Thursday, January 12, 2023

Gasping for Gas: The Risks of Relying on Electric Stoves During Blackouts

A chain of storms is hammering Northern California, and as hundreds of thousands have discovered, it’s no fun waking up in the middle of the night without electric power. That means no light, no television, no internet, no microwave oven, no automatic garage door opener, and so forth. But as some discovered, all was not lost.

Those in homes or apartments with gas stoves could light up the gas range, brew tea or coffee, heat up some soup, and even spread some warmth in the kitchen. Those few emergency comforts will disappear if regulatory zealots have their way.

Over the past few years, Yahoo News reports, “dozens of cities across the country have banned natural gas hookups in newly constructed buildings.” The new laws focus on the kitchen, where gas emissions are small, but “a proxy for a larger fight over how far efforts to curb at-home natural gas consumption in the name of fighting climate change should go.” The at-home consumption includes gas furnaces, which federal regulators are also targeting. The overall environmental benefits are a matter of debate.

When a storm shuts down power, those with electric stoves could fire up a generator, but that would require the combustion of gasoline or diesel fuel, also the target of climate-change zealots. They favor Teslas and such, but those will not be charging during a blackout. As it might be noted, during a heat wave last summer, the government of California discouraged charging electric cars. As the “rolling blackouts” of recent years confirm, the current grid is not up to the task.

As these developments show, there are no perfect solutions, only tradeoffs. The campaign to shut down gas furnaces and stoves comes from the regulatory establishment, not the people. Least likely to seek a shut-down of gas stoves are those Californians now using them during blackout emergencies. According to Capitol Public Radio, “after this atmospheric river, meteorologists predict even more storms into the next weekend.”


Fed boss says Fed should stay out of social issues like climate change

The Federal Reserve’s independence from political influence is central to its ability to battle inflation, but requires it stay out of issues like climate change that are beyond its congressionally established mandate, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday.

“Restoring price stability when inflation is high can require measures that are not popular in the short term as we raise interest rates to slow the economy. The absence of direct political control over our decisions allows us to take these necessary measures without considering short-term political factors,” Powell said in remarks to a forum on central bank independence sponsored by the Swedish central bank.

But “we should ‘stick to our knitting’ and not wander off to pursue perceived social benefits that are not tightly linked to our statutory goals and authorities,” Powell said. “Taking on new goals, however worthy, without a clear statutory mandate would undermine the case for our independence.”

Though Powell said the Fed’s regulatory powers give it a “narrow” role to ensure financial institutions “appropriately manage” the risks they face from climate change, “we are not, and will not be, a ‘climate policymaker.'”

“Without explicit congressional legislation, it would be inappropriate for us to use our monetary policy or supervisory tools to promote a greener economy or to achieve other climate-based goals,” he said. “Decisions about policies to directly address climate change should be made by the elected branches of government and thus reflect the public’s will as expressed through elections,” he told the forum in Stockholm.

But the restatement came in sharp terms as his first public remarks since the Republican Party installed one of its members as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and began selecting new chairs for the committees that oversee federal government operations including the Fed.

Powell, now in his fifth year as Fed chair, has put a high priority on building strong relationships with elected officials from both major parties, but faced criticism from some Republicans for, in their view, allowing the Fed to wander from its core responsibilities into areas like climate change and the economics of race.

While Powell’s view of the Fed’s role stands in contrast to major central banks in Europe that have integrated green economy efforts into their policymaking, it recognizes the more divided politics in the US.

To maintain authority over its core mission of managing inflation and demand, “we need to deserve it, and that means stick to that work and don’t look for broader things,” Powell said. “We shouldn’t be getting ahead of where the public is if there’s no specific mandate. In the case of the US that’s a particularly salient point.”

There’s even disagreement within the Fed over the appropriate stance on climate risks.

When the Fed recently asked for public comment about “a high-level framework for the safe and sound management of exposures to climate-related financial risks,” Fed Governor Christopher Waller said he did not support issuing guidance on the issue because while “climate change is real…I disagree with the premise that it poses a serious risk” to financial stability.

When it comes to inflation, however, Powell said it was critical the Fed retain the ability to manage as it sees fit – raising interest rates to control inflation even if that means slower growth and higher unemployment.

Powell said he felt that principle is “well understood and broadly accepted,” in the US, embodied in a federal law that charges the Fed with maintaining maximum employment and stable prices.


Safety Regulator Disavows Idea of a Federal Ban on Gas Stoves in Private Homes

After two days of protest from liberty-minded Americans angry about nanny-state overreach, the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Wednesday denied that his agency has any immediate plans to ban the sale or manufacture of gas stoves in the interest of public health.

In a brief statement, Alexander Hoehn-Saric said his agency is reviewing the health impact of gas stoves and exploring way to reduce any risks to people who use them, “but to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”

“This spring we will be asking the public to provide us with information about gas stove emissions and potential solutions for any associated risks,” he added. “This is part of our product safety mission — learning about hazards and working to make products safer.”

Mr. Hoehn-Saric was compelled to issue the statement after one of his commissioners, Richard Trumka, was quoted by Bloomberg News calling gas stoves a “hidden hazard” in American households because they emit potentially harmful pollutants in people’s homes. He said products that cannot be made safe can be “banned” by the agency.

The comments kicked off a firestorm, with some in Congress and elsewhere pledging that government agents would have to come and take their gas stoves by force. West Virginia’s conservative Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, called the idea a “recipe for disaster.”

“The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner,” he added on Twitter. “I can tell you the last thing that would ever leave my house is the gas stove that we cook on.”

