Obama Judge Shuts Down Dakota Access Pipeline

This morning U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee, ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline.  He also ordered that it be emptied of oil by Aug. 5. Expect an almost immediate appeal.

Judge Boasberg wrote that he was “mindful of the disruption,” but he stood by his previously articulated position that the original environmental review, completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2015/16, wasn't thorough enough since it:

[D]id not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.

At issue is the Missouri River which the pipeline crosses just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles North and South Dakota. The Sioux and various environmentalist groups argued that the pipeline could contaminate the river, and the Obama administration took their side against the Corps. Obama spent years slow walking the project because of the environmentalists' concerns.

In answer to those concerns, Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, which owns the pipeline, stated:

[W]e're not on any Indian property at all... We're on private lands. That's number one. Number two, this pipeline is new steel pipe... It's going to go 90 feet to 150 feet below the lake's surface. It's thick wall pipe, extra thick, by the way, more so than just the normal pipe that we lay. Also, on each side of the lake, there's automated valves that, if in the very, very unlikely situation there were to be a leak, our control room shuts down the pipe, encapsulates that small section that could be in peril. So, that's just not going to happen.... there is no way there would be any crude to contaminate their water supply. They're 70 miles downstream.

Which is to say, this pipeline doesn't violate native property rights and it is as safe as it can reasonably expected to be. Consequently, after the 2016 election this was one of many stalled projects that Donald Trump greenlit on the strength of the existing environmental reviews.

But now, after the construction has been completed and crude has been pumping through the pipeline for three years, it is being shut down pending yet another environmental review -- if the ruling stands. Workers will be laid off and the company will take a serious financial hit, no easy burden in the present economic climate. As for the oil, somewhat less of it might be pumped -- the ultimate goal of the greens -- or else it will go into storage until it can be moved to the refinery some other way. Very likely by rail.

Seven years ago, on July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, a seventy-four car freight train carrying crude oil crashed and exploded. Forty seven people were killed in what was called possibly "the most devastating rail accident in Canadian history.”

It is important that we mourn for and with those effected by this tragedy, but we must also note that it is within our power to reduce the chances of such a thing happening again by making sure that more oil is carried across this continent via pipeline, which is significantly safer than rail.

Unfortunately attacking pipelines is a common tactic of the environmentalist left. This is precisely because they are able to safely move large amounts of oil over long distances, and for the Greenies, the safe transport of oil goes against their most fervently held beliefs.

Hopefully all of this is quickly sorted out such that the pipeline can get pumping again. Because as Lac-Mégantic reminds us, the human and environmental costs when something goes wrong with those trains is incalculable.

Canadian Academics and the Money Pipeline

A few years back, at a meeting of the English department at a major Canadian university, the issue that excited the indignation of the department was the wide divergence between faculty salaries and the comparative pittance allotted to sessional instructors. My wife, a full professor and director of several committees over the years, proposed that tenured faculty might throw their support behind the part-time instructors, offering in the next round of collective bargaining to absorb a small pay cut in exchange for an increase in part-timer’s wages. After all, she reasoned, if departmental concern were to be more than mere virtue signaling or self-indulgent rhetoric, a modest fraction of bountiful faculty paycheques should not be too much to ask. Her suggestion was met with incredulous and patronizing laughter and was immediately dismissed.

This incident offers a window onto the mental landscape of many academics, especially in the humanities and social science programs—professors who are good with words but bad at moral principle, whose skill with language masks an inner spiritual vacuum and lack of compassion for those whom they pretend to champion.

But such academics, by and large, are not only lacquered hypocrites, they are both technological illiterates and economic simpletons. One of the latest issues now agitating the Canadian academic community—again, I speak primarily of the Humanities and Social Sciences departments, where practical ignorance is a bedrock feature—is the campaign against the country’s energy sector, chiefly in Alberta and Newfoundland.

