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Posts from — October 2011

Is Neo-Malthusianism Halloween Crazy?

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children. It has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate.’”

     – Joe Romm, quoted in Thomas Friedman, Is the Inflection Point Near?, New York Times, March 7, 2009.

“Is there any more single-minded, simple pleasure than viewing with alarm? At times it is even better than sex.”

    —Kenneth Boulding (1970), p. 160. [1]

I know…. We free-market optimists–and we ObamaCare, ObamaEnergy, etc. pessimists–are like the chap who jumps off the skyscraper and reports that everything is breezy on the way down.

But we have been jumping off buildings ever since Robert Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on Population was published in 1798. And we have been jumping off tall places regarding a variety of minerals ever since the 1960s and 1970s when Paul Ehrlich and others proclaimed the end was in sight!

Just maybe the Julian Simon school is grounded with their private property rights, free-market optimism–and the neo-Malthusians are bungee jumping with their fears of insufficiently regulated and regimented humankind.

Three Fearmongers (aka ‘smartest guys in the room’)

Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, and James Hansen, among other prominent neo-Malthusians, have made doom-and-gloom predictions about business-as-usual in an attempt to shock humanity into immediate legislative action and lifestyle changes.

Big Government and Self-Denial: what a perverted path to ‘sustainable’ living!  Is it any wonder that the Obama Administration is back on its heels on energy and climate issues with voters-qua-consumers-and-taxpayers rejecting their reasoning and conclusion?

Here are the Big Three: [Read more →]

October 31, 2011   9 Comments

Fighting for Energy Freedom (my passion for a right, winning cause)

It was five years ago that I began to become aware of energy and the importance of its role in everything. Now as a regular contributor/columnist for many online commentary sites and newspapers, as well as a regular guest on radio and TV programs, people often comment on my passion for the subject of energy. They wonder how I became so engaged in a topic few people even care about.

My newest book, my twentieth but the first in the current affairs genre, explains my passion. Energy Freedom attempts to present energy in such a way that it becomes a subject everyone is aware of, can understand, and wants to influence.

Background

I do not come from an energy, science, or public policy background. I’ve spent my life in speaking and writing either as a communicator or a trainer of communicators. When circumstances in my personal life mandated that I get a real job, I never imagined that I could be so enthusiastic about something not of my own making.

In September 2006, I accepted a position at Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE) and became Executive Director on January 1, 2007.  Back then, like most people, I knew little more about energy than putting gas in my car or flipping a switch on the wall. Since then, I’ve had some great teachers and been an eager student.

In my personal energy education, I’ve read many exhaustive tomes offering a thorough treatment on the subject. Engineers or professors wrote the books. If you want to understand the difference between a watt, horsepower, and a joule, I can recommend several books for you—but not Energy Freedom. My book is for the average American energy consumer who knows that energy costs are going up, but doesn’t understand why; and for the person who is newly politically engaged out of concern for the direction America is heading. [Read more →]

October 28, 2011   5 Comments

BEST as Bad: The Irrelevance of Richard Muller’s Vaunted Proclamation (warming vs. catastrophe in a political atmosphere)

[Ed. note: This post complements that of Ken Green earlier this week, Five Climate Questions for Richard Muller (Temperature findings begin, not end, the real debate)]

The recent announcement of the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Project by project chairman Richard Muller has caused quite a stir. True believers in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) have greeted it as the final nail in the coffin of dissent. Why? Because it concludes—take a deep breath, now—that “Global warming is real.”

Jumping to Conclusions

At the Washington Post, for example, opinion writer Eugene Robinson states:

For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there.

The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight….

[B]lowhards such as Perry, Cain and Bachmann, who, out of ignorance or perceived self-interest, are willing to play politics with the Earth’s future. (emphasis added)

The only thing more stunning and frightening than the idiocy of equating “global warming” with “CAGW” is the failure of so much not only of the public, and not only of the media, but especially of the scientific community—well, okay, the already committed, true-believer “scientific community”—to recognize (admit? expose?) the rhetorical sleight of hand.

I will put the point bluntly, if a little technically: BEST is a classic case of ignoratio elenchi, the logical fallacy of arguing for a point other than the one contended, and pretending that by arguing for the one one has answered the other. Other ways of putting ignoratio elenchiare “irrelevant conclusion” and “irrelevant thesis.” [Read more →]

October 27, 2011   16 Comments

Smart Grid Wiseup: Google and Microsoft Quietly Exit (energy efficiency vs. the hassle factor)

“I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need to be employed in dissuading them from it.”

- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1)

We all know that Google is incredibly future-oriented, and that, for all its problems, Microsoft, knows a lot about technology and markets. Why, then, did each shockthe ‘smart grid’ movement by announcing the phaseout of their home energy metering and control technologies (Microsoft’s Hohm and Google’s EnergyMeter)?

