Posts from — December 2012
“More than 7,000 environmental NGO activists attended the Doha confab … won’t forget who sent them…. They and the official delegates will be there [next time] for specific objectives: more money, more power, more control.”
The eighteenth Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP-18) has ended. It was the latest chapter in the interminable negotiations over wealth redistribution and control of energy use and economic growth – in the name of preventing “dangerous manmade global warming.” Next year in Warsaw!
For people who believe humans can prevent “catastrophic climate change” by adjusting atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by a few parts per million – or are determined to crave control of “destructive” fossil fuels and “unsustainable” economic systems – Doha was a failure.
Only 37 of 194 nations signed the treaty that replaces the Kyoto Protocol, which expires December 31 – and several countries may withdraw their consent. That means the new agreement is legally non-binding and covers only at best 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
While the European Union joined in and remains committed to “carbon trading” (making former UNFCC chair Yvo DeBoer happy in his new role as a carbon trader, á la Al Gore), the United States, Brazil, Russia, India, China, Canada, Japan and other major emitters refused to sign, and the new treaty sets no binding emission limits. Atmospheric CO2 levels will thus continue to climb – and climate campaigners will remain distraught over allegedly disastrous weather events, imminent habitat devastation, species extinctions, injustice for the world’s poor, and the disappearance of island nations beneath the waves.
For those who say computer models are meaningless, climate change and weather extremes are natural, and economic growth should be sustained to lift more billions out of poverty – Doha represents a partial success. Few nations signed the treaty, even the Obama Administration did not commit to it, the document is not binding, and countless billions of dollars will be available for continued economic development and disaster relief – instead of being squandered on fruitless attempts to control Earth’s infinitely complex climate and weather. [Read more →]
December 31, 2012 3 Comments
One of the most hilarious – if not tragic – events that we as Americans witness is when Hollywood attempts to “inform” the public about energy issues, which often takes the form of fanatical opposition to oil and natural gas development.
During a staged protest against the Keystone XL pipeline this past summer, for example, Daryl Hannah and Margot Kidder were arrested while voicing their disapproval of U.S. infrastructure development. The protest also featured a large, inflatable black tube that was intended to represent the pipeline, although none of the protestors – including Hannah and Kidder – were able to explain the fact that petrochemicals are used to produce both the plastic and the paints used throughout the event.
The reason these events are so laughably absurd is that, in addition to the rank hypocrisy, Hollywood “stars” are attempting to drive the public debate on complex engineering processes, about which they have little to no actual expertise. Instead, the celebrity of their names is leveraged to secure headlines, and the public is left with the impression that there are significant technical concerns – all based on the words and deeds of multi-millionaire actors and actresses.
To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with acting or making films. We all love to go to the movies, and then argue at dinner afterwards about which of the previews were the best. And certainly no one is suggesting these individuals don’t have a right to protest. But we should all be concerned that the fact-based conclusions of engineers, geologists, and other technical experts can all be wiped away by what’s essentially a loudest-voice-wins mentality.
December 28, 2012 2 Comments
Yesterday’s post presented a series of quotations on why a global agreement to ration the most utilitarian of energies–oil, gas, and coal–was doomed to failure. Today, Part II provides a series of quotations on the moral dilemma and economic distortions of trying to do so.
From this the question arises: what if the resources and spirit dedicated to the futile, misdirected climate crusade went instead to the truly noble cause of promoting capitalism and industrialization for the 1.3 billion living in statist poverty?
It is time to change minds one at a time to the heroic task of promoting human freedom to advance prosperity at home and abroad–an inspiration for many of us going in 2013.
More quotations follow on the pernicious wealth effects and all-pain/no-gain aspects of carbon rationing as envisioned by the Kyoto Protocol.
Wealth Effects (Pernicious)
“In reality, Kyoto was a huge transfer of resources from the United States to the Third World, under the guise of environmental protection.”
- Charles Krauthammer, “The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism,” The Weekly Standard, June 4, 2001, p. 23. [Read more →]
December 27, 2012 2 Comments
“It’s the weakest text I have ever seen. It’s a travesty of the process and commitments. It can be summed up in two words: We’ll talk.”
- Farukh Khan, Pakistan lead negotiator, quoted in Lisa Friedman, “After A Bruising Parley, Climate Conference Veers Toward a Successor to Kyoto Pact.” E&E Climate News, December 19, 2012.
“The total efforts of the last 20 years of climate policy has likely reduced global emissions by less than 1 percent, or about 250 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.”
- Bjorn Lomborg, “Climate Course Correction.” Foreign Policy, October 2012.
