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Posts from — October 2012

Halloween: Neo-Malthusian Day

“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]

Are free-market optimists the dumb ones who jump off tall buildings and report that everything is fine, even breezy, on the way down? Or are those who fear, rant, and make this analogy bungee-jumping with reality?

The optimists have been jumping off buildings ever since Robert Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on Population was published in 1798–and not hitting the ground. More specifically, many in the Julian Simon camp have been jumping in regard to a variety of minerals ever since the 1960s and 1970s when Paul Ehrlich, The Club of Rome, etc. proclaimed the end was in sight.

Just maybe the doomslayers are well grounded with their trust in private property rights and the market process, including “creative destruction” where the better can replace the good. And maybe the neo-Malthusians are lost in a Haunted House with their (feel-good?) fears are joined by dreams of righting under-regulated, under-regimented humankind.

Three ‘Fearmongers’

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. [Read more →]

October 31, 2012   4 Comments

Fractured Fairy Tales: Why Not Liberate Energy Technology for the 100%?

The anti-industrial “green” movement, which once played nice with natural gas, is at war against hydraulic fracturing (fracing). Peak gas fears may be gone, and parasitic wind energy would crash without gas-fired generation to fill in, but an anti-energy agenda rules. What should be good news is parlayed into bad by the enemies of modernism.

Technology Jump–Societal Benefits

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have boosted shale gas production from zero a few years ago to 10% of all U.S. energy supplies in 2012, observes energy analyst Daniel Yergin. Fracing has also increased U.S. oil production 25% since 2008 – almost all on state and private lands, and in the face of more federal land and resource withdrawals, permitting delays and declining public land production.

In the process, the fracing revolution created 1.7 million jobs in oil fields, equipment manufacturing, legal and information technology services, and other sectors. It will generate over $60 billion this year in state and federal tax and royalty revenues, reduce America’s oil import bill by $75 billion, and save us $100 billion in imported liquefied natural gas, concludes a new IMF Global Insight analysis. [Read more →]

October 30, 2012   7 Comments

U.S. Climate-Change Impacts: A Peer-Review True-Up (Cato Institute study irks alarmists)

The Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Science (which I am part of) will soon release the final version of its major report examining the potential impacts of climate change in the United States.

Addendum: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States grew from our desire to show how the government report, after which the Cato report was modeled, could have/should have looked if the original scientists involved had included a more thorough (less narrow) review of the scientific literature and had not been obviously predisposed towards climate-change doom-and-gloom.

Cato’s “Addendum” title draws attention to the fact that the original 2009 report from the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program (USGCRP) was incomplete and insufficient on the day it was published–and is out-of-date given peer-review studies of the last several years. So our report includes both important, new scientific results and relevant scientific research that was overlooked or ignored in the original document.

In general, the Cato report, while pointing out that the earth’s temperature is rising and that human activities play a role, paints a more modest picture of climate change and its effects in the U.S. and emphasizes our adaptive capacity to handle a large amount of change in virtually all aspects of society. The overall tone of the Cato report is an optimistic one—a stark contrast to the pessimism that pervades the USGCRP report.

USGCRP Authors React

The Cato report has drawn ire both from climate-change alarmists , as well as from a subset of the group of scientists which authored the original USGCRP report. This author subset released a statement airing their discontent in which they note (those who signed the group statement make up barely a third of the original USGCRP author team): [Read more →]

October 29, 2012   10 Comments

Hydraulic Fracturing: A Threat to Public Health? (Earthworks vs. the scientific method)

A new report from the environmental group Earthworks suggests that shale gas development, including hydraulic fracturing, “risks public health” in the state of Pennsylvania. In addition to the numerous problems with the report itself, a larger issue is passing anecdotal evidence off as hard science.

This trick has clearly emerged among opponents as a way to “counter” what most would consider a conclusive body of evidence confirming the safety of developing oil and natural gas from shale.

