On Sunday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and minority leader Chuck Schumer announced that they had come to an agreement on the details of a second Covid-19 relief package. There had been a lot of public wrangling over what the bill should look like, with senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) calling for $1,200 payments to Americans to compensate them for the economic disruption of the government-imposed lockdowns, a provision which President Trump supported but which was ultimately thwarted by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).
There was debate about whether businesses should be granted immunity from Covid-related lawsuits (to which the Democrats objected), and whether state and local governments adversely effected by the pandemic should be bailed out (to which the Republicans objected). In the end, after a number of compromises, senators were left with a neat, tidy bill which they could all be happy with.
Or at least, that was what leadership expected them to say. In fact, the text of the bill was more than 5,000 pages long, and wasn't released until two hours before it was to be voted on. For once, AOC is right:
This is why Congress needs time to actually read this package before voting on it.
Members of Congress have not read this bill. It’s over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours.
Not reading it didn't stop Congress from passing the $2.3 trillion legislation by huge margins on Monday. To echo AOC's leader on another massive bill, I guess they had to pass it for us to find out what's in it.
The huge pandemic relief and spending bill includes billions of dollars to promote clean energy such as wind and solar power while sharply reducing over time the use of potent coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators.... The energy and climate provisions, supported by lawmakers from both parties, were hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade. “Republicans and Democrats are working together to protect the environment through innovation,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The sprawling legislation also extends tax credits for solar and wind power that are a key part of President-elect Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to generate 100 percent “clean electricity” by 2035. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware... said the bill would cut pollution from school buses, air conditioners, refrigerators and more, while creating thousands of American jobs and helping “save our planet from the climate crisis.″ “Make no mistake,″ he said, the new legislation “will soon be some of the most significant climate solutions to pass out of Congress to date.″
For all of the hand wringing over this being the second largest bill in American history, as well as attempts by Johnson and others to trim down benefits to individual Americans, Republicans and Democrats conspired to shower taxpayer dollars on questionable and controversial green priorities which have nothing to do with the virus, without saying a word about it in public.
It's almost as if the pandemic is just an excuse to do whatever they already wanted to do to begin with.
Green Pen, Green Phone
On Wednesday I mentioned that Democrats were disappointed by the failure of their projected blue wave to materialize. Their congressional majority has been whittled down to almost nothing, the best they can hope for in the Senate is a draw, and in the presidential race, the decisive rejection of Donald Trump they were hoping for didn't happen.
What's more, less radical (or more pragmatic) office holders, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), have been arguing that the Green New Deal, along with other extremist proposals like Medicare for All and Defunding the Police, are the reason they fared so poorly.
But, of course, backing off on such proposals, which might make the party more attractive to actual voters, would alienate the leftist donor class. So what is the solution? Executive orders of course! Faced with a similarly divided government, Barack Obama proudly proclaimed that his administration was
[N]ot just going to be waiting for legislation.... I've got a pen and I've got a phone… and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.
In various liberal publications right now, the details of a Biden administration's own climate-related "pen and phone" strategy are being hammered out.
To take just one example, in the Los Angeles Times, Anna M. Phillips has a list of five climate actions Biden can take immediately, "without Congress’ help." These include imposing California's onerous auto emissions standards nationwide; halting the issuance of new permits for fracking and oil drilling on federal land (a position Biden stumbled his way onto over the course of his campaign), as well as imposing new regulations on oil and gas companies operating on existing federal permits (decidedly not something he campaigned on); declaring a climate national emergency; and creating a "climate club" of countries who mutually agree to reduce carbon emission through carbon taxation.
On this last point, a club would have two uses. First, if all nations involved impose carbon taxes on themselves, none can reap the economic rewards of being a cheaper and easier place to live or do business. And second, each one can mutually agree to punish any other country that attempts to get a leg up on the others, "through trade measures such as tariffs" in Phillips' words. It is worth noting that leftists have already started making lists of countries they want to see punished in this way -- see thisVox article entitled "How Joe Biden could make Brazil his first “climate outlaw.”
By the way, if you're surprised to see Brazil as the highest climate priority, rather than mega-polluter China -- the world's second largest economy -- you'll be doubly so to read through article and see China mentioned as a potential ally against Brazil. This is as good a detail as any to demonstrate that this isn't really about the climate, it's about power.
So, while AOC's legislative Green New Deal might be D.O.A. in Congress, the Executive Green New Deal is rarin' to go. We will all suffer the consequences.
À la lanterne!
Maybe I’ve got the date wrong, but although the Biden presidency doesn’t actually start for another ten weeks on Inauguration Day, January the 20th, its more progressive supporters are already ordering guillotines and tumbrils for the following day. That’s a metaphor, of course, even though the noisy Portland wing of the quiet revolution did erect a guillotine in the suburbs and even guillotined a teddy bear (“Teddy” being the Mayor’s name) on it while in Seattle the social justice warrior crowd wrote “Guillotine Jenny” on the walls (Jenny being the name of Seattle’s Mayor.)