Some 265 academics have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau objecting to the bailout package the government is preparing for the oil and gas companies in financially-strapped Alberta. It seems obvious that the bailout is merely a sweetener toward the eventual extinction of the energy sector. The anti-oil profs would rather see the entire operation immediately scrapped. Instead, financial resources should be allocated to conservation, public transportation, fighting climate change “and other areas of mitigation and adaptation to global warming.” The fact that the most responsible science reveals that “global warming” is a handy myth fostered by those who would profit from Big Green is never considered.* 

 “Research shows,” our pedagogues inform us, “that investments in both social services and sustainable energy produce far more jobs than comparable investments in the capital-intensive oil and gas sector”—but such “research” remains conveniently unaddressed and thus impossible to analyze. Similarly, many of the claims made throughout the document are devoid of links or context. The signatories complain that the oil industry has received substantial government subsidies, but they do not mention that every country in the world supports its energy zone to maintain a level playing field, or that non-oil based companies, such as Canada’s aviation firm Bombardier, auto manufacturers like GM and Chrysler, scandal-plagued engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and others also benefit from significant government largesse. 

St John's harbor, Newfoundland.

As Tex Leugner, editor of the Action Alberta newsletter, indicates in a personal communication, mining (potash, diamond, uranium, etc.) and manufacturing are go unmentioned. “The implication of course is that only carbon based subsidies were included nationally.” In other words, why no focus on other extraction industries or the aforementioned subsidized companies with their “environmentally-unfriendly” cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, and heavy machinery tearing at Gaia’s bowels? The obsession with oil plainly trumps every other consideration in the effort to demolish the armature of daily existence. One takedown at a time.  

Moreover, it would seem highly doubtful that green investments would come even close to matching the jobs supplied by the oil and gas industry or equalling the $359 billion flowing from energy industries to government from 2000 to 2018. Citing Statistics Canada, the Financial Post points out that the energy industry outstripped banking, real estate and construction in corporate taxes alone. Conversely, Big Green, with its fetish on “renewables,” its soaring costs, and Solyndra-like boondoggles, thrives on subsidies, not royalties.

Interestingly, the lead authors of the letter, Laurie Adkin and Debra Davidson, are professors from an institution intimately at risk, the University of Alberta. Neither of these self-proclaimed authorities has any expertise in the energy sector, recognition of job-creating spinoffs, nor any business experience worth mentioning—unless Political Science and Environmental Sociology constitute areas of pertinent credibility. They are joined among the signatories by psychologists, epidemiologists , social workers, media and cinema types, artists, curators, librarians and urban planners—many of whom know nothing about the vital economic issues at hand.

Newfoundland finds itself in the same unenviable situation as Alberta. Its offshore oil industry, as Rex Murphy reports in the National Post, is to be “deferred indefinitely,” in effect killing the “roughly $7 billion Bay du Nord project… the first ‘deep water’ oilfield” in the country. In a rare instance of administrative common sense, Newfoundland’s Memorial University president Vianne Timmons spoke out in favor of the energy project: “If it’s important to Newfoundland, it’s important to Memorial University.” 

Her statement did not sit well with faculty, who viewed it as “very disappointing to see (a) kind of open-ended support” for the oil industry. Professor and faculty association executive Josh Lepawsky was predictably offended. “There’s a risk that this kind of open-ended support for the oil and gas industry voiced by the president may reduce or chill those who are critical of it, and that’s an imposition on academic freedom.” Anything the faculty does not like, apparently, is a threat against academic freedom. The complete non sequitur of his formulation was obviously lost on him, especially given how often university faculties voice anti-oil sentiments without risking academic freedom. (Timmons herself later softened her uncharacteristic prudence. "But we do have a climate crisis,” she conceded, “and we must also work on research, teaching and service in that area to try and improve our processes around energy.")

 That advancements in industry standards have rendered extraction and delivery safer than ever, that hundreds of thousands of jobs and working families depend on the survival of the energy sector, and that nothing less than national solvency is at stake escapes the coddled academic mindset. After all, academics can afford to pontificate. They are tenured or tenure-track; they are for the most part ignorant of the empirical world, having rarely worked with their hands, engaged in productive labor or experienced the risks attendant on business ventures or entrepreneurship; they enjoy hefty guaranteed salaries, annual raises and cushy pensions for long service. They need not fear layoffs or bankruptcies, and are by profession enamored of theory but alien to heuristic practice. To quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb from Skin in the Game, “If you give advice, you need to be exposed to losses from it.” 

