In the Union Halls, Strange Bedfellows

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. At what point to labor unions finally figure out that the Democrat Party is not their friend, that modern Democrats are anti-capitalist, anti-working class socialists of at least the limousine-liberal variety, and that members of the party of slavery, segregation, secularism, and sedition are simply not to be trusted with vital matters of public policy, especially at election time?

Such reflections arise after reading this Politico story, in which once again the blind and the gullible have fallen for Joe Biden & His Media Robinettes:

Biden's green energy plans clash with pledge to create union jobs

President Joe Biden touted his $2 trillion infrastructure plan as a "once-in-a-generation" effort to tackle climate change while creating millions of "good paying jobs." Some unions warn that it may ultimately cost a lot of jobs, too.

Labor groups, echoed by Republicans in Congress, are cautioning that Biden's plan to hitch the jobs recovery to massive green energy investment could backfire because of the quality of employment it will create and the economic devastation it could cause on rural communities.

The president's push to decarbonize the economy will mean eliminating the kind of steady, fixed-location jobs that come with coal mines or fossil fuel power plants. The Biden plan would require the construction of vast numbers of solar, wind and battery projects, along with potentially new pipelines for carbon dioxide and hydrogen. But construction jobs are temporary and require mobility, and once those projects are complete, they'll need few workers to maintain them and keep them operating.

"The jobs that he talked about yesterday were construction jobs," said Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, a day after the Biden speech. "We're not seeing anything concrete that our members can look at and say, 'OK, that's where I'm gonna fit in.'"

Well, how about that! The chimera of "clean energy" should always be read as "bogus energy," not to mention "no jobs." One of the lies behind the claims of "renewable" energy is the implication that such energy will always be readily available and will take next to no effort to extract from Mother Gaia. The wind blows and the sun shines most every day, right? And once your solar panels and scenery-disfiguring windmills are up and running, presto!

It's witchcraft...

No more brutal rape of the virgin Earth. No more big sweaty men with dirty paws and grimy fingernails laboring in claustrophobic coal mines or broiling in the west Texas oilfield. Why, this is energy that even the most fastidious Ivy League poetaster can be proud of: just flip a light switch and you're good to go. Why, you can even plug in your electric car as you would a toaster and know that while your muffin is browning up the Earth has begun healing.

The complaints underscore the difficulty Biden will have in pursuing his two most ambitious goals: reviving the labor market by generating millions of jobs for unions — which traditionally thrive in old-line industries — and transforming the U.S. into a clean economy where electric vehicles and battery storage replace coal, natural gas and oil as energy sources.

Difficulty? Impossibility is more like it. There aren't "millions of jobs" lurking in "green" technology, except may in dumping the wind turbines at the bottom of the Marianas Trench when civilized people finally wake up to the environmental destruction they've created in the name of... preventing environmental destruction.

Environmentalists defend the plan as a necessary move away from old technologies to battle climate change. And others say Biden's plan does include tax incentives for manufacturing and a vision for developing a supply chain that could provide the kind of blue-collar, high-skill jobs that used to be in power plants.

Note the operative words in bold. Any story that includes the word "could" in a context of advocacy is lying to you: the word should be "won't."

While unions are strongly supportive of the administration's pro-labor stance, they worry that the end-goal — if not executed properly — could have devastating effects on their members. “From our perspective, if the jobs aren't there when the mine closes, this plan fails," Smith said. "There's a very large disconnect between what the aspirations are here and what's going to end up actually happening on the ground.”

Biden fought to bring white, blue-collar workers back into the Democratic fold after the party lost them to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, and the administration is seeking to prove that this can be both the most pro-labor and anti-carbon presidency in history. But the reality may prove troublesome.

Ya think? Oh well, sin -- or vote -- in haste, repent at leisure. And learn to code, because unless traditional sources of energy production survive, union members will be looking for new jobs in the great green near-future.

Will the U.N. Security Council Rescue Net-Zero?

Constructing and imposing an international orthodoxy is a never-ending task, especially when the orthodoxy imposes heavy costs on those countries and organizations that support it. That’s more clearly true about the orthodoxy on “climate change”—i.e., it’s an “emergency” that means global “catastrophe” very soon unless we take brave corrective measures to avert it—than about any other global “crisis.”

A quite small number of U.N. official have been the drivers of this diplomatic agitprop since it started at the Rio de Janeiro UN Earth Conference in 1992. Of the UN Secretariat’s estimated 37,000 officials responsible to the Secretary General, only eight enjoy the title of UN Secretary, and a further fifty are Deputy Secretaries. In short fewer than a hundred diplomats and ex-politicians have succeeded in cajoling and corralling most governments into adopting policies that require economic sacrifices on their populations for aims that are at the very least questionable. It’s a astounding achievement of sorts.

A questionable orthodoxy needs to be shored up against questions and costs, however, and plenty of both have been coming home to roost in the last year: questioning books by previous believers in the “climate emergency” such as Michael Shellenberger as well as from established sceptics like Bjorn Lomborg; and soberly realistic estimates of the costs of “Net Zero” by 2050, the main plank of UN climate policy, in terms of both greater pressures on over-burdened government budgets and downward life-style changes for the voters. Shrewd political analysts—and that describes the UN Secretariat very well—know that they need additional measure to sustain a potentially rickety consensus.

The science is settled, comrades.

Until now, the biggest gun in their arsenal has been the notion of “legally binding” climate treaties that will compel governments to stick with the unpopular consequences of “Net-Zero” policies as they become inescapably evident. It’s a confidence trick. Politicians go along with it because it’s also a method diverting blame for Net-Zero away from them onto the treaty with the argument that “we have to accept international law.”

But there are commonsense limits to that. No government will accept massive economic damage and huge political unpopularity simply because it, or more likely one of its predecessors, unwisely signed a “legally binding” but masochistic and unenforceable treaty.