If that were the extent of the outrages, we might put it down to high spirits (though the Seattle and Portland mobs never seemed especially jolly, and they left real victims of their street theater injured and hospitalized after the curtain fell). But the theme of purging and punishing the pre-November criminals of “the Trump regime” (the Trump administration to the rest of us) is being taken up by outwardly more respectable people.
On the way to meet Le Rasoir National.
And it can’t be explained solely by the joy of “liberation” that has seemingly gripped the mass media and the political class since the networks proclaimed Biden president. It started well before the election campaign. Back in the summer a group of about 100 Democrats and Republican Never-Trumpers from politics, the media, and academia met over several days “to conduct simulations of the 2020 presidential election . . . out of concern that the Trump administration may seek to manipulate the results.” As I argued in National Review, it was largely an exercise in promoting the fear that Trump would unconstitutionally seize power while actually laying out a scenario as to how the Democrats could do so. So it was both an exercise in Freudian projection and a leftist wet dream.
But it became more sinister in an appendix when it discussed how a victorious Left in a Biden administration would deal with the remnants of the Trump administration after taking power. The gathering didn’t reach a decision on which actions to take against Trump family members or senior administration officials—understandably so since many of those sitting around the table might themselves be vulnerable to similar political reprisals one day.
What, though, about the broader Trump movement and the Republican party? Here the Transition Integrity Project was shockingly candid in that oddly impersonal language the Left likes to use when proposing its own crimes:
More broadly, there needs to be a robust, intentional, and specific strategy to challenge the white supremacist and extremist networks that enabled Trump’s rise to power and were in turn enabled by Trump’s administration. This base will not automatically demobilize if and when Trump leaves office, and it is inimical to the kind of pluralist democracy the founders intended.
“ . . .will not automatically demobilize.” So if the Trump movement won’t automatically demobilize, what then? Isn’t that obvious? It will have to be demobilized by a “robust, intentional, and specific strategy to challenge” what the Left has declared are its “white supremacist and extremist networks.” After all, it’s what “the founders intended.”
That was before the election, and it was written in the appendix to a document that few people were likely to see and which was designed to attack an administration rather than to urge it on to greater efforts. Since the election the sound has been turned up, and the message is clearer and less subtle. Here are a couple of examples in recent days:
“We have to burn down the Republican Party, we have to level them, because if there are survivors, they will do this again”
Media pundit & Biden supporter Jennifer Rubin on MSNBC
There’s even now a new website, titled the Trump Accountability Project, which has issued a statement of principles for holding Trump veterans to account as follows:
Those who took a paycheck from the Trump Administration should not profit from their efforts to tear our democracy apart. The world should never forget those who, when faced with a decision, chose to put their money, their time, and their reputations behind separating children from their families, encouraging racism and anti-Semitism, and negligently causing the unnecessary loss of life and economic devastation from our country's failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's slightly embarrassing, I suppose, that the very first example of Trump perfidy that the statement selects—putting children in cages—has already been exposed on Twitter (with the evidence of photographs) as a program launched and implemented by the Obama administration. And the group’s website suggests that it’s little more as yet than a bright idea. But it’s already spreading across the internet like Covid-19; it’s guaranteed to get generous funding via all the groups advertising it; and to judge from the Twitter responses to Rubin, Ocasio-Cortez, and others, there’s a large audience of Robespierres and Madame Defarges out there at the foot of the guillotine.
Le Glaive de la Liberté awaits.
My suspicion is that a new Southern Poverty Law Center has been launched with all that means for the criminalization of political differences, the destruction of innocent people’s reputations, the promotion of guilt by association . . . this time with the Republican party, and the making of large sums of money from the sins of calumny and detraction. All that’s in doubt is whether the Lincoln Project will be able to clamber aboard the bandwagon and, if it does, whether it will have to sit at the back of it.
Well, the Republican party can take good care of itself, and probably so can Donald Trump, though he won’t have the protective phalanx of media and Big Tech protesters that have surrounded Joe and Hunter Biden since their scandals broke. What should worry moderate liberals and Democrats, however, is that the crimes for which Trump veterans will be supposedly held accountable don’t seem to have been passed into law by Congress or state legislatures as yet. They cover a great many issues that until now have been treated as matters of legitimate political, scientific, and moral debate, including such rarefied offenses as being skeptical about climate change.
That’s a crime that would imprison a great many dedicated scientific researchers as well as destroying the big oil companies and maybe entire industries without any idea of how to keep the world warm or air-conditioned in the perhaps long interval before someone makes a series of vital technical breakthroughs. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has already notified Shell in a tweet that she will hold the oil company accountable for the production and consumption of fossil fuels in the last few decades.