I reiterate that I am speaking chiefly of academics who teach in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, professors who are sublimely oblivious of the fact that their salaries, benefits and facilities derive in large measure from the very quarter they will do everything in their power to shut down. The pipelines they would dismantle are the very pipelines that feed their incomes and pensions—which, as noted above, they will not share with their less fortunate colleagues—and that provide the buildings, offices, classrooms, appliances, heating, air conditioning, furniture, amenities, supplies and equipment without which they would find themselves out in the cold. As Neven Sesardić argues in When Reason Goes on Holiday, philosophers in particular and academics in general have a rather shaky connection to the exigencies of everyday life and should be more circumspect and humble when pronouncing on real-world matters. They should struggle “to break the grip of groupthink.” No matter. The workplace is the wokeplace.

We need also consider that these faculties have deteriorated from the classical model of rigorous and impartial education, having become propaganda outlets and disinformation centers serving the political left, useless, irrelevant or harmful with regard to the public good. Taxpayer funding is grossly wasted subsidizing departments that have bought into political correctness, cultural Marxism, radical environmentalism, global warming and the “social justice” epidemic at the expense of real learning and scholarly discipline, not to mention the resource industries on which the future of the country rests. 

To put it bluntly, most contemporary academics, with the differential exception of those in business (maybe), medicine and STEM, are parasites living off the sweat of other people’s labor. Their departments should be ruthlessly downsized and the money pipeline made to flow the other way, toward the sectors that actually contribute to the nation’s prosperity and well-being. Or, like my wife, once they grow aware of how far academia has fallen from intellectual rectitude and disinterested instruction, they should take early retirement and preserve their self-respect.

--------------------------------------

* In a previous article for The Pipeline, I referred readers to such reputable studies as  Elaine Dewar’s Cloak of Green, John Casey’s Dark Winter, Norman Rogers’ Dumb Energy and Bruce Bunker’s The Mythology of Global Warming: Climate Change Fiction vs. Scientific Facts, works whose findings would appear to be definitive. The real “climate deniers”—i.e., those who believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming and divestment from essential industries—might also consult Robert Zubrin’s magisterial Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, Donna Laframboise’s acetylene exposé of the IPCC at the United Nations The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert, and Alan Carlin’s politically and scientifically informative Environmentalism Gone Mad. There are many other excellent studies and monographs on the subject, too numerous to mention here. I suspect that none of these books will find a home on any academic syllabus.

Seriously Kids, Stay in School

A quick follow up on yesterday's post about how Greta Thunberg really needs to chill, Matthew Lynn had a good piece at Britain's The Telegraph entitled Not Now Greta, We Are Trying to Save the Global Economy, in which he comments on this bizarre and misguided Greta tweet:

Here's Lynn:

The impeccably politically correct president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, was probably a little taken aback to find her institution targeted on Twitter last week by the ferocious teenage activist Miss Thunberg.... [Her] complaint? According to an analysis by Greenpeace, from mid-March to mid-May the ECB bought more than €30bn (£27bn) of corporate bonds, of which €7.6bn were issued by oil and energy companies" ....

The Bank of England is in just as much trouble. It turns out that its Covid Corporate Financing Facility, has – surprise, surprise – been accessed by companies that climate change activists don’t exactly approve of. According to Greenpeace UK “airlines have been given … billions in cheap and easy loans to keep them polluting, without any commitments to reduce emissions or even keep workers on the payroll”. Even worse, “cruise lines, pesticides and car companies have received similar largesse”. The Bank is “bailing out climate wreckers,” according to the Green MP Caroline Lucas.

As Lynn points out, these criticisms are just dumb. "The ECB is not giving money to fossil fuel companies. It launched an emergency blast of quantitative easing as the eurozone went into lockdown." Which is to say, it injected cash into a teetering economy by (indiscriminately) purchasing corporate bonds. What's more, those bonds were purchased on the secondary market, so they weren't even bought from oil companies directly. They were attempting to bail out the economy, not particular companies. The same goes for the Bank of England. There are worthwhile criticisms of quantitative easing, but the Greta/Greenpeace suggestion here, that in a time of emergency, these banks should have stopped everything to make sure they weren't buying bonds with the names of oil companies on them, that is nuts.