Some governments won’t even sign a treaty with such dire results in the first place. President Obama never submitted the Paris Accords on Net-Zero for Senate ratification because he knew they’d be rejected. President Trump (while delivering a greater reduction in carbon emissions than any signatory nation because “fracking” fueled a switch to cleaner greener natural gas) was therefore able to withdraw America’s signature on it because Obama’s “executive agreement” had no constitutional force.

And if President Biden seriously intends to make his own switch back to supporting the Paris “treaty” effective, he’ll have to submit the Accords for the Senate ratification from which Obama prudently shrank—or risk another withdrawal of the U.S endorsement by another Trump.

I don’t think Biden will take that risk. But if he does, and given his hostility to fracking, it’s possible that he’ll go down in history as the president who both signed the Paris Accords and presided over a large increase in net carbon emissions. Watch this space.

It’s because the "legally enforceable" gambit is not really enforceable on sovereign states, especially those with democratic governments, that the UN bureaucrats have had recourse to a weapon that is more under their control: namely, bringing the UN Security Council into play.

Gentlemen, you can't fight in here.

The UNSC is the single most important and powerful institution in the UN system. According to its own website: “All members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.”

This makes the UNSC a very big deal. Its enforcement powers in dealing with “threats to peace and international security” include economic sanctions, arms embargoes, financial penalties and restrictions, and travel bans; the severance of diplomatic relations; blockade; or even collective military action. And if climate change were to be declared such a threat, that would allow—in theory at least—the Security Council to employ these enforcement mechanisms in dealing with it.

Some governments and international agencies have been arguing that climate change is a threat to international security for some time. My take is a highly skeptical one:

[T]hinking about such matters should not be a priority. In comparison with countering the most advanced weaponry being developed by the Russian and Chinese militaries (and also with subversive methods of asymmetric warfare), holding down carbon emissions is a third-order consideration. Truth be told, climate change is not a question of military security at all unless some other power is weaponizing climate change against NATO. That kind of thing happens a lot in James Bond movies—usually through the agency of a mad billionaire. . .  Not, however, anywhere else.

But the United Nations “Climate Emergency” caravan rumbles on regardless. One month ago the UN Security Council had a debate on whether the Council should treat climate change as a “threat to national security,” and all the international chart-toppers were present to sing along from the alarmist handbook.

The session was opened by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and other speakers included President Macron of France, Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, the Biden administration’s special envoy for climate, John Kerry, and a large host of prime ministers, foreign ministers, and other “eminent persons” (an actual UN term.) It’s not necessary to plough through the entire debate, however, because all the speeches said much the same thing, which in the case of the BBC’s long-standing television naturalist David Attenborough was: “If we act fast enough we can reach a new stable state” and the UN conference in Glasgow next November “may be our last opportunity to make this step change.”

My suspicion is, however, that Glasgow will only prove to be the next last opportunity to save the world with many more to come along as the conference circuit.

Et tu, Brute?

That suspicion is fueled by the fact that it’s not until paragraph nine of the comprehensive account of the discussion in the UN’s own press release that we come to the speech of the Russian Federation’s representative, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who wondered skeptically if climate change issues were really the “root cause” of the conflicts cited by Kerry, Johnson, Macron, and almost all the other dignitaries.

The connection between the climate and conflicts can be looked at with regard to only certain countries and regions, talking about this in general terms and in a global context has no justification.

He concluded that, for Russia, climate change was an issue to be dealt with not by the Security Council with its array of diplomatic pressures and economic and military sanctions, but by the less powerful specialist UN agencies armed only with scientific and economic expertise.

China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, after repeating China’s familiar pledge to meet the Net-Zero carbon targets ten years after the West when it would have enjoyed forty years of economic growth built on fossil fuels, said much the same thing:

International climate cooperation should be advanced within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In one of the conference’s most impressive speeches, India’s environment minister, Prakash Javdekar, argued that countries should meet their earlier targets for carbon emission reductions before embarking on ambitious new ones—a criticism that was all the more powerful because India is one of the few countries to have met its targets. But he too went on to express skepticism about the idea that "climate change" was the cause of conflict.

These three speeches amounted to a Niagara of cold water pouring over the argument that an imminent climate emergency is a threat to peace and security requiring the UN Security Council to intervene to force massive carbon reductions on reluctant member-states.

Consider now that China and India are the two most important economies in Asia, and that Russia is an energy superpower as well. Consider also that Russia and China are two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with the power of veto over its decisions, and that India is the Asian country with the best claim to joining them there. When you add up all those facts, the speeches calling for the UNSC to push a reluctant world to implement the hairshirt economic policy of Net-Zero are soon revealed as a dystopian delusion.

To adapt an old gag: the dogs may bark, but the caravan has ground to a halt.

Fighting the Climate War, One Fad at a Time

Behind my desk is a framed picture of an article in Newsweek dated April 28, 1975. The cooling world, it is titled. “Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects,” it is reported. Fortunately, nothing was done, e.g., “covering arctic sea ice with soot,” otherwise what a pickle we’d now be in, what with global warming and all.

Global cooling was forecast to cause “an increase in extremes of weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases.” There it is. Whatever the climate does we should expect the worst.

Oops.

Australian palaeontologist and climate alarmist, Tim Flannery expected the worst in 2007. Droughts were in his crystal ball. “Even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems,” he said. Late March 2021 in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, rain galore, floods, dams overflowing. Of course, things will change, droughts will recur in the land “of droughts and flooding plains;” as the Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar put it, way back in a wiser age before Flannery was born. And they’ll be met with water restrictions and, among Christians, prayers for rain.

It would help if there were more and bigger dams, but these are hard to build. They are hard to build, in case you don’t know, because the habitats of rare species would be lost or Aboriginal cave drawings or other sights of significance submerged. As it turns out, these barriers to dam building apply more or less everywhere it makes sense to build large-scale dams. Sometimes I think we might as well designate the whole of Australia as a national park-cum-untouchable Aboriginal sacred site and be done with it.