I’m willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet 😇 https://t.co/ekj1Va1Cp0
The awkward fact is that the oil companies were going about their business with the support and legal protection of both American political parties. Moreover, governments of both parties not only gave subsidies to fossil fuel companies but also lived on their immoral earnings through taxation. Any prosecution of members of these criminal governments would have to include people like President Obama and the Clinton family.
No legal system worth the name allows selective prosecution on political grounds, and that should protect the more obvious civil rights of former government officials such as not being fined or imprisoned for non-existent offences. But we have recently seen selective law enforcement in Seattle and Portland, and we can’t rule out that this might spread upwards from the police to the courts, especially since the Trump accountability vigilantes intend to go after federal judges appointed by the current President too.
Legal prosecutions may not be needed, however, if the sans culottes are content with punishing the Trump veterans—as some say they are—by dismissing them from jobs, removing their ability to use social media, preventing their access to college or scholarships, making the expression of their political opinions unlawful by expanding the range of the legally unsayable, removing certain scientific disciplines (e.g., biology, military research, police education) from the availability of government finance, and in general by creating a new “unprotected class” in law and bureaucratic practice.
The first amendment, if it survives, would prevent government doing many of these things, but again, as we have seen recently, corporations, colleges, the media and Big Tech have done them all the same. And the chances of expanding civil rights legislation to cover Trumpian political opinions doesn’t seem likely to be a high priority for the presumptive Biden-Harris administration.
Yes, this is a worst case scenario, I concede. But the nature of revolutions is that they go faster and further than anyone expects at the start—and especially than the moderate revolutionaries and their “enablers” expect. Their revolutionary doctrines spread from the narrow field of politics to almost every category of work and social life. And the classes of those suspected of being enemies of the revolution spread too until they include more and more of the revolutionaries themselves -- shortly after which the revolution either collapses or becomes an undisguised despotism.
So spend a hour or two on Twitter and then tell me: where's the bright side?
Voting in a W.A.S.P. nest
I rolled out of bed before six this morning, threw on some clothes, and hopped into the car to go and vote. I was hoping to beat the lines and then get home quickly for my first cup of coffee.
Well, no such luck. Despite the near freezing weather, the line in my small New England town was around the block by the time I got there, Baby Boomers as far as the eye could see. I guess I should have waited for that coffee.
I shouldn't be surprised, of course. I hang my hat in W.A.S.P. country these days, and while the prevailing wisdom (and social science data) holds that Mainline Protestant affiliation is in steep decline, the truth of the matter is that the theological character of those once prominent sects has actually just shifted in a worldly direction, such that woke virtue signaling now occupies the space once held by creeds and confessions.
Cancelling and shame storming modern reprobates has replaced more traditional W.A.S.P. practices, but in the age of Donald Trump, voting has become the biggest virtue signal of all -- provided, of course, that you're voting that Orange Man Bad. Consequently, this line -- full of people in designer jeans, with the slightest hint of the dear old Ivy League in their accents, and air of never having a single thought that isn't preapproved by the New York Times editorial board -- had the atmosphere of a religious rite. The earliest protestants reduced the number of sacraments from seven to three, but it seems that their distant progeny have reduced them even further, to one: voting.
And it was livelier than a June wedding. People were taking selfies, wearing sweaters that said "Vote!" One (gray-haired) woman greeted some friends and, referring to the number of people, exclaimed, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen!" This despite the fact that we don't live in a swing state, and the allocation of our seven electoral votes is a foregone conclusion.
As the line inched forward, I couldn't help but feel that this all reeked of privilege. Many conservatives, me included, guffawed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's recent claim that long lines were a sign of voter suppression, even when they're "happening in a blue state." AOC's New York is, of course, just terribly governed, as the pandemic and this election season should make plain to everyone.
But how many regular working people -- plumbers, electricians, construction workers, even cops and firemen -- who have good reason to fear the further empowerment of the left in this country, looked at those lines and said to themselves "I don't have time for this"?
Well, hopefully they make it through in the end. If not in my neck of the woods, at least in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and everywhere else where their votes really count and their livelihoods are under assault. It'd be nice to see the smug liberals I saw this morning mugged by reality, just like four years ago.
'Resilient Recovery' Really Isn't
Back in June I wrote about a new Ottawa-based task force called Resilient Recovery, whose objective is to recommend "sustainable" government action to counteract the economic consequences of the pandemic and lockdowns. What made this group newsworthy was that it counted among its members former Justin Trudeau advisor Gerald Butts, who'd recently returned to the world of highly remunerative enviro-activism after falling on his sword to mitigate the electoral consequences of Trudeau's inappropriate actions during the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Butts, of course, still has the PM's ear, which makes him an attractive target for any green group with big dreams and a few bucks to spend.
After what were no doubt two grueling months of slaving over hot policy proposals in the balmy Ontario summer, Resilient Recovery have released their preliminary report and, well, its so predictable that it could have been published alongside the press release announcing their formation.
