Sunday, July 24, 2022

Liz Truss vows to end UK fracking ban

The leading candidates for the Prime Ministership of Great Britain are Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. One is an Australian, the other is an Indian

Liz Truss pledged yesterday to scrap “Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets” and lift the government’s moratorium on fracking as she pitched herself as the candidate of the Tory right to take on Rishi Sunak.

The foreign secretary said she would abandon plans to build 300,000 houses a year that have infuriated Tory MPs, arguing that it is the “wrong way to generate economic growth”.

She also suggested she would end the government’s ban on fracking, introduced by Boris Johnson, saying that it should be allowed in parts of the country where it had local consent.

Truss is trying to win over right-wing supporters of Suella Braverman, the attorney-general, before the third round of the Tory leadership contest today. She is currently in third place behind Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt and needs to secure most of Braverman’s 27 votes to remain a credible candidate to reach the final two.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph Truss said she would amend the Levelling Up Bill to replace centralised targets with tax cuts and reduced red tape in “opportunity zones” to make it easier and quicker for developers to build on brownfield land in those areas. “I want to abolish the top-down, Whitehall-inspired Stalinist housing targets,” she said. “I think that’s the wrong way to generate economic growth.”

On fracking Truss said that while she supported net zero, the current ban should be lifted. “I support the net zero objective but we need to reach net zero in a way that doesn’t harm businesses or consumers . . . I am very supportive of using gas as a transition fuel.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary and a Truss supporter, is looking at the science around fracking as part of a government review. A decision on that is likely to be one of the first things on the new prime minister’s desk.


Across the world, environmentalists leave only misery in their wake

Without a doubt, the climate-obsessed green movement is the most stupidly self-destructive force in the world today, leaving a trail of irrationality, folly and misery wherever it goes.

Consider its recent record of destroying Sri Lanka, making Western Europe needlessly vulnerable to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s energy blackmail and stoking higher energy prices in the United States that have contributed to the fastest decline in real wages in 40 years.

The greens are rapidly making up ground on the socialists as the modern world’s foremost economic and social saboteurs (and, of course, the two now work hand in hand).

If a hostile actor were to consider the best way to harm a society from within, it would unquestionably be to increase the sway of climate alarmists and other environmentalists who believe it is their righteous duty to make it harder and more expensive to power a modern economy, as well as to build and grow things.

They seek to throw the gears into reverse on the millennia-long human quest for cheaper, more abundant and more reliable sources of energy while putting new obstacles in the way of other human endeavor.

Since they are fired by a quasi-religious vision of an existential climate crisis on the verge of ending Planet Earth, they reject cost-benefit analysis, not to mention basic realism. The resulting wreckage is all around us.

Sri Lanka achieved one of the highest ESG, or environmental, social and governance, scores in the world and destroyed its economy in the process. The country banned chemical fertilizers in April 2021 as it became the world’s first all-organic country. It proved one small step ahead for environmental pieties and a giant leap backward for Sri Lankan farmers. A large proportion of land went dormant, and production of rice, tea and other crops dropped precipitously. The resulting economic calamity has led to the government’s collapse.

This is basically the Green New Deal in miniature.

Sri Lanka is a small island nation in the Indian Ocean; Germany is a powerhouse in the middle of continental Europe. But the green disease doesn’t discriminate on the basis of size or wealth.

For years, Germany pursued a policy of making itself dependent on Russian oil and (especially) gas while congratulating itself on its great environmental virtue as it closed down nuclear-power plants and ramped up renewable sources.

Berlin can’t say it wasn’t warned of the risks of this approach. Such is the faddish grip of climate orthodoxy that it blew past all the blinking red lights. Sure enough, Russia may well cut off the supply of gas this winter, at the same time renewables have proved not ready for prime time (they are too intermittent, among other technical problems that won’t be solved any time soon).

