A free-market energy blog

Random header image... Refresh for more!

Peabody Energy: Let’s Talk About Energy Inequality (coal for the masses, solar and wind for the elites)

“Policies that force use of more expensive, less reliable energy push costs throughout the economy and place the heaviest burden on the world’s poor and low-income citizens. We need all forms of energy to address global needs, and we must recognize the strengths and limitations of each choice.  Advanced coal is the sustainable fuel at scale that can meet these needs.”

- Gregory Boyce, CEO, Peabody Energy, April 3, 2014.

Peabody Energy–“the world’s largest private-sector coal company and a global leader in sustainable mining and clean coal solutions … in more than 25 countries on six continents”—has started a good conversation. Lifting countless millions out of energy poverty into energy modernism is worth our best thinking and debate.

Peabody’s call to reduce energy inequality between the haves and have nots challenges the “Let them eat cake” conceit of so many energy statists/elitists. “Let them have solar panels” is an insult given the cost and intermittency of solar compared to what central-station fossil-fuel power plants can deliver.

Solar might be a starter energy, a bridge fuel. But real power plants are the destination.

There are far too many people who do not have access to electricity. They need to upgrade economically and environmentally to coal-fired central-station power. And that power is super-clean compared to the uncontrolled coal plants of several decades ago.

The energy statists/elitists do not like Peabody’s conversation. “As for Boyce’s concern for the world’s poor, hey, with friends like these, who needs enemies?” wrote Tina Casey writer at CleanTechnica. She complains that climate-change (carbon dioxide) emissions are not part of Peabody’s position (hey—CO2 has benefits, and wood burning in the home is worse than coal by any environmental metric.)

Here is Peabody’s press release, titled Peabody Energy Chairman & CEO Greg Boyce Calls On Leaders To Solve Energy Inequality During Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics Interview: [Read more →]

April 8, 2014   No Comments

Solar Land Blues: The Eco Reality of Dilute Energy

“As citizens, we need to call on our leaders to make thoughtful choices about where to site industrial-scale development and renewable energy projects, and to create a legacy for our national parks and to public lands everywhere.” - Mark Butler, “Saving the Mojave from the Solar Threat,” Los Angeles Times , March 25, 2014. “‘Soft’ energy sources are horribly land intensive…. The greenest possible strategy is to mine and to bury, to fly and to tunnel, to search high and low, where the life mostly isn’t, and to leave the edge, the space in the middle, living and green.” - Peter Huber, Hard Green; Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (New York: Basic Books, 1999), pp. 107–108.

Hard-green energies (fossil fuels, uranium) have a major ecological advantage over politically-correct soft energy (wind, solar): less infrastructure requirement, including land. This was recognized by the father of energy economics, William Stanley Jevons, in his 1865 tome, The Coal Question. Mainstream environmentalists are waking up to the problems of central-station solar now that they can physically see it and have operational results. California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is “the world’s largest gas-fired power plant (largest in physical size, not gas consumption),” said one eco-critic. And now Mark Butler in the Los Angeles Times has blown the whistle on the national showcase of Big Solar (full op-ed below). [Read more →]

April 7, 2014   No Comments

Right on Green: In Search of Authentic Free-market Environmentalism (Book review, ‘Responsibility & Resilience: What the Environment Means to Conservatives’)

“Conservative Me Too-ism is well represented in Responsibility & Resilience, at times almost to the point of tedium. The two American politicians with entries in the volume – former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg – are not exactly known as movement conservatives. And their entries do not disappoint.”

For many people, “conservative environmentalism” sounds oxymoronic. Since the rise of environmentalism in the 1960s, the Left has mostly managed to claim the moral high ground. They get to be for clean air, clean water, and saving the whales; for harmony with nature; and against pollution, deforestation, species extinction, and other bad things.

In response, conservatives have often let themselves be cast as the heavy in the Left’s morality tale, stuck talking about cost-benefit analyses and questioning whether low level exposure to some unpronounceable chemical compound is really so bad. But while these arguments and intellectually sounds and even controlling, they sound cold and bloodless.

The idea of a “conservative environmentalist” can raise skeptical hackles from those on the Right as well. All too often, self-described conservative environmentalists have quickly devolved into Me Too-ism, in which liberal policy prescriptions are simply repackaged as conservative, with an occasional quote from Burke or Hayek thrown in for flavoring.

Yet there is also a tradition of authentic free-market environmentalism, represented by such notables as Terry Anderson, Julian Simon, Bruce Yandle, and Robert Gordon. They have sought to use free market principles and insights to address and solve pressing environmental concerns. [Read more →]

April 4, 2014   1 Comment

Adults Reject Climate Catastrophe, Alarmists Bring In the Children (thoughts on Hansen’s latest)

“Beware, the youth should also be told, of Climate Kings, Climate Queens, Climate Duces, and worse masquerading as infallible purveyors of truth. Climate Planning is the fatal conceit of Economic Planning on stilts.”