The No. 1 proposal... suggests the federal government spend over $27 billion on retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient.... Other recommendations include moving more quickly to build widescale use and accessibility of zero-emission vehicles and to support the retention and attraction of clean vehicle manufacturers in Canada. The group also wants to see the federal government accelerate investments in the renewable energy sectors; spend more on restoring and conserving natural infrastructure and invest in ways to make working for and creating green businesses easier and more sustainable.
In other words: same old same old.
Task force member Andy Chisholm explains in the piece linked above that their "ultimate goal is to ensure Canada is focusing on the future and the needs of the country in the years and decades to come if and when it starts to roll out billions of dollars in economic stimulus once the health emergency spending phase is over." They recommend $50 billion expenditures, on top of the quarter of a trillion in new debt Canada has already taken on over the course of the pandemic, in response to which Canada's credit rating was downgraded, and probably not for the last time.
The liberal reply is that the added debt will go towards creating jobs at a time when Canada is seeing higher unemployment rates than any other G7 country, and fair enough -- that's a noble goal in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, however manufactured. Still, to invest (borrowed money!) so heavily in an unproductive industry in an already precarious economy is, in a word, nuts.
A sane response would be to capitalize on Canada's abundant natural resources by lowering the regulatory burden on the oil and gas industry at a time when it has been dealt a difficult blow. Prices are down, but the sector is still standing, and it would have more money to pump into Canada's economy if it weren't spending so much dealing with federal red tape. Moreover, it wouldn't cost tax-payers a penny.
I bet that never even occurred to them.
The GOP's Green New Deal?
There's an old joke to the effect that Republicans are just Democrats who want their policies implemented slowly. This has certainly been the case throughout most of my life, though I'm starting to wonder if it's still accurate. That is, it increasingly seems to me that Republicans have closed the gap, and desire all sorts of revolutions on the same timeline as Democrats.
You get a sense of this from the outcomes of and reactions to the recent slate of Supreme Court decisions coming out these past few weeks. Not just the fact that the suddenly-reliable-liberal John Roberts pulled a novel constitutional principle out of his hat, namely that an executive order cannot be undone by another executive order ( at least if it deals with illegal immigration) unless he satisfies the Supreme Court that his motives are pure, and that -- under the largely imaginary doctrine of "stare decisis" -- a case that he dissented from just four years ago, established a strong enough precedent that it can never be overturned. Nor just the precedent-setting decision in Bostock authored by Trump's prized Scalia replacement, Neil Gorsuch, which legally redefined the word "sex" to include meanings which would never have occurred to the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (It isn't for nothing that Justice Alito said, in his dissent, “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation.”)
More than those examples is the relief they seemed to have occasioned among the Republican elites like Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, the latter of whom responded to Bostock by saying "It's the law of the land. And it.... probably negates Congress's necessity for acting." Oh good.
Another counter-example: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his support for a new conservative climate plan. Though it claims to be an attempt to move the climate conversation beyond Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, its proposals read like the GND for squares. It eschews "debilitating taxes or punitive mandates," but calls for investment in new technologies which will reduce carbon emissions, including currently not-super-effective carbon-capture technology. Most notably, it calls for the U.S. to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, putting the GOP leadership on exactly the same timeline as the Democrats.
This is clearly designed to win millennials over to the GOP, but something tells me that even the Harry Potter generation aren't gullible enough to fall for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without mandating anyone to do anything. "Bring on the cow-fart bans," they'll say.
So maybe that joke has outlived its usefulness. Then again, the left are currentlytearingdownstatues and ex post facto cancelling people for decades-old politically incorrect statements, which seems to indicate that Democrats desire for change has sped up from "Right Now" to "Yesterday," so perhaps it still stands.
Michael Moore Strikes Back
We here at The Pipeline have been covering Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs' new film Planet of the Humansfairlyextensivelylately for the simple reason that we believe it to be a very important film, both because it is extremely informative on the topic of the "green energy" fraud, but also because it has blown open a major rift within the environmentalist movement. So much so that those on the other side of that rift are either ignoring the documentary entirely (as far as I can see, neither the BBC, the CBC, nor Australia's ABC have published a word on it -- kind of shocking that the state broadcasters of the English speaking world are ignoring such a big story) or, as Michael Walsh pointed out yesterday, are calling on YouTube to take it down for spreading misinformation (and, presumably, for giving aid and comfort to the enemy).
To rebut those claims, Moore and Gibbs have been on a bit of a media tour, and one stop on that tour was this lengthy interview with The Hill TV:
It is an illuminating interview, and I think it bears out my contention that, far from turning their back on environmentalism, Moore and Gibbs are willing to tear down that movement as it currently exists so that they can rebuild it as something somewhat leaner (in that it will have less cash), but definitely a lot meaner. Creative Destruction, you might call it.