Warragamba Dam is the primary water source for Sydney. It was finished in 1960 when Sydney’s population was not much over two million. Sydney’s population is now over five million and, surprise-surprise, during droughts water storage runs seriously low. A plan to increase the capacity of the dam by increasing its height is stalled. No surprise there either.

As an aside, isn’t it somewhat churlish to keep on praying for rain during droughts when we’re persistently recalcitrant in harvesting water? My Anglican minister points out that those suffering during droughts still need our prayers, whatever the circumstances. I take his point, yet I suspect most Anglican churchgoers are green-hued and therefore to some extent complicit in the suffering. It’s a conundrum, but enough of that.

Don’t for a minute think that the “record-breaking” rains (they are not by the way) in NSW and Queensland will dent Flannery’s (hysterical) conviction. It would take momentous contradictory events to disturb any part of the conviction among alarmists that we face imminent catastrophic climate change. It comes down to the philosophy of science.

To be honest, I don’t find the philosophy of science to be a riveting subject. But it seems to me that the history of science in the past half century has shown that Thomas Kuhn’s insights rather than Karl Popper’s best encompass the scientific method in practice. Scientists clearly move in crowds; albeit with the odd, shunned, ‘eccentric’ voices on the periphery. The prevailing scientific paradigm, as Kuhn describes it, bounds inquiry. That is, until whatever is the stubbornly-held paradigm is completely overwhelmed by contradictory events.

Incidentally, J K Galbraith (in The Affluent Society) used the term “conventional wisdom” to describe, more or less, the same phenomenon in the social sciences and in all walks of life.

We only have to be right this week.

I dare say many climate scientists were investigating global cooling when it was fashionable, as they are now almost all investigating global warming. I doubt many are subjecting the hypothesis of CO2-caused warming to stress testing. They are not Popperians, busying away trying to falsify the paradigm which guides their research. No, I suggest, they simply accept it as true and work within its bounds. And maybe that is the way science has generally proceeded.

Climate sceptics often charge that a scientific consensus is a contradiction in terms. But is that true? On reflection, I don’t think it is. I have read that a consensus has developed within quantum theory which leaves those on the outside at risk of being shunned. I understand that Galileo had less trouble with Urban VIII, the Pope at the time, than he had with the scientists of the day who had the ear of the Pope. At question is how to break through a consensus?

I will take my lead from Sun Tzu in The Art of War. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” (3,18). Many of those who believe climate alarmists to be wrong don’t seem to know their enemy. They tend to think that logical counter-arguments will carry weight. They won’t. All such counter arguments strike at the paradigm (a walled city). That simply won’t work. It’s akin to infidels questioning the likelihood that the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Muhammed in a cave. It will carry no weight among Islamists.

What to do against a strong enemy? “The worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities,” says Sun Tzu (3,3). “Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots” (6,23). In this case, the vulnerable spot is the practical means of countering CO2 emissions.  Clearly today’s renewable energy doesn’t and won’t ever work. Not even Michael Moore (Planet of the Humans) defends it. So, what will work? Right now, only nuclear can deliver sufficient dispatchable power, whenever and wherever it is required, without producing CO2 emissions. That is the turf on which the battle can be fought and won.

If indeed man-made CO2 is on the brink of causing catastrophic warming, then we need to move speedily. There is no time for endless research on renewables or hydrogen. Only nuclear is available in the limited time we have left. Might even be able to get David Attenborough to buy into this, in view of his current angst.

Of course, battles will remain. Electric vehicles, farm animal emissions etc. But at least we might be rid of ugly wind and solar farms and the costly, intermittent and unreliable power they bring. True we lose cheap and dependable fossil-fuel power. However, consolingly, it will not be lost to the world. We can depend upon China and India to keep on burning the black stuff.

When 'Inclusive' Capitalism Becomes Socialism

Capitalism is not the answer to human suffering. At the same time, it is the only economic system which allows individual freedom to flourish; it produces unrivalled prosperity; and, as Michael Novak perceptively says in the 1991 edition of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, “it is the most practical hope of the world’s poor: no magic wand, but the best hope.”

Not content, some very rich people, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope, among others, want capitalism to do more. Enter “inclusive capitalism” and its more recent stablemate “stakeholder capitalism.”

It was May 2014. A conference called “Making Capitalism More Inclusive” was held in London. Inclusive capitalism is a concept developed in 2012 by the Henry Jackson Society - a British think tank of classical-liberal persuasion. It started well enough with the principal objective being to engender more ethical behaviour in business practices. The excesses surrounding the recession of 2009/10 were fresh in mind. Unfortunately, it has gone rapidly downhill since.

The aforementioned conference was opened by Prince Charles and featured Bill Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Mark Carney and Lawrence Summers. Hardly a conservative or classical liberal in sight. Three conferences have followed: in London in June 2015, in New York in October 2016 and back in London in March 2018. Presumably, Covid has prevented holding a more recent conference. No matter. Those behind inclusive capitalism co-opted the Pope to keep the pot simmering.

Money makes the world go 'round.

As the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) puts it, Pope Francis has become the “moral guide to inclusive capitalism.” ‘The Council for Inclusive Capitalism (the Council), with the Vatican onboard, was launched on December 8 last year. Earlier in the year, in May, The Great Reset was unveiled at Davos. “Stakeholder capitalism” became the watchword; encompassing the same grand idea as inclusive capitalism.

So, to my theme: What’s it all about or, in other words, what do ‘they’ want; and why is the whole thing a crock or, more politely, misconceived?

This is Mark Carney, the then Governor of the Bank of England, at the 2014 conference to which I referred: “Inclusive capitalism is fundamentally about delivering a basic social contract comprised of relative equality of outcomes, equality of opportunity, and fairness across generations.” Hard to believe coming from a central banker? He’s Canadian.

This is easier to believe. Justin Welby, participating in the 2015 conference, outlining his aspirations for capitalism: “A generosity of spirit that doesn’t always seek the greatest return…that meets the needs of the poor and the excluded and the suffering.”

