans outdoor gatherings

Officials in France banned people from attending concerts, outdoor gatherings, and events due to safety concerns over a heatwave.

“Everyone now faces a health risk,” official Fabienne Buccio told France Bleu radio, after announcing the regional restrictions around Bordeaux.

Outdoor events – including, ironically, annual ‘Resistance’ celebrations – are banned until the officials declare the heatwave is over. They’re even restricting some indoor events that don’t have air conditioning.

However, private weddings are still allowed.

Temperatures reportedly hit 40 degrees Celsius on Thursday, and the heatwave is expected to peak on Saturday.

Nonetheless, rather than let people take responsibility for themselves – to hydrate or stay home – French officials are comfortable deciding for them.

Indeed, democratic governments seem comfortable stripping citizens’ freedoms for safety as of late. From COVID lockdowns to climate.

Recently, The Counter Signal reported that climate change lockdowns were likely on the horizon.

For example, unelected IGOs recently advised the British government to outright ban driving on Sundays to curb rising gas prices and address an energy crisis.

The advisement came from the International Energy Agency (IEA) as part of a 10-point plan, central to which is achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

And this isn’t as conspiratorial as it might sound.

For example, while speaking on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), International Council of Nurses CEO Howard Catton claimed that climate change is the “grandmother of all health threats,” suggesting that the WHO may get involved with climate change-related health risks, like heatwaves, in the future.

Moreover, Nicole Schwab, the daughter of World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab) recently said she wants governments to take advantage of COVID infrastructure and policies to fight climate change.


Why Corporate Environmental, Social, and Governance Enforcement Is Self-Reinforcing Scam

When the left tries to impose its policy visions on others, often the only winning move is not to play its game.

But when it comes to “ESG,” bureaucrats and billionaires have figured out how to force the rest of us to play along.

ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance, is a nebulous phrase that means, in effect, that a company is guided not merely by the goal of serving the public through offering goods and services its customers need, but by left-wing social causes, too.

Investment firms that are guided by ESG will, for example, refuse to invest in or do business with the fossil fuel sector even if doing so would benefit their shareholders or investors. Other ESG-guided entities push for left-wing priorities, such as “civil rights audits”—code for more focus on racial equity—even if that isn’t good for the bottom line.

Some companies will voluntarily adopt ESG in their corporate guidelines and disclosures. Others remain committed to serving the public through offering goods and services at a fair price and aren’t interested in virtue signaling.

But to woke activists and government officials, opting out of ESG is not an option. So, they force noncompliant businesses to conform to ESG by artificially creating real costs for not doing so.

They do this through litigation. They will sue companies—often with dubious or plainly meritless cases—just to create litigation risk and costs. Even if the claims are meritless, businesses face real costs measured in lawyers’ fees, litigation costs, and the risk—however small—of a monetary judgment.

As companies plan, they must consider such costs.

Activists in and out of government deliberately create these costs to make it less attractive for companies to refuse to adopt ESG priorities.

Take the case of Oracle, which was sued by investors because the company allegedly “breached its fiduciary duty by failing to have meaningful diversity on its board and workforce.” The case involved Oracle’s supposed misrepresentation of its diversity measures in public statements.

Although the case was dismissed, it cost Oracle a lot of time, effort, and money to defend against it. And that was just one case. Other companies are hit with similar lawsuits all the time.

The Oracle case illustrates a pattern in ESG litigation. Shareholders use corporate statements—in this case, that Oracle was “actively seeking women and minority candidates” for the board—and then sue the companies under the theory that the company’s failure to realize liberal policy goals renders the statements false.

Activist shareholders create a lot of these ESG litigation costs, but the federal government has even more power to do so, and it uses it.

Recently proposed Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure rules for investors who take ESG into account are a good example. The more companies are forced to issue disclosure statements paying tribute to woke pieties, the more ammunition activist shareholders will have to sue them. And the more disclosure statements companies are forced to make, the more likely it is that the SEC will also sue them for failing to live up to its increasingly liberal expectations.

Consider, too, the SEC’s 2022 examination priorities. According to those, when ESG-motivated investment funds vote their shares in the companies they invest in, the SEC will monitor whether those votes “align with their ESG-related disclosures.”