First of all, Moore takes up the question of their motivation. He and Gibbs haven't turned on the movement - "We are lifelong environmentalists!" They've been in since the "first Earth Day!" Their main concern is "this evil economic system that we have [which] is based on greed," and the tendency of certain environmentalists to "[hop] into bed with corporate America." From his perspective, this gives the corporations a kind of moral authority that they shouldn't have, and allows them to treat the movement like a revenue stream:
[Y]ou've seen this happen over the last decade, how they've all gone Green, they all tout the big Green thing, and they saw basically that enough of us believed in Green, because we want this planet to live, and they saw, '[W]ow, there's the supply and demand right there -- the demand is for Green, lets give them Green, and lets make a lot of money off of it.
So, for Moore:
The failure of the movement has been to address this serious flaw, which is: We are not gonna save the planet or ourselves by allowing Wall Street, hedge funds, corporate America, to be anywhere near us, as we try to fix this.
The film is simply their way of breaking that to the true believers.
To my way of thinking, it's Gibbs who really gives voice to their ambitions:
You know, this is so much bigger than climate change. You know, we've eaten 90% of the fish in the ocean. Half of the wildlife have disappeared in the last 40 years, primarily because of expanding logging and agriculture. Fossil fuels is tragic, but there is a lot more to us damaging the planet than just climate change.... I think [that] looking at ourselves as a single species that's got this addiction to growth, my theory is that infinite growth on a finite planet is called suicide, and that's what we have to address.
I mentioned the Malthusian drift of the documentary in my review, and Gibbs responds to that critique:
We never use the word population control, we're not in favor of population control. We merely point out, there was a UN study that came out one or two years ago, that just points out that the doubling of our human numbers and the quadrupling of our human economy is the prime driver of extinction on this planet. Is the UN favoring population control? No!
Many scientists are pointing out the obvious, but you don't read about that so much in the press anymore, since it's all only focused on climate change.
Funny how, while disclaiming population control, he argues that scientists are merely "pointing out the obvious," but doesn't himself spell out that "obvious" here. When you go to the documentary itself, you find what his scientists are actually "pointing out." Here's one representative sample: "Without seeing some sort of major die off in population, there's no turning back."
Back to the interview, Gibbs mitigates our need to read between the lines further when he says:
[R]ight now we're learning that the three times when climate change and fossil fuel usage went down were during this pandemic, in the days after 9/11, and during the Great Recession. Now, we're just raising the question, we've got to come to terms with this expansion. We don't have the answers in the film, but it is our growth, and especially our growth and consumption, driven by capitalism, that's driving this beast.
Ah yes, those three greatest moments of our civilization. Just as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did the other day, Gibbs is admitting here that their project is built on human suffering. This is what we call "Making the sub-text, text."
I've been seeing conservatives on Twitter and elsewhere over the past week who are elated about this movie, and in the short term it might work to our benefit. But don't be fooled -- Moore and Gibbs are not on our side. Their vision is very dark, and they themselves are very persuasive.
Michael Moore Learns an Inconvenient Truth
The enemy of my enemy is... well, in the case of Michael Moore, still my enemy. That's because of the destruction he's wrought on the mental processes of so many members of my generation with his Riefenstahl-esque documentaries which convinced them that they'd have been better off growing up in Castro's Cuba than in suburban New York. That said, Moore is a worthy foe. He's extremely sharp, and he doesn't go in for easy short term victories. He's playing the long game.
The most recent example is a documentary he's produced along with his longtime collaborator Jeff Gibbs, who serves as director and narrator. The film is called Planet of the Humans, and was released on YouTube earlier this week just in time for Earth Day. It is not, however, your typical Earth Day fare, alternately happy-clappy and weepy-waily. Planet of the Humans digs deep down into the supposed Green Energy Revolution which promises to liberate us from our present fossil fuel regime. What it definitively demonstrates, however, is that Green Energy is a fraud (and one which has made a lot of people very rich) -- and, worse, that the revolution is never going to come.
Gibbs begins by talking about his long standing tree-hugger bona fides. As a young man, he moved to the woods of Michigan and built a log cabin, which he wired for solar power. But as the years went by, and as he continued to learn about the ins and outs of the green energy industry, he got increasingly skeptical and cynical.
Early on in the documentary Gibbs shows us a solar power fair, which boasts that it's powered entirely by solar panels. A rock band is playing on stage under electric lights, everyone is having a good time, all is well. Until, that is, it begins to rain. Gibbs follows staff members working frantically backstage, and when he asks what they're doing, they explain that they are hooking everything up to a biodiesel generator. When that doesn't produce enough juice, they simply plug in to the regular old local power grid.