As has been well reported in the media, public opinion polls rate climate-change concerns at the bottom of environmental issues, not just issues in general (Gallup: 14 of 15, analyzed here). And the other side is getting increasingly desperate in their activism, which is even alarming climate alarmists.

One might argue that American adults are either misinformed, dumb, or ecologically uncaring. But a more rational explanation is that adults have heard both sides of the issue (ad nauseam) and reject climate alarmism. One way to interpret this is to understand that there are here-and-now real problems (the economy; budget deficits); energy prices matter (which means carbon rationing is a negative); global warming has flat-lined in the last decade (and more), contrary to predictions.

Indeed, confident predictions of catastrophic global warming have been waylaid by reality, while government attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions have been a colossal waste and power-grab. And Al Gore? His “inconvenient truth” has turned out to be a convenient exaggeration.

“Denier” Charge

To up the rhetoric, the other side coined the term “denier” and used it liberally: those rejecting climate alarmism are “deniers” as in Holocaust deniers.

Climate alarmist Joe Romm is one of the guilty. But in a pang of conscience, he once swore off using the term. In “Climate Science Disinformers are Nothing like Holocaust Deniers” (2012) Romm explained:

Since I lost many relatives in the Holocaust, I understand all too well the unique nature of that catastrophe. The Holocaust is not an analogue to global warming, which is an utterly different kind of catastrophe, and, obviously, one whose worst impacts are yet to come.

But the emotive, inflammable Romm is back to using the term—and in full ridicule (e.g. “What Is The Difference Between A Psychic And A Climate Science Denier” (March 2014). [Read more →]

April 3, 2014   7 Comments

Big Solar: Big Gas (Ivanpah’s ‘dirty power’)

“It has been lauded as the world’s largest solar power plant, but the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) could also be called the world’s largest gas-fired power plant (largest in physical size, not gas consumption).”

Chris Clarke continues in his piece, “Ivanpah Solar Plant Owners Want to burn a Lot More Natural Gas” (KCET, March 27, 2014):

Each of the 4,000-acre facility’s three units has gas-fired boilers used to warm up the fluid in the turbines in the early morning, to keep that fluid at an optimum temperature during the night, and to boost production during the day when the sun goes behind a cloud…. Solar Partners says that in order for ISEGS (Ivanpah) to operate at full efficiency, the plant’s gas-fired auxiliary boilers will need to run an average of 4.5 hours a day, rather than the one hour a day originally expected. The plant’s total CO2 footprint from burning natural gas would rise to just above 92,200 tons per year, approximately equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas output of 16,500 average passenger cars.

The newly operational Ivanpah solar thermal electric power megaplant in California’s Mojave Desert was controversial before it was ever built for bird kills, desert tortoise impacts, and a 161% higher cost than coal-fired power plants. Now, with data coming in, it is becoming more controversial. Environmentalists, energy experts, and political decision-makers may soon ask how they were we sold a bad bill of goods.

One month after start up in February 2014, commercial airline pilots started filing complaints with the F.A.A. about the massive glare from Ivanpah’s 173,500 heliostat-mirrors used to radiate heat toward a central tower to drive a steam turbine.

Soon after the initial plant start-up it was also reportedly discovered the so-called clean power plant would emit 55% more greenhouse gases than it claimed in its original operating permit and environmental report, the equivalent of 16,500 cars. And this does not include all of the GHG emissions associated with the plant’s infrastructure and construction. [Read more →]

April 2, 2014   14 Comments

“The Onion” Headlines We Would Love to See (some fun with fading Malthusianism, cronic cronyism)

If a New York Times editorial can debunk the population scare (“Overpopulation Is Not the Problem“), surely it is time for The ONION to go to school on alarmism in all of its flavors.

Political satire and parodies are forces for challenging and correcting the Shared Narrative and political correctness. As a step in this direction, and given it is April 1st, here are a few homemade headlines. (And MasterResource should not be serious all of the time.)

Here are mine–feel free to add your own in the comments section–or email them to me for a Part II if this is worthy of being continued.

———————————

Climate Change Responsible for Climate Change (and vice versa), New Study Finds

“I know it sounds redundant,” said one coauthor. “But it really is the chicken-and-egg problem.”

Climate Models Prove Climate Data Wrong

“Climate change has inspired a new branch of postmodernism called climatic-modernism.”