To add waffle to waffle, the Council’s mission is to “harness the private sector to create a more inclusive, sustainable and trusted economic system.” Understandably, sustainability is featured. After all, the Pope urges us to listen to “the cry of the earth.” Hmm? Smacking too much of paganism? Perish the thought.

Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, expanded on the term stakeholder capitalism in February this year. He identified two primary stakeholders. One is the planet (no, not kidding); the other is everyone, wherever they live. The respective wellbeing of both stakeholders is the objective. Though, Schwab notes, “people are social animals and their absolute well-being is less important than their relative well-being.” Got that. You and your neighbour each having ten dollars is better than him having fifteen and you only twelve.

How the idea of levelling down translates to those participating at Davos and at inclusive capitalism forums is beyond me. Note this description in UCA News of those calling the shots at inclusive capitalism: “a group of individuals and institutions with more than $10.5 trillion in assets and companies with a combined market capitalization of more than $2 trillion.” They are the woke big end of town. A race apart from the small and medium-sized businesses which make up the bulk of market economies. Their self-appointed mission: to rescue the world by reimagining capitalism.

They are discomforted by the prevailing state of affairs. They want a world within which all existing species survive and thrive, the oceans cease rising, the earth cools and each and every person everywhere enjoys a liveable income and state of the art medical attention.

Leaving aside a slight qualm I have about the earth cooling; the aims are fine. I sometimes daydream about winning a lottery. That fantasy is fine too. To take saving the poor and saving planet earth in turn.

Capitalism makes much of the world prosperous. Part of that is entrepreneurs and businesses striving to earn profits by vigorously competing with each other. Part is prices guiding resources into their best commercial use while informing and rationing demand. Part is not ensuring fair outcomes. Capitalism cannot be moulded into a generous outreach to the poor and disadvantaged. It simply won’t work. It is an idea contradictory at its core.

It's easy if you try. Scary, too.

As for lifting those in poor countries out of poverty, how about advising them to adopt Judeo-Christian institutions and values; the institutions and values that have underpinned economic progress in western countries and in other countries which have tried them. Call them what you like, of course, to make them universally palatable.

I will guess. That advice will never come out of Davos or the Council. Yet, when all is said and done, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, property rights, free speech and freedom from fear, the absence of systematic nepotism, cronyism and corruption and, vitally, mutual trust, tell the tale of progress; not pie-in-the-sky reimagining of capitalism.

From the unattainable to the unachievable describes the segue from saving the poor to saving the planet. Here’s a thought. What is the ideal state of the planet? Roaming ruminants, sans people, perhaps. Short of that green-dream nirvana wouldn’t it be nice, for example, to get CO2 down to pre-industrial levels? Or would it?

A friend of mine, Ivan Kennedy, emeritus professor of agriculture at Sydney University, tells me that we are now effectively addicted to higher levels of CO2. He estimates that if CO2 were to return to pre-industrial levels it would reduce the photosynthesis of cereal crops by more than 20 percent. This would likely cause famine, malnutrition and death, particularly among the world’s poorest. Something on which the Pope and Archbishop might cogitate.

The Pot Calling the Anthracite Black

What a dilemma for the flower children! A recent study has determined that "legal cannabis production in Colorado emits more greenhouse gases than the state’s coal mining industry."

Hailey Summers and her colleagues at Colorado State University have quantified and analysed the greenhouse gas emissions produced by cannabis growers. They found that emissions varied widely by state, from 2.3 to 5.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kilogram of dried flower produced. In Colorado, the emissions add up to around 2.6 megatonnes of CO2e, which is more than that from the state’s coal mining at 1.8 megatonnes of CO2e. “The emissions that come from growing 1 ounce [of cannabis] ... is about the same as burning 7 to 16 gallons of gasoline,” says Summers.

Environmentalists have no qualms about calling for the destruction of whole industries for even the remotest potential environmental benefit, but something tells me that they will allow the burgeoning legal pot regime off without even a slap on the wrist. It's a hot industry right now -- a researcher for the above mentioned study points out that "the profit margins [for legal cannabis] are so huge that you don’t have to be making super energy-conscious decisions” -- and it wouldn't be surprising to find that a lot of the people who pump money into radical environmentalism are also heavily invested in pot.

Making green from green for green, you might say.

There might be another cost/benefit calculation to their reefer madness of course. After all, without legions of stupefied youths, would the environmentalist movement exist at all?

On the Left, an Era of Fascist Magical Thinking

The genius of the Left's success in achieving their favored policy positions is found in their favorite tactic: first, posit a counter-factual and, second, act on it as if it were true -- with maximum governmental force.

Examples abound: that men can transform themselves into biological women by simply wishing it to happen, and then can be protected -- nay, favored -- by a raft of new laws designed for their "protection." That the real women are offtimes physically damaged by this malignant fantasy matters not one bit. After all, "rights" are more important that reality.

The mass hysteria over the nearly non-existent threat of Covid-19 to the great mass of humanity is another. Yes, Covid has been hell on morbidly obese people over the age of 85 (just about any illness is), but to shut down the world's economies and, worse, political freedoms in order to protect "the most vulnerable among us" (in one of the Left's favorite simpering phrases), was not only insane, it was evil.

Now, as the Phantom Covid Menace fades, the Left has turned back to its real target -- the energy industry, which it magically holds responsible for another non-existent threat, "climate change." Naturally, the most clarion calls to effectively outlaw and bankrupt the oil and gas business comes from a state basically founded upon the principle of the internal combustion engine, California:

To save the planet from climate change, gas guzzlers have to die

The numbers paint a daunting picture. In 2019, consumers worldwide bought 64 million new personal cars and 27 million new commercial motor vehicles, a paltry 2.1 million of which were electric-powered. Climate scientists tell us that we have less than a decade to make meaningful reductions in carbon emissions — including those from internal combustion engines — if we have any hope of staving off the worst effects of global warming.