That basic set-up starts to become pretty familiar. Gibbs attends a launch event for the Chevy Volt electric car, and gets the enthusiastic employees to explain that, well, yes, actually all of the electricity powering the cars and the plant comes from fossil fuels. He's invited to see the plant's solar panel farm, the size of a football field, only to learn that it gets roughly 8 percent efficiency and generates only enough energy to power about ten homes. He speaks to several green energy enthusiasts who admit that the intermittency of solar and wind requires renewables to be backed up with idling fossil fuel power plants, which (as Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Philip Moeller explains on camera) "maybe can be dialed down during the day, and dialed up when demand starts rising." When asked if this effects the efficiency of the plants, Moeller responds "Oh yeah, they don't like to be dialed up and down." Their hope is that we will one day be able to bridge that gap with batteries, but Gibbs points out that not only is that a still-remote possibility, but that the batteries themselves come from mined products degrade in a very few years.
Gibbs also takes us to Lowell Mountain in Vermont, where land is being cleared for an enormous wind farm. He goes hiking with a group of concerned citizens who show him the devastated mountain. One local says:
I'm looking at the ground [here] and thinking 'this is not the legacy I want to leave to my kids.' When I was a kid, we'd go hiking in these woods, we'd be able to drink from the water down the hill here, and now you have to question that.
Aside from intermittent wind energy, what do they get from all of this? Three full-time jobs and about twenty years of use before those turbines need to be replaced. "Has anybody considered that this is mountaintop removal for wind instead of coal?" he asks. Which is to say, so-called renewable energy requires fossil fuels -- often used wastefully -- to exist. Ozzie Zehner, author of the book Green Illusions, sums up this theme of the documentary perfectly when he says
You use more fossil fuels to do this than you're getting a [green] benefit from it. You would've been better off [just] burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend.
In the background roll enthusiastic news clips and interviews featuring environmentalist heroes like Barack Obama, Al Gore, Michael Bloomberg, Jeremy Grantham, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Bill McKibben. Every one of them talks about "shovel ready" projects, jobs in all fifty states, "free energy forever," and the potential for prosperity for all -- while also saving the planet. At one point Arnold Schwarzenegger appears on screen introducing the world's largest solar energy plant, and says "There's some people that look out into the desert and see miles and miles of emptiness! I see miles and miles of a gold mine."
Surely these luminaries must know they're wildly overpromising at best, and at worst simply lying. Why do they do it? Gibbs answers that, for the most part, they're in it for the money and the power.
The only reason we've been force fed the story 'Climate change + Renewables = We're Saved' is because billionaires, bankers, and corporations profit from it.
Many environmentalist philanthropists -- including several of those mentioned above like Grantham and Branson -- invest heavily in supposed alternate energy sources like biofuel and biomass, the usage of which allows businesses and universities to claim that they are powered by "100 percent renewable energy." As Mike Schellenberger points out,
In reality, scientists have for over a decade raised the alarm about biomass and biofuels causing rain forest destruction around the world including Brazil and Malaysia, and have documented that when one takes into account their landscape impacts, the fuels produce significantly higher carbon emissions than oil and gas and may produce more than coal.
At the same time, they use the power of celebrity to lobby governments and shame politicians into enacting biofuel mandates and other regulations which just so happen to benefit their stock portfolio.
Gibbs also examines the potential financial incentives for perhaps the most influential environmentalist of the past 20 years, former vice president Al Gore. Gore was the co-founder of an investment firm called Generation Investment Management, which was an early promoter of biomass and biofuels. Gibbs wonders aloud whether Gore's Oscar-winning climate documentary An Inconvenient Truth was "just about climate change, or was it about something else?" That is, was it about promoting his investments.
If it was, it worked out for him. Those investments helped Gore launch CurrentTV, which he ended up selling for 100 million dollars to Al Jazeera, the state broadcaster of Qatar, a nation whose wealth is largely a product of fossil fuels. The documentary gives us several clips of Gore not even being slightly embarrassed by this hypocrisy. “You couldn’t find, for your business, a more sustainable [buyer]?” he's asked by Daily Show host Jon Stewart. “What is not sustainable about it?” Gore replies.
I mentioned at the outset that Michael Moore is playing a long game, and here's what I meant. Moore and Gibbs know that "green energy" is a boondoggle, and that soon enough it is going to fall apart. Planet of the Humans is their attempt to get out in front of inconvenient truth, so that environmentalism won't be entirely discredited when their fantasy world collapses. Though they will probably be raked over the coals by the usual suspects (one imagines that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be happy about this documentary, which implicitly tears the heart out of the Green New Deal), Moore and Gibbs remain climate-change true believers. We are told over and over again in the course of this documentary that humans are destroying the planet. What sets them apart from other environmentalists is that they don't believe that there is a technological solution. "Is it possible for machines made from industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?" Gibbs asks.
No, their solution is rather darker. They believe that we need to massively diminish the amount of energy we are using, and that, while personal responsibility has a role in that, the very presence of humanity is the main obstacle to their goal. Planet of the Humans regurgitates discredited Malthusian and Ehrlichian ideas which hold that we are experiencing a population bomb and that ultimately the planet's major underlying problem is, quite simply: us.