IPCC Revisions, Data Anomalies force Post Deletions at Climate Progress

“We are a nonprofit,” a spokesman for the Center for American Progress said. “The IRS will surely respect our candor.” [Read more →]

April 1, 2014   3 Comments

Going on Offense: The American Energy Renaissance Act of 2014 (Cruz, Bridenstine set tone for post-Obama world)

“[The AERA] will prevent federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, facilitate the expansion of domestic refining capacity, improve processes to develop energy infrastructure, stop EPA overreach and its war on coal, force Congress and the President to approve any new EPA regulations that kill jobs, broaden energy development on federal land, open offshore exploration, expand U.S. energy exports, and dedicate additional revenues to debt reduction.”

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change,” wrote Milton Friedman in the 4oth anniversary of his classic Capitalism & Freedom (1962, 2002). The revered free-market economist continued:

When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.” (p. xiv, emphasis added)

The crisis of interventionism is all around us. And reform is in the air.

Last Thursday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx) and Representative  Jim Bridenstine (R-Ok) introduced legislation to  “embrace American energy renaissance, spark job creation.” The American Energy Renaissance Act is all about 1) removing barriers to develop domestic energy resources, 2) building energy infrastructure, and 3) expanding trade to increase employment and and assist international allies.

The press release accompanying S. 2170 and H.R. 4286 described the purpose and promise of the American Energy Renaissance Act as follows: [Read more →]

March 31, 2014   1 Comment

Human Achievement Hour: Lights On!

“[P]eople are living longer and healthier because the world is wealthier, and fossil energy supports economic growth and technological progress in scores of countries around the world.”

- Marlo Lewis, “‘Sustainability’: Some Free Market Reflections,” February 11, 2011.

Annually since 2009, my colleague Michelle Minton has organized a celebration of economic liberty for one hour at the end of March, known as Human Achievement Hour. (See here, here, here, and here.) This year, the event falls on Saturday evening March 29, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in your respective time zone.

Observing Human Achievement Hour is about paying tribute to the human innovations that have allowed people around the globe to live better, fuller lives, while also defending the basic human right to use energy to improve the quality of life of all people.

To be precise, Human Achievement Hour is a cheerful response to the depressing alarmism of modern environmentalism. The gloomy greens propagate a message that virtually all economic development  is evil, because it necessarily despoils pristine ecology. [Read more →]

March 28, 2014   1 Comment

U.S. National Academy of Sciences: Doubling Down on Climate Alarmism (and taking science down a notch with it)

“The NAS … should be an organization that promotes careful examination of all factors involving climate change and not take sides on areas of controversy.  Global temperature history and lack of climate model validation demonstrates lack of objectivity.  Merging of science with politics may damage trust in the scientific community for decades.”

Last month, the United States National Academies of Sciences (NAS) issued the following news release inviting the public to a joint meeting with the UK Royal Society:

Join NAS and The Royal Society for the Launch of a Joint Publication on Climate Change Science

On Thursday, February 27th, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The UK’s Royal Society cordially invite the public to the release of Climate Change: Evidence & Causes, a new publication produced jointly by the two institutions. Host Miles O’Brien from the PBS Newshour will guide a discussion about the publication with authors Dr. Eric Wolff of the University of Cambridge (UK lead), Dr. Inez Fung of the University of California, Berkeley (US lead), Sir Brian Hoskins* of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, and Dr. Benjamin Santer* of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, and Professor Sir Paul Nurse,* President of the Royal Society, will kick off the event. [Read more →]

March 27, 2014   No Comments

Attacks on Fracking Attack U.S. Consumers

“The Wind Energy Foundation says wind and gas make for a “mutually beneficial relationship” and experts have identified how fluctuating electrical demand requires baseload sources like natural gas to keep the lights on. Proposing a ban on fracking – and by extension the natural gas it unlocks – is, in effect, tantamount to proposing to banish renewables.”

“Does the fracking boom kill renewables?”

That headline has become common recently, with public discussions raging over whether hydraulic fracturing – or, more specifically, the affordable supplies of natural gas it has unlocked – is driving investment away from renewable technologies.

To be sure, many of the debates on this particular question – natural gas or renewables? – are sincere and conducted in the well-known, boring “big thinker” policy circles. A Venn diagram showing the people having that conversation and the general public likely shows two circles that don’t intersect.

However, there is another element to the discussion that is driven not by sober market analysis, but rather an interest in shutting down all U.S. oil and natural gas development.

As part of their laundry list of talking points, anti-fracking groups frequently allege that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is preventing the United States from realizing a utopia of emissions-free renewable energy, mostly in the form of solar and wind technologies. [Read more →]

March 26, 2014   No Comments