Honestly, we'd all be much better off if this girl had stayed in school. Maybe she would have learned something.

'Chill Greta, Chill!'

Last December, the 45th president of the United States offered Greta Thunberg some solid, practical advice:

I don't have any insight into her anger issues, but Trump's second and third points are spot on. Catching an old movie with a friend is always a good idea, and there must have been several floating around at the time, just before Christmas -- Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck is a personal favorite, or perhaps Alastair Sim in A Christmas Carol (the only version worth your time). And hey, there's always Gone with the Wind, right? Oh, wait...

But point three is really key: "Chill." It's something that Greta's parents should have said to her long ago, instead of, you know, using her. While most of us were mastering baking or catching up on our reading, Greta has devoted herself to -- what else -- hectoring various and sundry nations about their carbon footprints.

Here's one example which I found particularly galling -- Greta & Co. have been indirectly pressuring Canada and Norway to "commit to no new oil and gas exploration or production, and phase out their existing production." How? Well, Norway and Canada are (along with Ireland) vying for a spot on the UN Security Council. As the European votes are likely to go to the European contenders, Justin Trudeau decided to woo other parts of the world, particularly African countries, such as Ethiopia and Sengal

Greta, however, signed a letter to UN ambassadors of small island states, leaning on Trudeau's targets to turn up the heat, particularly on Canada:

Thunberg and the others say Canada is nowhere close to hitting its Paris climate agreement targets. They also say Canada is the second-biggest supplier of fossil-fuel subsidies among the world's wealthiest 20 countries and has opened up billions of dollars in loans to fossil-fuel companies as part of its COVID-19 economic aid.... The letter-writers said if Canada was serious about implementing the Paris agreement it would make permanent its temporary ban on extracting oil and gas in the Arctic, cancel both the Trans Mountain and Keystone XL pipeline projects, and end all subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

So if Canada were really serious about the Paris agreement, it would immediately shut down 10% of its economy -- and since an economy isn't a machine, but an interconnected, organic thing, that would really mean contracting by at least 25 or 30 percent --  eliminating countless jobs and immiserating numerous Canadians? Makes sense to me...

Seriously, get a hobby Greta. One that doesn't include robbing people of their livelihood. And, more important: "Chill!"

Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia

You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.

In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:

Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.

The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.

If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.

Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.

Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.

As Politico noted at the time:

In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.

In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”

Right.

A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.

Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.

Of course.

After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.

As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”

Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.

“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”

“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”

Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.

Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.

Rioting and Destroying for Planetary and Social Justice

Everything is a metaphor for something else in today’s higher journalism, which means that the rioting and violent anarchy now spreading across the United States faster than Covid-19 (and perhaps with deadlier results in time) must be a metaphor for something very important. Every fellow-hack with a deadline will have his own target; but let me suggest that the most obvious metaphorical application is that of climate policy. 

Consider the video footage pouring out onto our laptops (but not always onto our news programs, thanks to the vigilance of mainstream broadcasters who don’t want to tarnish the “protests” against police brutality.) It shows repeated episodes of people breaking into shops, rushing into them, rushing out with stolen goods, physically attacking those who defend their property or other people under attack or anyone they intuitively dislike, and completing the protest by burning down the property, the building next door and, in many cases, the neighborhood.  

Police and other guardians of public order seem reluctant to intervene to prevent this Saturnalia, and sometimes they make gestures of sympathy to “the community” by, for instance, “kneeling” along with the mobs. Sometimes the reluctance is born of a decent civic responsibility married to courage that deserves our respect and admiration. I have seen mayors, sheriffs, and ordinary citizens who have spoken out eloquently or helped the cops to detain or drive out the sinister black-clad semi-professional organizers of mayhem. But all too often the reluctance can be traced to the city or state politicians who don’t want to alienate their own “constituencies” which they think sympathetic to the riots and rioters—often wrongly as is demonstrated by the occasional episodes when local people help the police to detain or drive out the sinister black-clad professional organizers of mayhem.  