Yet manufacturers are still making, and consumers are still buying, overwhelming numbers of vehicles that will, on average, continue to spew carbon into the atmosphere for a dozen years after they first leave the lot. That means new cars bought this year will still be on the road well into the 2030s — long after the point when we should have slashed emissions. Like we said, a daunting picture.

And what's the solution to this non-existent problem, which is argued from authority without the slightest acknowledgement that the harum-scarum of "climate change" is almost entirely politically motivated, much like letting male fighters crush women's skulls and quarantining healthy people in order to "protect" them while destroying their lives and livelihoods? Government force, of course:

What will it take to throttle back the gas burners and expand exponentially the number of vehicles that run on electric batteries, hydrogen fuel cells or other non-fossil energy sources? Political will, strong government thumbs on the scale to favor zero-emission vehicles over gas burners (an all-out ban on their production and sale is likely too radical for the world, but it would certainly help), and increased spending on developing and producing clean energy sources, battery technologies and charging capabilities.

The constant push for fascism from our corrupt, lickspittle media, such as the Los Angeles Times cited above, only exacerbates the situation. Without the media-driven madness surrounding the Wuhan flu, few ever would have noticed it. Without the airy-fairy theory of "global warming," most sane people would have gone about their lives completely unaffected by the madness of others.

And, really, who would buy an electric car, except as a virtue-signalling status symbol? Only at gunpoint, I suspect.

Making an End-Run Around Democracy, Part Four

When this four-part series began a few weeks ago, it posed an intellectual puzzle: why do governments, political parties, and individual officeholders believe that the policy of Net-Zero carbon emissions that they themselves admit will make the lives of voters much poorer and more burdensome will nonetheless prove popular and win elections for them?

I’ve already given some answers to that question in the first three parts. But the best answer to it is that networks of NGOs are now seeking to alter our definition of democracy in ways that transfer the final decisions on environmental and energy policies away from the voters in elections onto more “truly representative” methods of policy-making. That way, the voters would become impotent spectators as other people had the final say on everything from the cars we drive to what we eat—and the politicians won’t have to worry about winning elections.

But who are these "other people"? And how are they to be selected?

We're from the government and we're here to boss you around.

The answer to those questions is an ancient one: they are ordinary citizens and the process by which they are given power is selection by lot as in ancient Greece. It is argued now, as then, that ordinary citizens should play a larger part in governing and the way to ensure they do so is for them to draw lots for office rather than our choosing between different candidates. Most of us call this blind luck. Modern political scientists call it “sortition” and it tends to be supported by those who don’t like the policies that emerge from the system of popular elections for MPs and congressmen.

Brett Henig, the co-founder of the Sortition Foundation, defends the idea as follows: “Our politics is broken, our politicians aren’t trusted, and the political system is distorted by powerful vested interests. […] if we replaced elections with sortition and made our parliament truly representative of society, it would mean the end of politicians.”

That’s self-delusion, as a moment’s thought reveals. Once the citizen representatives were actually placed in power by lot, they would cease to be ordinary citizens and become subject to the same ambitions, status anxiety, lobbying pressures from vested interests, and incentives (i.e., temptations) from their own weaknesses not very differently from today’s MPs. They would become, in a word, politicians.

But there is an even stronger objection to sortition, namely that it cuts the link between the representative and his constituents that makes government by the people a reality. The MP chosen by lot isn’t elected by voters who share his political opinions and support the policies he advocates, and they aren’t be able to throw the rascal out if he betrays or disappoints them. He is the representative of chance, as much as any monarch, and he can afford to ignore their disapproval and betray them unconcernedly.

That is perhaps what makes sortition appealing to Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, the Green Party, and other radical environmentalists with little political following who have no realistic chance of winning an election on their policy platforms. (The Greens have one MP in the U.K. Parliament.)

No, really, trust us.

Whatever the reason, they and their U.K. parliamentary allies have succeeded in inserting sortition into the official legislative process on energy and climate policy. Their eventual aim seems to be a “national” citizen’s assembly chosen by lot outside the parliamentary system, but they are sensibly starting with baby steps, and the first one is the U.K. Climate Assembly. As Ben Pile describes its birth in his skeptical study, The UK Climate Assembly: Manufacturing Mandates:

On 20 June 2019, six parliamentary select committees announced that a climate assembly would be formed, ‘to explore views on the fair sharing of potential costs of different policy choices’ and to ‘inform political debate and Government policy making’.

The Assembly was to be composed of volunteers from the general public who would agree to discuss different policy choices following instruction from various levels of experts and advocates over six weekends. But though it's a semi-official body, founded by Parliament to advise the government on reforming and implementing legislation and funded in part by public money—about one quarter of its total cost—it bears little resemblance to such traditional and august bodies as a Royal Commission. It shows no sign of seriously attempting to represent or even examine a wide range of views on those topics. How does it look on closer scrutiny?

Mr. Pile’s analysis of how the U.K. Climate Assembly operated is well-documented (and footnoted), thorough, careful, and dispassionate. My sense is that he is a skeptic about the U.K.’s climate policies but not about climate change as such. His overwhelming concern is not to challenge “science” but to reveal the questionable ways in which public policy is made—potentially all public policy if a National Citizens’ Assembly were ever to become a reality. And what he has uncovered is disturbing.

To keep this column within manageable (and readable) length, I will consider only two of the Assembly’s structural flaws:

The first is that the Assembly’s selection of citizens violated the main principle of sortition: its randomness. Not only were the initial volunteers drawn from people who were willing to devote six weekends to discussing climate policy—that’s an anorak level of political interest—but the final 108 Assembly members had been whittled down further in accordance with “age, gender, educational background, ethnicity, home location and ‘attitude to climate change.’”

That last criterion was based on an opinion poll, almost certainly an “outlier” as Pile demonstrates, which assumed 85 percent of British voters are either “very” or “fairly concerned” about climate change. It therefore ensured a Climate Assembly that was equally concerned before it even began.

What could possibly go wrong?