The deep meaning of this is less about technology than it is about politics.

Two PR Moments

You will learn nothing from the announcements from Google and Microsoft. Both companies’ PR departments broke the news as sanctimoniously as possible, using the language of planetary consciousness.

Google claimed that its device was really a charitable endeavor that originated in the company’s philanthropic arm. (Thank heaven for free cash.) For much of its lifetime EnergyMeter was managed by a former astronaut (honest), who said the company was “not trying to build a business model around it.”

Microsoft’s release is a contender for the record in concentrating words like sustainable, ecosystem, quality of life, climate, collaborative, etc., etc. into four fairly short paragraphs. Being Microsoft, however, it closed by touting the sustainability of its new hobby horse, the cloud, almost certain to be as insecure as Windows.

Second-hander business…. Where do-goodism reigns over bottom line discipline. Where perception is the main game. Remember Enron? Remember the wisdom of Adam Smith who saw bad results in his eighteenth-century day?

Penny-wise, Pound Foolish [Read more →]

October 26, 2011   3 Comments

Debating Greenpeace on “Green Energy”

On Thursday, October 13, 2011, I participated in a debate (on behalf of my Center for Industrial Progress) against a Greenpeace representative on the topic, “Green Energy: Economic Savior or Economic Suicide?”  Sponsored by CFACT, the event took place at the University of Texas at Austin, and was streamed on the Web. (The full debate will be produced professionally for general release, but for now a 90% complete version of the Livestream is available here. Also, my talk at Texas A&M on the same subject is available here.)
 
The debate covered a wide range of topics, including:
  • The economics of solar and wind.
  • The “green” opposition to nuclear power.
  • A free-market, individual rights approach to pollution.
  • Free-markets vs. central planning in energy.
  • The true meaning of “green energy.”
My opening statement (which was unfortunately not captured on tape) presented my take on these issues. [Read more →]

October 25, 2011   7 Comments

Five Climate Questions for Richard Muller (Temperature findings begin, not end, the real debate)

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, The Case Against Global-Warming Skepticism, California Berkeley physicist Richard A. Muller describes the results from a recent re-examination of climate records and declares the debate is finally, really, truly over.

Skepticism, Muller explains, may have been warranted before (how generous of him!), but now that the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project folks have worked over the temperature data again, there’s no more cause for skepticism about whether or not the globe has warmed.

Warming Red Herring–and Five Real Questions

Muller is right about the globe warming, but his framing of the debate is a red herring: arguments over climate change are not about whether one accepts or “denies” that the climate has warmed in recent years.

In fact, as I’ve been explaining to some colleagues and friends today, the proponents of urgent action on climate change like to conflate five separate questions into one question in order to tag their opponents as being “unscientific,” “deniers,” “flat-earthers,” etc.

Here are the five key questions that Muller and any critic of so-called climate skepticism must confront:

Q1: How has the global average temperature changed in recent history?

Q2: How much of that change is attributable to human activities, and how much to a given activity?

Q3: What can we expect to happen to the climate in the future? [Read more →]

October 24, 2011   19 Comments

MasterResource: 3Q-2011 Activity Report (million moment reached)

MasterResource, the free market energy blog, surpassed a million views last month. While not a megablog by any means, ours is a high quality, in-depth, one-post-per-day contribution to the current energy debate–and a resource for the historical record (our extensive index stands at 365).

Since its beginning in late 2008, MasterResource has published approximately 875 posts from 110 different authors. Comments from our loyal, sophisticated readership add substance to many of the in-depth posts. And we have achieved critical mass; Google an energy-policy-related term and MasterResource, and usually something will come up.

MasterResource has covered a variety of energy issues on the state, federal, and even international level. But our most active area has been the growing backlash against industrial wind turbines. MasterResource is a leading voice for citizens, environmentalists, and small-government  advocates who have united against this intrusive, wildly uneconomic, government-enabled energy form.

Our content is for the future, not only the present. We are not shrill and are wed to energy reality, not energy postmodernism (wish-it-and-it-can-happen). Future scholars will access MasterResource to understand the intellectual arguments and political discourse of the great energy debates of our time.

Major Themes

MasterResource has become the ‘go-to’ blog in a number of key areas: [Read more →]

October 21, 2011   3 Comments

“Rob Bradley at Enron” (for the record)

“Sorry to bother you with this…. Rob is obviously not a fan of renewables or the global warming issue.  Unfortunately, he works for a company that is.”

- “Rob Bradley’s Writings.” Tom White [chairman & CEO of Enron Renewables Energy Corp. ] to Ken Lay [chairman & CEO of Enron Corp.], June 8, 1998.