Notable voices with the conviction to speak truth to power predicted the futility of the global global-warming agreement of 1997, better known as the Kyoto Protocol. Of course, the rent-seekers applauded the prospect of new competitive space–such as Enron with its seven profit-centers. And so did anti-industrial environmental groups, who welcomed something over nothing and then tried to tongue-lash the world into believing that a post-carbon world was viable and thus the inevitable future. (It was neither.)
A review of insightful quotations from a decade or more ago is timely with the end of the original Kyoto compliance period (2008–12). Yes, several weeks ago at Doha, Qatar, the United Nations’ annual climate conference (COPS 18) extended the compliance period by five years. But with few nations under any real obligation, and even fewer in compliance, the Kyoto agreement is a dead man walking.
The quotations follow: [Read more →]
December 26, 2012 3 Comments
Last week, a Hall of Shame cronyism memo turned 15 years old. Dated December 12, 1997, it was written from Kyoto, Japan, in the afterglow of the Kyoto Protocol agreement by Enron lobbyist John Palmisano.
Global green planners such as Palmisano were euphoric that, somehow, someway, the world had embarked on an irreversible course of climate control (and thus industrial and land-use control). His memo reflects the train-just-left-the-station mentality, as well as the specific benefits for first-mover ‘green’ Enron. Enron, in fact, had no less than six profit centers tied to pricing carbon dioxide (CO2), and seven if CO2 were capped and traded.) The story of Enron as the darling company of Left environmentalists has been well told elsewhere.)
The Washington Post broke the memo soon after Enron’s demise, showing how Enron was hardly a free-market, capitalistic company. “[Enron] chairman Pushed Firm’s Agenda With Clinton White House.” Indeed, Enron was “the company most responsible for sparking off the greenhouse civil war in the hydrocarbon business” [Jeremy Leggett, The Carbon War (Penguin, 1999), 204.]
The Kyoto Protocol, also 15 years old this month, and now at the expiration of its 2008–2012 (non)compliance period, is predictably on life support, a topic which will be examined next week.
Here is Palmisano infamous memo, 15 years old last week. [Read more →]
December 24, 2012 No Comments
“You don’t want [California's] system with caps, where you have trading, you have derivatives, you have markets that then collapse and don’t actually reduce emissions much. That’s been tried in Europe, and it didn’t do much.”
- James Hansen, quoted in David Baker, “James Hansen Blasts Cap-and-Trade,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 5, 2012.
“Cap-and-trade’s complexity provides a breeding ground for special interests…. Why do those special interests deserve it anyhow?”
- James Hansen, “The People vs. Cap-and-Tax,” New York City, January 12, 2010.
NASA climate scientist James Hansen has long attracted criticism as the progenitor of modern climate alarmism. In recent years, Hansen has been prone to hyperbolic statements against fossil fuels, ignoring the moral imperative for abundant, affordable, and reliable mass energies (called progressive energy by Alex Epstein). Hansen has also engaged in civil disobedience for his wrong-headed cause.
Hansen’s alarmism, and its policy corollary of government-engineered energy transformation, is deeply troubled by three factors as documented by fellow climate scientist Chip Knappenberger:
- Global temperatures are not rising in tandem with greenhouse gas emissions (think global lukewarming);
- Hansen’s “climate dice” can be unloaded; and
- A carbon tax (Hansen’s alternative to cap-and-trade) is climatically useless.
Can James Hansen acknowledge the mere possibility of a benign or even positive human influence on climate? Such would be the beginning of an exit strategy, a soft landing, from what continues to shape up to be a Grand False Alarm. Hansen’s reconsideration, in fact, can begin with his own views of the 1990s on the complexity of his subject matter (see Appendix A).
Three Great Moments
But there is another side to the mad scientist that has interjected realism into the decarbonization debate. Three are mentioned here. [Read more →]
December 21, 2012 5 Comments
Milton Friedman famously remarked: “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.” But how can good intentions be squared with an Administration that plunders our taxes, energy resources, and the overall economy to satisfy select businesses (wind, solar, ethanol, battery) and an anti-industrial elite? They win, while we the 98 percent lose.
It is time for more Americans to learn about the real energy boom that the Obama Administration is trying to keep under wraps in major and countless minor ways. From this basis, baronyism and cronyism can be exposed and then expunged.
Our North American Energy Boom
An oil and natural gas boom is underway in the United States, born of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracing.” It has created tens of thousands of well-paying jobs directly, and hundreds of thousands more in hundreds of businesses that supply and support the industry and its workers.
In North Dakota, the unemployment rate is 2.4 percent, in large part because of a huge increase in natural gas and crude oil production from deep shale rocks that yielded nothing prior to fracing. The new technology is also driving job growth, higher incomes, and increased tax revenues for hard-pressed state and local governments in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states.