But we shouldn’t ignore the signs that a deeper sympathy for violent disorder and the overthrow of existing civil authority has spread on the radical left, among some elected politicians, and within the educated upper-middle class throughout the Anglosphere. The calculated silence of some politicians about the anarchy we’re all witnessing is bad enough; worse is the contorted inability of others such as California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, to condemn the violence when they praise the “protests,” and their seeming paralysis when they should be taking action to restore order. 

What are the likely results of this tolerated disorder? Neighborhoods will be deeply damaged economically, and the poorer the neighborhood, the longer it will take to recover. Some parts of Washington D.C., turned into post-apocalyptic wastelands by the riots in the 1960s, took decades to return to their earlier prosperity. Large retail corporations will redline districts where their outlets were destroyed even as companies like Nike add “riot chic” to their advertising appeal.  Capital and lives invested in small businesses will be wasted, and those who worked to establish them will have to start again. In many cases they’ll give up, take dead-end jobs, go on welfare, cease to be part of America’s entrepreneurial workforce. The welfare rolls will grow while tax revenue falls and budget cuts cripple local services. More young people, including many who only last week had real opportunities ahead of them, will now face prison sentences and the stigma of felony in later life. And America will be poorer, more divided, more partisan, more unequal, and more self-hating than before last weekend.  

And police brutality? The unlawful killing of George Floyd by a cop was a tragedy for him and his family and a serious crime for the rest of us. It was almost immediately recognized as such by everyone from President Trump downwards. Barring some astounding development, the policeman and his colleagues will receive long prison sentences—as have similar cases of police brutality in recent years. And there will be a surge in articles about the epidemic of police brutality and in proposals to reform police recruitment and training in order to stop it once and for all. It’s more than possible that Joe Biden will be elected on quite ambitious proposals to carry out that agenda. 

The difficulty is that as Heather Mac Donald has shown in (genuinely courageous) articles, the epidemic of police brutality against Black America is a falsehood disproved by repeated studies. Here is a 2019 study by authors at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, based upon a database of 917 officer-involved fatal shootings in 2015 from more than 650 police departments.  

Fifty-five percent of the victims were white, 27 percent were black, and 19 percent were Hispanic. Between 90 and 95 percent of the civilians shot by officers in 2015 were attacking police or other citizens; 90 percent were armed with a weapon. So-called threat-misperception shootings, in which an officer shoots an unarmed civilian after mistaking a cellphone, say, for a gun, were rare. 

How is that explained? As Ms. Mac Donald points out: “It is a racial group’s rate of violent crime that determines police shootings, not the race of the officer. The more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that members of that racial group will be shot by a police officer.”  

None of this should come as news. Writing in the New York Post in 2016, Pipeline editor Michael Walsh noted:

The “killer cop” narrative refuses to die, and the Washington Post decided to throw fuel on the racial fire with context-free statements like these: “Although black men make up only 6 percent of the US population, they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year.” This ignores the fact that black violent-crime rates are far higher than those of whites. According to the Department of Justice, blacks committed 52.5 percent of the murders in America from 1980 to 2008, when they represented 12.6 percent of the population.

This certainly does not excuse cases of police misconduct. Bad cops should be investigated and tried. But these incidents don’t prove that the “real problem” is cops. This isn’t an “epidemic.” And it isn’t racist to suggest that some perspective is warranted here.

That is not a conclusion that anyone wants to reach, especially after an innocent man has been killed by a cop, but it’s the underlying social reality. Policies based on ignoring it will produce perverse results, including the weakening of standards for police recruitment and training to achieve a particular racial balance. And the speeches of politicians and social critics that deny this reality will encourage the spread of a myth that seemingly justifies violent anarchy and attacks on all police officers.  Two policemen, innocent of anything except defending the rest of us, were killed this weekend. Their lives should matter too. But because you don’t know their names, they don’t.  

As so often in social policy, we are witnessing how a false belief and policies rooted in it produce results that are the opposite of what’s intended (except perhaps by some cold-hearted Machiavellis who desire anarchy for their own political purposes.) And that’s where climate policy comes in. 