The second was that most of the Climate Assembly funding and almost all its organization, personnel, and various Expert Leads, Advocates, and Informants were provided by the same kind of network of like-minded NGOs, academics, publicists, and activists in the Green movement that we saw a few columns ago in Dr. Fuller’s article. Here are some similar examples from Pile:

Greenpeace’s Doug Parr spoke to the assembly against investing confidence in technological solutions like greenhouse gas removal. Fernanda Balata, from the New Economics Foundation, argued for an ‘economic transformation’, locating the source of the problem of climate change within capitalism itself. Tony Juniper was introduced to the CA as being from UK environment quango, Natural England, but is best known from his previous role as Friends of the Earth England’s director between 2003 and 2008.

Were there no “Advocates” on a less Green side of the questions? Not needed, said one organizer, because climate science was already settled. That response was at best disingenuous, at worst dishonest.

The Climate Assembly was established to consider not the science of climate change but the full range of economic and social policies from agriculture to tourism designed to combat it. That includes the food we eat, the cars we drive, the countries we visit, and a great deal more. It is absurd to limit discussion of such matters to the far left of the environmentalist spectrum. But that is what the U.K. Climate Assembly did. And its report duly reproduced the wish-list policies of Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace as what the British people wanted in future policy—taxes on flying, restricting private cars, higher energy prices, etc., etc.

In reality the Climate Assembly was an exercise in politicians and activists talking to each other to keep their spirits up in the face of growing concern among “ordinary citizens” about the consequences of their common policy of Net-Zero. Pile calls it an exercise in “manufacturing consent” which is a nice way of describing an outrageous stitch-up. But how strong will that consent prove when the wind fails on cloudy days, electricity blackouts disable cars and home heating, the post brings demands for higher taxes and energy prices, and your MP calls asking for your vote in next week's election?

A storm is coming on the Chiltern Hills.

'Climate Change' Boondoggle Upon Boondoggle

Shortly after his book Climate: The Counter Consensus was published in 2010, the late palaeoclimatologist and climate-change skeptic, Professor Bob Carter, told me that he thought that the tide was about to turn. The scientific consensus would be upturned. Reason would return. He was wrong.  Now, eleven years later, the climate-change juggernaut is well past the point of no return. Its anchor in science has become neither here nor there.

Temporarily recalcitrant; the Australian government is now part of the international posse chasing the chimera of zero emissions by 2050. It recently promulgated a technological roadmap to a low-emissions future. Five priority areas are identified: clean hydrogen, electricity storage, low emissions steel and aluminium production, carbon capture, and soil carbon sequestration. It’s fair to say that clean (aka green) hydrogen is the favoured child.

We in Australia are on a hydrogen high in momento. Andrew (“Twiggy”) Forest of Fortescue Metals, which exports huge quantities of iron ore to China, announced a massive research effort into producing green hydrogen and green steel. Green hydrogen is a product of using renewable forms of electricity, solar and wind, I imagine, to extract hydrogen from water. "Green" steel uses green hydrogen as an input instead of coking coal. Obviously, the process must also be powered by carbonless energy. It has to be a virtuous circle to be green and clean.

Fill 'er up!

Prime Minister Scott Morrison explained that getting the cost of hydrogen down is a key to zero-emissions by 2050. A national hydrogen strategy has been established. Australia aspires to international prominence in hydrogen power. What’s that, you say? Join the queue. Germany, France, Japan and Canada among numbers of others have similar aspirations. Can Joe Biden’s USA be far behind?

Not everything which is scientifically and technologically doable makes economic sense. Hydrogen power likely falls into that category. Extracting hydrogen from water takes a lot of power; and, non-trivially, a lot of water. Hydrogen is hard to handle and transport. Its conversion back to electricity via fuel cells is costly in terms of power loss.

When it comes to the use of hydrogen fuel cells in cars, Elon Musk is unequivocal. “Mind-boggling stupid,” he calls it. James Morris in Forbes concurs. Regardless, vehicle manufacturers will no doubt press on with R&D in search of breakthroughs.

My point, however, is not at all with forming a view on the economics of hydrogen power. Unlikely as it seems, a hydrogen revolution might possibly happen. Who knows? I certainly don’t know.

What I do know is that the worldwide effort to prove hydrogen will draw in billions of dollars, including from governments, and thousands upon thousands of researchers. It is yet another storey on top of the many already in place in response to so-called climate change. Boondoggle upon boondoggle. The edifice grows.

Whence did it start? Some suggest with Maurice Strong, the founding executive director of UNEP - the United Nations Environment Programme, established in 1972. Whatever its beginnings, political buy-in gave it impetus and funding. Politicians didn’t miss the opportunity to save the world. The edifice had its foundation.

At first, you might recall, action to combat ‘global warming’, as it was formerly called, was primarily wrapped around the ‘precautionary principle’. To wit, the outcome might be so bad that even a small probability of it occurring is unacceptable. That was never going to fly high enough to justify spending vast amounts of money and turning the world upside down. So, global warming inexorably morphed, as a purely political necessity, into imminent catastrophic climate change as a proven and established fact. Actions have kept pace with growing alarmism.

Green makes the world go 'round.

Myriads of committees, councils, associations and agencies supported by governments and international forums have been put in place. Subsidies and regulations abound. Alan Moran, puts the annual costs of climate-change polices in Australia at AU15 billion. That would of course pale when set against costs in the E.U., Japan and North America. Evidently, governments are willing to spend and regulate bigtime to cool the planet. In a saner King Canute-kinda world you’d ridicule their chutzpah.

Next comes the physical manifestations of subsidies. Upwards of 150 million solar panels littered the planet in 2019; 341,000 wind turbines despoiled the land and seascapes in 2017. The first number is my very-rough estimate (so query it by all means) based on installed capacity; the second is widely reported. The numbers will have since increased, though I couldn’t verify or update them by consulting the World Wind Energy Association or the Global World Energy Council or the International Energy Agency or the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Sorry, I gave up while knowing that there are many more energy bodies I could have consulted. No end to them. And now, on top, we can look forward to massive investments in hydrogen technology.