Study Problems

Uni Blake, a toxicologist who studies health issues relating to shale development, has fleshed out the main problem with Earthworks’ latest report (which could also be applied to a Cornell veterinarians’study” from earlier this year): findings of a subjective nature that rely on individuals’ recollections of symptoms. According to Blake, such “should not be allowed to take the place of quantitative measures and physical findings.”

Blake also identifies another significant problem with studies that rely on anecdotal evidence: confirmation bias. Organizations like Earthworks and researchers at Cornell (funded by anti-shale groups, including the Park Foundation) have a vested interest in painting oil and natural gas development in the worst possible light. Thus, they will “seek out information that confirms what they already believe, want to believe or want to avoid,” according to Blake – which in this case means talking to individuals who may be predisposed to provide negative feedback about development. [Read more →]

October 26, 2012   10 Comments

Libertarian Party: Economic Freedom, Energy, and the Environment (Romney/Ryan, are you listening?)

“While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.”

- Libertarian Party Platform (2012)

While Romney/Ryan haven taken a lead in many polls over Obama/Biden, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is polling well ahead of Green Party candidate Jill Stein for third place. If you add the Libertarians to the Republicans, the majority widens against the Democrats and Greens. Greater economic and energy freedom anyone?

Today’s post examines the Libertarian Party platform on economic liberty, energy, and the environment. Next week, the Green Party’s Green New Deal will be studied.

The LP platform begins with this statement on economic liberty:

Libertarians want all members of society to have abundant opportunities to achieve economic success. A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.

And then speaks to property and contract rights: [Read more →]

October 25, 2012   4 Comments

Twenty Bad Things About Wind Energy, and Three Reasons Why

Editor note: This is an updated version of a previous post at MasterResource: “Wind Spin: Misdirection and Fluff by a Taxpayer-enabled Industry” which was itself an update of Fifteen Bad Things About Wind Energy, and Three Reasons Why,” one of the two most read posts in the history of MasterResource.

Trying to pin down the arguments of wind promoters is a bit like trying to grab a greased balloon. Just when you think you’ve got a handle, it morphs into a different shape and escapes your grasp. Let’s take a quick highlight review of how things have evolved with wind merchandising.

1 – Wind energy was abandoned well over a hundred years ago, as even in the late 1800s it was totally inconsistent with our burgeoning, more modern needs for power. When we throw the switch, we expect that the lights will go on – 100% of the time. It’s not possible for wind energy, by itself, to EVER do this, which is one of the main reasons it was relegated to the dust bin of antiquated technologies (along with such other inadequate energy sources as horse and oxen power).

2 – Fast forward to several years ago. With politicians being convinced that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) was an imminent catastrophic threat, lobbyists launched campaigns to favor anything that would purportedly reduce carbon dioxide. This was the marketing opportunity that the wind energy business needed. Wind energy was resurrected from the dust bin of power sources, as its promoters pushed the fact that wind turbines did not produce CO2 while generating electricity.

3 – Of course, just that by itself is not significant, so the original wind development lobbyists then made the case for a quantum leap: that by adding wind turbines to the grid we could significantly reduce CO2 from those “dirty” fossil fuel electrical sources (especially coal). This argument became the basis for many states implementing a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) or Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – which mandated that the state’s utilities use (or purchase) a prescribed amount of wind energy (“renewables”), by a set date.

Why was a mandate necessary? [Read more →]

October 24, 2012   25 Comments

Heritage Foundation List of Failing or At-Risk Taxpayer Energy Ventures (34 companies, $7.5 billion, and counting)

The Heritage Foundation (founded 1980) is a think-tank leader in the current debate over energy policy and related environmental issues. Heritage’s energy worldview is stated at their website:

Energy and environmental policy is a national priority. Lawmakers should implement a long-term plan that allows free markets to balance supply and demand, ensures reliable and competitively priced energy for the future, and creates incentives for responsible stewardship of the nation’s resources and environment.

A recent report, “President Obama’s Taxpayer-Based Green Energy Failures,” lists 34 examples of “faltering or bankrupt green-energy companies” (with * denoting companies that have filed for bankruptcy). The at-risk total is approximately $7.5 billion, of which $1.6  billion is in receivership.