In its wisdom, Germany decided to shut down the source of energy that is clean, reliable and doesn’t require dependence on an authoritarian state hostile to the West — namely, nuclear power. It fell prey to the environmental left’s superstitious hostility to nuclear. Even now, Germany is going ahead with shuttering its last three plants. It is turning again to coal to try to fill the gap this winter, underlining its disastrous mistake in prematurely eschewing such proven sources of energy in the first place.

Here in the United States, of course, Biden pledged to “end fossil fuel” back in 2019, a promise — given our prodigious reserves of oil, gas and coal — that makes almost as much sense as Russia or Saudi Arabia pledging to do the same. Even as inflation, with energy prices leading the way, destroys Biden’s presidency, he and his supporters are determined to pursue a climate agenda that will drive up costs and create inefficiencies at home while doing next to nothing to affect global temperatures.

It makes no sense, but for the greens that’s never been a particularly important criterion.


Biden announces modest steps to fight climate's ‘clear and present danger’

President Joe Biden sought to keep his faltering climate change agenda alive Wednesday after bruising defeats in Congress and at the Supreme Court, and he vowed to take matters into his own hands as heatwave records topple in the U.S. and Europe and his climate goals drift further out of reach.

For now, those steps will be modest: Biden’s administration will clear the way for new offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, he announced during a visit at a former coal-burning power plant in Somerset, Mass. And the government will spend $2.3 billion to bolster communities' defenses against climate change and make it easier for low-income households to purchase efficient air conditioners to combat searing heat.

Those are far smaller steps than the ones he promised when he ran for the White House two years ago, when he vowed to put the U.S. at the forefront of the international effort to limit warming.

Biden framed the fight against the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet as one of his highest priorities, alongside combating the pandemic.

But those ambitions suffered a major blow last week when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) rejected plans to spend $300 billion to expand clean energy incentives. And last month, the Supreme Court erected legal obstacles to the federal government’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide from power plants, the second largest source of the greenhouse gas.

"As president, I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger. And that's what climate change is about. It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger," Biden said.

His comments come as more than 100 million Americans swelter under 100-degree temperatures and European nations face record heat. The Western U.S. is suffering from the worst megadrought in 1,200 years, drying up reservoirs and slowing the flow of the Colorado River that supplies water to tens of millions of people.

Biden was visibly sweating as he delivered his speech on a sweltering 90-plus degree afternoon in southeastern Massachusetts, the second day of a heat wave that's forced communities across the state to open cooling centers for residents and declare heat emergencies. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.) donned black baseball caps to shield themselves from the beating sun.

As he has since the campaign, Biden sought to frame his climate agenda in terms of spurring job growth in new competitive arenas of the economy. The backdrop for Wednesday’s appearance helped sent that message: Biden spoke facing the site of the shuttered Brayton Point coal power plant that's being retooled into Massachusetts' first offshore wind manufacturing facility, a dusty and rocky expanse on the shores of the Taunton River replete with towering power lines and vast warehouses in the process of being repurposed for producing wind energy.

"It's the perfect location for President Biden to talk about, to focus on climate change, because it’s the former site of a dirty coal-fired power plant that threatened not only the climate but the health of the surrounding community," Brad Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, which spearheaded the effort to shut down the old plant, said in an interview.

Biden on Wednesday proposed the first-ever offshore wind energy area across 700,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico, which the White House said would enable enough new electricity to power 3 million homes. That’s not an entirely new idea: The Interior Department already was assessing portions of the Gulf of Mexico for wind power. Biden also directed Interior to promote offshore wind in the southern- and mid-Atlantic Ocean and Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coastline.

While those steps would help bring renewable power into the grid, Biden is far from reaching his goals of achieving net-zero electricity by 2035. Fossil fuels now supply 60.8 percent of U.S. power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Hitting Biden’s zero-carbon goal becomes even harder without the subsidies included in earlier drafts of Democrats’ reconciliation package. Those provisions were the single-greatest factor needed to hit Biden’s broader climate target, an analysis by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office said.