That said, I found Planet of the Humans to be an extremely affecting and informative documentary. It isn't difficult to feel Gibbs' pain as he confronts the fact that green energy "wasn't what it seemed." And, very likely, the hard hitting nature of this documentary is going to cost Moore and Gibbs more than a few friends. I found myself feeling both appreciation for their honesty and apprehension for what their suggestions portend. At the same time, as I alluded to above, several of my high school classmates were corrupted by Moore's early 21st century documentaries, such as Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. I shudder to think what Planet of the Humans -- with its pessimism about both green energy and human life itself -- will do to the next generation of environmentalists.
'You Love to See It': Negative Oil Prices and AOC
If you were following the oil market yesterday, you got to see something historic. West Texas Intermediate oil absolutely collapsed. Never before have oil futures traded in negative values, but yesterday they went all the way down to -$40 per barrel. Which means that, theoretically, the traders who hold the contracts on that oil would pay you $40 to take it off their hands.
The collapse occurred because May contracts expire today and thus cannot be actively traded, but whoever is left holding those contracts has to actually take delivery at the end of the month. This is a problem because commodities traders don't ever actually take delivery of anything. They need crude oil refineries or storage facilities to purchase that oil from them. The problem with that, of course, is two-fold: one part supply, one part demand.
On the supply side, the Saudi/Russia oil war which began in early March and ended in a tentative agreement brokered by President Trump last week (which doesn't actually take effect until May), has led to a glut of oil, filling inventories, depressing prices, and leading refineries to cut production. Meanwhile, the coronavirus lockdowns around the world, by decreasing driving, flying, and other common uses of oil, have destroyed demand. Which is to say, oil prices didn't have far to fall before they went negative, and their passing zero was assured by the fact that a) no one is using oil and, b) we are running out of capacity to store unrefined crude.
What does all of this mean? Well, a lot of things, but one of them is that oil producers are going to start drastically cutting production and, consequently, laying off workers. From the Wall Street Journal's report:
U.S. oil companies including Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips have said they would reduce output. But traders say the industry isn’t moving fast enough to alleviate the selloff. This week’s price moves will be a huge wake-up call for complacent oil-company chiefs, said Edward Marshall, a commodities trader at Global Risk Management. “If they do nothing and sit there like rabbits in the headlights waiting to be hit by a car, they’ll be hit,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more capex cuts…even more layoffs, even more jawboning by OPEC."
Which is terrible news, considering the massive spike in unemployment since the beginning of this crisis. The men and women who lose their jobs because of this will add to that number, but they will also be significantly less likely to find new employment in the near future. For some, however, this is apparently cause for celebration:
You'd think that a self-described socialist would be slightly ashamed to begin her response saying "You absolutely love to see" an event that will lead to so many people losing their jobs. But then again, socialist solidarity with workers has always been propaganda in the service of power -- which is exactly what this is. For Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, a serious destabilization of the market is just an opportunity to enact her pet legislation, and that would, in point of fact, make sure the oil market never recovers.
AOC eventually deleted the above tweet (presumably someone pointed out to her that she was saying the quiet part out loud), and replaced it with a less jubilant, but no less insane take:
This snapshot is being acknowledged as a turning point in the climate movement.
Fossil fuels are in long-term structural decline. This along w/ low interest rates means it‘s the right time to create millions of jobs transitioning to renewable and clean energy. A key opportunity. https://t.co/UqT8DI5u2I
Blogger Stephen Miller's (not the White House advisor) response to this was exactly right:
“Now that global pandemic has killed thousands and left millions unemployed, we can finally get what we want” is not the genius take she or her instagram stand think it is, which is why you don’t see the Dem nominee jumping into the boat.
As unprecedented as this market instability is, it seems likely that it will be beneficial to oil-producing market economies such as the U.S. and Canada in the long term, and detrimental to those authoritarian nations like Russia, Saudia Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela, who depend on elevated oil prices to survive. Once our economies reopen (as they are already beginning to do), consumers will be able to take advantage of the reduced prices and that, coupled with clever policy proposals on the table (including, for instance, suspending the EPA's ethanol mandate), will begin the process of stabilizing the oil market, whatever AOC and her friends think. (Ironically, their plan would drastically reduce our economic elasticity and make us as vulnerable to market shocks as the above mentioned petrostates).
Once a return to normalcy is in sight, it will be nice to be able to look back at this from a distance and remember the moment when the current face of the American climate movement let her mask slip and cheered real human suffering for the sake of her totalitarian agenda.
'Climate Change,' the Green New Deal, and the Remaking of the American Economy
Back when Americans learned civics, schoolchildren were routinely taught 19th-century German chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s famous aphorism: “The people sleep better when they know neither how laws nor sausages are made.” From this we understood that there was horse-trading, arm-twisting, log rolling, benefiting various factions, which went into any piece of legislation that emerged; just as tasty sausage often contained fat, gristle, and offal.