Here’s a short list of the features common to both climate policy and the political treatment of the violent protests: 

  1. Though both the protests and climate policy are justified as designed to help or “save” people from a present or looming disaster, they have the actual effect of making their lives far worse. If Black lives matter, so do Black livelihoods. But many of those livelihoods have just collapsed, first from Covid-19, now from your friendly neighborhood anarchist. And if a policy of achieving a net-zero carbon impact is imposed on our economies, all our livelihoods will descend into the basement. We will have a first, temporary taste of that immiseration when the various national lockdowns are lifted in the next few months. But unless we enjoy a series of scientific breakthroughs on energy generation, a net-zero-carbon-based pauperization will be a near-permanent return to a pre-industrial standard of living for almost all of us. 
  2. Celebrity Endorsements. Hollywood has stepped in to assist the processes of disorder and pauperization. Ditto some charities and NGOS—one Minnesota charity that usually gets by on about $80,000 has received $20 million in the last few days to bail out those arrested in the protests. I can appreciate the motive of helping people without means to survive court procedures. But why do Hollywood and “civil society” not also want to give a helping hand to the small store-owner who has just seen most of his capital stock vanish through his broken windows with perhaps the added anti-bonus of a skull cracked by someone zealous for "social justice"? I would like to be proved wrong here. Go ahead. Make my day. 
  3. Censorship. Somehow opinions and even facts not helpful to the establishment and media consensus on either climate policy or “social justice” have a hard time making it into the news and mainstream debate. When they do, they’re often labeled “denialism.” But not covering inconvenient facts about climate policy or crime is a far more dangerous form of denialism—and of its nature, far more difficult to detect or argue against. 
  4. Dissing Democracy. Some things are too important to be left to democracy, we’re told, which leads to an unspoken policy of leaving those things to be decided by the corridors of power or when all else fails, by the streets.  
  5. The Establishment’s Blind Eye. In recent years, when the voters or legal processes have endorsed social policies or energy developments opposed by both the radical left and the political establishment, physical (and sometimes violent) protests have erupted in order to block them. That’s happened in Canada over developing energy resources, in Australia over mining, in the U.S. over pipelines and offshore drilling, and in the U.K. over “fracking.” And when these blockings occur, usually illegally, the authorities look the other way or intervene in order to ensure that the protests remain “peaceful” (i.e., meet no effective opposition.) It’s happened far more dramatically this weekend over plainly un-peaceful protests too. The right to go about your legal business peacefully is, for practical purposes, a dead letter when it clashes with political or environmental correctness. 
  6. Not to go into conspiracy theories, but someone is financing the organizing of both sets of protests. Not many media organizations seem keen on finding out who—unless it might really turn out to be white supremacists with snow on their boots. 

All these distortions and infractions of lawful rights and democratic processes are possible only because there is overriding belief in a massive social crisis or social evil that makes extraordinary measures both necessary and urgent. That social crisis in the form of an epidemic of police brutality against black communities is examined above—and found wanting. The social crisis in relation to climate policy is the looming crisis that the world will turn to ashes in the next twelve years unless we all become medieval peasants with a taste for self-flagellation. (See Greta Thunberg passim.) 

How does that compare to the climate facts? It’s nonsense in a general way, of course, but if you should like to see it refuted in detail, you’re fortunate because the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London has just published The State of the Climate 2019 by Ole Humlum, a distinguished Norwegian professor of physical geography. It's chock full of information that undermines and refutes the simple picture of environmental degradation that the Greens’ climatist ideology usually presents, for instance: 

The temperature variations recorded in the lowermost troposphere are generally reflected at higher altitudes too. In the stratosphere, however, a temperature ‘pause’ commenced in around 1995, 5–7 years before a similar temperature ‘pause’ began in the lower troposphere near the planet’s surface. The stratospheric temperature ‘pause’ has now persisted for about 25 years. 