While Manchin was the one who upended Democrats’ legislative agenda, they have also faced steadfast opposition from Republicans who contend that Biden’s plans will damage the U.S. economy — particularly the oil and gas industry that has boomed since the early years of this century. The GOP has also seized on this year’s historic rise in gasoline prices, even though that increase has been tied to a global oil market — and broader inflation trend that is hardly a U.S.-only problem.

Meanwhile, raging wildfires and record heat worsened by climate change is costing lives, denting productivity and destroying property. The White House noted 20 extreme weather and climate-related events inflicted $1 billion of damage or more last year, totaling $145 billion. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration since April has under a new program conducted 564 heat-related inspections to prevent workplace illnesses and deaths.

Yet executive action alone is unlikely to get Biden to his climate goals, which include slashing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions to half their 2005 levels by the end of this decade. That failure in turn threatens to dampen enthusiasm from the younger and progressive voters that Democrats need in this year’s midterm elections.

Climate activists and some Democratic lawmakers have urged Biden to go far bolder in taking unilateral action — for instance by declaring a climate emergency that would give him broad powers to halt fossil fuel exports, marshal clean energy production and reprogram spending to bolster climate defenses.

“The president has an ability to protect our country when our national security is threatened,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told reporters this week. “And clearly, the climate crisis is a threat to national security.”

He joined eight other senators in a Wednesday letter urging Biden to take such a step.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that a climate emergency remains on the table, though no decision is expected on that this week. A senior administration official told reporters in a call Wednesday call that Biden “is going to be very clear that since Congress is not going to act on this emergency, he will,” adding that future steps will come in the coming days and weeks.

"This is an emergency and I will I will look at it that way,” Biden said. “As president, I'll use my executive powers to combat climate crisis in the absence of congressional action."

Biden’s allies said they were willing to give the administration space to chart its next course for executive action as it emerges from the rubble of reconciliation, where Manchin’s opposition last week killed efforts to pass clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits through Congress.

“We had all been on Plan A,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for governmental affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. “It takes a minute to recalibrate.”

Despite the gridlock in Congress, and four years of regulatory rollbacks from the Trump administration, the U.S. is actually on track to meet former President Barack Obama’s goal for cutting greenhouse gas pollution — which called for reducing those emissions to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. However, those reductions aren’t anywhere steep enough to meet what climate scientists say the world needs to avoid the worst effects of climate change from taking root.

“If I were the president I would be asking my staff for a list of all of my authorities, and I would be evaluating all of them for what pieces of this challenge they could solve,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) told POLITICO.

The White House has notched some prior legislative victories and taken unilateral steps to get closer to those goals. It’s already distributing billions of dollars for clean energy demonstration and electric transportation from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, paused tariffs that raised costs on imported solar equipment and set a government-wide requirement to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 for all electricity it purchases, contracts and other services.

Biden announced two other steps Wednesday that the White House said reflected an increased willingness to go it alone on climate: It issued new guidance for a program that would allow low-income residents to more easily purchase efficient air conditioners and announced $2.3 billion for a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that helps communities bolster defenses against the effects of climate change.

But climate hawks have been dismayed by Biden’s reluctance to use executive powers to date. Biden came into office having to repair federal agencies that fractured under former President Donald Trump, who actively antagonized climate activists. Restocking the bureaucracy at key agencies like EPA have led to slower than desired progress on crafting regulations, government officials said, but the administration now has several rules in the queue for the coming year.

“There's a lot, lot, lot left to be done,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told reporters Monday.


The argument for nuclear power generation in Australia

Eleven years after the Fukushima disaster, nuclear energy is making a comeback in Japan. To mitigate possible electricity shortages in Japan’s winter, which runs from December to March, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged to have nine nuclear reactors up and running by the end of the year. It’s an ambitious target and may not be reached. But it is not as ambitious as that of Japan’s closest neighbour. China is planning on building 150 nuclear reactors over the next 15 years. That’s 10 new reactors a year, on average, at a projected cost of $636bn.

Changing geopolitical realities have forced nations to make tough decisions about their energy security. Energy security has always been paramount to national security, but since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this relationship has become more stark.