Given how vague those disclosures often are, that gives the SEC a lot of leeway to interpret them according to left-wing policy goals.

The SEC recently extracted a fine from Bank of New York Mellon after deciding that the bank made “misleading claims” about how it uses ESG criteria to pick stocks.

The fine was small for the bank—$1.5 million—but it likely followed a time-consuming and expensive internal investigation and blackened the bank’s name among investors.

Going forward, the bank will try to avoid reincurring those costs, but that will be hard if the SEC is interpreting and enforcing vague terms. The best move for regulated entities is to recite all the right liberal pieties and play as hard left as possible in the hope that the SEC will think of them as an ideological ally instead of a target.

In 2020, litigation cost companies $22.8 billion, which is comparable to Iceland’s entire gross domestic product. Businesses naturally, and quite rightly, try to minimize those costs. In the ESG space, the only way to do that is to further commit to and pursue ESG priorities.

Some companies, however, are just doomed. These are businesses such as fossil fuel companies that are simply never going to be popular with the activist left no matter how fervently the former endorse left-wing cultural values.

ESG activists in and out of government have not only sued those companies with dubious claims to drive up their costs, they have also tried to cut off their capital.

Trillions of dollars invested in publicly traded companies (which include fossil fuel companies such as BP, Chevron, and Shell) come from pension funds. The trustees of those funds have fiduciary obligations that require them to invest with the goal of maximizing returns for the millions of middle- and lower-income Americans who depend on them for retirement.

They generally cannot pursue “collateral” ESG priorities. That means that they cannot avoid oil companies just because they don’t like them.

They can, however, pursue a “risk-adjusted return” form of ESG investing, where they avoid companies that face litigation risk because that risk might lower the return on investment.

See where this is going?

Activist shareholders, state and local governments, and federal regulators all manufacture litigation risk to impose costs on companies that don’t align with the ESG agenda.

Investment funds can use this litigation risk—no matter how frivolous—as justification to cut off capital from disfavored companies.

Democrats in Congress, too, are trying to help the ESG racket. The House of Representatives last June passed H.R. 1187, which would have required that public companies disclose information about ESG “performance metrics” and would allow the SEC to define that term.

The creation of ESG performance metrics would mean that these often-frivolous lawsuits would be more viable because the companies’ statements would be concrete rather than vague and aspirational, as Oracle’s was.

What we’ve seen is a cycle of left-wing activism that has effectively turned the major players in the country’s economy toward liberal priorities. Many companies play along because they share those values. But even companies that aim to maximize value are now playing along because they have no choice.

Activist litigants, state attorneys general, and bureaucrats are driving up the costs of not playing woke ball.

Things are likely to get worse before they get better because this reinforcing cycle is getting more sophisticated. Additionally, the federal regulatory apparatus will be in woke hands for at least two more years, and they will make the most of that time.

Congress and the courts ought to make clear that the SEC has no authority to enforce these sorts of vague rules.

State regulators ought to make sure that pension funds in their state aren’t violating their fiduciary duties by playing the ESG game. And for states that don’t already require their pension funds to maximize investor returns, they ought to pass model legislation doing that as quickly as possible.

When it’s no longer possible to refuse to play the left’s game, it’s time for powers bigger than woke corporations to shut the game down.


ExxonMobil Fires Back at Biden After Letter Warning Use of Emergency Powers

The Exxon Mobil Corportation fired back at President Joe Biden’s letter calling on U.S. energy producers to bring “near-term solutions” to address rising gas prices and decades-high inflation.

“In the short term, the U.S. government could enact measures often used in emergencies following hurricanes or other supply disruptions—such as waivers of Jones Act provisions and some fuel specifications to increase supplies,” the oil giant said in a news release Wednesday.

And in the longer term, the federal government “can promote investment through clear and consistent policy that supports U.S. resource development, such as regular and predictable lease sales, as well as streamlined regulatory approval and support for infrastructure such as pipelines,” according to ExxonMobil.

Notably, Biden signed an executive order in early 2021 that suspended construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have brought oil from Alberta, Canada, to the interior United States. The move was criticized by oil industry officials, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Republicans.