And I shall be returning to it next week.  In the meantime, enjoy:

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Biden Vows to Kill Keystone XL if Elected

Back before he went into hiding, Joe Biden was notorious for making confusing statements which his spokesmen had to "clarify" later, while pretending that they'd been distorted by conservative media. Not that he's actually stopped doing this since the DNC began using the lockdowns as a pretense for hiding him in his basement in Delaware (a tactic which seems to be working for them at the moment, but which they can't keep up through November). While criticizing Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden told ABC News a few weeks ago, "We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse, no matter what. No matter what. We know what has to be done." Uh, sure Grandpa.

But there was nothing confusing about the statement put out by the Biden campaign (of course not delivered by the candidate himself) vowing to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline project should he be elected president next November.

“Biden strongly opposed the Keystone pipeline in the last administration, stood alongside President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject it in 2015, and will proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as President and stop it for good by rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline permit,” Biden campaign policy director Stef Feldman said in a written statement to POLITICO.

In case you've forgotten, Keystone XL is a project of the Canadian oil firm TC Energy, the object of which is to safely transport Canadian crude from Alberta down to refineries in the U.S. It is, in fact, the fourth Keystone pipeline, and when completed it will be able to transport more oil (because it is larger) more quickly (because it travels a less circuitous route) than the already operational other three. Unfortunately for TC Energy, stopping Keystone XL became a cause célèbre for the Left during Barack Obama's presidency, and so the Obama Administration slow-walked the permit process for years until officially rejecting it after six years of review. Donald Trump breathed new life into the project after his election, but it has remained in legal limbo throughout the course of his first term.

Just a few thoughts on his announcement:

  1. Part of Biden's appeal is that he's supposedly this scrappy, working class, down-to-earth, Irish Catholic guy from Scranton, Pa., son of a used car salesman, yadda yadda yadda. But here he is, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, promising to kill steady, hardworking jobs (in two countries!) because it'll make well-connected environmentalists happy?
  2. Even Democrats are starting to acknowledge that the former Vice President isn't all there. Even if it were true that his instincts are more geared towards the working man than the wine-and-caviar set that Hillary Clinton appealed to, this kind of announcement should give you a sense of who will actually be doing the governing while President Biden retreats further into his dotage.
  3. Keystone XL is popular in Canada, so much so that the then-newly elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, felt compelled to object when Obama originally killed the project. Canada is our second largest trading partner, and our largest -- China -- is increasingly unpopular in the U.S., for obvious reasons, so much so that calls for our relationship with that nation to be drastically reevaluated are coming in hot and heavy. Would it really be wise for Biden -- whose foreign policy experience supposedly got him the nod as Obama's veep -- to antagonize an ally in such an environment?

Then again, former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates famously said that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." As his Keystone XL announcement demonstrates, his domestic and trade policy instincts are just as reliable.

Alberta's Petrochemicals Protecting Canada

The collapse in oil prices combined with the virus and the lockdowns are hitting the Canadian province of Alberta extremely hard. Some are even predicting the worst economic contraction in its history. But I was glad to read in the Financial Post about one bright spot in the province's economy at the moment, its petrochemical sector which produces a variety of plastic products that are in high demand at the moment:

In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would move to ban single-use plastics such as shopping bags, cutlery and straws to curb the proliferation of plastic waste in landfills and oceans. Now, in the middle of a public health crisis, the demand for plastic packaging has exploded. In Alberta’s oilpatch, ethane crackers used to make polyethylene film are among the only facilities that are busier today than before the pandemic knocked out global oil demand and led to hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being shut in.

“The demand for plastic packaging has never been higher than it is right now,” said Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, noting that the evidence of the huge demand for the industry’s products is plain at any grocery store in the country. Some grocery stores that had previously banned or started charging for plastic bags have eased those policies as workers are concerned about handling re-usable grocery bags. Acrylic plastic shields have been installed at tills to separate cashiers from shoppers, both of whom are wearing plastic gloves and masks in increasing numbers.... Masterson said the current crisis has led to “an absolute boom in the demand for packaging,” as grocery stores and consumers are wrapping food in plastic to prevent surface contamination of foods from the coronavirus.

Plastics, of course, aren't the only timely products produced by petrochemicals. Another is isopropyl alcohol:

I think it has shown some vulnerabilities in Canada’s supply chain,” Masterson said, noting that Shell Canada Ltd.’s Sarnia plant is the only producer of isopropyl alcohol in Canada, used to make alcohol-based cleaning products such as hand sanitizers. Shell president and CEO Michael Crothers said in a March 31 release the company would donate 125,000 litres of isopropyl alcohol, which is “approximately enough to create nearly one million 12-oz bottles of hand sanitizer for use in hospitals and medical facilities....

In Alberta, successive governments have implemented incentives designed to attract more petrochemical investment in an effort to diversify the province’s economy and build out the supply chain for hydrocarbon production. An incentive program introduced by former NDP premier Rachel Notley resulted in both Inter Pipeline Corp. and Pembina Pipeline Corp. spending $8.5 billion combined on under-construction polypropylene facilities, which will turn the province’s abundance of propane into plastic pellets used in a range of consumer goods.

The article notes that there is some question as to whether the industry will continue to boom once the pandemic and the lockdowns are over, and that is a real concern should the Greens return to form. The environmentalists are working hard to keep the "climate emergency" front and center, and even to link the two. But from where I sit, this pandemic definitively demonstrates the necessity of this industry, and the people talking about managing its decline are nuts.

'The Earth is Healing Itself'

I've already mentioned the disturbing phenomenon of environmentalists celebrating the real suffering we're seeing all around us right now. By some measures, we're approaching Great Depression-level unemployment numbers (though it is encouraging to note that the vast majority of those who've lost jobs at least believe that they'll get them back soon), and the Greens are out there celebrating the attendant fall in carbon emissions, even worrying that they'll rebound once the economy gets going again.

One ridiculous enviro-meme popping up around the internet lately has people sharing a picture of some beautiful scene -- a blue sky, a mountain, an empty beach -- along with the comment "The Earth is Healing." Of course, this trope is at once so smug and sentimental that mockeries of it likely outnumber the originals at this point:

As the lockdowns start to ease (whether governments want them to or not),  I've actually caught myself muttering "The Earth is Healing itself" with a half smile whenever I've noticed local traffic at roughly normal levels. I was reminded of that when I read this WSJ report on the increased consumption of gasoline throughout the country:

Americans are starting to get back behind the wheel, welcome news for the companies that turn oil into gasoline and diesel. Fuel makers including Valero Energy Corp. and Phillips 66 have said they expect gasoline demand to continue to rebound after plunging to roughly half of normal levels in early April, as states reopen from lockdowns imposed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

As a result, some refiners are looking to produce more gasoline again after choking back output in recent weeks. Such a move should help keep prices at the pump low for longer. Regular gasoline averaged about $1.80 a gallon in the U.S. on Thursday, down from $2.89 a year earlier, according to the price tracker GasBuddy. “People have been cooped up, they want to drive,” Phillips 66 Chief Executive Greg Garland told investors recently, offering a glimmer of hope as the largest U.S. refiners posted their worst quarterly earnings in years....

Fuel makers typically do well when oil prices are low because people drive more. But the recent oil-price crash has largely been driven by a rapid decline in demand as people stay home and travel less to avoid contracting Covid-19. That means the second quarter is expected to be grim for refiners, too. Nevertheless, fuel makers were generally optimistic about an eventual recovery in appetite for their products, saying they think gasoline consumption will continue to climb, even as people remain wary of getting on an airplane.

There are a few Karens out there who will tell you that it's a bad thing that more people are driving, that any time you go outside you risk killing your grandmother, and that our wise political leaders have ordered us to shelter in place for some very good reasons, so we should listen to them.

Those Karens are, of course, wrong. Being outside during the virus is good. Being indoors all the time will drive you crazy, and anyway plenty of people are being hospitalized with the virus who were staying at home. Better not risk it. Get out, get yourself some cheap gas, take your kids to the park (if you're lucky enough to live somewhere where parks are still open). Delight in the sunshine, but also delight in the knowledge that you're helping the economy -- since gasoline and diesel are made in the same process, and there was a real danger there that, if we ran out of storage space for gas, we'd run low on diesel which fuel delivery trucks, you're helping to preserve America's straitened supply chain.

And if you ever get stuck in traffic, just take a deep breath and remind yourself, "The earth is healing."

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.