Best to draw breath and recall where this and everything else in the climate-change edifice comes from. It comes from a hypothesis, based principally on (tenuous and contested) modelling, that man-made CO2 has caused most warming since around 1975; and will go on warming the planet to an unsustainable extent, unless something is done and done urgently.

As Twiggy Forest puts it, “if we wait until 2050 to act, our planet will be toast.” Probably a misprint. I doubt AOC or Al Gore, or David Attenborough or Prince Charles would be relaxed about waiting anytime close to 2050. Twiggy might reflect and replace 2050 with 2030.

Good luck.

Imagine: new incontrovertible evidence comes to light. The received scientific wisdom is mistaken. CO2 is not the devil-in-gaseous form. Now imagine light emerging from a black hole. You’re right, it can’t. The edifice of money, vested interest and political power is simply too gigantic and complex to be toppled by having the hypothesis beneath it pulled away. Galileo had more chance of convincing the Inquisition that the earth moves around the sun.

Catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is as settled a scientific proposition as can be found in the textbooks. Object as you like. Proffer new evidence. It will do no good. You will be cancelled. The Age of Reason is well and truly behind us.

 

Trouble in the Land of Enchantment

Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, candidate Joe Biden was rarely left on his own to articulate his economic plan for recovering the pandemic-wounded economy. He and his surrogates so routinely punted on details of his vision for recovery that one might have mistaken them for the 2020 offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys…or worse, the Chargers. Those who voted for him presumed that any Biden plan would include job creation since jobs are foundational to any economic recovery... but even more so after a summer of BLM building-burning and pandemic-driven lock downs.

Oil and gas industry workers were particularly fretful about how a Biden administration would "Build Back Better" when Democrat hostility has underpinned every reference to their industry. They knew well that their industry would bear the brunt of whatever plan the administration eventually conjured up. After all, Biden had promised to end fracking during the second debate…a moment of inadvertent candor that created a momentary panic within his campaign.

By popular demand!

Within days of taking office, it was not job creation that illuminated his path to recovery. Instead, he presented a plan for cutting jobs…. lots of them. President Biden signed an executive order canceling construction of the XL Pipeline. Almost immediately 11,000 direct jobs are on the chopping block for elimination, with an estimated 60,000 additional indirect jobs that will potentially be eliminated. These are well-paying, blue collar jobs. The kind of jobs that represent real economic impact.

Then, days later, it happened again. The Biden administration announced another executive order that will cause further economic destruction. The order directs the Department of the Interior to suspend new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters, concurrent with a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program. According to the press release, the order "will help restore balance on public lands and waters, create jobs, and provide a path to align the management of America’s public lands and waters with our nation’s climate, conservation, and clean energy goals.”

Together these orders portend negative economic implications, reverse positive environmental trends and weaken national security by negatively affecting energy security of the U.S., an achievement of the Trump administration that unquestionably changed the geo-political landscape.

At the state level, the implications are grave. Wells on federal and trust lands account for about 20 percent of the nation’s oil production, and less of its gas output. However, the companies that own these leases pay taxes, based on production. These fees help fund millions of dollars of the budgets of a number of western states and Indian tribes including Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico where the federal lands are located. Of those states perhaps New Mexico and the Ute Indian tribe will be most negatively impacted by the second of these two Executive Orders.

New Mexico hardest hit?

According to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) new analysis, there will be profound negative consequences for New Mexico if a ban on federal leasing and public lands takes effect. New Mexico, which accounts for 57 percent of federal onshore oil production and 31 percent of onshore natural gas production, is projected to lose more than 62,000 jobs by 2022 and more thereafter, This represents more than five percent of all the jobs in the state by 2030. With nearly 40 percent of the state’s budget funded by natural gas and oil production, a ban puts at risk more than $1 billion of federal revenue sharing which helps support New Mexico’s entire budget. New Mexico voters chose candidate Biden to be President Biden. If the oil and gas industry were a nose, the voters of New Mexico just cut it off to spite its own face.

Because of the Biden administration’s attack on U.S. energy production, the implications are also environmentally detrimental. Currently, the U.S. is a net exporter of energy. This was achieved by oil and gas extraction from shale. Natural gas has proven the driver of unprecedented lower emission levels. In fact, the levels have been so low, the Americans led emissions reductions when compared to the bloviating bunch of dooms day Paris Climate Accord signatories.

By removing the ability for the U.S. to produce domestic energy, two things occur. First, the use of coal, which had been on the decline in the U.S. will not end up being retired, as is the current plan. Next, coal generation, according to the API’s analysis, will initially increase by 6 percent under a permit ban, and will continue to increase by 15 percent in 2030. As a result, CO2 emissions will increase by an average of 58 MMT and will continue rising, ultimately representing a 5.5 percent increase by 2030.

Finally, there are the national economic impacts of the proposed permit ban. Immediately following implementation of the federal leasing restrictions, U.S. economic growth will slow. Lower U.S. energy production and higher energy prices will reduce GDP by a cumulative $0.7 trillion according to the API analysis.

It is clear that the Biden administration does not value U.S. economic superiority, nor the impact a strong economy has on our citizens. Instead, the administration seeks to weaken the country by undermining the most foundational element to innovation and economic vitality -- inexpensive and abundant energy, delivered by those working in the oil and gas industry.

Whether it's due to the political and financial debts President Biden and his family and many in the administration have to China, the influence of contributors and environmental extremists, or even more sinister motivations, doesn't matter. As an industry, we must defend our country against the madness of unmaking America. We must engage in the arena of ideas, engage in our state legislators to push back against these attacks and ensure it we drive our own narrative. There is not “someone else” who will do it for us. We must do it on behalf of this great country… to save our industry and save our county.