In recent days, the president has increasingly blamed oil companies for allegedly gouging consumers as gas prices remain elevated at $5 per gallon. Gas prices nationwide are averaging roughly $5 a gallon, an economic burden for many Americans and a political threat for Biden’s fellow Democrats going into the midterm elections.

“The crunch that families are facing deserves immediate action,” Biden wrote in a letter this week to seven oil refiners, including Exxon. “Your companies need to work with my Administration to bring forward concrete, near-term solutions that address the crisis.”

In the letter, Biden suggested that he might use emergency powers, adding that his “administration is prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate Federal Government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term, and to ensure that every region of this country is appropriately supplied.”

But the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the industry, said in a statement that capacity has been diminished as the Biden administration has sought to move away from fossil fuels as part of its climate agenda. Meanwhile, several prominent White House officials continue to tout electric vehicles as a means to escape the current high gas prices despite the average cost of a new EV being about $56,000.

“While we appreciate the opportunity to open increased dialogue with the White House, the administration’s misguided policy agenda shifting away from domestic oil and natural gas has compounded inflationary pressures and added headwinds to companies’ daily efforts to meet growing energy needs while reducing emissions,” American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement.


The Dark Ages for Australian energy

When the sun finally sets on the West, the English-speaking peoples will find out that they are as fragile and expendable as the starving third-world children used by aid organisation to pick pockets.

Modernity is held together by cheap energy, not the rainbow-padding nonsense of progressive politics that does little but catch fire on the frayed wires of civilisation, much like Rudd’s notorious pink batts.

Yesterday, millions of Australian homes on the east coast were told to switch off non-essential appliances after blackouts began and extended short-falls loomed. Energy suppliers cautioned the affluent Teal-heartland of Sydney’s Northern Beaches that they were at risk of losing power as temperatures plunged. Suggestions such as ‘consider how many rooms need to be heated’ were made, presumably targeted to the mansion-dwelling community who voted to put ‘Climate Change’ above energy security.

Green-tinged Queensland suffered a similar problem, with the situation so concerning that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) put in place a $300-per-megawatt-hour price cap.

As a result, everyone is turning to gas suppliers in a panic, demanding that gas companies ‘find gas’ and offer it at ‘low prices’ – or else? This would be after the government went out of its way to deny the gas industry in favour of their preferred ‘renewables’ mates. The gas industry is unsurprisingly reluctant to help out, considering they require $500-per-megawatt-hour to profit.

As a side note, the insists, ‘Output of oil and gas in developed nations needs to be cut by 74 per cent by 2030, with a complete phase-out by 2034.’ That is going to be tricky with renewables leaning on gas to cover the giant voids in output. Basically, if you’re still breathing, somewhat warm, and well-fed – you’re probably a burden to the climate goal.

Back in the real world, if governments and energy suppliers are begging people to turn off their toasters, it’s a good thing the Australian population ignored Labor’s demands to switch to electric vehicles or we’d be waking up to streets littered with expensive, useless cars.

The price cap has created its own problem, with the Australian Energy Regulator issuing a letter to power generators instructing them to ‘bid capacity into the market’ regardless of the cap as blackouts threaten across the country. The existence of price caps causes energy providers to withhold supply to protect revenue – which is why socialist-style intervention on market prices rarely works. The government gives ‘stuff away for free’ but businesses can’t do that or there will be nothing for tomorrow.

According to an article in The Australian, AER chair Clare Savage had this to say:

‘Recently the AER has observed that following the application of administered pricing in the NEM, generators are withdrawing available capacity from the market. This behaviour may be motivated by generators seeking to avoid the administered pricing compensation process in favour of the AEMO directions compensation process. As you know, market participants must not, by any act or omission, whether intentionally or recklessly, cause or significantly contribute to the circumstances causing a direction to be issued, without reasonable cause.’

New Energy Minister Chris Bowen has done a lot of theatrical waving of his hands, pretending that there’s ‘nothing to see here’ as the country faces an energy crisis.