Meanwhile, 350 miles north of Edmonton, Alberta, other innovators are producing billions of barrels from oil sands that stretch across an area the size of Utah. Shallow deposits are accessible via surface mining, while deeper lodes are tapped using in situ drilling and steam injection. As work is completed in an area, the land is restored to woodlands, grasslands, lakes and marshes, and the process moves on. [Read more →]
December 20, 2012 4 Comments
“Although we strongly support policy efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and health-damaging air pollution from fossil fuels, we are concerned that the PTC includes support for biomass combustion technologies that both contribute to climate disruption and threaten public health.”
- Letter of December 11, 2012, to Senate and House Leaders from 40 environmental-related organizations (reprinted below)
Biomass energy has been called the air emission renewable. Technical studies have concluded that energy made from plants and woody matter can require so much (fossil) energy and stir up release of carbon dioxide as to negate CO2 reduction.
This problem has been long recognized in the environmental community. “Although biomass is a renewable resource, much of it is currently used in ways that are neither renewable nor sustainable,” stated Chris Flavin and Nicholas Lenssen in 1994. 
In 2001, the International Energy Agency (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2001), concluded:
Biomass energy is generally considered to be CO2-neutral, as long as it is consumed in a sustainable manner, i.e., the stock of biomass does not diminish. This is not the case in many developing countries, where over-consumption of biomass fuels leads to deforestation and hence to the reduction of forest-based CO2 sinks. 
And the debate/controversy continues. Last week, a letter to the House and Senate leadership from 40 left-of-center environmental-related nonprofits, groups, and businesses urged that biomass be excluded should the renewable-energy Production Tax Credit be extended past its year-end expiration date.
December 19, 2012 No Comments
“Forgotten by many proponents is the justification for the PTC in the first place: to reduce CO2 emissions…. [Yet] … many utilities with large amounts of wind generation steadfastly refuse to release operating data for analysis. I suspect to do so would mean the release of empirical data to build the opposition’s case for insignificant CO2 reduction and poor operating economics. I was unable to find one study of existing wind energy installations that found the CO2 reductions predicted by AWEA.”
Robert Peltier, editor-in-chief of POWER magazine, is an honest broker. He understands the technical side of electrical generation as a professional engineer. He knows power generation in practice from his years of industry experience on the regulated and the nonregulated sides. He has taught the subject as a tenured professor. And with years of experience in the U.S. Navy and in law enforcement, he has just about seen it all. (See full bio below.)
In his current position, Peltier oversees staff and industry writing on the latest power technology relating to plants using oil, gas, coal, nuclear, water, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. Battery technology is regularly updated too.
His most recent Speaking of Power editorial, “Under Seize” (December 2012), contains numerous insights that friend and foe of modern windpower should heed. The longtime head of the American Wind Energy Association (and critic of Honest Bob), Denise Bode, is riding into the sunset. But she leaves behind a very subpar, dishonest technology that sans government support will be revealed as the Enron of energy sources. (And, thinking ahead, who will pay for wind-turbine removal?)
His seminal editorial follows: [Read more →]
December 18, 2012 6 Comments
“The sheer ridiculousness of the [six-year, front loaded PTC extension] outraged Congressional members and may well have changed the debate. It’s NO coincidence that within 24-hours of AWEA’s poorly received proposal, Denise Bode bailed. A move that sudden suggests the industry thinks it’s better off without her and probably without AWEA’s inflexible, out-of-touch campaign.”
The American Wind Energy Association’s relentless, year-long lobbying campaign to secure extension of the wind production tax credit (“PTC”) hit major headwinds last week, which precipitated the abrupt resignation of its CEO, Denise Bode.
Branded the “Save USA Wind Jobs,” AWEA’s plan tried to stigmatize Congressional members from Red and windy states with the argument: oppose the PTC, and you oppose American jobs.
But rather than gaining support, resistance intensified to extending the PTC. With only two weeks remaining in 2012, it’s not certain what will happen with the subsidy, but one thing is clear: AWEA’s robotic jobs jab has chilled its effectiveness. Big Bucks cronyism does have its limits.
Changing Market; Inflexible Messaging
Prior to 2008, wind was still a niche resource. Under 15,000 megawatts of installed wind was eligible for the PTC and the price tag for the subsidy, in total for its first 15 years (1992–2007), was under $6 billion and less than $1 billion in any one year. Each time the PTC was up for renewal, Congress complied.
Since then, wind installations in the U.S. ballooned to over 50,000 megawatts, and the carrying cost for a 1-year extension is now projected to be $12 billion.
In today’s economic climate, AWEA’s campaign messaging is withering under challenge. [Read more →]
December 17, 2012 18 Comments