Outrage about the prospect of losing gas cooktops extended beyond the halls of Congress and into kitchens everywhere. One celebrity TV chef, Andrew Gruel, went so far as to tape himself to his gas range with blue duct tape and promise to stay there “until the idea is completely eliminated from everybody’s minds.”

Defenders of the idea of a ban, such as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, reiterated the argument that the stoves are health hazards. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez went so far as to claim that the nitrogen dioxide they emit is “linked to reduced cognitive performance.”

Critics of the lawmaker quickly tracked down social media images of her using a gas stove in her own kitchen, as well as images of other prominent politicians and their spouses — including the first lady, Jill Biden, Senator Warren of Massachusetts, and Vice President Harris — laboring over gas-powered stoves in their kitchens as well.

Climate alarmists have been agitating for some time now to force Americans to give up their gas stoves in the interest of combating global warming, but Monday’s comments by the CPSC were the first indication that federal regulators were even considering the idea of banning them on health grounds.

As many as 100 cities around the country have already passed measures forbidding gas hookups in new residential construction, forcing developers to install vastly inferior electric stovetops in newer homes regardless of what their customers want.


Big Australian Solar project gobbling up cash at a fatal rate

Another Greenie fantasy

A fall out between two of the nation’s richest men has led to the abrupt implosion of the $30bn Sun Cable project, one of the world’s biggest solar and battery projects which had aimed to turbocharge Australia into a major international clean energy exporter.

Sun Cable was placed into administration on Wednesday after a dramatic scrap between its two high-profile backers – Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest.

It sets the scene for the businessmen to compete for control of the development, known as the Australia-Asia PowerLink.

The two billionaires clashed over different views on the optimal funding package and strategic vision for the project based in the Northern Territory, which would have sent power from Darwin to Singapore with a 4200km cable.

FTI Consulting were formally appointed as voluntary administrators on Wednesday.

“The appointment followed the absence of alignment with the objectives of all shareholders. Whilst funding proposals were provided, consensus on the future direction and funding structure of the company could not be achieved,” a statement from Sun Cable said.

The fallout threatens to sink one of Australia’s biggest energy projects, pitched as a vision for how the nation could move away from fossil fuels and become a major renewable energy exporter.

Sun Cable in March 2022 raised $210m of new funding to push ahead with its signature clean energy scheme – the $30bn Australia-Asia PowerLink development – with fresh funds ploughed in by the Atlassian co-founder, also the chairman of Sun Cable, and the Fortescue Metals chairman.

However, Dr Forrest’s Squadron Energy recently raised concern that Sun Cable failed to meet its Series B funding milestones and was spending cash at unsustainable rates. The project is running up to 12 months behind schedule, partly due to delays with Indonesian environmental approvals.

Squadron also raised issues with Sun Cable’s management team and may have ultimately wanted to install its own executives in place to run the huge renewable project, sources said.

Documents filed with the corporate regulator show that John Hartman, the chief executive of Dr Forrest’s private Tattarang investment group, quit the Sun Cable board in late November.

As part of ongoing funding needs for the development, Mr Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures was planning to invest an extra $60m into Sun Cable, but that proposal was not agreed to by Squadron, sources said. Squadron, for its part, held concerns over a clause within Grok’s funding proposal that would have seen the company sold or put on the market if there were further failures to meet its funding milestones.

Squadron put forward a funding proposal for a similar amount prior to Christmas but it was not accepted by the rest of the board. Both Grok and Squadron held veto rights which effectively cancelled each other’s funding deals.

It had widespread backing from the federal government and received support from Scott Morrison with Indonesia approving the route of the power project through its territorial waters.

Grok said there was little other choice for the company than the move into administration, while underlining its ongoing interest in the scheme. “In the circumstances, including where all but one shareholder agreed with the company’s funding strategy – the Board was left with no other option, but to enter into voluntary administration,” it said in a statement. “Grok remains a strong supporter of Sun Cable delivering the world’s largest solar energy infrastructure network and the Australia-Asia Power Link. We are confident Sun Cable will be an attractive investment proposition and remain at the forefront of Australia’s energy transition.”

“Voluntary administration provides the best opportunity for the company to access appropriate funding sources.”

Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Monday show that Sun Cable received a $28m cash injection on December 24. Both Squadron and Mr Cannon-Brookes’ private investment company CBC Co were involved, along with Xero founder Craig Winkler, Craig Scroggie – the chief executive of NextDC – and Eytan Lenko, the chief executive of Beyond Zero Emissions.

The same group kicked in another $26m in mid-September, the documents show, with Squadron and CBC also paying $6.2m for new shares in late October.

All of the share issues are believed to be cash calls from the $210m capital raising announced by Sun Cable in March 2022.

The solar project in the NT, which is estimated to deliver carbon emissions abatement of 8.6 million tonnes per year, will help power Darwin and Singapore.

It includes the world’s largest battery and a 4200km high-voltage cable from Darwin to Singapore, the longest in the world.

Sun Cable still needs to raise more than $30bn in debt and equity by the end of 2023 to back its plans, with the company last year appointing Macquarie, Moelis & Company and MA Financial Group as its financial advisers for the massive task.

The Australia-Asia PowerLink project will create more than 1500 jobs during construction, 350 operational jobs and 12,000 indirect jobs. It will start supplying energy to Darwin in 2026. The venture aims to send 20 gigawatts of power from the world’s largest solar farm near Tennant Creek to Darwin and would also feature a giant battery as part of the project.

Sun Cable chief executive David Griffin said the project remains “well placed” for completion. “As we have progressed our work, the demand for delivering reliable, dispatchable 24/7 renewable energy in the Northern Territory and the region has risen materially,” Mr Griffin said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“Sun Cable looks forward to developing and operating the projects to meet this demand.”




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