To be sure, much inefficient policy came into being this way, but politics is not a pure art.
As it turns out, there are far worse ways of making policy than ensuring that competing interests are met: Extrapolating action from pure leftist ideology is the absolute worst. And that is what is happening now with American energy and environmental policy, as we see it unfold during the Democratic presidential primaries. With the partial exception of newly arrived billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the statements provided by all the other candidates in debates, town halls, and on their websites, concerning how they will "combat" climate change, provide a blueprint of policy disasters to come.
On a recent stage all seven remaining candidates embraced the shibboleth of Earth-destroying disaster to come, if we fail to make set of radical changes in how we obtain and use energy; how we produce goods and services; how we travel; how we build, heat and cool our homes; how we dispose of waste; all of it. Naturally, everything that contributes to human comfort and ease must be slashed. Automobiles, which literally shaped the 20th-century landscape, are evil, and must be abolished in favor of bicycles. People need to live stacked on top of each other in dense urban spaces, and eat only vegetables. The fracking and increased oil production that has bolstered our economy, and made locally produced goods more competitive, must end. This agenda is not entirely new, but the vehemence, the absolute, religious conviction, and the overarching scope of policy solutions is new.
Very little of this was part of the Democratic agenda in 20012 or 2016. How did we get here?
Fourteen months ago, the supremely mediagenic, ridiculously inexperienced bartender, 27 year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was sworn in as the U.S. Representative from an undistinguished stretch of Queens and the Bronx. She had been selected, during literal auditions, by the radical George Soros-backed “Justice Democrats,” to primary an incumbent centrist Democrat, in a solidly Democratic district. With their backing and money, she won.
Since AOC gets attention, the radical ideas she spouts with great dramatic conviction, get attention. The pièce de résistance of these policies, announced Feb. 7, 2019, was the Green New Deal (GND). The actual piece of legislation submitted came out of the "wishful thinking" bin at a radical environmental activist operation in California. It had been kicking around since at least 2007. The bill as written is light on science, or any significant quantification of environmental impact of current policies, but full of "end of the planet/human misery" rhetoric.
It is worth noting that AOC’s puppet master and then chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabati, who pushed the bill, had previously been a staffer for socialist Bernie Sanders, during his 2016 campaign. Indeed, the bill is socialism on steroids.
In a nutshell, the GND calls for wholesale ‘decarbonization’ of everything, immediately. (Candidates vary as to their target dates, but 2050 is the furthest out.) To do this requires: upgrading all existing buildings in the country for energy efficiency; working with farmers to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, supporting family farms and promoting universal access to healthy food; reducing emissions by expanding electric cars, building charging stations everywhere, and adding enough high speed rail to end air travel. The legislation also mandates: a guaranteed job "with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security" for every American; and "high-quality health care" for all Americans. It isn’t called the “…New Deal” for nothing.
Within days, progressives in Congress had all signed on, though House speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the GND on grounds of cost. A year later she no longer criticizes it.
As the Trump economy has boomed, bringing long-delayed wage increases to the working and lower middle classes, the dire prose about suffering workers has lost much of its impact. Yet, by early 2020, the GND had become the baseline policy for all of the Democratic presidential contenders –including so called ‘moderates,’ like former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, and former vice president Joe Biden. Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer has made it the centerpiece of his campaign – and has a plan to spend $2 trillion on it up front. Senator Elizabeth Warren pledges $3 trillion. And leading Democrat contender, the 78 year-old, Soviet-style communist, Bernie Sanders, promises $16.3 trillion in spending. Yes – the equivalent of the entire U.S. debt!
Mandating retrofitting of all the nation’s buildings is an employment program for contractors, lumber yards, plumbers, carpenters, etc., though they are plenty busy right now. It’s intended to bring the working class back to the Democrat party. At a recent voter meeting, Harvard grad Buttigieg, 38, explained, ‘Hey, there’ll be lots of jobs for plumbers, carpenters and glaziers.” He repeated “glaziers, you know, glass?”--“windows?” to clarify.
So, in one year we have seen a socialist/activist wish list that posits blanket control of the most sectors of the economy, plus all energy production, sales and use, become a policy centerpiece for a major American political party. It is now within the realm of "normal," which is a major ideological triumph. There is zero willingness to submit the energy and environmental claims to any kind of rational analysis. Questioning it makes you “anti-science.” Bernie Sanders wins, even if he loses.
The great irony is that, last summer, Chakrabarti, the America-hating socialist who put the GND in play, deliberately revealed his game. Shortly before being pushed out of office last summer, in an interview with the Washington Post:
“The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all... Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
Predictably, this slap at fellow Democrats for falling in love with Marxism all over again, was not widely reported in mainstream media.