Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Biden's ESG Investment Rules Threaten Your Retirement Savings

President Joe Biden's Labor Department recently announced a new rule that will permit money managers to play politics with trillions of dollars of people's retirement savings.

The administration is pushing environmental, social and governance investing, which allows retirement fund managers to select stocks of companies based on their positions on social and environmental issues.

Put simply, retirement savings will be used as leverage to force companies to reduce their carbon emissions and establish racial and gender quotas and other social justice fads completely unrelated to securing a high return on workers' lifetime savings.

For example, to reduce greenhouse gases, money managers have divested in traditional oil and gas companies such as Exxon or Chevron. How has that worked out so far? Last year, these were two of the highest-performing stocks.

Socially conscious investing has been around for decades. I have no problem with individual shareholders choosing stocks that comport with their personal values. I have friends, for example, who refuse to invest in Starbucks because the coffee company is fighting unionization by employees. Fine. It's a free country.

But it's an entirely different matter when trillion-dollar investment and retirement funds such as BlackRock inject their own biases into the way they invest people's savings without their knowledge or consent.

It's even worse when these biases rob investors of a high rate of return on their nest eggs.

Terrence Keeley, a former executive at BlackRock, blew the whistle on this scam in the Wall Street Journal by noting that since 2017, when the ESG fad took hold, these funds have had an annual rate of return of 6.3% -- versus 8.9% for the stock market as a whole. Investors lost 2.6% per year on their retirement funds. There goes the down payment on that retirement home in Arizona or Florida.

What is insidious about the new Biden administration ESG rules is that they permit and even tacitly encourage portfolio managers at firms such as BlackRock to violate their fiduciary duty to their clients by allowing ESG factors to trump sound investment decisions. Federal regulators are supposed to be ensuring the soundness of retirement funds, not shrinking them.

To make matters worse, researchers at Columbia University and the London School of Economics found ESG funds may not even be achieving their goals. The study compared the ESG records of American companies in 147 ESG fund portfolios to ones in over 2,000 non-ESG portfolios and found that the ESG companies were often worse when it came to labor and environmental law compliance.

The good news is that there is a backlash emerging against ESG. Late last year, one of the largest money managers, Vanguard, wisely announced it was withdrawing from the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, a major climate change alliance.

Going forward, ESG investment policies should be illegal unless individual investors check the box to have their money invested in such politically motivated investments.

By the way, victims of the law policies are often unionized workers -- America's truckers, factory workers and teachers -- whose lifetime savings are put at risk.

Bravo to Vanguard for pulling out of the ESG scam. If you've invested your money with BlackRock or State Street, you might want to ask why they haven't done the same.


Skyscrapers in the sea: are they killing our whales?

Offshore wind turbines have a growing list of serious problems undermining their future sustainability, but few things look worse for environmental PR than dead whales.

A humpback whale carcass recently washed up on the beach at Brigantine near Atlantic City, sparking concern over the preliminary work being done for huge offshore wind farms. It was the seventh inconvenient dead whale in a month around the New Jersey and New York areas. While whales do wash up from time to time, seven in a short period has caused concern.

Environmental groups, no doubt panicked about their two favourite projects potentially murdering each other, have stepped up and said concerns regarding the wind farm construction are ‘unfounded and premature’.

Meanwhile, the Marine Mammal Stranding Centre at Brigantine is carrying out a postmortem on the remains. While it was noted that some of the whales looked as though they had been hit by vessels, it is unclear whether their external injuries happened before or after death.

Political panic about the ‘climate crisis’ is routinely used as a justification for corporate behaviour that would otherwise be scorned. An environmental group in New Jersey went so far as to say:

‘The climate crisis demands that we quickly develop renewable energy, and offshore wind is critically important for New Jersey to reach the state’s economic development and environmental justice goals.’

Wind farms (and whatever critical damage they may cause to marine environments around the world) are considered excusable because they are marketed as the only way to avert planetary catastrophe – which is not true. Nuclear energy has long been recognised as a better solution, environmentally speaking.

What is often forgotten about wind turbines is that they are essentially steel skyscrapers, fitted with blades, and affixed to the ocean floor (which is damaged in the process). These ‘cities’ are encroaching on the ocean and carpeting the shoreline, creating constant noise pollution in a sensitive environment full of creatures that use sound to survive.

The end result is a matrix of spinning blades on the surface of the water, disrupting air patterns and massacring marine bird life. Studies on bird behaviour came to the conclusion that wind farms represent lost territory, with many birds choosing to abandon the area entirely. As for how large wind turbines are getting, the tallest offshore wind turbine is GE’s Haliade-X standing at 260 metres – or roughly a 70-storey building.

A group of residents around the New Jersey site where the whales keep washing up have demanded a federal investigation into the deaths which are suspected to be linked to ocean floor scouting activity.

‘We should suspend all work related to offshore wind development until we can determine the cause of death of these whales, some of which are endangered. The work related to offshore wind projects is the primary difference in our waters, and it’s hard to believe that the death of whales on our beaches is just a coincidence,’ said Republican Senator Vince Polistina.

According to

‘The Clean Ocean Action environmental group said such site work typically involves exploring the ocean floor using focused pulses of low-frequency sound in the same frequency that whales hear and communicate, which could potentially harm or disorient the animals.’


‘At a news conference Monday in Atlantic City, the groups calling on Biden to probe the deaths said offshore wind developers have applied for authorisation to harass or harm as many as 157,000 marine mammals off the two states.

‘NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) said 11 such applications are active in the area but involve non-serious injuries and harassment of marine animals, not killing them.

‘“NOAA Fisheries has not authorised, or proposed to authorise, mortality or serious injury for any wind-related action,” agency spokesperson Lauren Gaches said.’

It’s not much of a leap to look toward the wind farms as a possible cause of whale deaths. There have been many studies, particularly in Europe related to North Sea wind farms, about the impact that these forests of steel have on marine life.

In 2017, three minke whales washed up on the UK coast, apparently distressed by the offshore wind farm. It was argued that the sonar communication between the whales was being confused by the turbines.

A 2006 report Effects of offshore wind farm noise on marine mammals and fish, says:

‘McCauley et al. (2006) found strong behavioural reactions in humpback whales to airgun sounds at a received broad-band level of 172-180 dBp-p (duration = 60 ms; frequency range = 0.1 – 2 kHz). This would correspond roughly to a threshold of 166 dB0-p. If we take the broadband value of the pile-driving noise (see Table 6; value ~ 228 dB0-p for 1.5 m piles and ~ 238 dB0-p for larger piles) and calculate transmission loss to be 15 log (r) – we arrive at a 60 km radius for behavioural reaction.’

The report also warned that the noise related to pole-driving for wind turbine bases could result in permanent hearing damage to various whale species and beaching events. Whales are known to be able to detect the operational noises of wind farms over very large distances. With the oceans filling up with wind farms, humans could be driving marine life insane – like trying to live in an apartment underneath a noisy neighbour.

A 2021 study into Taiwan’s ‘Thousand wind turbines project’ in the Taiwan Strait says:

‘The offshore wind farm life-cycle includes planning, construction, installation, operation maintenance, and decommissioning. The noise and vibrations generated by offshore wind turbines during the construction and operation phase have recently been found to negatively impact hearing sensitivity and cause behavioural changes in numerous marine organisms even at ranges many kilometres distance from the wind farm.’

While the noise is most extreme during the construction phase, the operational continuous low-frequency noise irritates marine life. In particular, this study warned about the danger posed to chorusing fish who may struggle to attract mates, spawn, communicate, or function under such condition resulting in ‘cascade effects on behavioural and ecological processes’.

Offshore wind farms have a similar problem to their onshore cousins, with residents and farm animals living near turbines complaining about low-frequency noises that eventually drive people crazy.

A recent case against a wind farm in Victoria was settled in favour of residents who complained about not being able to sleep due to noise from a nearby wind farm. A 2021 study, Effects of low-frequency noise from wind turbines on heart rate variability in healthy individuals, said that low frequency exposure ‘has been found to cause a variety of health conditions’ and that ‘exposure to LFN from wind turbines results in headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, dizziness, tinnitus, aural pain, sleep disturbances, and annoyance’ while it also ‘may cause increased risk of epilepsy, cardiovascular effects, and coronary artery disease’.

In order to ‘save the planet’, environmental movements are in danger of making it less livable. At the very least, we should stop allowing Net Zero and renewables industries to use the threat of apocalypse to justify damage to the environment. This ‘for the greater good’ mentality might very well destroy our oceans.


Climate Activism Isn't About the Planet. It's About the Boredom of the Bourgeoisie

The downfall of capitalism will not come from the uprising of an impoverished working class but from the sabotage of a bored upper class. This was the view of the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942. Schumpeter believed that at some point in the future, an educated elite would have nothing left to struggle for and will instead start to struggle against the very system that they themselves live in.

Nothing makes me think Schumpeter was right like the contemporary climate movement and its acolytes. The Green movement is not a reflection of planetary crisis as so many in media and culture like to depict it, but rather, a crisis of meaning for the affluent.

Take for example a recent interview with Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich on CBS's 60 Minutes. Ehrlich is most famous for his career as a professional doom monger. His first major book, The Population Bomb, gave us timelessly wrong predictions, including that by the 1980s, hundreds of millions of people would starve to death and it went downhill from there. Ehrlich assured us that England would no longer exist in the year 2000, that even modern fertilizers would not enable us to feed the world, and that thermonuclear power was just around the corner.

Ehrlich, who recently turned 90, is in the lucky position to have witnessed the complete failure of all his predictions—only to double down on them in his 60 Minutes interview Ehrlich has been wrong on every public policy issue he pontificated on for almost 60 years, yet the mainstream media still treat him like a modern oracle.


The best answer to this question comes courtesy of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who in 2019 famously said that, "I think that there's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually and semantically correct than about being morally right." In other words, no matter what nonsense one spews, as long as it is "morally right," it does not matter what the facts show.

Like the prophet of any religion, Ehrlich is not there to explain the world but to reinforce the upper class's favorite worldview of the imminent end of the world, something that can only be prevented if we fundamentally change the way we live.

Of course, by "we," they actually mean "you." It's not the Tesla driving AOC or the jet-setting Stanford professor Ehrlich who will adapt their lifestyles, but the rubes of the working- and middle-class who supposedly eat too much meat, drive too many miles on gas-guzzling cars, or even book the occasional flight to go on vacation.

This was perfectly embodied by climate czar and millionaire John Kerry who took his family's private jet to attend a climate change conference in Iceland in 2019. Asked by journalists how to square his climate activism with the use of private planes, he seemed befuddled; after all, Kerry explained, "it is the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle" against climate change.

Even supposed grass-roots movements like "Just Stop Oil" or "Last Generation" (of "tomato soup on paintings" fame) are in fact funded by millionaires, like Aileen Getty, the granddaughter of legendary oil-tycoon Jean Paul Getty, and the Climate Emergency Fund.

Just like Kerry, Ehrlich, and these other groups are not really interested in solving the problem of climate change—for example, promoting research in technologies like nuclear energy, carbon capture technologies, and means of adaptation. Instead, they wish to elevate their struggle to an ersatz-religion that allows them to simultaneously enjoy their wealth and lecture the rest of the world from a position of moral superiority.

They are pouring money into those efforts, as the German journalist Axel Bojanowski pointed out, to a degree that would make the oil lobby blush. At the "Climate Action Summit" in 2018, two dozen billionaire-backed foundations pledged 4 billion dollars for climate-change lobbying. Some of them, like the Hewlett Foundation, are directly funding journalists at the Associated Press for "climate reporting," while foundations associated with the Packard and Rockefeller families have been backing the journalistic endeavor "Covering Climate Now," which "collaborates with journalists and newsrooms to produce more informed and urgent climate stories" and is financing hundreds of media outlets.

One would assume that a journalistic class that constantly prides itself on speaking truth to power would object to talking money from billionaires to promote their peculiar interests, but the opposite is the case. And it makes perfect sense, since the contemporary media is ideologically in the same camp as the billionaire class; they enjoy lecturing the rest of society just as much as Ehrlich and his acolytes.

Contrary to the climate extremists and their virtue signals, the world they are trying to create would be devastating for the poorest people on the planet. The elimination of poverty and the improvement of living conditions is only made possible through access to energy in all forms and the petrochemical processes enabled by fossil fuels—the production of fertilizers for food and plastics needed in medical equipment.

"Just stopping oil" wouldn't stop climate change as swiftly as it would human life. To add insult to injury, this activism seems to have no shred of compassion for all the human suffering caused by their pet projects, from child-labor in cobalt mines (needed for batteries) in the Congo to forced labor in the PV production process in China, to the environmental damage caused by lithium mining in Chile.

This isn't about the planet. It's about the boredom of the bourgeoisie. And they don't care who has to pay to alleviate it.


The green mining boom is as gritty and dirty as every other boom

Chris Bowen’s ambition to turn Australia into a renewable energy export powerhouse stalled last week when the giant Sun Cable Australia-Asia PowerLink entered voluntary liquidation.

It seems that exporting rays of sunlight to Singapore is as difficult as it sounds. Writing a convincing business plan to install millions of solar panels in the Northern Territory, capturing their intermittent output in giant batteries and sending this through thousands of kilometres of underwater cables is a formidable challenge, even if it’s backed by two renewable energy devotees with very deep pockets.

Australia’s best hope of cashing in on the global clean-energy boom stems not from the thought bubble of a hirsute software entrepreneur, but from the sweat and genius of its mining engineers. Kalgoorlie is at the centre of the so-called green mining boom. It is fast becoming the Dallas of clean energy by doing what it does best: digging up dirt, extracting minerals and sending them to market. The WA outback is to lithium-ion batteries what Texas is to oil. It is rich in deposits of lithium, cobalt, nickel and rare earth elements for which global demand is insatiable.

Finding the half tonne of minerals contained in a Tesla battery requires digging up 250 tonnes of dirt, which is good news for a town that makes its money that way. Global car manufacturers have been competing to secure deals with Australian lithium miners. Last July, for example, Ford Motor Co bought up a third of Liontown Resources’ production and threw in a $300m loan facility to expand Kathleen Valley mine, 350km north of Kalgoorlie.

The love for electric vehicles, however, like the love of sausages, is severely tested by seeing how the object of one’s affection is made. The green mining boom is as gritty and dirty as every other boom that has graced the WA goldfields region since the discovery of gold in 1893. Surrounding roads are lined with road trains hauling ore, giant earth movers, chemicals and explosives. Massive new creators are transforming the natural landscape, but this time the wilderness campaigners don’t seem particularly bothered.

The new green job opportunities we have been frequently promised are as dirty and sweaty as the old ones. Ardea Resources plans to employ 500 people over the 25-year life of its Kalgoorlie Nickel Project’s integrated nickel manganese cobalt battery material refinery hub, assisted by $119m in investment by the former federal Coalition government. They will be driving a fleet of 120-tonne excavators and 90-tonne trucks at 13 open-cut sites at Goongarrie Hill, 80km from Kalgoorlie. They will process ore in high-pressure acid-leached autoclaves. The resulting discharge will be filtered and the solids dry-stacked.

This energy-intensive, chemical-thirsty and land-hungry process adds to the substantial carbon debt that is attached to every electric vehicle. If the unrefined ingredients of a single EV battery were to be transported by train to Esperance, they would fill at least four wagons. Figures produced by car manufacturers show an electric vehicle must be driven for approximately 100,000km before its overall emissions are lower than an equivalent diesel or petrol vehicle.

These material realities of the imagined transition to a green economy are discounted by the renewable energy lobby. As US policy analyst Mark P. Mills bluntly points out, no energy system is actually “renewable” since all machines require the continual mining and processing of millions of tonnes of primary materials and the disposal of hardware that inevitably wears out.

Mills estimates that compared with hydrocarbons, the machines to produce renewable energy require a 10-fold increase in the quantities of materials extracted and processed to produce the same amount of energy.

Mills calculates that by 2050 the quantity of worn-out solar panels will constitute double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste together with more than three million tonnes a year of un-recyclable plastics from worn-out wind turbine blades. By 2030, more than 10 million tonnes per year of batteries will become garbage.

The failure to offset the costs against the supposed environmental benefits of renewable energy is part of the dodgy accounting clean-energy advocates would like us to ignore. They turn a blind eye to the 8000 tonnes of steel required to generate a terawatt of electricity with solar panels. They look the other way while 8000 tonnes of concrete are delivered by a conga-line of trucks and poured into the ground to support wind turbines with the same capacity. Coal, gas and nuclear require something less than a tenth of those basic raw materials to generate the same amount of power.

The truth seldom acknowledged by advocates of renewable energy is that reducing dependence on hydrocarbons by shifting to wind, solar and batteries alone will dramatically increase our dependence on minerals. The assumed benefits of decarbonising the electricity grid must be offset against corresponding increases in mining and processing.

In 2005, the mining sector produced 9 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020 it was 20 per cent. While the sector has been making considerable strides in reducing emissions, there is no scalable technology available to achieve the massive gains a target of net zero by 2050 requires.

The task will be even harder if we want to bring more of the processing onshore, as we must if we are to avoid increasing our energy dependence on China, currently by far the world’s biggest processor of lithium and other critical minerals.




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