Extremism in the Pursuit of Economic Madness

You don’t know it yet, although you think you do, but there is a great smash-up ahead of us when the extremist green policy of “Net-Zero” hits the West’s voters square in the solar plexus. The reason you think you know about this smash-up is because a vast array of Green pressure groups and activist organizations have combined to persuade you that you are already facing a completely different kind of smash-up.

They preach that unless you give up eating meat, fly less (or not at all), abandon your car for a slower and more expensive one, throw out your gas heaters for electric storage heaters that don’t actually keep you warm, and in general live more like a mendicant Buddhist, then a horrendous climate emergency will ensure that the world will end last Tuesday.

Last Tuesday? Surely not. But the correct answer is yes. We have already passed the dates of several environmental Armageddons and Goetterdammerungs that had been predicted by a long list of people and organizations from Extinction Rebellion  to Prince Charles to the New York Times (passim) to the United Nations to the CIA. Here's one of several lists of such false predictions:

And here’s the Guardian in 2004, waxing gleeful that President Bush will be embarrassed by a report from the CIA that Britain will be suffering a Siberian climate along with many other ills across Europe and the world by, er, last year.

No one apologizes for these self-confident errors when the world fails to experience the catastrophes they have forecast, and a week later another warning of imminent doom is posted to a loud chorus of demands for action NOW to prevent it. Anyone who points this out is condemned as a science denier, and nothing he says need ever be listened to again.

Do that voodoo you do do so well.

This would be a comedy of sorts if these false alarms had not persuaded governments and international agencies to prepare hugely expensive programs designed quite deliberately to make their industries’ costs much higher and their citizens poorer in order to ward off the anger of Gaia. Net-Zero is the name of one of those programs and as governments concede, it will require a very considerable belt-tightening on the part of ordinary citizens (aka voters.)

In short the real smash-up looming ahead of us will be what happens when the Net-Zero program actually reduces the living standards of the voters, some very substantially, starting in the next decade with the U.K. phasing out of petrol-driven cars, effectively compelling them to switch to more expensive electric vehicles.  For though voters have seen their living standards cut before by foolish policies, this would be the first time that a government has done so deliberately and boasted of doing so in advance. They won’t be able to claim ignorance or bad luck when the roof falls in.

That’s a very odd situation for democratic governments to find themselves in.  It runs counter to the usually strong survival instinct of politicians. Why have they almost all signed onto the “climate emergency” theory and to the Net-Zero policy response to it?

Look at the record. Only five MPs voted against the Climate Change Act that launched this policy in the U.K. parliament, and all the “respectable” parties in Europe and most of the world are passionately devoted to it. The U.N. has been its cheerleader since the Rio de Janeiro conference in the 1990s. China’s policy consists of promising to cut carbon emissions without actually doing so for as long as possible.

Indeed, except for the U.S., there’s an international consensus of governments in favor of Net-Zero (though not one in favor of paying for it since it costs a lot of money to make people poorer.) Now the election of President Biden signifies that Washington will join the consensus. So the question naturally arises: why are governments setting themselves up for a massive political clash with their own voters?

One very obvious reason is that global warming is a genuine problem, potentially a very serious one, which governments feel they must address with effective measures. Almost no one denies that, however. The supposed climate “deniers” such as Bjorn Lomborg, Michael Shellenberger, and former U.K. finance minister Lord Lawson, all accept the reality of the problem. Where they differ from the (semi-enforced) political consensus is in believing that the problem is serious without being an emergency and, more importantly, that there are better solutions to it that carry less damaging side effects than Net Zero. Their arguments and policy proposals are supported by impressive evidence. They deserve a hearing—and the world needs an open debate—rather than exclusion from debate by the establishment’s own cancel culture.

Shut up, they explained helpfully.

As that culture indicates, however, not all of the causes of the governments’ adhesion to Net Zero are respectable ones. A reason why they believe they can afford to risk and probably survive a serious clash with their electorates is that all the respectable parties have signed onto the deal. If all their rivals have publicly pledged support for Net-Zero, governments calculate, then there will be no one for the voters to vote for if they want to vote against the policy.

That calculation has proved successful in the case of the Euro. It has survived all the disasters it’s inflicted on Mediterranean Europe because no parties there were prepared to break with the European establishment’s pro-Euro consensus—and when one arrived in power that was half-prepared to do so, namely Syriza in Greece, it was bullied into acquiescence with threats of ruin and isolation.

But that kind of enforced consensus, as well as being a brutal thing that requires an illiberal silencing of debate and the hunting down of heretics like Lomborg, risks keeping bad policies in place because it protects them from criticism. For the moment at least, the Euro is a disaster but a secure one.

But such moments might be significantly extended by the cooperation between governments, establishments and activists to manufacture a Potemkin public opinion in opposition to the real reactions of voters to the economic consequences of both the Euro and Net-Zero.

Two new reports—Ben Pile’s monograph for the Global Warming Policy Foundation on the undemocratic tactics of the UK's Climate Assembly  and the Spiked article by Roslyn Fuller on the billionaire takeover of “civil society” NGOs—between them illustrate how a new kind of astroturf activism is attempting an end run around democracy by misrepresenting what the voters think to the media and public opinion. How is this done? That's something I'll return to next week.

All hail Unanimity.

But is anyone fooled by such tactics? Many people are, and as Pile has suggested, the problem is that governments, politicians, and the media are among them--though want to be fooled and cooperate in the folly. To be sure, they are likely to be shaken out of that folly by the raw reactions of anger and incredulity of voters over policies intentionally impoverishing them. Nothing persuades people more quickly than that.

But the politicians will then be facing a serious crisis as they have to decide between defying the electorate or reversing a policy in which they have invested large sums of taxpayers’s money along with the public trust.

If they had better memories, they would have recalled another recent case in which all the political parties felt secure in supporting the same unpopular policy, ignoring and dismissing signs that large numbers of their voters disagreed with them, only to discover that it had been surprisingly rejected in a referendum and they had invited a crisis that lasted for the next four years:

Brexit.