‘The operator tells them there is no need to be concerned about blackouts in the immediate future,’ Bowen said, giving a speech that should never have to be made in a responsible, first-world nation. ‘Nobody should turn off any power usage that they need, that they are using for their comfort or their safety. Nobody should do that.’

When the energy grid was truly competitive, Australia had reliable, cheap, and plentiful energy. The interference of government has had disastrous consequences, with public money being tossed at ‘renewables’ to make them look more ‘profitable’ when in reality, they are propped up by taxes. Productive energy sources have been punished by severe restrictions on access, expansion, and investment. Banks have gone so far as to consider denying loans in the fossil fuel sector to keep green-themed shareholders happy.

The same people who did their best to demonise and dismantle the fossil fuel grid are now complaining about the shutdown of coal-fired plants. Well kids, this is a glimpse of the future promised by Labor, the Greens, Teals, and Liberal moderates.

There is a solution to both ‘climate woes’ and energy security in the form of nuclear energy – a technology for which Australia is uniquely placed to benefit. Labor has given a definitive ‘no’ on nuclear, almost certainly because they felt their green investment portfolio shudder in terror. The introduction of nuclear to the Australian grid erases the need for solar, wind, and battery storage – destroying profits for the ‘green economy’.

At the same time as federal Labor has been out – quite literally – begging coal-fired plants to increase their operation to stave off disaster, Western Australia Labor Premier Mark McGowan has promised to close all state-owned coal-fired plants by 2030 and gift renewables barons $4 billion in public money. He complains that the ‘glut of excess power’ produced by them is costing money – so one is left to wonder why McGowan’s idea of saving $3 billion over ten years involves spending $4 billion.

‘We’re standing at a point where to continue business as usual would lead to around $3 billion of losses by the end of the decade. Those losses either have to be covered by taxpayers or would lead to dramatically higher power bills for West Australians – while still continuing to emit higher levels of carbon emissions. Either way, it’s simply not sustainable in the long term.’

Why not just close the power stations and let the renewables sector expand on its own? Or is it not profitable without a drip attacked to the state coffers…?

No, don’t bother looking for the Liberal Party. It was former-Liberal Leader Zak Kirkup’s idea in the first place. The great news is that Western Australia doesn’t have an extension cord long enough to cross the desert, so McGowan will have nowhere to hide when it all goes horribly wrong.

All this is taking place while bored billionaires purchase coal-fired power stations for fun and shut them down unnecessarily.

The result of closing power plants is a sudden and drastic reliance on gas – of which there isn’t an infinite amount to go around. Shortages are being flagged, even if resources are expanded. Gas was meant to prop renewables up for decades, but the determination for ‘climate action right-now’ is resulting in the ridiculous culling of gas reserves which will, in turn, limit the lifespan of the renewables industry.

This is all complete madness when a few strategically placed nuclear plants could permanently solve the energy crisis with next-to-no emissions. For those who say, ‘oh nuclear is expensive!’ weren’t they telling us that ‘no expense is too much to save the world from extinction?’ We’re not told the total green price tag, but subsidies for renewables alone were set at $11.6 billion in 2021.

The answer is sitting in front of Australia, but governments, the energy industry, and mining companies have no interest in pursuing nuclear until they have dug up and sold every last dollar from other resources that are set to be devalued when the ‘Nuclear Age’ arrives.

Energy supply doesn’t care much for virtue-signalling politics or the ambitions of career politicians. It is a world of engineering absolutes, brick walls, and fail points. Reliable, stable power is essential to sustain the lives of millions of people where even short-lived blackouts pose a serious threat.

Hippy colonies can get away with a few cold nights or a failed market garden by collapsing around a campfire for a bit of weed-induced ‘Kumbaya’ followed by a sneaky trip to the local shops. When the same thing happens to a city, panic takes hold. Investors pull out. Businesses close. The elderly freeze to death.

Covid was not an emergency. Sustained blackouts and a ruined power grid is an emergency.

Any government that chooses to play politics with energy is reckless to the point of criminal. Finally (and just for fun) what happens if Australia finally gets its 100 per cent magnificent wind and solar grid backed up by battery power during the night when there’s no wind?

Uh, blackouts…




No comments: