Saturday, September 03, 2022

To fight climate change, environmentalists may have to give up a core belief

To attain their goals they may have to build things instead of obstructing things. But can they do that?

For decades, environmentalists have made their mark by stopping things. Petroleum facilities that spew toxic air pollution. Pipelines that cut across Indigenous lands. Drilling for oil and gas.

But climate change is about to change everything. To cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to zero, experts say, the country is going to have to do something environmentalists have traditionally opposed: It’s going to have to build a lot of energy infrastructure. And fast.

Right now, many roadblocks stand in the way of building wind, solar, and the transmission lines that can carry their power to city centers. And while Democrats have a bill in the works to speed that sort of permitting, most environmentalists oppose it — because it could also promote oil and gas development.

“We’re going to have to build a lot more of everything clean,” said Josh Freed, the director of climate and energy at the center-left think tank Third Way. “The United States has an infrastructure building crisis. We can no longer build anything big — let alone big and ambitious — in a reasonable time frame.”

To reach net-zero carbon emissions, according to a study by Princeton University, wind farms will have to spread across the Great Plains and the Midwest, covering an area equal to at least the states of Illinois and Indiana. Solar panels will sparkle across an area at least as large as Connecticut. And thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines will need to be built to carry all that power from where it’s generated — mostly in rural parts of the country — to urban centers far away.

And these projects need to be up and running soon. According to an analysis by the DecarbAmerica Project, solar and wind power in the U.S. will have to double in just the next eight years.

At the moment, however, a miasma of confusing regulations and local opposition have stymied many of these plans. Residents blocked project to build wind farms off the coast of New England for decades, complaining it would ruin their ocean views. A transmission line from Pennsylvania to Maryland was blocked by Pennsylvania landowners who argued that the line wouldn’t provide sufficient benefits to their state.

Now a deal between Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Senate Democratic leaders could streamline energy permitting. During negotiations over the Inflation Reduction Act, the giant health and climate spending bill that passed Congress in August, Democrats promised Manchin that they would pass a separate bill this fall, to speed up the permitting process for building energy infrastructure — both fossil fuel and clean.

Some environmental groups have blasted the deal, arguing that it would expedite a key priority of Manchin’s, the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a 300-mile pipeline that would transfer natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia — and other fossil fuel projects. “Prolonging the fossil fuel era perpetuates environmental racism, is wildly out of step with climate science, and hamstrings our nation’s ability to avert a climate disaster,” more than 650 environmental groups wrote in a letter sent to Congress in late August. Meanwhile, a group of Appalachian activists are planning a march on D.C. next week to protest the permitting reform deal and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Here's what President Biden's doing to tackle climate change
But energy experts argue that, depending on the structure of the deal, permitting reform could help the U.S. switch over to clean energy — and ultimately benefit renewables more than fossil fuels.

For example, Liza Reed, the research manager for electricity transmission at the center-right think tank Niskanen Center, argues that building a more connected electric grid is absolutely essential to cut carbon emissions. Wind and solar energy, she points out, are rarely located in the same place where power is needed. “We need to build transmission very quickly and very dramatically,” she said. “There’s no two ways about it.”

One thing that could help, Reed argues, is giving the federal government authority to approve the construction of big, high-voltage transmission lines. At the moment, power lines have to get approval from every state that they cross, including states that may not benefit much from having gigantic power lines weaving over their homes and buildings. Federal authority would allow the government to rubber-stamp transmission lines without getting into the local and state regulatory morass. (Similar authority already exists for natural gas pipelines.)

Romany Webb, a senior fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, says that law is critical to making sure that communities aren’t adversely affected by energy and pipelines. But, she added, “I do think there’s ways to streamline the NEPA process to make it work better for some of these large renewable energy projects.”

Green groups, however, still have reservations.

“Whatever the proposed project is — whether it’s a pipeline or a highway or a solar farm — it should be subject to the same commonsense review process,” Mahyar Sorour, a deputy legislative director for the Sierra Club, said in an email. “If we want these projects to move forward faster, we shouldn’t be weakening environmental laws, but investing more resources into the agencies and staff.”

It remains unclear exactly what the permitting bill will say, and whether it will pass. It needs 60 votes under Senate rules to pass, so some Republicans will have to get on board. And some Democrats may not vote for it, since any permitting reform agreement will also leave the door open to further fossil fuel extraction.

“The devil is in the details,” Freed said.

Without reform, though, many believe that the clean-energy transition will not happen at the pace the country needs.

But the shift will be a change for an environmental movement that has spent decades learning to block, not to build. It will require careful analysis of how to rapidly expand wind, solar, and even nuclear with community input.

“With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the environmental movement broadly has endorsed building,” Freed said. “Now the question is: ‘How?’”


“WEF should engage in open scientific debate with CLINTEL”

Media and social media commentators swiftly pounced on an opinion piece by Inbal Goldberger posted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on their site on Aug. 10, 2022, which proposed using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to censor harmful online misinformation, but Friends of Science Society says that’s not the most important issue. Friends of Science Society is calling on the WEF to engage in open, civil debate on their climate misinformation the old-fashioned way – in person with CLINTEL.

The WEF regularly engages in climate misinformation, says Friends of Science, noting that WEF gave Greta Thunberg a public stage and much media coverage (posted Jan. 25, 2019 and again Jan. 1, 2020) over her “I want you to panic”… “Our house is on fire” commentaries.

Greta’s comments terrified millions of children and adults worldwide, but in testimony to the US Congress on April 21, 2021, Greta stated that there is ‘no science’ behind her comment; it was just a metaphor. At no point has WEF or any of its bevy of Big Tech and media-mogul trustees stepped up to apologize for foisting fear on citizens of the world.

The WEF’s claims to be “Committed to Improving the State of the World.” It is difficult to see how scaring millions of people accomplishes that goal, says Friends of Science.

On January 20, 2020, CLINTEL, the climate intelligence think tank based in The Netherlands, sent a letter to Borge Brende, President of the WEF, calling for engagement on the issue of the claimed “climate emergency,” writing:

“Despite heated political rhetoric, we urge all world leaders to accept the reality that there is no climate emergency. There is ample time to use scientific advances to continue improving our society. Meanwhile, we should go for adaptation; it works whatever the causes [of climate change] are.”

“We also invite you to organize with us a constructive, open meeting between world-class scientists on both sides of the climate debate. Such an event complies with the sound and ancient principle that all pertinent parties should be fully heard: Audiatur et altera pars.”

To date, Friends of Science says that CLINTEL reports there has been no response.

Friends of Science and CLINTEL issued a joint video statement: “Declaration to WEF – Good News for Greta” in Jan. 2020, explaining that the fear of climate emergency came from the misuse of a scenario known as RCP 8.5.

CLINTEL has a prestigious list of climate scientists, scholars, and climate commentators of more than 1,123 signatories to the World Climate Declaration. In short, the Declaration states there is no climate emergency, that natural factors are more influential than human emissions on climate, and we do have time to adapt to climatic changes, which may be warmer or cooler.

On Dec. 24, 2021, CLINTEL also issued a letter to the President of Switzerland, concerned about the ‘host state’ status that Switzerland had conferred on the unelected, unaccountable, transnational WEF on Jan. 23, 2015. The Paris Agreement was signed that year and it appears that WEF has adopted the mission to push the [Club of Rome’s Planetary Emergency agenda.

The WEF’s 2006 Global Risks report featured oil price shock and pandemic as two serious global risks; by the 2020 report WEF had removed both from the list of risks and replaced them with climate change.

Now the world is experiencing global oil price shock, an energy crisis, and is struggling to recover from a pandemic. Millions of people face energy poverty and famine due to skewed energy investment markets, much of it driven by WEF trustees like Mark Carney demonizing essential energy.

To entice citizens into agreement on carbon taxes, Switzerland and Canada have instituted carbon rebate programs, but the evidence shows most Canadians do not get ‘free money’ as The Atlantic claimed in Jan. 2022, and that carbon taxes are a burden for no benefit.

Recent work by Dr. Roy Spencer, shows there is no likelihood that warming will exceed 1.5 ° C anyway by 2050. Carbon taxes are unnecessary and do nothing for the climate.

The WEF’s unwillingness to engage with CLINTEL in open scientific debate on climate change suggests the WEF is not acting with “moral and intellectual integrity is at the heart of everything it does” as it claims, says Friends of Science.


British families could be asked to ration their energy use when the WIND doesn't blow to avoid blackouts

Millions of Britons could be asked to limit energy use this winter to head off blackouts by avoiding using gas and electricity at peak times and turning off the lights on days when the wind doesn't blow, an energy expert has warned.

Kathryn Porter, from consultancy Watt-Logic, said it was possible households could be asked not to use energy guzzling appliances at peak hours or eat their dinner at a different time.

In the US tens of millions of people have been asked not to use washing machines, dishwashers and ovens between 2pm and 8pm because of the global energy crisis. Charging cars before 9pm is also not advised.

Away from the home, in Germany, street lights are being dimmed, traffic lights at quieter junctions are turned off, hot water and central heating is off in public buildings, monuments will no longer be lit overnight, lighting monuments overnight.

Ms Porter has said that it's 'very possible' the UK will see plans for energy rationing, despite Liz Truss absolutely ruling it out.

She told BBC’s World at One: ‘Unfortunately, as each winter goes by, the risk of blackouts is increasing because we have been replacing thermal and nuclear generation with intermittent renewables. That makes us vulnerable in times when wind output is low.

‘We have had quite low wind output in July and August...Demand is a lot higher in the winter, so if we have those weather conditions in the winter, our system is going to get very tight and that raises a risk of blackouts.’


Australia: The incorrectness of coal

He spoke too soon. It’s always a gamble going out on a limb. But when Richard Marles, then a Labor shadow minister, spoke in 2019 about the (temporary) collapse of the world market for thermal coal he didn’t have to add that ‘at one level that’s a good thing’.

Shane Wright, the economics writer who pops up in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald, also opted for a florid description: ‘coal is like candlesticks’. According to him, ‘the Candle Makers’ Union of old was wont to say 150 years ago: the light bulbs, they’ll never catch on’. So droll (and inaccurate) of him to predict the demise of coal in this way.

Now you could argue that Wright doesn’t count and Marles only a little bit, but Treasury also has it in for coal. Take the assumption from this year’s Budget delivered at the end of March – less than six months ago – that the price of thermal coal (used to generate electricity) would decline from $US320 per tonne to $US60 per tonne by the end of the September quarter 2022. (It’s currently trading close to $US400.)

You might think I have made a mistake typing these numbers. But no, in the span of just over a half a year, the Treasury expected the global price of thermal coal to fall by nearly three-quarters notwithstanding other predictions contained in the Budget that the outlook for the global economy was fairly rosy. (Precipitous declines in other commodity prices, apart from oil, were also anticipated.)

This was despite the fact that the war in the Ukraine was in full swing, the price of natural gas in Europe was skyrocketing (it had actually risen sharply before the war) and Europe was being forced to turn back to coal to maintain its output of electricity. Don’t Treasury officials read the international press? Or maybe they stopped reading after the glorious victory of the Glasgow Cop 26 and its faux commitments from some countries to get out of coal, including Germany.

There is surely an irony that Germany is now ramping up its coal-fired electricity generation – using brown coal, indeed – after it became clear that the flow of cheap natural gas from Russia could no longer be assured. The government has even reluctantly agreed to extend the lives of the last three remaining nuclear plants. That’s right, renewable energy doesn’t really cut it when a crisis emerges. Other countries to turn back to coal include Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and the UK.

Actually, it seems a lifetime ago when the climate-fest was held in Glasgow. It was only last November and Boris was still at the helm. He was flitting back and forwards to convince some uncertain world leaders of the need to sign up for the net-zero journey – sadly, including our own prime minister, Scott Morrison. (It’s not clear how many other ministerial positions he also held at the time.)

As it turned out, it was probably the peak of climate fear-mongering, with all the likely urgers there to make themselves look important and/or to snaffle more government largesse. Our own Twiggy Forrest had his own stand providing free bumf about green hydrogen to anyone who walked by. Even Greta turned up after a long train ride, although her impact is clearly waning.

One of the biggest points of contention at the conference was the call to phase out coal, which the ‘greenest’ countries supported, or phase down, a position supported by Australia, India and even the US. Rather than go away without any ‘consensus’, the final decision was unanimous agreement that (unabated) coal should be phased down and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies should be removed.

What a joke those days of verbal wrangling turned out to be! Thermal coal is now at historically high prices; metallurgical coal is even being used to generate electricity with its price sometimes lower than that of thermal coal – unheard of; and global demand for thermal coal is expected to be higher next year than this year. Demand is particularly strong in China and India.

The International Energy Agency, well-known for its lop-sided bias towards anything renewable and away from coal, has had to admit that its predictions of the early demise of coal as a source of energy have been completely wrong. The term ‘stranded asset’ is unsurprisingly absent from its more recent reports.

We have also seen the predictions of the ESG crowd go pear-shaped as coal companies announce record profits and dividends. When mining giant Anglo American decided to peel off its thermal coal division into a separate company, Thungela Resources, there were green-tinged market analysts who estimated the value of the new company at zero and firmly told shareholders to sell. The price of Thungela Resources has risen by close to 600 per cent since listing and its dividend yield is 25 per cent!

Then there’s the story of BHP exiting thermal coal – that company is particularly in thrall to the ESG crowd – only to be outwitted by the cunning executives at Glencore. By taking the price risk during the period during which the transaction was being completed, Glencore as the buyer was able to fully pay for the purchase!

One of the most alarming aspects of these recent developments is the failure of the news to reach so many of our politicians, including those who are actually in power. The state energy ministers (they are right down the political food chain) have decided that coal can have no role in ensuring the stability of the electricity grid in the future. Federal Climate Change Minister, Chris Bowen, simply doles out favours to green rent-seekers without understanding the full implications. But here’s the thing: there is breathless hypocrisy surrounding the behaviour of these politicians. The fact is that coal is propping up both the federal budget and the budgets of Queensland and New South Wales, in particular. In just the few months between this year’s budget and the end of the financial year, the bottom line of the federal budget was better by $25 billion because of higher commodity prices. The Queensland budgetary position would be dire were it not for coal royalties.

Evidently, it’s fine to bite the hand that feeds you if you are an environmentally concerned politician. No one in the mainstream media will pick you up, particularly those journalists who think that coal and candlesticks are the same.




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