The numbers will only get higher. Yesterday, it was reported that the Solyndra loss could be $849 million (not $535 million). And there might be a rush after the election with or without an extension of the Production Tax Credit.

Here is the Heritage Foundation list: [Read more →]

October 23, 2012   5 Comments

Anti-Oil Sands: Perverse Ethics in the Name of the Environment

[Ed. note: An important front in the energy-policy debate concerns the moral case for rich, dense, plentiful, reliable energy that is handmaiden to industrial society. In addition to the post below, see the contributions of Alex Epstein at this site.]

The duplicity and hypocrisy of environmental pressure groups seem to be matched only by their consummate skill at manipulating public opinion, amassing political power, securing taxpayer-funded government grants, and persuading people to send them money and invest in “ethical” stock funds.

In the annals of “green” campaigns, those against biotechnology, DDT and Alar are especially prominent. To those we should now add the well-orchestrated campaigns against Canadian oil sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Background

Oil has been seeping out of Northern Alberta soils and river banks for millennia. Native Americans used the bitumen to waterproof canoes, early explorers smelled and wrote about it, and “entrepreneurs” used it in “mineral waters” and “medicinal elixirs.”

Today, increasingly high-tech operations are extracting the precious hydrocarbons to fuel modern living standards in Canada and the United States. Enormous excavator/loading shovels and trucks used in open pits during the early years are giving way to drilling rigs, steam injection, electric heaters, pipes and other technologies to penetrate, liquefy and extract the petroleum.

The new techniques impact far less land surface, use and recycle brackish water, and emit fewer air pollutants and (plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide every year. Water use for Alberta oil extraction is a tiny fraction of what’s needed to grow corn and convert it into ethanol that gets a third less mileage per gallon than gasoline. [Read more →]

October 22, 2012   3 Comments

Presidential Advice: Sea-Level Rise a Yawner

“My best advice to both candidates is to just leave the issue alone. Sea-level rise does not represent a national threat, and trying to do something about it through our energy policy would cause hardship without a discernible impact along our coasts.”

With the final presidential debate set for October 22 in Boca Raton, a group of Florida “city and county officials and scientists,” with help from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), have sent each candidate an open letter asking them to “address this issue” of sea level rise while they are in campaigning and debating in Florida.

This publicity play for climate crusaders will probably not work because …. facts are facts. There just isn’t much there to get away from real, here-and-now issues that have otherwise dominated most of the debates.

Prior to the first presidential debate, I offered some specific advice to the candidates on a broad range of climate change issues on the off chance that the topic may come up in some form during their first debate (it didn’t). This time around, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look a bit more deeply into the specific topic of sea level rise and anthropogenic climate change. So, in case either candidate wants to “address” the issue, they’ll have the proper background to do so intelligently.

Background

In fact, the issue of sea level rise has already made a cameo appearance in the campaingn. [Read more →]

October 19, 2012   No Comments

Thomas Edison and the Electric Vehicle (chapter 1 of EV’s Chapter 11)

“When government tries to pick losers and winners, it typically picks losers. Why? Because in a free market, consumers pick winners to leave the losers for government.”

- R. Bradley, Electric Car Verdict: Another Government-Subsidized Bust, September 26, 2012.

In Edison to Enron: Energy Markets and Political Strategies, I discussed some history regarding electric vehicles that has become pertinent given the bankruptcy this week of battery-maker A123 Systems.

The Wall Street Journal reported on this failure with the pull quote: “Obama’s green energy industrial policy turns up in Chapter 11.” Energy physicist Mark Mills wrote in Forbes: “A123 Bites the Dust Because They Forgot Their ABCs.”

Here is some history behind the rise, fall, fall, and fall of electric vehicles from Edison to Enron. Previously at MasterResource, the conversation between Thomas Edison and a young Henry Ford in 1896 was recounted. (Edison told Ford: “Your car is self-contained—carries its own power plant—no fire, no boiler, no smoke and no steam. You have the thing. Keep at it.”)

Here is some more history. [Read more →]

October 18, 2012   6 Comments