During the past four decades, countries have taken a range of approaches to energy security. Some countries’ decisions, made decades ago, are paying off in prosperity and security dividends, while other countries are suffering losses from their bad investments. The German strategy of going all-in on renewables, shutting down coal and nuclear plants, then relying on Russian gas for backup has been shown to be a catastrophic failure.

Not only has Germany’s policy sent electricity prices sky high – contributing to inflation and declining standards of living – it has made the country vulnerable to Russia’s manipulation. Its policy of relying on Russian gas has funded Russia’s war machine, which is targeting women and children in Ukraine. Yet the ultimate salt in the wound is the fact, despite Germany’s dogmatic focus on scaling up renewables, its greenhouse gas emissions still remain more than double that of their closest neighbour, France.

In 1974, following the 1973 oil crisis, French prime minister Pierre Messmer decided all France’s electricity should come from nuclear. This was a stroke of genius. Since the 1980s, France has flattened its greenhouse gas emissions while becoming the largest net exporter of power due to its low cost of generation. While other nations are telling their citizens to ration energy in winter, France exports electricity to the tune of $4.4bn a year.

One of the most perplexing aspects of Australia’s climate policy debate is the dismissive attitude towards nuclear energy of those who are most alarmed about climate change. Nuclear energy has the potential to slash emissions, but also power an advanced economy that is strategically secure.

There are, of course, legitimate risk management concerns that need to be dealt with carefully and intelligently. Nobody who advocates for nuclear energy denies this. And nuclear reactors are not cheap. They come at a significant cost and require public investment. Nevertheless, the reflexive dismissal of nuclear energy in a country that is home to 33 per cent of the world’s uranium (the world’s largest repository) reflects an ignorant parochialism that will need to be rectified if we are going to thrive in the 21st century.

Opposition to nuclear energy in Australia is based on three key arguments. The first is that nuclear plants are too expensive and take too long to build; second, that nuclear waste is radioactive and therefore bad for the environment and citizens’ health; and third, that nuclear energy is not truly renewable. Each of these claims rests on flimsy reasoning.

While it is true building nuclear plants can be extremely expensive, a 2015 study by two French economists that examined past nuclear construction in France and the US found costs can be controlled by building the same design with the same team repeatedly. This method of scaling up using the same designs and the same teams is what the US and France have done in the past, and is what China and Japan plan on doing in the future. The argument that Australia cannot do what our neighbours are doing becomes an implicit argument for our technical and managerial inferiority.

The second reason – that nuclear plants pose a risk to health and the environment – also does not stand up to scrutiny. Since the 1950s, the US has received about 20 per cent of its electricity from nuclear. The entire volume of waste this has produced could fit in a single football field to a depth of less than 10m, according to a US government website. Only a tiny percentage of that spent fuel is actually toxic, and it is stored in steel-lined concrete pools of water or in steel and concrete containers. Of course accidents can happen, and contingency plans must be made for worst-case scenarios.

Yet keep in mind that France has not yet had a serious accident that has caused significant environmental or health damage. The burning of fossil fuels is estimated to kill a million people a year from air pollution, whereas the combined loss of life from Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island is 32 people. This has led environmental researchers to conclude nuclear power is the safest way to make reliable electricity. (More people have died as a result of construction accidents installing solar panels than have ever died from nuclear accidents.)

The third argument, that nuclear power is not renewable, is simply false. France has been recycling spent nuclear fuel for decades. Seventeen per cent of France’s electricity comes from recycled nuclear fuel.

Tanya Plibersek this week told the National Press Club in relation to climate change: “If we continue on the trajectory we are on, the precious places, landscapes, animals and plants that we think of when we think of home, may not be here for our kids and grandkids.” In light of this, a smart country would invest in the safest and most reliable clean energy known to man. The models already exist. We just have to look to our allies of France, Japan, and the US for guidance. While some will argue that it is too late, we should keep in mind the wisdom of an ancient Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

RE - “Across The World Environmentalists Leave Only Misery In Their Wake”