The Confluence, a blog advertising itself as “Democrats Putting Principle Over Party,” recently criticized a new initiative of the Institute for Energy Research, Stop the Energy Freeze. After reciting some peak-oil arguments against IER’s case for expanding access and production of domestic oil and gas resources for new jobs and greater BTUs, the post Sunday: Spreading the mess to YouTube goes after yours truly.

I also bothered to look up who was behind this Stop the Energy Freeze campaign.  It’s the Institute for Energy Research and it seems to be particularly concerned with oil that is currently off limits in the Gulf of Mexico, for some strange reason.  Maybe that’s because they’re based in Houston?  Or maybe it’s because it’s because it’s been touted by Rush Limbaugh who hasn’t met a resource (natural or human) that he hasn’t considered exploitable?

Ahhh, this little tidbit is interesting.  The co-founder and CEO of The Institute for Energy Research is some dude named Robert L. Bradley.  And HE used to work for Enron and Kenneth Lay.  You know, the Smartest Guys in the Room?  The ones whose traders used to yuck it up about how they were going to f$^& over some Granny in California by manipulating the energy market?  The company that made all of its employees invest in Enron stock in their 401Ks and then locked them out of their accounts when the price plummeted so that they lost EVERYTHING? 

Yeah, that Enron.  Bradley was the PR guy.  He’s also an adjunct “scholar” of the Cato Institute.  How charming.  Is that where he learned to deceive unsuspecting youtube viewers?  Is the liberty to make the end really justify the means ensconced in the Constitution somewhere?  Are we free to pull the wool over citizen’s eyes with bullshit?  I guess it’s the responsibility of every rugged individualist to be on his guard.

Well, I founded (not co-founded) IER, and headquarters is in Washington, D.C. (not Houston where I continue to work). And most importantly, I was a quite arguably public-policy whistleblower against “green” energy inside the company. [Read more →]

October 20, 2011   4 Comments

The Deceit of Turbine Noise Models (collateral damage from government energy forcing)

“When will the environmentalist community writ large wake up to the unintended micro consequences of their increasingly futile macro policy of forced energy transformation?”

Herkimer County, New York, is the latest location to register wind turbine noise complaints. The source? Iberdrola’s Hardscrabble wind facility (37 turbines) that went online earlier this year.

Studies are underway to determine if the project is operating outside legal sound limits, but the larger question is “Why?” Why, with over 1,300 MW of wind installed in New York today and an extensive body of evidence showing turbine noise is causing deleterious impacts on people living near the towers, was Herkimer County fooled into thinking it would be spared?

The answer is simple: Herkimer County residents were lied to.

Yes, we could use softer words to explain the situation. But given what sound experts already know about turbine noise, the time for niceties has passed.

Predicted Turbine Noise at Hardscrabble

Prior to erecting a wind facility, project owners usually engage acoustic engineers to prepare models that predict sound level increases a community can expect from an operating project at certain reference points. These engineers rely on the CADNA/A [1]software tool for their models. CADNA/A is based on ISO 9613-2, the international standard developed for sound prediction. [Read more →]

October 19, 2011   6 Comments

Perry’s Energy Speech: Part II (EPA vs. abundant energy)

“The third part of my plan is to reform the bureaucracy, in particular the EPA, so that it focuses on regional and cross-state issues, providing scientific research, as well as environmental analysis and cost-comparison studies to support state environmental organizations. We will return greater regulatory authority to the states to manage air and water quality rather than imposing one-size-fits-all federal rules.”

- Gov. Rick Perry,  Energizing American Jobs and Security, October 14, 2011.

Part I yesterday described Governor Rick Perry’s call for greater oil and gas resource access to government land to help create economic and job growth–and open-ended opportunity given technological developments.

Indeed, ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak gas’ concerns have been waylaid by reality. At a recent conference of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics in Washington, D.C., it was clear that energy economists believe that demand for petroleum will not fall around the globe for many years, decades, and possibly centuries to come.

Therefore, if we do not produce it here, production will occur by countries, such as China and Venezuela, that do not currently have the resources we do to efficiently drill for oil and take care of our beautiful planet. Moreover, many of these countries are not friendly to us and will use the funds in a way that may not be helpful for future peace and prosperity.

EPA’s Ram: The ‘Precautionary Principle’

Governor Perry is correct that individual states are better prepared to decide on public policy initiatives that reflect the needs of their citizens. Allowing for a competitive environment between states will bring about innovation and quality energy production that is beneficial to the states and the nation.

Regulations put in place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are based on the precautionary principle, which is defined at dictionary.com as follows:

In environmental matters, the theory that if the effects of a product or actions are unknown, then the product should not be used or the action should not be taken.

This better-safe-than-sorry principle, however, does not take into account the real costs, which include opportunity costs, to the economy and society. Therefore, making policy based on the precautionary principle is misguided and could do more harm than good in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing healthier outcomes for citizens. [Read more →]

October 18, 2011   6 Comments